A Tribute to Wombat

“It was at Astronomicon I met a character that not only made a heck of an impression on both me and Nat, but also became a good friend for cons to come.  His real name is jan howard finder (yes, spelled in the lower case)…but everyone calls him “Wombat.”  Wombat is a little more than the professional fan.  He’s a published author.  He’s an activist for the preservation of endangered species.  He’s a world traveler.  He’s a Jack of All Trades, known for his mink glove and massage techniques.  Most of all, he is a good guy.  A really solid individual with a good heart and soul to match.”

005_2_0001I wrote those words a decade ago about a guy that I met in my first year (come to think of it — at the time I had met him, MOREVI wasn’t even six months off-the-press…) as a professional author. I was still new to the genre, still new to the Science Fiction convention circuit. I met Wombat entirely at random, stuck up a conversation, and gradually found out that I was in the company of a legend in the circles of fandom. He could be called a true ambassador of the convention scene, but I never really liked to think of jan howard finder — Wombat — as a luminary of fandom. He was far bigger than that, in my eyes.

To describe Wombat in a single word — passionate. He was passionate about a lot of things, but he was passionate about embracing people and life on a whole. I have known that his health was in decline, but Wombat when I last saw him still remained driven to make anyone’s and everyone’s day brighter. Perhaps this was why I always regarded Wombat as being bigger than the con circuit. Over the years, I have met fans who made certain they knew my place around them and that no matter how much I read or experienced or researched, I would never know as much as they did about Science Fiction and Fantasy. Wombat was none of these things. I knew that every time I saw him next there was another adventure under his belt, another amazing memory he was going to share with me. The only words I ever heard come out from him were positive. If he had a critical thought about a person, he never let it fly. Wombat was everything I aspired to in being a fan of this genre. He was warm, knowledgeable, and approachable. I never knew a time when, if I was down or depressed for any reason, that Wombat couldn’t give me a better perspective.

What I said a decade ago has never faltered. It has been a while since last our paths crossed, but nevertheless I felt his loss when I found out this morning that he was gone, having passed away on February 25 while undergoing chemotherapy. I can assure myself that before his star fell, Wombat knew he was loved, admired, and adored by those in his life. As I said before, he was bigger than fandom circles; and if you were lucky to have met Wombat in any capacity, that is an encounter that will stay with you for a long time.

wombatRest in peace, Wombat, and thank you for welcoming me into the genre, and being a part of my life.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you. I’m still finding tributes to the Wombat, more than two years (two? how could it be two?) later, as they get indexed by Google. Or something. This touched my heart deeply. Oh yes, he did know how loved he was. I made sure of it. He never saw himself as anything extraordinary. I told him, “does a fish think of water?” jan lived inside himself. I saw him from the outside. And I told him about himself, thoroughly. With footnotes. “Am I really?” “Yes, you really are.”


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