My Friend Nate

This is Nate:

A close-up of a heavy-set, handsome bearded man with glasses, screaming into the camera. A torch right behind his head gives the illusion his head is on fire.
Hey Nate!

Nate–if it’s unclear from the photograph–was the kindest, gentlest, most generous human being I’ve ever met. Yesterday, Nate died.

The details are unknown at the moment, at least to me, but Nate was found on his couch, in the morning, cold. He just didn’t wake up. I spoke to his mom, and she said she found him in quiet repose, having fallen asleep watching TV. There’s no way to know if he passed peacefully, but I hope he did. If anyone deserved a tranquil transition from Here to There, it was my friend Nathan Schulz. Nate never put an ounce of hate or harm into the world, and he deserved that same consideration.

If this blog post is giving you deja vu, well, it should. My Friend Ben died less than two months ago, and I’m absolutely furious and spiteful that I have to write another one of these fucking things. I’m not mad at Nate–it’s not possible to be mad at Nate, nor is it warranted–but I do have some choice words for God, Entropy, the Universe, or whatever pasta monster controls or oversees this ludicrous existence.

A screenshot of the "Shrouded City" comic Nate wrote, with a pasta monster front and center with the word "UURDOTH IS HERE" in a jagged word bubble above his head.
No, not that pasta monster

But I digress.

Nate was a brilliant writer, who wrote “The Shrouded City” comic book (art by Amy Watson). He and Amy dreamed up that image above, who is a demon the protagonist summoned for information out of a temporary body of Ramen noodles. It’s an absolutely hilarious, genius scene, and probably my favorite thing Nate ever wrote. I told him that, and I’m glad I did. I remember him beaming big and bright when I said it, clapping me on the shoulder, and deflecting the compliment (as usual).

You can and should read “The Shrouded City” at Tapas or at Webtoons. If you like “The Dresden Files,” Buffy and Angel, and/or eldritch horror ala Lovecraft/Machen/Chambers, you’ll dig it.

Nathan standing with Amy Watson (female, dark hair), both holding copies of their comic "The Shrouded City"
Nate and artist Amy Watson showing off their baby at the launch party

Nate wrote lots of awesome shit.

Nate was the kind of writer you need in every writer’s room. Nate was an idea man, a George Lucas without the baggage. If we all sat around riffing jokes and came up with ten good ones, the best one was Nate’s.

But he wasn’t just a talented writer and a funny dude. Nate was good.

I found this blog Nate wrote in 2011, which was a rough time for all of us. He and me and our entire generation were absolutely blasted apart by the recession. I include this to show you what kind of guy Nate was. Now, mind you, he’d never say any of this out loud. You’d never hear a word of complaint from him. But this is how he saw things, and you could see it in every thought and word:

“Speaking of jobs, I had a very slight chance for a very good job that I learned today just didn’t pan out. It sucks. It actually sucks quite a lot. I need a better job, but I don’t really have any prospects. I guess that’s the same for everybody in America right now, so Boo f**king Hoo for Nate, right? Its hard to get angry and depressed at my life when so many people have it harder than me. But I’m living here, so it gets just as hard to think past my trials and tribulations.

So for an hour, I just wallowed. All by my lonesome. I gave myself one good solid 60 minute block of “woe is me.” Sat in my little work nook and stared at a wall and did just about every generic, cliche broody guy action in the book. Mostly the emo staring into space thinking about how unfair the universe is to me. It was disgusting, comforting, and cathartic.

I’m not over it quite yet. This melancholy will be with me for a week or so more. I’m talking about getting over the possibility of a better situation in life. Not Lotto bulls**t, but hard working potential that I could truly earn. Whatever. Nobody really needs to hear anymore about this. Especially when I personally know people going through tougher stuff.”

Nate Schulz, January 18 2011, Blog Post

The dude was a living saint, and he proved it on the daily. Every Christmas, birthday, special occasion, significant anniversary, or just when the spirit moved him Nate would show up on my doorstep with a gift and an ear-to-ear smile. And, of course, a slightly moist bearhug.

