If you’ve savored every page in your copy of A Scout is Brave, you may have noticed this dedication near the beginning:

For William Simmons, who was never to my knowledge a Boy Scout but who has exemplified every one of their stated ideals throughout our nearly forty-year friendship…though not perhaps in the ways they’d expect. I appreciate our late-night urban hikes and the honest perspectives you’ve always provided to me. I hereby award you the Iconoclastic Integrity merit badge.

And you may have asked yourself, “Who the fuck is William Simmons?”

[Spoiler alert for people accustomed to reading my too-frequent eulogies: William is alive and well.]

William Simmons at Necronomicon.
This is William Simmons.
(Photo by Dave Lally.)

I’ve been friends with William since 1987, when he came knocking on my door and asking for Norman Amemiya, who’d told him that Dungeons and Dragons was about to take place at my home.

I was relieved to see him, if I’m being honest: Norman, though mentally about fourteen, was a 32-year-old man and my mother was a bit worried that my new gaming group was full of people twenty years older than me. Luckily, William was only four years older.

Together with Norman and a rotating series of guest gamers, William and I met for weekly sessions of Car Wars, Star Frontiers, Star Trek: The Role Playing Game, Toon, Paranoia, Battletech, and (maybe once or twice) D&D. Like Norman, he was very tolerant of my ADHD-fueled, rules-indifferent gonzo gamemastering style.  

William Simmons playing Conan on an Apple II at Willcon.
William was especially found of Conan on the Apple II as well as Eamon.

We also gathered around my Apple II+ as I developed a starship bridge simulator and a food chain science project, not to mention playing a few hundred cracked and pirated games that would grind ominously in my failing disk drive.

Once while he was staying overnight at my house way out of town, our cat gave birth to a few sickly kittens and then fled outside into the darkness. The only light source we had handy was an antique kerosene lantern, which he held aloft amid the orange trees, looking for the cat like Diogenes searching for an honest man.

At most science fiction, fantasy, horror, or gaming conventions we’ve attended since 1987, we’ve taken a late-night walk around whatever downtown area was handy. We chat about books and movies and games, plus my deranged ambitions to write. Once while crossing a drawbridge in Fort Lauderdale, we had to run when it began to rise under our feet.

I’m not doing a good job conveying who William is beyond “erstwhile gaming buddy.”

Like me, William didn’t have the most peaceful childhood. My reaction to uncertainty was to grasp desperately for control of my world, but William’s was a calm and measured scientific detachment. He is the most open-minded person I’ve ever met, willing to understand strange ideas (and people) while weighing all the information he can get. When my first wife called him during our divorce to get him to take her side, he said, “I really don’t have enough information to do that.”

William playing Call of Cthulhu at Willcon.
William participating in the Call of Cthulhu scenario that A Scout is Brave was partly based on.

William exemplifies all of the Scout laws that Bud Castillo follows in A Scout is Brave, though he’s sorely tested in his convenience store job each day. William’s ambition these days seems mostly to be peace, which I wholeheartedly understand; he does his job, reads more books than anybody I know, and has walked every furlong of Lord of the Rings Online.

I have three degrees in English literature and writing, yet William is the only person I know who has read the entire works of Shakespeare. He has a habit of doing that, reading an author’s entire oeuvre. He’s a fan of life’s side quests.

Aubrey from A Scout is Brave is a combination of Norman’s alien perspective of the world and William’s calm and considerate one. That character (and that book) wouldn’t exist without them, and I wanted you all to know that.