I discovered your books through my best friend of twenty years who, knowing my love of the weird and wonderful, recommended the Spatterjay series. The richness of your “world-building” had me hooked immediately with The Skinner. As an animal lover and monster afficionado, I loved the intricacy of the ecology, and the manner in which cultural and societal norms were so intricately tied to that ecology (as is always the case even if we are blind to it). I also really identified with the positivity of your futurism. Though your books have plenty of horror elements, the future universe you imagine is a positive place where human beings have transcended all manner of foibles.
I have been obsessed with science fiction and horror since I was a kid. When I about five-years-old, I began suffering from ocular migraines (undiagnosed until years later) that caused visual distortions such as severe tunnel vision. To a small child, it was quite terrifying, and, also coincidentally suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I developed elaborate bedtime rituals to try and stop what I perceived as some sort of monstrous existential threat. Having had an experience which, however mundane and medical it ultimately turned out to be, I perceived as fantastical, made me adore stories of the bizarre, paranormal, and futuristic. Stories of ordinary people living through extraordinary circumstances, learning how to successfully combat monsters, master the vacuum of space, and otherwise transcend normal human experience was intoxicating.
Long before I discovered your work, I loved classic science fiction, both in the world of literature (Asimov and Wells being among my favorites) and film. I grew up on the campy horror and sci-fi of the 1950’s and 60’s, and still appreciate them today, especially for their flaws. I enjoy both the goofiness of the technology they envisioned and as documents of the contemporarily problematic cultural norms they often embody.
With these genres as my reference point, it is no wonder that my first forays into my future career as an artist were focused on monsters, dragons, imaginary creatures from distant planets, about which I would narrate mock wildlife documentaries long before I knew that exobiology was a thing (You can understand why I have fallen in love with Hooders, Gabbleducks, and the like). Eventually my focus shifted to living wildlife, and I now make my living as a professional artist specializing in painting wildlife in a style combining representational realism with abstraction. Though my professional work is more grounded in reality than my childhood experiments, I still have an eye for the fantastical, taking my subjects out of their natural environments and recontextualizing them. Popular of late has been my totem series, in which animal subjects are stacked in dizzying towers, referencing both the delicate balance of nature and the manner in which humans have always imbued their animal neighbors with symbolic import. Painting animals for a living, I am an ardent conservationist, but I DO NOT identify with the apocalypticism that dominates so much conservation ideology. I grow weary of the constant negativity and alarmism, mostly because it inspires defeatism rather than positive change. Based on some of your FB posts, I have a hunch we would find a lot of common ground on this subject over a drink or three.
I grew up in California with a loving family who encouraged (and still encourage) my creativity. I feel enormously fortunate to have been able to build my career around my passion for the visual arts, though I enjoy many other creative exploits, including writing poetry, screenplays, novels, and short stories. I am determined to one day squeeze out a particular sci-fi-horror-fantasy novel I have been writing in fits and starts for years. Of course a certain author continues to be an inspiration on this front!
Today I live in Tucson, AZ with my partner Guy, also an artist, and our two dogs, Ella and Enzi. We live in a fabulous original mid-century modern home ( a long-time ambition of mine, finally realized two years ago), the architecture of which reflects the naive futurism of the 1950’s and 60’s that I love so much.
As an artist, I think what I appreciate most about your work is the notion of finding ways to extend human life. True artists always have more ideas in their heads than we will ever be able to bring to life on a page, in a painting, or in any other physical manifestation. It is both the gift and the curse of the artist to know that he will always have more “brain children” waiting to be born than he will ever be able to share in his lifetime. I don’t resent a wrinkle or a grey hair, but I do fear running out of time, and your books transport me to a universe where the infinite stands before us, vast, terrifying, and brimming with promise.
The pictures in order are a headshot, two images of my artwork “Totem #6: Teton Totem,” and “String Theory #9: European Goldfinches.” Both are acrylic on board. A picture of me (on the right) with my partner in Kenya, and a shot of our dogs and constant companions, Ella & Enzi. Thanks very much for inviting us to share our own stories and for always sharing your own!