- I was born in Dallas, TX on January 11, 1964
- After examining all my options, I had decided this was the best opening step, although a number of my trusted lieutenants were not so sure. "Why risk all on such a mad plan, my Lord?" they asked, but I was determined to proceed.
- Next, I learned to whistle before I learned to speak, and whistled "The Star-Spangled Banner" at my first birthday party.
- Although my parents were (and remain ) impressed, even I regard this as a needless digression from my master plan.
Already planning my next move
Yes, I still have it. No, I do not still sleep with it.
The Closet Monsters work for ME now.
- I got back on track by becoming interested in dinosaurs.
- Very interested. I had picture books about dinosaurs and, before I could read, used to make up my own stories about the pictures.
- This led to my first really useful henchman, a stuffed Tyrannosaur my grandmother made for me when I was around 5 years old.
- For several key years in my youth, the mighty jaws of this fearsome predator kept me safe at night from the threat posed by the Closet Monsters.
- Dinosaurs also led me to reading. First, so I could read my books about dinosaurs, and then ones with stories about them.
- My first "chapter book" was called The Enormous Egg and it was about a farm kid who, thanks to a genetic mutation in a chicken egg, gets a pet Triceratops. I read it a thousand times.
- What I did not realize was that this book was a portal. Beyond it lay other books, and in those books, other worlds. Better worlds. Infinite worlds.
- Worlds called Barsoom and Trantor and the Ringworld and Middle-earth.
- Worlds where great heroes strode through the pages, with names like John Carter, Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, Alan Quatermain, Kimball Kinnison.
- Superman and Batman? Nice, but only runners-up to the Warlord of Mars. The Enterprise? Loved it, but the Skylark already boldly went where no man had gone before. Jedi knights? Great movies (some of them) but I met the Lensmen first.
Yes, I do still have it.
Yes, I DO still reread it now and again.
In here is a universe larger than any the astronomers have discovered.
Granted, no book ever managed to do this first:
But that's only because books, taken all together, are this.
Summer camp or something
- Soon I was hooked. I had a book on me at all times. I'd sneak chapters between classes at school, or during classes if I could get away with it.
- There were so-called books I was supposed to read for school, but they were horrid, dull things and I had as little to do with them as possible.
- During this time, other things happened in my life, probably, but apart from the books it's all just a blur.
All the reading finally brought my master plan into focus.
The best books were those that created whole new worlds.
I would create the history of an entire galaxy!
This one will do. Wrap it up and send it to me.
My colleagues laughed at my work, called me mad— MAD! But the last laugh will be mine!
My plans now fully formed, I attended Rice University.
There, I joined the MOB (the Marching Owl Band). The MOB had a profound effect on my life:
- Also at Rice, I studied Biology, getting my B.A. in 1986 and my Ph.D. in Behavioral Ecology in 1993.
- For quite a long while I pursued Biology as the best way to advance my plans for Galaxy creation.
- I reasoned that to be a successful mad scientist, I must first tackle the scientist part.
- Besides, I had a real fascination for Biology, especially animal behavior. I still do.
- In the end, though, it wasn't the right path. Here's the problem:
Ways of looking at animals doing things:
Really interesting |
Not so much
- I had collided with the fact that, in order to have a scientific career, it is necessary to keep up with the scientific literature, and— as hard as this is to imagine— the scientific literature has almost no swashbuckling in it at all!
- It was the wrong path. I had fantastic teachers or I'd never have gone as far as I did, but still it was not my path. I'd forgotten the most important feature of my master plan:
It's all about Story.
- The way forward was to go back. Back to the books, back to the path I started down the first time I opened the one about the kid with the pet Triceratops.
In the words of one of the great mad scientists who went before me:
- Writing: that's how Edgar Rice Burroughs and JRR Tolkien and all the others made their worlds of wonder; it's how I would make my Galaxy.
- To do so would require skills: experts willing to share the Secret Knowledge. My Biology experience gave me the clue: I would seek out the final piece of the puzzle at—
- So I found The Writer's Path at SMU.
- Here at last was the key to ultimate success— and ultimate power!
- All pieces are now in place. There remains only to finally put my master plan into motion!
"Nozzing in ze vorld can shtop me now!"