(I usually never talk about current events on this blog. I find such topics to be flash-in-the-pan, having a very short shelf-life where interest is concerned.
In this case, however, I’m compelled to break my own rule. The passing of someone for whom I had so much respect and admiration has filled me with such a sense of loss that I can’t keep it to myself; I have to let it out, and this is the best place I can think of to do so.
What follows is an expansion of a piece that I posted on some message boards earlier today. It’s my remembrance of an incredible man, taken before his time.)
By now, everyone has heard of the passing of Monty Oum.
Long-time readers of this blog will doubtlessly know who Monty was, if for no other reason that I’ve referenced his works here twice before. Looking back at these entries now, I worry that they sound too perfunctory, too matter-of-fact when discussing the incredible things that he created. Please know that that was never my intention; I simply felt that Monty’s work was of such incomparable quality – all the moreso for how much of it he did on his own – that any praise I could have offered would have been mere platitudes in comparison.
But the purpose of this post isn’t to talk about how great Monty’s work was. Rather, it’s to talk about what he meant to me personally.
I almost didn’t write this, because talking about how I felt about Monty seemed self-aggrandizing, almost narcissistic, to the point of being disrespectful. After all, this is a time to think about him, not me in relation to him.
Having given it some thought, however, I’ve come to realize that I was mistaken. When remembering someone we’ve lost, the nature of that remembrance tends to be personal, often intensely so. While we tend to lionize people for their accomplishments and their generosity, that’s not what makes us grieve when they’re no longer with us. It’s the personal connection, the sense of how we – who are still here, left behind – now keenly feel their absence.
Loss, by its very nature, is personal.
Truthfully, I’m still surprised that I feel a sense of loss, perhaps even grief, to learn of Monty’s passing. I honestly didn’t expect that I would. After all, he and I never met in person. He never knew my real name, and I doubt he would have remembered my online handle. And yet…knowing that he’s gone hurts.
While it’s one thing to intellectually realize that you can be moved by the loss of someone you never met in person, it’s another thing to actually feel it.
Earlier today, I followed a link that someone posted to a story about tributes that were being made to Monty. I got as far as this picture before I had to close the door to my office, no longer able to keep my composure, something that only grew more pronounced when I read his quote at the end of the article.
I wish that I had some better way of honoring Monty. I wish that I could draw a picture in tribute to the man. But I can’t – I have no artistic talent, in terms of art, animation, or music, whatsoever. All I have is some modest skill at writing, and that doesn’t seem like enough.
It’s funny now, in a morbid way; last Sunday night, before I heard about Monty’s passing, I had tentatively decided to participate in NaNoWriMo this year for the first time – now, knowing that he’s gone, and his family’s statement that the best way to remember him is to do something creative, that decision seems much more poignant, and important. It’s very little, but I feel like I owe him that much.
My saying that I owe him is not a turn of phrase. While I know that he made his work for everyone to enjoy, as well as for the sheer joy of creating it, it still spoke to me personally. It spoke to me because just knowing that someone was out there, making stuff that I enjoyed so much and asking for nothing in return, brought light into my life. That has value that cannot be measured – all the more so for the fact that I first discovered his works during a time when I was very depressed and struggling with anxiety about my future.
I can’t repay that debt, but I want to try.
I once corresponded with Monty. It wasn’t very much – a single email response to my having emailed him back in July, 2008, along with a donation as a belated birthday gift (I also donated to him the following year, though we didn’t converse then).
I had been posting on his DeviantArt page for some time at that point, in a series of fan-articles that critiqued and analyzed his Dead Fantasy series that I called “Dead Fantasizing.” I was also pushing for a change to one of his not-officially-announced plans for a future episode of the series. (All of these posts can still be found as comments on his page, though it’d require going back through years of posts by everyone.)
Monty had recently posted this image on his DA page (it’s since been removed, as he had some trouble with DA several years ago – the link is to where I’ve since reposted it). To make a long story short – the picture very clearly implied that Kairi’s episode would have her face Sonia, whom was clearly meant to be the character in the background-left (Ninja Gaiden II for the Xbox was just about to come out when he made that picture).
I had seen enough of the game to urge Monty to dump Sonia as a character, and instead go with Momiji (from Ninja Gaiden DS – she’d later appear in other games as well).
The point is, I was very pleasantly surprised when Monty emailed me back. He was very kind and casual, explaining that not only did he read the articles I’d been writing, but also took the time to explain some of the technical critiques I’d made of the series. He also expressed agreement with the idea that Sonia wasn’t a good character, and that Momiji was a better fit. While it’s likely that he would have made the change on his own, I sometimes like to think that I was his inspiration for why he has Momiji fighting in the unfinished Dead Fantasy VI episode that he unveiled a few years back.
I re-read that email last night…and it really rings true just what an incredible guy Monty was. He was eager to reassure me that he did enjoy feedback, even if he didn’t always respond, that he appreciated critical analysis and didn’t mind explaining his decisions, and even just shooting ideas back and forth with someone who enjoyed his work.
He took the time to write to me, just one fan out of so many, and that meant something to me. It still means something to me.
To me, Monty Oum was a star, letting his light shine for anyone and everyone who cared to look at it. And like a star, that light – that inspiration that his creativity and generosity encouraged in myself and so many others – continues to travel forward even after the star itself has gone out.
Goodbye Monty, and thank you for all that you gave.