His Royal Fredness

Goddammit. Just when I thought we were going to get out of this year without losing anyone else, Fred Grimm has a stroke, and isn't expected to make it to New Year's.

So how is that allowed, since Fred is eternal?

Fred and Stephania Grimm have been friends for years. I don't always end up friends with the folks who run the cons; cons are business, and I try to be a professional. But once you meet Fred and Steph, you're not just friends; you're family. That's one reason why Hypericon has been such a blast each year: it's like a big, rowdy family reunion with costumes.

I introduced Jim to the Grimms when we did Hypericon earlier this year. We were talking about Fred stories, and Jim said, "But I only met him that once." I said, "And that's all it takes. You experienced Fred."

And that's really how I think of him. His personality fills the room. The eternal smartass - God, what a smartass! He loved reading and collected authors, enjoying us the way others enjoyed our books. He truly delighted in promoting our fiction, and that was a pleasure to see.

Stephania has asked us to share Fred stories, because those stories are his legacy. So here's one of my favorites....

I was on tour in the months leading up to the release of The Cold Ones. There was a zombie panel scheduled for Saturday at Hypericon, and Brian Keene and Jonathan Maberry were among the panelists (I think Bryan Smith as well, but my memory may be faulty). So I hunted Fred down in the consuite, where he was watching Steph glue a costume trophy together.

"Fredness!" I declared, dropping into the chair next to him. "Please please please put me on the zombie panel pleeeease." I told you, I'm a paragon of professionalism.

Fred gave me a Fred eyebrow. "Do you have a zombie book?"

"Yup," I said. "It comes out in October, from Sam's Dot Publishing. And I'd so love to talk zombies with Brian and Jonathan."

And that's when Fred decided to poke me with a stick exactly where it would annoy me the most. He got the patented Smartass Grin and said, "I dunno.... zombies, that's kind of a guy thing."

Fortunately I did not have to come up with a professional response, because Stephania handled it for me. "Oh no, you did not just go there," she said, waving the glue at him. "You will put her on that panel or I will glue your head to this table."

There was some more back and forth, but it's really not important. I was on the panel, and we had a lovely conversation about zombies that may or may not have included discussion of gender roles in speculative fiction. I still giggle whenever I think of that moment, with Fred's smartass grin and Steph waving the glue at him.

I named a character after Fred, in a novel that none of you have seen yet. It's called Yellow Roses, and it's the best thing I've ever written. And as is my wont, I wrote a character for Fred who was absolutely the opposite of the real Fred; a sour, cranky fire chief. When I asked Fred for permission to use his name, Fred told me he was delighted; he was a guest star in a number of books due to his long associations with authors. Like I said, he collected authors. Actually, I think it was Steph who phrased it that way.

Since the book has never been published, I don't know if Fred ever saw his big scene. I always meant to email it to him. I probably thought, "I'll just be sure to point out the chapter when the book comes out." But who knew it would take this long to find it a home? Who knew that this past summer in Nashville might be the last time I see Fred?

I didn't know we might run out of time. We never know.

So I'm sharing it with all of you. It's just a page, but I hope Fred would have liked it. Chief Grimm might be a sourpuss, but at least he's giving my main character a hard time. The Fred who loved poking me with sticks would have appreciated it.

In the meantime, I am heartsick, and my thoughts are with Stephania in this dark day.

"Hey, Chief," Cat said, easing past Fire Chief Fred Grimm. 
"Oh Lord save us, the press is already here." The chief sighed dramatically.
"It's the doughnuts, draws us like flies," Cat replied. "You gonna brief us?" 
"It's Chief Baymont's show, I'm just the host," Grimm said. "Besides, you guys gave me quite a raking over the Stapfer factory thing." 
"Hey, I'm just an unbiased purveyor of photographic information," Cat said easily, then took a stab at a total lie. "Heard a cop got shot. That true?" 
Grimm shot her a look. "Off the record, a cop got shot at. Big difference. And don't you quote me." 
"Yes sir," Cat said, sketching a quick salute. "They gonna let me take any pictures or do I have to do an interpretative drawing? 'Cause all I can do are stick figures, and that's gonna look funny on the front page." 
"Are all reporters smartasses?" Grimm asked. 
"Yep," said Mark from behind him. "They teach it in J-school. Cat here comes by it naturally." 
"Lord, another one," Grimm griped. "I better leave the room before you two accuse me of setting the guy's house on fire."