Friday, August 04, 2006

Bill the Scribner

The first time I remember Bill as Bill (as opposed to simply having seen the cute guy with great posture around Wired) was at a seminar Louis had convened for Wired Ones to glean the wisdom of a futurist. The prognosticator spun out some long-boom fruitopian scenario, explaining how all the jobs we think of as boring or gross will disappear (robot maids!) and more and more people will be be happier and happier as way-new knowledge workers. As an editor at the perennially pessimistic Suck, I felt like the skunk at the extropian party until the cute guy with good posture leaned over and whispered: "Will there be a need for more futurists? Because that seems like a pretty good job to have."

Bill went on to become one of my favorite Suck writers, both because I loved what he had to say and because he said it so well that I barely needed to touch it. His graceful prose left us all that much more time for the many, many martinis we consumed between 1996-99 at various dive bars that were known mainly to Bill and a few rumpled gentlemen with nicotine-stained fingers and half-shaded eyes.

After I moved East, Bill remained reliable -- his banter sometimes required Bartlett's and his jokes could send you to Google, but his friendship was as uncomplicated as his wit was knotted. I saw him almost every time I came back to San Francisco in these past few years and though our email and phone communiques were sporadic, our conversation never stopped; in fact, it seemed to fall into same rhythm starting with the sentence after "hello."

As with most of us, I suspect my last few interactions with Bill will come to be the ones I run my fingers through the most, trying to pick out every sparkle of his gimlet eye. But the memory I'll hold most dear wasn't him being brilliant, it was him being kind, and how, on the last night of a long book tour, Bill was one of five sparsely distributed people in a very large room sitting down to listen to me.

I will always wish I got to hear more from him. -- Ana Marie Cox [anamariecox -at-]

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