When I met Aaron Peori, I was fourteen years old. Glace Bay High was the tenth of the eleven schools that I attended in my eleven years of schooling, and so by then I was almost as well-practiced in “meet new friends” as I was in “meet the new local pack of bullies”. Walking home, I noticed one guy about my age that always walked alone, reading a book. In other words, a fellow nerd, a weirdo, an outcast. Like me. After a couple of days of spotting this lone reading fellow, he happened to be reading a book by Christopher Pike, an author I also had books by. That was, as the saying goes, an opening.
“Hey, isn’t that a Christopher Pike book?” I asked this stranger, casually, as if I hadn’t already known.
He looked up at me, not even showing any surprise that some weirdo had walked up and asked about the book his nose was in. “Yes,” he said, peering at me owlishly from behind his glasses, then after a moment added, “He’s a good author.”
By the time we reached home that day, we were already good friends. From that point on, in fact, we were virtually inseparable, aided by the fact that he lived almost literally in my backyard.
From the beginning, we collaborated on stories. Be it making elaborate dioramas and battles with GI Joes, to playing first the Marvel Super Heroes RPG system, to writing fanfiction, it was something natural to us. At fifteen years old, I knew without a doubt that becoming a published author with Aaron was my goal in life. But we were more than creative collaborators. We chatted for hours every week, telling the same jokes time after time, cracking up at the characters in our stories or our shared in-jokes. I had introduced him to RPGs; he introduced me to manga and anime with his copy of Ben Dunn’s adaptation of Project A-ko. Soon after I got the anime and its sequels, then we found Guyver, A Wind Named Amnesia, and other random discoveries at the local video rental shop – which also had a copy of the SNES game Ranma 1/2: Hard Battle, our primary introduction to a series I soon discovered to be very popular indeed in online anime fandom. First anime characters like A-ko and Ranma invaded our ongoing RPG games; then we started doing RPGs based on Ranma 1/2, and some of those turned into a few of our early fanfics.
Once Aaron started writing, he never stopped. Sometimes it would be “garbage”, in his own words, not even worth showing to me, and sometimes it was playing around with RPG systems rather than fiction, but he always had a creative project of some sort going on. In our first fanfics, he did all the writing, and I contributed in the original creative process and in typing up and editing the inscrutably handwritten manuscripts tied together with shoelaces that he would mail me. Later, we would collaborate more directly, notably on our crowning work, the massive 1.2 million word (finished!) fanfic Hybrid Theory, which was the culmination of what we had both learned and observed in a decade of writing and reading fanfiction. By the time we finished it, because of the skills we had gained and because we had finished it, we were certain that professional publication would follow.
It wasn’t to be.
That was for a lot of reasons, the two biggest being that I moved far away and our easy collaboration became less easy, and because Aaron was stuck in a horrible, predatory job that sapped his energy and steadily destroyed his health, making it hard to put in the effort to flesh out and write an original story. Several promising settings came and went, and Aaron eventually turned back to fanfiction to scratch that itch to create that never left him.
Truthfully, it never bothered Aaron that much that he hadn’t written a novel for publication. He cared about feedback, but not validation. He created because he loved to create, and his frustration was always because he didn’t have the time or the energy or the ability to overcome writer’s block and create more. But it bothered me. I knew his talent deserved to be seen by more people. I knew that if we just hit on the right idea, we could write something that would touch so many more people than fanfics could. It is a bitter pill to know that can never happen.
In 2017, he almost died. The doctor told him he needed eight weeks minimum to recover; his workplace told him to not come back if he took more than two. They made him work 11 hour days. They called him in in the middle of his vacation week. He was in constant pain and constantly exhausted, and despite it all, he kept writing. In November of 2018, with what turned out to be his last published story, he took on and actually beat the NANOWRIMO challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month. The work was rough and unpolished, but he had still done it. We were going to rewrite and revise the beginning of the story together and put it on the new webpage when it launched.
In August of 2019, he died. This webpage – all of it, really – is my tribute to him. I know, of course, that thousands of people aren’t going to flock here. The world will never see his talent. And that’s a shame, because he truly deserved to be seen on a greater stage than fanfics or quests could provide. I was better, at least to an extent, at characterisation. I was certainly better at spelling, grammar, and avoiding repetitive phrasing. But Aaron was a creator. Those who read his work, and those that played in his games, could see it. Where Aaron excelled was in his vision for a setting and story. He could take the ridiculous and make it somehow sublime – indeed, he often challenged himself with making ridiculous or cliché concepts work. He could keep track of a million dancing pieces and know precisely which should enter the stage, and from where. His mind for systems and the underworkings that you could build a story on were like nothing I have ever seen. And, of course, his eye for fight scenes – or “acrobatic aerial chess matches”, as he called them once – was unparalleled.
There are no words to fully describe what Aaron meant to me. Saying “friend” or “best friend” is hopelessly inadequate. He was AARON. From the moment we met we fit together perfectly. We were close in a way we had never been and never would be with anyone else. When he died, half of me died with him. I cannot make this just a celebration of his life, because the hurt is too raw and always will be. I cannot simply take solace in him being part of my life, because I am too aware of how much pain he was in for the last years of his life and how that life was needlessly cut short.
And yet, this page is a celebration of Aaron Peori and the time I had with him. I was and will always be Aaron’s biggest fan. Ultimately, this page is for me. But if you came here, whether you knew Aaron or not, I welcome you, and I hope you find something to like.