As many of you know, Ethan Sicotte – known around here by his nom de plume Finkbug – died by his own hand last Friday. I put it that way because I greatly prefer the notice in his local paper: Ethan Sicotte died after a tumultuous battle that he fought valiantly for many years. His death came on his own terms on March 9.
Finkbug was more than a regular at Tap-Repeatedly, he was a fixture, and a friend. His presence extends years before Tap even became Tap, when it was still Four Fat Chicks. He’d been a part of the community for nearly a decade. Everyone who knew him recognized his singular brilliance, his singular wit, his singular nature that made him such an important part of the community.
Finkbug chose to leave us in a way that’s left a lot of people reeling, but no one can be suffering more than his family and close friends. Our thoughts are with those people in their grief. Since Finkbug had been among us for so long, and come to mean so much to so many, it seemed only right to put together a small tribute for him. Here are just a few of the thoughts and memories some Tap members have, decorated with Ethan’s own artwork. In lieu of having Finkbug around, we must take some comfort in his memory, which will be treasured by many here.
I don’t know and so can’t comment on why Finkbug took his own life. But I do know a little about how he lived. So I’ll speak to that, his life, at least the part of it I knew. He lived generously, brilliantly. He was fearless about penetrating to the heart of the matter. I could tell he lived in pain, much more, apparently, than I suspected. I could sense he kept some kind of lonely vigil, watching something only he could see. But he was funny too. Hilariously funny and slyly hilarious. His jokes were subtle and sneaked up on me. He had a gift for saying many things at once and in a kind of Finkbugian shorthand that took a bit of unpacking to get. We emailed a lot and I often felt my own clumsiness, my own thudding dullness when replying to some of his incredibly dense messages. But he never seemed to notice or maybe he read more into what I wrote back than was there.
I can’t remember when I first “met” Ethan on the FFC board but I liked him right away. We were very different people and I think that was why. I know he really liked the board because he told me several times, in person, in emails and PMs. He also said he felt a bit humble being in our company which made me shake my head in disbelief as he contributed 10x to whatever he took away from this place.
I’m not much for playing online games but Ethan convinced me to take a tour once with him of A Tale in the Desert, the first or second “telling.” It’s a MMORPG without combat and a microcosm of a society and place where many brilliant people gather to play, create, and interact without violence. He took me around and introduced me, helped me through the first tests so that I could become a member. I could tell he was respected there, could read it in the other players’ responses to him. We took a second tour later, once I was free to roam at will and he showed me all the amazing things people had built, including his and Monica’s home there. Later, I got to return the favor by giving him a real life tour of Portland, OR, my hometown. We played a lot of the first Guild Wars together too, often with another Four Fat Chicks member, Yapette, and sometimes with Monica. That was one of the peak experiences of my gaming life. Just fun, fun, fun because, with Ethan, it never seemed to be about winning or losing, but about the companionship, the doing of stuff together. Failure WAS an option. Hell, failure was half the fun.
I met him in person a couple of times and he was pretty much exactly the same as he was online. No online persona. No mask. Just Finkbug. Just Ethan Sicotte. He was one of the few people on this planet I think I would have trusted completely had I known him better. You know how in the thriller movie there is always the moment when the hero has to turn to the one, last person he can trust? In my movie, that one last person would be Finkbug.
No one can sum up another person’s life and this is doubly true of Ethan’s. Anyone trying to understand his actions will have to let go of their preconceptions, drop the blinders and let in a lot of information that might make them uncomfortable. Because that is what Ethan did and I think that is the way in to understanding his action. Maybe he let in too much, I don’t know. Anyway, if there is a there there wherever Ethan went, I hope he is at peace. I know he’ll be missed around these parts.
Auditrix (Monica, Ethan’s Girlfriend)
Ethan introduced me to the Four Fat Chicks site years ago. He spoke of it many times in our talks. He told me the people there just felt genuine and they were good, smart folk. Honestly, I was a bit intimidated at first.
