In Memorium, Alfred D Byrd, 1954-2022

Alfred D. Byrd, a valued member of the Dead Fish Family and a close friend of Da Mama and Da Baby, passed away suddenly March 10, 2022. Al was a prolific writer, as well as a proofreader and consult for science language, and religion. For his online Obituary, go to Alred D Byrd Obituary.

I met Al in the fall of 1984, when we were both graduate students at the University of Kentucky. We quickly bonded through a love of writing, and Mr. Gattis’ Pizza. Together with another graduate student, Tina Tomaszewski, we would eat dinner and talk about writing. After Tina graduated, Al and I continued the tradition of eating, sharing our writing, grocery shopping, and watching Star Trek. Often we would visit Joseph Beth, or, as Al would later call it, The Bookstore That Ate Lexington.

Our relationship could best be said that he was my brother from a different mother. Not soul mates. I already had my soul mate, and he would take thirty years to find his. When I married and moved to another city, we kept out our weekly meetings going via telephone and internet. I had children, watched them grow up, he married a woman from the other side of the world. Through good times and some very dark times we were there for each other, friends sharing life and writing.

He had much to teach me and helped me turn my first book from a literal pile of scenes into a solid narrative. I can only hope that I had things to teach him. We helped each other with ideas and criticisms, celebrated successes, commiserated over rejections. And yet, we were not carbon copies of each other — we had very much different ways of approaching a story. In the beginning, he was a solid Plotter, and told me I could not write a story without a detailed outline. Roman numerals and letters. Pages of notes and background material. Whole worlds fleshed out before the first sentence was put to paper. I, on the other hand, was a dedicated Pantser, knowing nothing of where I was going when I set down to write. I would learn the plot when I wrote it. After thirty-eight years of working together, I can appreciate the value of having a nominal outline, for at least figuring out where a story is going and what research ought to be done first. For his part, Al tried, and was successful in creating a few stories where he allowed the plot to come as it may.

Of course, there was more to our friendship than just writing. Al knew so much about so many different things, from ancient cultures to modern science. He introduced the Hopewell and Adena cultures to me, and showed me just a few of the historical places in Kentucky and Ohio where they lived. He taught me about Biblical History, music, the Civil War in America, and many classical authors I had not known. I’m far richer for all that.

I have so many wonderful memories of him, but two in particular that I would like to share with you. One is of a time when we were playing Scrabble, using my extra-large game board. He was good at the game, better than I was, but I still enjoyed going up against him. As usual, I trailed in points, and the word I had in mind to play wasn’t going to save me. I was just one tile short of the triple-word space. But I played it anyway. Al promptly pointed out that I had misspelled it, that it needed an “i.” Which I had, the last tile in my hand.

A less noble man would not have allowed me to correct my mistake.

An even older memory, way back to the beginning of our friendship. In those days I would show him what I had written, and he would read it back to me, allowing me to hear the cadence of my words. Once, I found a very old piece of writing, something I had created in the sixth grade, and I let him read it just to see how awful my writing had been. He allowed that my paragraph structure, spelling, and grammar needed improvement, but pointed out the good things he saw in it, things I had never considered in my own work. Full of promise, and would I consider rewriting it?

Al was a generous man, sometimes too generous. What he had in skills and time, he gave freely. He helped me, proofread my work, gave me feedback, supported my writing. Most importantly, criticized me honestly.

Goodbye, Al, as you sail off to be with the Elves in the West.


To see Al talk about The Volant Flyway, published by Dead Fish Books, follow this Youtube link.

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