We podcasted often, and I was always wrestling with a shitty microphone stand that was literally the one that came with the “Rock Band” game. Again, remember the recession above. One day Nate showed up at the door, unannounced, and handed me a brand new, professional, real-boy mic stand with a weighted base and an adjustable boom. He smiled, hugged me, we might have sat down and talked about the latest Marvel movie for a couple minutes, and then he bounced away like Santa Claus in casual wear.

Nate standing next to Bobby, both in black graphic tees and brown dungarees.
We…accidentally matched. It was disgusting.

When my family was being crushed under cancer bills and cancer misery in the middle of the pandemic (…ha…ha…hahahahAHAHAHAHAHA), our entire friend and family group rallied around us to help. Nate was, of course, the most generous of an extremely generous lot of people I’m fortunate to know and love. Gifts, gift cards, and straight up hundreds of dollars into our Venmo monthly despite Nate not exactly being a wealthy man. We, of course being uptight white people, tried to stop him from sending us this money, but he wouldn’t have it. Nate might have been a gentle bear, but he wasn’t a weak one. A brick wall won’t ever punch you but you aren’t getting through it, either.

Perhaps worse for my own career, I lost my biggest fan yesterday.

Nate Schulz either loved my books or did a great imitation of someone who loved my books. I suspect the former, but impostor syndrome is a real bitch. Nate showed up to every launch party, every book signing (no matter how tiny and out in the sticks, which has been all of my like three book signings). He read every book cover to cover, texting me breathlessly after big scenes and twists. He had some choice words for me when I killed off a character he liked.

Whenever he finished one of my books, he’d create a mix-CD of songs he felt made the perfect soundtrack for the story. With a track listing tied to big moments in the novel.

He even created a HeroForge miniature of my main character during lockdown and sent it to cheer me up. Here’s Lucy Day in all of her tiny glory:

Three close ups on a tiny Lucy Day D&D style miniature. Lucy Day has dark hair, a white shirt, and is doing a "come get some " pose

HE LITERALLY MADE A TOY OF A MAIN CHARACTER I WROTE IN MY STUPID BOOK. I love Nate so fucking much.

Here’s the thing: I can’t describe all of the kind acts he did for me, or the gifts he gave me, or the support he lent me. We’d be here all day, all week. And I’m just one of the thousand people he did this kind of stuff for. I am by no means special. My wife still uses a Gilmore Girls “Luke’s Diner” cup every day for her tea, the one Nate gave her out of the blue.

Everyone I know has a list of Nate’s daily miracles.

Nate at a comic con, standing in a giant 'Captain America" action figure box, holding a Cap shield and saluting with a confused and upset look on his face.

He wasn’t just a friend. He was an Agent of GUARD, part of our team of nerdy-ass writers sharing our enthusiasm and criticism and love with the internet.

The seven Agents of GUARD during a photoshoot. Justin Quizon is dancing center. Everyone else is freaking the fuck out, including Nate.
Agents of GUARD annual dance-off to determine publishing priority

Nate was part of our “Order of the Triad” podcast with his hetero lifemate Justin Quizon. He was the Volstagg to our Hogun and Fandrall, the Doctor Orpheus to our Alchemist and Jefferson Twilight.

Later on, he joined us for our short-lived Morningword podcast, where Nate, Justin, and I held each other accountable for our latest creative projects.

The podcast was interrupted by life and the pandemic. We were going to start it up again one day.

Whoops.

A photo of Nate and Justin holding up a squinting, very drunk Bobby, all smiling to camera.
I’m not intoxicated at all.

Nate was the world’s biggest Thor fan. He read every run, breathlessly awaited every movie, owned every piece of Thor gear. It makes sense, really. He’s one of the only people I know who’d be worthy to lift Mjolnir.

The real question is, would Mjolnir be worthy of him?

