(Lee asked me to post this for him — CM)
I am shocked, in despair, and outraged to have learned that my friend of nearly thirty years, David G. Barnett, died in a car crash. It’s a ripoff. The whole world’s been all fucked up for the last year, and now one of the nicest guys in it is gone. I owe more than half of my career to Dave because he dared to publish some of my writing experiments (“Header” and The Bighead) during one of those “Horror is Dead!” lulls in the mass-market end of the genre. I would’ve bet that these projects would tank, leaving Dave with a big hole in his wallet, but instead they sold out, and this provided me, and many other authors with an alternate outlet in which to ply their craft. For some of us, horror at large was too mainstream, a little tepid, if you will, but, aside from a few “cthulhu sex” fanzines, there was no ball field for authors who desperately wanted to test the standard boundaries which girded the horror genre. Dave created Necro Publications, and then all of a sudden, an alternative brand of horror fiction was being made available for the readers who wanted it, and from there, many other like-minded publishers popped up to serve new readers, and they continue to serve them today. So, like I was saying, because of Dave’s vision, my work got to exist in a different realm, and without that alternate outlet that Dave offered me, I wouldn’t be anything today except a miserable old man sitting on a pile of smutty books. Instead, I’m still having a blast writing the kind of stuff I love to write. In other words, I owe Dave A LOT.
And now he’s gone. I still can’t believe it. I’m sitting here like a deer staring into headlights, not quite able to reckon the fact. I just talked to him a couple weeks ago. Jesus. And I could kick myself for never really telling him how much I admired him. You have to admire a guy who kept on plugging for half a century, carrying an avalanche of serious health problems on his back. Dave lived on death’s doorstep for pretty much his whole life. Would I have that kind of courage in the same situation? I doubt it. Hell, Dave even clinically died once and was brought back to life. When the finally got out of the hospital and got back home, the first thing he did was resume doing the layout for his next release. Dave was “comfortable” with the prospect of death, I guess because he looked it in the face almost perpetually. I’m pretty sure he went to bed every night expecting to die. Once he told me, during one of his hospital stints, that he’d been contemplating death very deeply of late, and his conclusion was this: “I’m okay with it.” What balls.
Anyone who knew Dave knows that he was dealt a bad hand from a really crooked deck. But with all those health obstacles, he started his own company from scratch and SUCCEEDED (not an easy thing to do). And all along the way, health problem after health problem, and doctor after doctor telling him not to expect to live very long. That’s the cool part if you ask me. Dave got to live the kind of life he wanted, and while doing it, he got to give the Reaper the finger for 53 years!
I’ll miss him very much, as I’m sure many others will too. He was one of my closest friends and one of the strongest people I’ve known. When someone dies, it’s all too easy for folks to say that he or she “is in a better place now.” I guess in this day and age no one even believes that anymore but–fuck it–I do. Now, Dave was a hardcore atheist, and he scoffed at the idea of an afterlife. I look forward to the day when I can say “I told you so” at some future time when he and I meet again.