I grew up an Army brat. My father was a Chaplain in the US Army, and served in Europe during WWII. I’ve lived in Japan and Germany as well as several Army posts in the US. I graduated from Killeen High School (which is right next door to Fort Hood, Texas) and attended Trinity University in San Antonio (BA, 1963). I did graduate work at Tulane University, but moved to Baylor College of Medicine in Houston from where I got my PhD degree in virology in 1971. I’ve worked not only at Baylor, but also at Methodist Hospital in Houston, at Duke University in Durham, NC, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Cincinnati, and most recently a short stint at Clean Earth Technologies in Winston-Salem, NC.
I’ve done a little of a lot of things, mostly in different fields in virology*: AIDS, environmental, cancer, clinical. Within those fields I had to work with a lot of different viruses, including HIV, herpes simplex (and others in the herpesvirus group), poliovirus and other enteroviruses, reovirus, rotavirus, hepatitis viruses (there are several), influenza virus, and probably a few I don’t remember. I’ve even done a little bioterrorism research. (I’m not supposed to give any details. It’s all hush-hush, you know.) Right now, though, I’ve given up research to concentrate on writing science fiction stories. I’ve finished a sci-fi novel and its sequel (which constitute the first two books of a trilogy) and scratched out a few short stories. The third book in the trilogy is currently in the long tedious stage of revision. That will take a while. If you’ve ever done any writing, you’ll know what I mean. Writing is revising, isn’t it?
I used to have a few hobbies: woodworking, photography, model railroading, music, but all those have been set aside to one degree or another while I sit in front of a computer all day and type words onto a screen. Like now.
I’ve always been a reader. Mostly scientific stuff as you can imagine, but I’ve read a fair number of novels, especially recently, now that I don’t have to concentrate on all that scientific folderol. I wrote a few scientific papers during my tenure as a researcher, but I’m not listing them here. If anyone’s really interested in looking at them, I’ll send them a list.
Given all that, why did I decide to start a blog? What’s behind this form of writing? It comes down to three basic reasons: (1) Writing a blog on a semi-regular basis forces me to put my thoughts down in some reasonably coherent order. It also obliges me to think in substantial detail about my opinions and beliefs concerning writing and science, and to think them through to their logical conclusion. I’m not just blurting out a half-baked opinion as I might do in informal conversation; I’m cogitating on the subject well beforehand. It’s been surprising how, after thinking in detail about a subject and laying out the blog post, my real opinion on the subject has actually changed. Not to a great extent, mind you, but subtly. Writing a blog post can actually modify and solidify my opinion when I realize how unrealistic it was in the beginning.
(2) A blog is a repository for my ideas and thoughts. It’s a place to keep them and I can pull them down and look at them later. I can go back and see what I wrote on a given subject any time I want.
(3) A blog allows anyone who wants or is so inclined to read and comment. Perhaps one or more blog posts will stimulate some conversation and change a mind or two. I’m not holding my breath, but it is fun to speculate.
But at the bottom of it all is the main question: why writing? Why did I give up research—which is the essence of an activity that is intensely objective—to write stories which are exasperatingly subjective? That’s a good question, one I’ve asked myself many, many times in the past fifteen years or so. For a long time, I couldn’t answer it. I usually mumbled something about “it’s something I have to do,” or “I can’t not write,” or “I started and can’t stop.” Those may be true, but have never been satisfactory. Over the last year or so (the calendar year 2015) I solidified my feelings on the matter and set up another page on this blog called From Science To Fiction. Click on it and you’ll get an eyeful.
*If you’re confused about viruses, and what they are, just remember this: protozoa are small, and bacteria are even smaller, but viruses are smaller than both of them put together. (I don’t know who was the first person to say this; it wasn’t me.) My definition of a virologist is this: a virologist is a person who washes his hands before he goes to the bathroom.