I just found out about Conrad’s passing today when I happened to check on his facebook page. We’ve lost someone special. I felt close to Conrad ever since I first started reading his One Wet Sneaker blog in 2009 (I didn’t find his other blog until later), when he did a great series of reviews for the IFComp and was writing insightful posts about his adventures teaching in Cambodia. He was a rare intellect and a passionate activist and artist. In his own words, “I just get a kick out of making people’s lives a little weirder, in fun ways.”
Conrad and I wrote back and forth somewhat frequently and even lengthily during his time in Cambodia and after. When he went homeless (as a result of his activist convictions, he claimed), I offered him support and tried as best I could from the Internet to make sure he was still getting the care he needed, giving him phone numbers to find shelters and other things I’d learned from Americorps. This video is the only time I ever saw a non-static image of him or heard his voice (Conrad appears about 30 minutes in). The last bit of news I heard from him directly was, “I’ve hoboed on from Boston-- not sure when I’ll be back-- God bless, and take care!”
I can confirm that Conrad wrote “Love Is as Powerful as Death, Jealousy Is as Cruel as the Grave” as Michael Whittington, as I consulted him about it for my SPAG review of the game. Totally underrated work, in my opinion. Conrad released most of his work under pseudonyms because “I wanted to ensure people were responding to the game itself. I didn’t want people who knew me, even just as online friends, to respond to my persona.” To add to the confusion of identities, he had much of his online presence destroyed at one time because of his belief that he had offended a crime lord in Cambodia and was living as a marked man.
In many ways, “Love Is as Powerful…” was autobiographical for Conrad-- many of the characters and situations encountered can also be found described (and a few photographed, if I recall) on his One Wet Sneaker blog. Or at least they could. I’m not certain if it remains after his purge.
He often sent me other writings of his for brainstorming/editing along with what news he could type from allotted times at library computers or on public or “borrowed” wifi. He had a fantasy novel going, wrote short stories, and several IF concepts that never came into fruition (including plans for a YA IF about flesh-eating mermaids [written as Helen Stevens] and “Find the Dog II”).
I also suspect that he wrote “Antifascista” under a pseudonym, as well-- unless somebody otherwise knows a Greg Farough. I read this last name as “far off,” which Conrad often was. The content seems to mirror closely something I’d written to him some time in the summer of 2010. I’m deeply saddened that now I won’t have the chance to write and ask him about it.
“On the one hand, any deathbed regrets I have will apparently be uncommon ones. That’s not too surprising, since the pattern of my life is relatively uncommon. On the other hand, I don’t intend to have any deathbed regrets, since I intend to be eaten by a leopard.” -Conrad Cook, 1974-2012