Even though I am not a huge gamer of the types of games the site was dedicated to, I signed up and am very glad I did. I had such a lovely time reading his posts and seeing how he interacted with others in such an honest way.
One of Ethan’s visits involved us getting together with Jen, Scout and Orb. It was a wonderful experience meeting these people in person. What a grand night. It was also great fun having Scout run Finkbug and I around Portland, showing us many sites where he scouted for commercials and movies and such.
I was glad to see that Finkbug was able to get back to the site recently. I want to thank you all personally, even the ones that are too sad to comment, I understand that. You gave Ethan some really good laughs, frustrations, and good times.
He often referred to FFC/TAP as his virtual home. Finkbug was most comfortable communicating this way, in person, well… that was harder for him. Thank you all for giving him some much needed joy.
The Rabbit in the Moon
A Bedtime Story by Finkbug, as told to Auditrix
When the world was young there were no men. The Rabbit In The Moon sneezed and one hundred and forty-four rabbits were born on Earth. They were new and young and the young are mischevious. After many days playing tag and nip-the-ears and who-has-the-cactus-spine they decided to create their own rabbit. Whenever the Rabbit Dad in the Moon was away they gathered twigs for legs and smooth stones for eyes and damp heavy river mud for muscles and fat. One night when their Father was full in the sky they showed him what they had made!
Their father was very angry that they had tried to copy him, and he turned the smooth stones and the twigs and the rich river mud into the coyotes and the cats and the eagles who forever after chased the rabbits.
Many of his rabbits were eaten by the coyotes and the cats and the eagles but the two smartest survived and learned to leap and to hide and they had many children. Knowing he had been wrong and wishing to reward the best of his children, the Father Rabbit in the Moon used the forgotten twigs and smooth stones and river mud to make a new creature, the first man.
It was small and it was weak. The rabbits could smell the very scent of the Moon upon it but could not understand it. It made so much noise! It was calling all the coyotes and cats and eagles!
The two rabbits, one white and one gray, remembered how angry the Rabbit in the Moon had been and they were afraid. They called to all their many children on Earth to cover and hide and protect this new man.
Many rabbits died leading the coyotes away from the den. Many rabbits were lost to the cruel hunting cats. Many rabbits were carried away by the hungry eagles.
Even more rabbits huddled that longest night on the child man to keep him warm and safe.
And so, for you, I wish nothing less than a night with rabbits.
Ethan made his return to Tap-Repeatedly (formerly Four Fat Chicks) shortly after I’d started writing for it so I didn’t know him nearly as well as some of the others who had been around since the beginning. It wasn’t long before I realised that he was an intelligent and impassioned guy with a unique and quirky spin on things — something I think we all valued on the site. We shared plenty of thoughts on various games and even managed to play a few together with some of the other contributors on Tap, which were always fun. It’s just a shame his microphone wasn’t working because I never did hear his voice! It saddens me to think that we’ll never hear anything from him again though now; Tap seemed to be Ethan’s port of call online and he’ll not be forgotten around here, in fact, I suspect there’ll be a distinctly Finkbug-shaped hole in Tap’s community. I can only offer my condolences to his family and friends.
I didn’t know Finkbug’s real name until a few months ago. For me, for ten years, he’d always been Finkbug. And he still is. It’s not that it’s hard to think of him as anything else, it’s that Finkbug and Ethan were the same person, through and through.
I also never heard his voice. There was a brief Left 4 Dead flare-up among the Tap community, but his microphone was broken at the time, so he was reduced to typing. In a game like L4D that puts you at a distinct disadvantage, but of course we were all so exuberantly bad it hardly counted against him. Hell, one time I was down and Fink quite heroically attempted to heal me with a chainsaw. He seemed very committed to making that work. Maybe he had no health packs. The zombies were coming, maybe he was trying to end me quickly. Or maybe he was just being that silly, goofy guy we knew. Regardless, the chainsaw healing got us a lot of laughs on the forums.
