When I started writing this, it was titled "On the Death of a Friend," but then I realized that, were I in your shoes, that is not the type of title that would inspire me to read an article. Thus, I changed it, and I like it better already.
Like the passing of Brimstone (for those of you who can still remember Brimstone), Ross' death was an odd thing. It happened once in Real Life, happening to families and friends and co-workers. But then it happened again Online, weeks later, when the news was released to the communities. And in those communities, that news spread further than it ever could in Real Life, for over these information superhighways we touch more lives than we know.
If you knew Ross online (as Accommodator), you may not have known him as well as I had the fortune to in Life. As an attempt at remedying any disparity, I am finally getting around to this: something I've been meaning to write for some time. In it I hope to capture the Ross that I knew, and I hope to further fill out the Ross that you might have known. I'm not sure why it came to me now, but here it is.
CollaborationsWere it not for Ross, I would never have made my first attempt at a Dominatrix-from-Hierodule-conversion. And were it not for that first, I certainly never would have attempted my Second And Far Better Version Of The Same.
Ross had a very special gift that, if you're lucky, you'll run into out in the real world from time to time: He believed in others--strongly; possibly more strongly then they believe in themselves. I've had the fortune to encounter a number of people like this in my life, and they are always the strongest forces to bolster your flagging faith in your art. They seem to believe in you and in that of which you are capable more strongly than you believe it yourself. They give you a kick of confidence, square in the ass, at moments when you need it most.
Ross did this for me with the Dominatrix.
Hydra, who was the originator of the idea, had just done his Dom from Hierodule, and we all marvelled at the size of the man's spore sacs, for who else would ever be mad enough to cut up a FORGEWORLD MODEL?!
I was musing to Ross one time that I would never be able to do what Hydra was doing.
But Ross disagreed.
Ross told me "sure you could."
And, what's more, Ross put his money where his mouth was. He bought the Hierodule, handed it to me, and told me to go to town. The result was my first (albeit it still a bit rough) Dominatrix.
In addition to creating a Dom for him, I had the fortune to collaborate with Ross on what is still (and will probably forever be) the largest and most successful modeling project of my life: the Infestation of Casavant Prime board for Games Day 2008. The man kept me on track in exactly the way that you have to do with creative folks, and he gave everything to support me and the project along the way, from driving nearly 100km from his home to the build site, to applying Creep or paint to anywhere we asked him to. I think I even had Ross sculpting Nid scenery at a point. It was not only the largest and most successful project I've ever undertaken: it was also the most rewarding. On paper, we won Best Table at Games Day 2008.
Ross WasRoss was unassuming. He would sit in the back, smiling faintly, watching everything that went on with those hawk eyes of his. When he saw a chance to contribute, he'd jump in and state his point succinctly, then return to hanging back.
On warpshadow, Ross was a better moderator than any of us. I don't know how he found as much time for the board as he did, but he was always on top of everything. Ross paid more attention than i did, and he paid it better. It was he who saw talent out in the void and lead them to warpshadow. Ross was telling me about Krewl Rain before i knew who Krewl Rain was.
Ross liked his toys big. When it came to nids, his goal for his swarm was for it to be endless. He bought up old plastic termagants, en masse, because they were cheap and because they were smaller targets than the newer ones. Ross loved titans. Absolutely. He made himself a tyranid bio titan out of a Star Wars Rancor model (we called him 'Rancornid'). He was probably the number one buyer of old Armorcast warhounds and reavers on Ebay. He'd send me reports on the going rates of these out of production models like they were commonly traded stock.
( This demotivational poster was made from a shot at Games Day Toronto like the one below. They are all Ross' titans, with the exception of the Forgeworld Warhound. Ross never had any time for Forgeworld Titans)
|Armorcast Warlord Titan Prototype. Owner: Ross Nickle.|
Ross did SCA, and he taught me what that meant and how it had little to nothing to do with LARPing. In the SCA community, he went by the name of Dragonheart. He never struck me as sentimental, but i knew the truth of that name in his love for his wife and daughter. He met his wife through SCA. The two of them and their daughter shared a love for martial arts, and sometimes we couldn't hang out because all three of them would be too busy practicing together for an exam.
I talk about Hydra and Moloch pretty often on here. They're buddies, and they're Germans, and they're like anyone else, but there were times and places in our hobby world when and where they have been kind of a big deal...which is, of course, ridiculous and arbitrary, and I got over it over the years. I don't think Ross ever did.
Tyran Table project. I can't remember if Ross actually told me that he was chuffed to bits to be able to paint with Moloch, or if i constructed that after the fact, but that is how i remember it.
If you never had the chance to meet Ross in life, i'm sorry for you. He would have liked you. And if he didn't like you, he would have at least respected you in a noble way that i'm not sure many people do nowadays. He was a great guy, and he never tried to convince anyone of that. He wasn't loud or showy or sometimes insecurely extroverted, like i can be. We were very different people, and his difference made me want to be better than i am. I hope that my difference might have inspired him to have a couple more crazy ideas than he might have done normally.
It is a morbid thing to talk about, but Ross' death was sudden and pedestrian. It took him while he sat before his computer. I am a sentimentalist, and i'm not afraid of the dark, so whether it be noble or sad, i sometimes wonder if Ross wasn't on Warpshadow then, putting the board to bed, unwittingly saying goodbye one final time.
And now, years later, i pay him silent vigils: not in the place where he lived or in the place where he died but in the place where he worked. I await him in the lobby of that bank tower, where I awaited him on so many evenings after we'd both finished for the day. For some reason, it is this place with its gold glass that calls to me, and i look to that bank of elevators, expecting his ghost, expecting that we'll have drinks or dinner or just hand-off a few random bits while handing-off a few random words about the gribbly monsters from beyond the stars that haphazardly brought our two worlds together for a time.
I love you, and i miss you.
I look forward to another time, in another place, where there is nothing to do but sit around and talk shop about monsters and giant robots and the next mad thing we're going to make together.
I'll see you there, brother.