In memoriam: Bill Goggins, formerly of Wired Magazine

Paul Boutin writes,

Bill Goggins, who died unexpectedly while running the San Francisco Marathon Sunday, was Wired's man-behind-the-curtain for years until he recently moved on. Bill's meticulous yet hilarious verbal skills, coupled with a work ethic rarely seen outside New England milltowns, quietly improved most of Wired's feature stories and countless others in the late 90's and early 00's. Bill had an exceptional ability to take a good story and make it better–clearer, catchier, more consistent–usually by changing only a few words, sometimes by making both editor and writer go back and re-examine their basic premises. Whenever people comment on my ability to write clearly, I know Bill had a lot to do with it.

Case in point: I once spent weeks crafting a short piece on Ray Kurzweil that concluded with this paragraph.

Skeptics may say he's flown off the charts himself, but Kurzweil is sure they'll live to regret it. "The really surprising thing to me is how many Nobel Prize winners haven't internalized the implications of the exponential rate of increase in the rate of knowledge itself," he says. "It's easy to explain these things in the language of mathematics. But to really understand them, you almost need to resort to religious terms."

Bill read it and tacked on one more word:


But I'll remember Bill most for his dry yet pointed wit around the office. When Chris Anderson's first Wired cover, "Is Japan Still the Future?" was punched up by Condé Nast's editorial director to "Japan Rocks!" Bill protested by posting a note above his desk in the same font: "If Japan's a-rockin', don't come a-knockin'."

Link to Paul's post. Image: Bill Goggins, with Paul's wife Christina Noren, at a party in 2004. Here is an article with details on the circumstances surrounding Goggins' death at 43 years old, the first fatality in the SF Marathon's history. He was a kind man and a masterly editor.

Update: Snip from an item at Wired News by Mark Robinson:

Goggins was a legendary figure at Wired magazine, where he started as a freelance copy editor in 1995. He went on to become the managing editor and an articles editor, and eventually rose to become deputy editor. His colleagues admired him tremendously.

"Bill was that rarest of things: a true original," says Chris Anderson, the magazine's editor in chief. "He was brilliant, witty and culturally omnivorous, all of which combined in his signature headlines. They usually worked on at least three levels of meaning, from some remixed cultural reference to at least one pun. In many ways his winking style and clever turns of phrase became Wired house style for nearly a decade, and to look at our covers and headlines over those years is to hear Bill's voice again."

Link (Thanks, Mark Robinson)

Tim Cavanaugh at Reason magazine writes,

One of my countless career regrets was that I turned down a great offer from Wired back in the late nineties in order to keep chasing the white lady of a big dotcom ripoff. Bill was very cool before, during, and after that fiasco, and was a reliable good-time guy and great conversationalist. I always enjoyed hanging out with him. His writings for Wired are pretty sparsely represented on a quick Google search, but here's his complete Suck archive, my favorite of which is this Jack-Kemp-is-gay chestnut. I'll miss Bill.

With the apparent exception of the first title listed ("Free at Last"), this is an archive of Goggins' contributions to (Thanks, Paul Boutin).

Nina Alter of Survival Research Laboratories (SRL) tells BoingBoing,

I used to work at WiReD,
and fucking adored him. Deeply regret loosing contact with him- but I'm
a hermit, and tend to do that with a lot of people.

He was just a
brilliant mind, and an incredibly kind and wonderful human being. Many
in SF and around the world will miss him a great deal. A very, very
rare breed of wit, authenticity, passion, compassion, and intellect.

link to SF Chron article.