I admit, Fink and I didn’t click at first. It’s not that we didn’t like each other, we were just acquaintances rather than friends. He was a fixture on Four Fat Chicks, the site that would become Tap-Repeatedly; one of the most prolific, brilliant, and opinionated forum posters. He had a remarkable mind. A killer sense of humor. And he said what he thought – maybe some people found him abrasive because what he thought was so often true, and the truth can rub you the wrong way. But Finkbug never insulted anyone. He was never cruel or even mean. He was just frank, and witty beyond compare, and so, so smart. I had a lot of admiration for him.
Fink inexplicably vanished from the site around, oh, 2004 maybe; and he was gone, without a peep, for about five years. By the time he resurfaced, MrLipid and I had taken over, and the site had been changed from Four Fat Chicks to Tap-Repeatedly. (“This place has gone all Jetsons since I’ve been away!” he joked upon his return) But he slid so smoothly back into the community that it was like nothing at all had changed. And it was upon his return that he and I seemed to suddenly find a way to be compatible as actual, no-hesitation friends. I looked forward to any comment and post he might leave. Every single word he contributed made the site a smarter, better place, whether it was mature discussion or just community members goofing around, as we do.
Most people who took the time to know Fink sensed that he was in pain. He never advertised it – never talked about it at all. He wasn’t one of those people for whom suffering was a kind of glamorous thing you wear on your sleeve. Real pain isn’t cool, and he was in real pain. But you could sense it if you looked.
Going back through old forum posts and the like, I see a common, repeated thread in many of Fink’s remarks: that he considered Four Fat Chicks, and later Tap, his “online home.” I like to think that his visits to the site helped ease his pain a little bit.
MrLipid once described Four Fat Chicks as being “as welcoming and comfortable as a corner bar.” This was the main reason he and I decided to take it over once Jen retired. Much like Fink, we loved our little watering hole and didn’t want to see it go. My own sometimes overzealous ambitions for the place changed it a lot, but I hope nothing I did ever altered that comfortable club of friends, where you could always find discussion, silliness, and people who had your virtual back no matter what. Finkbug was a part of that place; knowing that he will never return is as if I’d excised some chunk of what makes it work. I may have never known the sound of his voice, but I and hundreds of other Tappers heard him almost every day, and welcomed it.
How could you not? How could you not welcome a voice that was so smart, and so witty, and so insightful? A voice that was, sure, also curmudgeonly and occasionally rough around the edges, but never unkind. Finkbug was Finkbug, pure and simple. He was himself, without obfuscation. He felt comfortable being that, safe being that, at Four Fat Chicks, and at Tap.
I can’t find it in myself to be angry with Finkbug for the decision to take his life. Yes, he left many people behind, suffering wounds that will never fully heal. But I understand that it becomes exhausting to maintain an existence in spite of your own wishes. We cannot carry on exclusively for others. It is not enough. Eventually, if that’s all there is, it becomes too painful to do so. As far as Ethan was concerned, I think he did what he felt he had to do. So no, no anger. Just sadness.
I will miss him very much. He was my friend. I will miss that voice I never heard, that voice I nonetheless read so very often. I will miss his smarts and his insight, his humor and his style. Tap-Repeatedly has lost something and we cannot ever regain it. While time and distance may reduce the immediate pain of the loss, it will always be there.
Tap-Repeatedly was a virtual home to Finkbug. In that home were hundreds of regulars who knew him, and cared for him, and will always remember him. Wherever he is, he surely knows that the door is still always open and welcoming, that his name is still written on the wall, that there’s a place at the table for him.
To anyone who cared for Ethan but didn’t know about this virtual home of his, know this: around the world today, your son, your friend, your brother, is in the thoughts of people who may have never heard his voice… but who heard his voice so clearly. And like you, we will not forget.