About Me: What I Write (and Have Written)

My work-in-progress is a novel called Seems to Fit. You can find many references to it around the site (here and elsewhere). Of particular interest, maybe, may be the post which explains the source of the odd title.

In brief: in suburban Pennsylvania, 1988, a small handful of retirees — sharing only a neighborhood, a little history, and one friend in common — embark on a search for a flagon of great symbolic (and perhaps real) importance to that mutual friend. Writing Seems to Fit has required me to learn about (among other things): metalworking; brewing beer and ale; eighteenth-century Wales; archery; Irish wolfhounds; motor homes; advertising; the Cocoanut Grove fire in Boston, 1942; the battle for Guadalcanal; Methodist hymns; the whereabouts (within a reasonable margin of error) of General Dwight D. Eisenhower at a particular moment in 1945; songwriting; and — especially but not perhaps surprisingly — Arthurian legend.

The novel I wrote before that, Merry-Go-Round, was never seriously marketed and hence, of course, has never been published. You can also find some stuff about Merry-Go-Round here and there around RAMH.

In brief: at about this moment in time, but in a universe slightly different than this one, a large number of highly proficient technological wizards have formed and are employed by a sub-rosa corporation whose mission is not to earn money, except incidentally, but to subvert the workings of a government grown way too sure of itself, intrusive, and motivated by power and greed. The principal tools of subversion: technology (of course); anonymity; and a sense of humor. No guns.

Writing Merry-Go-Round required me to learn something about (among other things): nanotechnology; tai chi; remote-control technology; a certain prison in Maryland; 3D virtual-world graphics technology; lesbian bars; off-site secure data storage facilities; and — especially — the history and oeuvre of the Warner Brothers animation studio.

The first novel I wrote to completion, Crossed Wires, was published in 1992 by Carroll & Graf. A mystery about a killer who stalks his victims via electronic mail and on-line forums — in the early 1990s! — it found few readers, got a handful of generous reviews and about an equal number of unkind ones, and sank pretty much without a trace. You can still find copies here and there in used-book stores and from on-line sources.

I never even came close to finishing my first novel. A picaresque science-fiction tale called As Luck Would Have It, it posited the existence of a substance discovered within the sub-atomic empty spaces of matter. That substance had previously been known only by the word, and the ghostly concept of, coincidence. And some people, as (cough) luck would have it, turned out to be supreme conductors of coincidence, while others insulated against it. People were sorted into occupations and stations in life by their propensity for coincidence. (You wouldn’t want technicians at a nuclear-power plant to attract the incidence of the unplanned, for example; you’d want as little as possible to happen by accident.)

Writing As Luck Would Have It, what little writing there was, required me to learn almost nothing. It did require me to have read and aspired to replace Thomas Pynchon in the literary pantheon. And it required that I love puns (which I regard as verbal coincidence, sometimes planned). It required, finally, the wit to recognize that I had no idea what I was doing, and to stop.

I’ve written a bunch of short stories but sold only one, to a literary magazine, also in 1992.

I‘ve also written and published a number of non-fiction reference books on Internet technology (HTML and XML). Most of these were published by Prentice-Hall prior to 2001. The most recent came out in 2002, from O’Reilly & Associates. These books also found me paying work writing articles for computer magazines and on-line tech-reference sites.

Thanks to one of these books, too, I was asked to teach a course aboard the very first Geek Cruise, a seven-day cruise to Alaska and back. That cruise served as The Missus’s and my honeymoon, after getting married in Vancouver — nothing to sneeze at. Geek Cruises has branched out and now operates as Insight Cruises, offering education on a wide variety of geek and non-geek topics as you voyage to any of a whole host of destinations. (What a great idea, now as then.)

My first XML-related book got me to build and develop the first Web site and blog of my own, called (for reasons which made sense if you read that book) flixml.org. The Internet Archive’s wonderful “Wayback Machine” can show you some of that site’s content, should you be so inclined, going back to January 1999. (Here at RAMH, I wrote about the blog in a post back in March, 2010.)

The flixml.org domain name has lapsed and since been claimed by someone purporting to sell life insurance.

I don’t regret having done the tech writing, but plan to do no more.

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