First Post from the Asylum

Hey everyone! I’m Mary Fan, sci-fi/fantasy author and latest inmate of the asylum that is Crazy 8 Press. Y’all are probably wondering how I wound up in this madhouse. Well, let’s start from the very beginning. Hey, this is a getting-to-know-you blog, isn’t it?

I’ve been a bookworm for as long as I can remember… in fact, I read so much as a kid that it got me in trouble. Flashlights under the covers, hiding books under the mattress (not because they were “adult” or anything, but because my parents didn’t like me having so many, since I’d read instead of doing homework), spending breaks and lunchtime in the library… I was THAT kid. I inhaled a steady stream of children’s books and Western literary classics (often introduced to me by Wishbone… Who remembers that pup?), much of which included elements of fantasy (though not so much sci-fi, as I recall). Since my parents are Chinese immigrants, the entertainment in our house was slightly different than in most American homes. I had Disney movies and Star Trek: The Next Generation on TV, but other than that, I was largely out of the loop. Which is why I don’t get most ‘80s and ‘90s  cultural references today (what’s a Full House?)

No sooner do I join this bunch, than I am asked to judge my first Masquerade at Shore Leave. What a night that was!

I was maybe 11 when I first discovered sci-fi by way of two things: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, and Jack Williamson’s Legion of Space. The year was 1999, and Blockbuster was out of The Sixth Sense, so I grabbed Phantom Menace instead because the case looked cool. Watched it, fell in love with it, decided I was a fan of space stuff. Hardcore old-school Star Wars fans are probably gaping in horror that this was my intro to the beloved universe, but hey, at least I found it at all. Then there was my discovery of the Wishbone edition of Legion of Space, which led me to promptly seek out the real version. Something about it spoke to me… I don’t recall exactly what happened in the story, but I remember being astounded by the sheer amount of possibility.

The next thing I knew, I was systematically hunting down sci-fi authors and checking out all their books from the library one by one (I literally went down the shelf and grabbed entire sections at times… hey, if there are only five Ben Bova books, I might as well take ‘em all at once!). Though I loved fantasy as well… what kid doesn’t love magic?… sci-fi was what really spoke to me. I think it’s because all the fantasy I read was very Western-centric, and at a certain point, I felt like I was reading about the same castles and dragons over and over. Sci-fi could be time travel, aliens, crazy tech on an otherwise contemporary earth… it was endless. There was also something about the aesthetic—I may have just been more of a science geek than a history nerd. I loved sci-fi and space stuff so much, I ventured alone into a sketchy Hong Kong hole-in-the-wall shop to buy pirated versions of the original Star Wars movies when I was 12. Terrifying, but totally worth it.

Last year I got to meet both Summer Blau and Sean Maher. That was certainly memorable.

As y’all probably know, no one obsesses like a tween girl in love, and that’s exactly what I was… completely, utterly, hopelessly in love with sci-fi and space stuff. So naturally, my next step was to try to write some of my own. The results were truly horrendous, but I spent the next several years—into the first two years of high school—scribbling silly, campy space adventures about an intrepid crew of explorers (and the commander’s tween daughter, who inevitably got the most important roles).

Fast forward half a decade. College put a damper on my writing dreams after rejecting me from their creative writing program three times, thereby convincing me that I was utterly worthless and should give up entirely (I channeled my creative energy into the music department instead). But a year after graduation, I found myself stuck in Beijing at my first job, which involved working weird hours to align with the New York office. In other words, a lot of free time late at night when everyone else is asleep. A good friend of mine in college—who HAD been accepted into the creative writing workshop—had been talking about how she wanted to get back into writing but wanted a partner to trade work with for motivation (she knew I’d used to want to write and tried many times to convince me that our creative writing department was just biased against me because I did spec fic instead of highbrow literary stuff). So I obliged and started an all-new silly, campy space adventure…except I’d also been reading a lot about artificial intelligence and consciousness at the time, so I decided to infuse that into the tale as well.

That book eventually became my debut, Artificial Absolutes. When I started writing it, all I’d wanted was to finish. I thought I’d just use it to pass the time and entertain my friend, then forget all this writing nonsense all over again. But you know that picture book, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie? It was like that. First, I just wanted to finish. When I finished, I wanted to make it good and started going onto online writer communities to get critiques and improve the thing. Then, I wanted to get published. After it found a home with Red Adept Publishing, I wanted to promote it. Since bookstore customers are more the crime-novels-and-women’s-fiction crowd, I chose to go straight to the geeks.

One of my many Shore Leave 39 panels with fellow inmate Glenn Hauman, left, Jennifer Rosenberg, David Mack, and Richard White.

Which brings me to Shore Leave, a fan-run Star Trek convention in Maryland that I’d discovered because one of my fellow Red Adept authors (who writes fantasy) is local to the area. That’s where I met the Crazy 8 crew a few years back.

When I first started my writing adventures, I kept indie publishing on my radar but felt like I needed the validation of an old-school publisher to be legit. Nowadays, I’ve accepted that I’m just too weird for most traditional houses. Not that I won’t still shop stuff around, but I foresee much indie publishing in my future. Still, even indies need support—no person is an island and all that. It’s just nice to know that someone has your back. So when Crazy 8 invited me to join their club, I was like “hells yeah!” I felt like I just got invited to sit at the cool kids’ table ;-)

And that, my friends, is how I wound up in the asylum.

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