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Stephan Michael Sechi
Honoring a Neglected Mentor: Utah, 10/18/2022
© 2022 James LaFond
NOV/24/22
I recall, in the late 1980s, receiving hand written letters on blue, Bard Games, stationary from Stephan Michael Sechi. I forget who made first contact. I did recall, that Bard Games had wonderful perfect bound role playing game source books that were distributed at Walden’s Books and another mall book store chain. I had seen these books while buying mass market paperbacks and recalled the high quality art work and the unique rather than derivative, J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy work.
I must have solicited Stephan after noting that we both advertised in White Wolf Magazine. Stephan demonstrated an interest in publishing my Tribes series and even wrote a forward to the book, Tribes, in which I charted an odd ancient future as a guide book. I did not have the ability to write a story and was trying to develop that through these source books, since they contained the character sketches and setting information a story would be based on.
Stephan was bought out by Wizards of the Coast just as fantasy game publishing was changing drastically due to the advent of collectible card games. He did introduce me by letter to Mark R. Hagen, the new editor, who was not interested in Tribes.
As my work life and family life were put under extreme pressure by the hunt for the extinction of palefaces like me across Baltimore, with PIGz assisting the Young Gawds in driving me into ever deeper poverty, Stephan remained a friend by phone, counseling me on writing, and on life. I gathered he was a good ten years older than I was. I valued and respected his opinions and experiences and some things he told me still ring in my ears.
In the late 1990s, as I battled injuries, hid from cops, tried to get close enough to stab my Gawdly hunters, started The Violence Project and even left that house vacant for the bank, where the phone would be taken out of service that I called Stephan on, and where he would mail the occasional letter, I lost contact with him and most of the folks I had known up until that time.
This was by design. I had failed at EVERYTHING to which I had ever set my hand.
I became a much different, much worse, and much more dangerous person and had no desire to stay connected to anyone who had known the intellectual or creative part of me. I re-engineered myself into a weird stain on the underside of the place that had devoured my better nature—had eaten every goddamned angel that had once gestated in my rancid soul; the dark fiends, the slobbering, lip-smacking, slouching, hooting and howling devils who had once terrified me had infected me, had turned me into one of them.
As much as I might want to take credit for this survival as some kind of adaptive genius, a man who once threatened me at Erdman and Belair, a big man who lunged at me from a doorway one Saturday, and roared, “Give me money!” he would name me for what I was.
When I backed him into the doorway, with my hands on the razor I would use to cut his throat, and declared, “I have $617, if you can take it…”
He retorted, “Yo, Tarazan, I was just aksin’…”
That story is in When You’re Food as something of boast. But it hurt, hurt that I had been shaped by my environment, had given up all creativity, had been willfully complicit in my own devolution into something subhuman, something even worse than the subhumans who had dragged me down to their level—something that Stephan, older and wiser, had warned me about over the phone as my economic and married life shattered into chaos.
I recalled this, his deep voice, and his keenest piece of writing advice as I edited Confessor. Confessor is the sequel to Supplicant’s Song, both short novels set in Oth, the world I had outlined in a manuscript I sent to Stephan. He may have one of only 4 copies in existence. Hagen certainly trashed his. I lost one. Another was given to Mister Gray, with my blood splashed across the binder, which I think has hole punched letters from Stephan in the back. I had suffered from a severe sleep seizure while trying to write Supplicant’s Song and shattered my nose into 7 pieces in December 13 2017. Actually, I think it was a demonic attack, and I worked this and the surgeon who rebuilt my nose into the completed book in February 2018, while recovering.
Writing that novel was a delayed expression of a piece of Stephan’s advice from 1992, when he encouraged me to write a novel based on a wandering character I had used as an oblique narrative device. So, when Confessor begins posting on January 15 and 21, I thought I should at least thank Stephan in some way.
I do not know where he is, what he is doing or how to contact him. But I see, when Duck Duck Going his name that he has put in much creative work over the years and has many books and a collection of music to his name. I thought that the least I could do was introduce some of my old fantasy writing mentor’s work to you, the reader.
So, I am scheduling this ode to post on Thanksgiving Day, when I recall Stephan and his friends once played a rough brand of unarmed football called the Turkey Bowl, I think.
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