Johanna Wilder, Alternative Newspaper Mogul, Shuffles Off Mortal Coil

As waves of humans download themselves into robot bodies and lay their flesh-and-blood bodies to rest, memorials of human remains and their achievements remain in fashion

As the light on the USB-4 hub that was attached to her brain-computer interface dimmed, it was clear to family members and hospi-lab staff that Johanna Wilder had gone on to a better place. She was 78. The Agility-700 robot that housed her formerly-human consciousness and remaining memories hummed and beeped as fans came to life and servos whirred softly in power-on self-test mode.

During her young-adult life, Wilder (born Jonathan Hart Eddy, Jr.) helped found The Onion, the alternative weekly college newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin; that became a leading source of cultural commentary in the era of social media.

She also had a fondness for roleplaying and board gaming, having worked as a designer at Iron Crown Enterprises, an early open competitor of the more well-known Dungeons & Dragons gaming system. During her time there, she designed sourcebooks for fantasy, near future and space combat games, and contributed writing to superhero roleplaying games. Later, at Wizards of the Coast, she contributed to several collectible card games, and designed a system for producing Magic: The Gathering cards in non-Roman alphabet languages.

Wilder cut a circuitous path through life. In her autobiography, she recalled a troubled childhood of abuse and endured bullying throughout her youth. In high school, she was voted “most likely to end up being Editor of Big Scoops at National Enquirer”, which presaged her career as a regular writer, designer and illustrator at The Onion and The Stranger.

After she left Wizards of the Coast, Wilder edited and maintained a weblog on computer roleplaying and another on transsexual and transgender theory. In the 2020s, as artificial intelligence sprouted, she wrote on the subject at her blog Zip! Bang! Wow!, which she continues to maintain.

After sex-reassignment surgery in 2001, she fell ill for unknown reasons. Over the course of two decades, she lived alone, on public assistance, cared for by home care providers. Doctors prescribed large amounts of anti-anxiety, muscle relaxants, and powerful opiates to control the pain she claimed to be experiencing, though they expressed dismay that she should be experiencing so much pain without cause. Therapists from Evergreen Health were dispatched weekly to provide support for her. In 2006, she was accepted into the SSI program for disability.

In 2014, she stopped medications and began attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings. According to her biography, she didn’t feel welcome there, because as she wrote, “I knew something was still wrong, I was still in so much pain, though no one believed me and assumed it was just a symptom of mental illness.” 

In 2020, during the covid pandemic, she fell deeply ill again. Assuming it was Covid and unable to work, she applied to return to the SSI program. She was turned down for SSDI, despite having been seriously ill for over two decades and on SSI for almost a decade. In order to be accepted onto the program during Covid, she acquiesced to being officially diagnosed with several serious mental illnesses, despite believing that something else was wrong.

It wasn’t until 2022, after a 23-year illness during which she was profoundly disabled and homebound, diagnosed with a litany of mental illnesses, she was finally diagnosed with an infected and hydronephrotic right kidney, due to a ureter blocked with scar tissue. After a life-saving six-hour-plus surgery, she set out on the long road to recovery, and eventual re-introduction into the publishing world at Shoreline Community College north of her home in Seattle.

After graduating from the University of Washington with a degree in the business of journalism, she founded a string of successful, local arts and entertainment publications across the country, subverting the conventional wisdom that the publishing business was dying.

Wilder continued to live in Seattle, but traveled around the country on an electric motorcycle with her partner, Dr. Penelope Ellexson.

Ellexson released a statement announcing Wilder’s successful transition to robot, adding, “Johanna’s legacy is one of love, kindness, and an unwavering belief in humanity’s goodness. She reminded us that life is not merely about personal achievements but about the connections we forge and the lives we touch along the way. Her example is a guiding light, inspiring us to live with purpose, compassion, and an open heart. Johanna was a radiant presence, a tall Nordic goddess whose beauty was surpassed only by her unwavering commitment to caring for others.”

Wilder is survived by Ellexson and their poodle, Ember.

This was an assignment in my News Writing class at Shoreline Community College, to write an obituary for myself, following AP Style. I received full marks despite leaving out the obligatory second sentence in my submitted assignment. I regret the error posthumously.