Nate was a fierce D&D player, a man who created the most bizarre characters and somehow brought them to life. In a Final Fantasy D&D game I ran, Nate made a cactaur (a cactus-man) named Quillhammer. Quill was a wandering hero, seeking justice and glory, who spoke with a deep but boisterous voice. He didn’t wear any clothes, not even a bag, so he kept his gear in his stomach. There was nothing funnier than watching Quillhammer vomit up 5 silver coins to pay for a meal, thank the waitress, and then proudly saunter off as patrons of the establishment watched him go in wonder and horror.

In our Fallout campaign (which we were scheduled to play again next week), he played a pre-war Mr. Handy who served as the personal valet to world-famous actor Rex Macklin. His entire quest was to find Mr. Macklin to be his valet again, neverminding that Macklin had almost certainly reduced to atoms two hundred years ago. Nate played the character as a clueless but enthusiastic, exceedingly helpful fellow who had a bit of a memory leak.

Playing at a table with Nate was guaranteed laughs.

A small ridiculous cactus man running.

The dude was a filmmaker, too, working on every side of the camera and the process, bringing his hilarity, sensitivity, and work ethic to every scene.

Nate leaning over a professional camera in a backyard, looking into the viewfinder.

And we can’t forget his turn as America’s greatest dad, “Proud Father.”

Nate even achieved his dream of moderating a legit San Diego Comic Con panel.

A photo of Nate smiling, holding an official "San Diego Comic Con" panelist placard, with his name on it.

Nate pioneered the brand new field of Thankstaking Day History.

He was also an absolutely unrepentant starfucker:

There’s so much more to say about Nate, but all blog posts gotta end and my heart is sick. I can’t stop crying when I think of him, and I don’t see that wound mending anytime soon. Maybe its better if it doesn’t.

Nate will never get to finish “The Dresden Files,” despite being its unfailing champion and spokesman to everyone he met. He’ll never get to finish my Deadgirl series, and I’ll never hear that fourth mix tape.

A photo from Nate and Bobby's shared booth at Longbeach Comic Con, Nate grinning with a thumbs up, the table covered with Shrouded City and Deadgirl books and merch.

I hate this. I hate that this happened. I’m angry at a world that keeps killing my friends. Keeps taking away the best of us.

But…Nate wouldn’t want that.

He’d want our hearts filled with love, with memories, and with laughs. Nate wouldn’t get angry, or, he wouldn’t let it control him. He never did. He got knocked down sometimes, but he dusted himself off and got back up again. And he didn’t do it for himself, he did it for other people. For us. His strength came from the power and the love he gave the friends and family in his life.

Try to be a Nate. We lost so much warmth yesterday, and it’s our duty to take up the slack. There won’t ever be a Nate Schulz again, but if each of us gives 10% more love, more understanding, and more forgiveness, we can make a dent in that deficit.

If only a small dent.

We love you Nate. Goodbye, friend.

When I get to Valhalla, you better have saved me a seat at your longtable.

A black-and-white photo of Nate staring pensively off-camera, a microphone in his hands.
Categories: Diary, News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “My Friend Nate

  1. Meenaz Lodhi

    I feel like I’ve lost a lovely friend. I am so emotional.

    Rest in Peace, Nate. 🧡🙏

  2. Roberta R.

    I’m so sorry you had to go through this again Bobby. This was an awesome tribute, and I felt like I knew Nathan, and even teared up a bit. “…and then he bounced away like Santa Claus in casual wear” put a smile on my face, but “Try to be a Nate. We lost so much warmth yesterday, and it’s our duty to take up the slack. There won’t ever be a Nate Schulz again, but if each of us gives 10% more love, more understanding, and more forgiveness, we can make a dent in that deficit. If only a small dent.” punched me in the gut. Big hugs to you and your family (also for the cancer thing).

  3. Michael

    He will always be the better Schulz(e). One of my favorite memories of his sainthood was being Bill’s medic at your bachelor party. Spent hours with him at the hospital and arrived triumphantly with Bill at sushi.

  4. Hahaha oh man I just noticed me in the starfucker section. Nathor forever ❤

  5. Pingback: Nate’s GoFundMe | B.C. Johnson

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