When I was six, I wanted to be an astronomer or a paleontologist. When I was twelve I wanted to be a science fiction writer. I went to college at Rice University intending to get a degree in electrical engineering and work for JPL or NASA. I ended up double majoring in EE and space physics and went on to the University of Texas at Austin to study astronomy. After getting my PhD in 1996, I worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Kitt Peak National Observatory. I am now an assistant professor in the department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Wyoming. My specialty is quasars. I’ve actually used the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Keck Telescope and the Very Large Array in New Mexico. You can find out more here .
Writing starts with reading. I don’t remember learning to read and don’t remember ever having difficulty with reading with one exception in the form of a nasty school librarian who told me in first grade that I “didn’t read that book.” You see, I’d taken a book from the “big stacks” and first graders weren’t supposed to be able to read those. Bitch. I started writing my first novel — something really terrible inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs’s John Carter of Mars books — in sixth grade. For the most part I let the writing bug idle until I was in college. I got to write a short story for a Space Colonies course my freshmen year, then did some writing on my own and also for an advanced fiction writing course my junior year. I didn’t sell anything I wrote in college but I did start learning to be professional and submitting my stories. Graduate school slowed me down for a few years but I did join a local SF/F writing group (“The Slugtribe”) and started getting serious about writing. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop in the summer of 1994.
Clarion West was a wonderful experience for me though not everyone fares so well. It’s basically boot camp for writers for six weeks, writing 5-6 stories, reading and critiquing over 100 stories, living and learning intensely. I’m still in contact with many of my classmates now nearly a decade later and a rather large percentage of us have become successful writers. We’ve produced over a dozen books and had dozens of short stories published in professional anthologies and magazines. At least half of us are still in there slugging. While the craft acquired at something like Clarion is not to be underestimated, the most important legacy to me has been the friends and professional contacts I made there. Beth Meacham, my editor at Tor, was one of my Clarion instructors and gave me a thumbs-up on the novel synopsis I wrote there. It took me another six or seven years to finish my PhD, hone my craft, and get the actual novel, STAR DRAGON, on her desk.
Mike’s Favorite SF/F Novels in no particular order:
Mike’s favorite movies in no particular order:
Links of Special interest: