Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Don't worry. None of this blood is mine.

The Shittiest Anniversary


It’s the 26th May, so it’s been a year today since Alan Bligh died. A year since I wrote my post about it, literally in the hour after we all heard the news. At Alan’s funeral, when Phil Kelly mentioned he’d read that post, I found myself apologising for it because it was unedited emotion and, I felt, not a great obituary for all Alan did and all he deserved. I said in the post itself that better remembrances would come, and indeed they did, most notably from John.

Alan’s funeral was absolutely one of the worst days I’ve ever been through. I got no measurable comfort from it at all, no closure, and if I’m being honest, it laid the wounds open instead of starting the healing process. That surprised me, and I withdrew a little after it. I didn’t even go to the memorial event that John and co. organised, because the entire thing just felt saturated in uncomfortable misery. I made transparent excuses that my friends all saw through at once, and stopped replying to them when they wouldn’t leave it alone. Fuck them, right?

Not going to the memorial was a mistake, and it was selfish, though I didn’t realise either of those things at the time. I’d not considered that other people might not have wanted to go either, but that they were going to support each other. I ran a cost/benefit analysis that started and stopped with me. Something John said later would put it in perspective: “Yes, but I wanted you there.”

In a way, this is typical of Alan. The fucker abandons this earthly realm ahead of the rest of us and still finds a way to teach me a lesson about perspective and living inside my own head. I guarantee you that would make him smirk, entirely pleased with himself.

I won’t bore you too deeply with all my feelings, not least because I feel exactly the same as I did a year ago. I tear up when I watch his old interviews or read his old emails. I message him with questions I know he’ll never answer. I occasionally update him on stuff, even if he’ll never read the email/text/message/whatever. Sometimes that feels self-indulgent and silly. Sometimes it’s sort of funny. Imagine if he did answer. Bloody hell. That’s pretty scary.

He was one of my closest friends (one of the 2-3 people I spoke to the most, overall), and instead of the numb scab I expected by this point, there’s more of an amputated stump, which stings when you put pressure on it. Occasionally you’ll try to turn on a light or go for a walk, and you’ll realise it’s not happening because, hey, shit, you don’t have an arm or a leg there any more. Alan not being around feels like that. Whenever I think about him, it still takes that treacherous half-second to process Oh, yeah, he’s actually dead. It’s surreal. And it sucks. But there it is.

Several of his friends are in a Facebook chat thread that originated in the week Alan died, and it’s still active. Although it’s become a general conversation thread now (and, let’s be honest, mostly talking about GW and various games), we also occasionally do recollections and impressions of things Alan used to say. The man was eminently quotable. Creative geniuses usually are.

On that note, his deadpan and sarcastic Alan-isms are endlessly useful as a parent. I’ve lost count of the times Shakes (now 6) has been banging on about something for the 80th time that day, and I’ve said “No, do go on, sir. Please.” in Alan’s exact tone, exactly the way Alan said it to me countless times when I was complaining about something.

I figure this is going to be an anniversary that his friends, and the people that loved his work, will mark for the rest of their lives. So here’s the first of them. Hoo-fucking-ray.

Y’know, Alan was always weird about his age. I asked him a few times how old he was, and every time he’d do his little chuckle (once he even nodded sagely like I’d asked a mountaintop guru The Right Question), and say “Older than you, my dear boy. Older than you.”

I’m going to cut this short. Sort of crying now.

I dedicated Spear of the Emperor to him. John wanted screenshots of all the novels and rulebooks dedicated to Alan over the last year, and here’s mine right from the Word.doc.


If you’re one of the many thousands of people whose lives were enriched by Alan’s work, and the passion he brought to the page, today’s a day to throw some dice in his honour.

Unsurprisingly, I have an Alan-ism about rolling dice, too. He tried not to jinx a dice roll by saying someone needed “anything but 1.” Instead, he’d say “You need anything but the smallest number.”

Weird, what sticks with you, when someone is gone.

May 25, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 18 Comments