Keith R.A. DeCandido (kradical) wrote,
Keith R.A. DeCandido

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looking up old coworkers

For various reasons, I was thinking about my time working for the late Byron Preiss today.

Byron was a very successful book packager, and also was both an early pioneer on the cutting edge and one of the many who fell over the cliff of the CD-ROM industry, having gotten in on the ground floor in 1993 when the market was gearing up and having crashed and burned with everyone else by 2000 thanks to bad marketing in the whole industry (nothing was categorized, it was just all lumped into "the CD-ROM section" of stores, so nobody could find anything, so nothing sold) and the rise of the world wide web.

But Byron's most successful mode was books, starting in the late 1970s with the "Weird Heroes" book series he put together. He packaged kids books, books about dinosaurs, anthologies, scholarly works, art books, comic books, and a metric buttload of science fiction and fantasy of all kinds.

I worked for him from September 1993 - April 1998 as a staffer, and on and off from May 1998 - June 1999 as a freelancer. Byron was -- interesting. He was a brilliant salesman, a penny pincher, a guy who would gleefully renegotiate a deal with someone who was in the hospital and in no shape to do so, but who also was great with kids (and did pretty much anything for his own daughters), and produced some great stuff. I learned a lot working for him, both good and bad, and I was saddened by his death in a car accident in 2005.

During my time as a staffer, there were four of us who did most of the work on the SF, fantasy, horror, and comics side of things: me, Howard Zimmerman, Ken Grobe, and Steven A. Roman. Ken, Steve, and I were starting our careers, all in our twenties at the time, while Howard was a veteran of the industry, having worked for years at Starlog magazine, among other places. The four of us had a grand old time putting together stuff, from The Ray Bradbury Chronicles and Bill the Galactic Hero and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy comic books to the Ray Bradbury's Dinosaur World and Isaac Asimov's Robots in Time and Battlestar Galactica and Marvel Comics novels to the illustrated screenplay of Harlan Ellison's I, Robot and so much more. And we always had fun with it. I truly couldn't ask for better comrades in work and fun than those three.

Out of curiosity, I thought I'd look up the guys and see how they're doing, since it's been a while.

When I first went freelance, I'd intended to become a book packager, using the skills I learned under Byron. That never really worked out, but Howard Zimmerman did the same thing, and has had much more success with Z-File Inc., a book packager of lots of nifty stuff.

Meanwhile, Ken Grobe moved to San Francisco, and is a multimedia guru of many different and varied and interesting hats under the umbrella of Idea Czar. Ken is one of the single funniest people I've ever known, so the fact that most of his work is in the comedic realm is no real surprise.

Finally, there's the one guy where I knew what he was doing, as we've crashed into each other at local conventions: Steven A. Roman has turned his Starwarp Concepts into a thriving small press, putting out a bunch of nifty horror and SF/F books and comics. Steve was always suited to do this kind of boutique publishing, and the industry now favors folks who can do that well.

I'm really happy to see that all three of the guys are doing well. Honestly, if you'd asked all four of us what we'd like to be doing twenty years later, the answers we'd all give would be pretty close to what we all wound up doing. So yay us!

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