I only met Ulthar Press founder Sam Gafford once in person, at NecronomiCon 2017. It was my first time there, my first time at any literary con, and my first time trying to put myself out there as a “real” writer. I met Sam in the vendors’ room and I bought a few copies of the magazine he published, Occult Detective Quarterly.
For many booksellers that would have been enough. Exchange complete. Polite goodbye. Next customer. But Sam remembered my name from Facebook and initiated a conversation that I myself would’ve been too nervous to start. He asked me how I was enjoying my first NecronomiCon. He asked me about my writing. We talked about his magazine and about William Hope Hodgson (of whose work he was a leading scholar). Throughout, Sam was warm and genial. Here was a lifelong veteran of the weird fiction community reaching out to an awkward introvert for no other reason than to make me feel, well, a little bit less like awkward introvert. I don’t think I ever thanked him for that.
After the convention, Sam and I talked on Facebook from time to time, mostly about comic books. He was still just an overgrown kid at the end of the day, still an enthusiastic fan of superheroes, monsters, cartoons, and The Monkees. We should all be so lucky to remain in love with our passions for as long as he did.
I’m heartbroken that I won’t get to see Sam Gafford again at NecronomiCon 2019. Many others knew him far better than I ever did. I’m even more heartbroken for them.