At 3.28pm today, the 18th of April, 2019, I turn 50 years of age.
It doesn’t really seem real. For starters, I don’t feel 50 years old. You can thank karate for that, at least to some extent as — my shitty knees notwithstanding — I’m in better shape now than I was 15 years ago at age 35 when I walked into the dojo for the first time.
Mostly what’s getting me is that not so much that I feel ancient or anything silly like that, but I’m really feeling the weight of the number of years I’ve been around. There are people graduating high school now who weren’t alive when 9/11 happened, much less when the Berlin Wall was still a thing, and personal computers and cell phones weren’t. Hell, the notion of a cordless phone was new when I was in high school. I’ve sat in front of a television to watch the first person land on the moon (okay, I was only a few months old, but my parents assure me I was watching it), to watch the Twin Towers fall, and to watch a black man sworn in as President of the United States — twice!
Anyhow, here’s a look back at my life at past 0 numbers….
In 1979, I was ten years old and had a bit of a puppet obsession. Most of the time, my Daniel Striped Tiger puppet was the one I carried around with me, but this picture was taken on Christmas Eve, and so instead I had Noel Bear.
Here’s an example of how I feel the weight of years: when I was ten years old, it was normal for people to take off their glasses when they were having their pictures taken. It’s far less common now, but there was a societal stigma to glasses. It seems absurd now, but it was prevalent in the 1970s and earlier, lemme tell ya.
I’d only had glasses for two years at that point. In 1977, we took a trip to Montréal and Québec, and while in the former city, we went to an Expos game, and I had to squint to read the scoreboard. When we got home, I went to the eye doctor and I got glasses. It’s gotten to the point where having glasses now is part of my self-image, and I can’t imagine myself without them. (Which is why I’ve never done contacts or laser surgery or anything like that.)
1979 was also a difficult year. I finished fifth grade at a Montessori school called New Rochelle Academy. I was there from first to fifth grade, but my parents were unhappy with the school by ’79, as they’d gotten rid of all the good teachers there, and in the fall of ’79 I started at a different school, Halstead, where a couple of those teachers had wound up. Halstead turned out to be far far worse, but I did meet a friend who got me started reading comic books, so some good came out of it. (Neither of those schools is still in existence. The former was run by a married couple, but when the wife died, the husband didn’t wish to continue; the latter just went out of business, probably because it sucked, and it’s a religious school now.)
In 1989, I was twenty years old, entering my senior year at Fordham University. This was also the year my professional writing career officially started, as I had sold some reviews and a news story to The Comics Journal, and toward the end of ’89, I was also commissioned to write an article for Library Journal about graphic novels in libraries. ’89 was also the year I got my first salary job. Prior to this, I had worked a couple of hourly paid gigs, mostly at the New York Public Library, but in the summer of ’89 I applied for a half-time Library Technical Assistant job, which gave me an actual salary with taxes taken out and W2s and all that nonsense. I did that gig until I graduated college in the summer of 1990.
Marina Frants and I had been dating for two years at this point, and it was in ’89 that it became a long-distance relationship, as that fall she started her graduate school work at MIT. It obviously turned out okay, since we got married after she got her Master’s and moved back to the NYC area…….
In the summer of ’89 I also lived on my own for the first time. See, my best friend, John S. Drew (my cohort on both the public access and podcast versions of The Chronic Rift, among other things), had gotten into a nasty argument with his parents, and got thrown out of his house in the fall of ’88, and my parents took him in. He slept on our living room sofa-bed for nine months. My second mother/third parent, Helga, had lost her father the previous summer, and after his widow moved into a nursing home, Helga had to sell the house. But some work needed to be done, so John and I spent the summer living in that house. It gave John his own bedroom for the first time in nine months, and we both got to experience living on our own for the first time, which was pretty awesome.
In 1999, I was thirty years old. At this point, Marina and I were married and living in The Best Apartment In The World on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Seriously, this apartment was amazing: a huge place on West 100th Street near Central Park West. That apartment was a glorious place to live, and a great place to throw parties — not just for ourselves, but for other people, as my mother’s fiftieth birthday party in 1997 and the late David Honigsberg’s ordination party in 2000 were both held at our spacious place, as was David Mack’s “mock-a-thon,” where he screened his NYU film school oeuvre for his friends. We had a spare bedroom that many friends made use of over the time we lived there, and the apartment was also the home base for the Don’t Quit Your Day Job Players, as we would all get together at our place before and after gigs in the New York area.
One of the parties we threw there was for my thirtieth birthday, of course, and it was a magnificent gala, catered by my dear friend Rachel Bailey Giambra.
That year, Marina and I also went to Australia! The World Science Fiction Convention was in Melbourne, and we decided to make a trip of it, spending a week in Sydney prior to the con, the con in Melbourne, and then a week in Rarotonga in the Cook Islands before heading home. It was a glorious trip (we fell in love with Sydney, and actually considered the possibility of moving there for about five minutes — ironically, Marina would much later wind up living there for two years while doing an oceanography gig). The only damper was the minor motor-scooter accident I got into on Rarotonga. (I still have the scar on my right elbow.)
This was a year after I went freelance (so it was my first full year as a full-time freelancer), and it was in ’99 that I started my career as a Star Trek fiction writer, as I got the contract to write Diplomatic Implausibility (which came out in February 2001) and also was hired to write the Next Generation comic book miniseries Perchance to Dream (which came out at the end of ’99). I had three novels out that year, also, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer novelization The Xander Years Volume 1 and my two Young Hercules novels Cheiron’s Warriors and The Ares Alliance.
In 2009, I was forty years old. It was one of the most amazing years of my life, to be honest.
In the ten years between 1999 and 2009, my marriage to Marina ended (mutually, and amicably; we’re still friends, though she lives on another coast now), I started up another relationship with Terri Osborne, and that crumbled and ended shortly after my fortieth birthday in April 2009 (that was not an amicable split, but the two of us are on good terms now). That fortieth birthday was itself a delight, as I was joined by those closest to me for a great day at the Bronx Zoo followed by dinner at Mario’s in Little Italy.
In May, I met Wrenn Simms at Balticon, introduced by our mutual friend Hugh Casey. (Years later, we would discover that we’d met before at a wedding in 1998, but neither of us — nor anyone else who sat at our table — has any memory of that wedding at all.) We hit it off rather a lot; a year after that Balticon, she (and her brother Dale) moved in with me, and we got married in April 2017.
In July, David Mack organized a roast of me by him and fellow Star Trek authors Kirsten Beyer, Peter David, Kevin Dilmore, Michael Jan Friedman, Robert Greenberger, Glenn Hauman, and Dayton Ward. This was held at the Shore Leave convention, and it was glorious. I also got a Keith puppet, made by the great Kathleen O. David!
Also in July, I was given the Faust, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers. This was a humbling and supreme honor.
Then in October, I got the biggie: my first-degree black belt.
It’s hard to put into words just how ridiculous I still think it is that I can call myself a black belt with a straight face, even though I’ve now had one for ten years and have not only been training for that entire decade, but gotten two more stripes on the belt and I teach classes to kids three days a week. The notion of being physically strong is still one that confuses the me who spent his childhood as the shortest kid in class, and whose athletic accomplishments included playing right field for a last-place Little League team (right field being where they put the worst player) and playing soccer for a team that not only never won a game, we were never in any danger of winning a game, both in grammar school.
That year was the tenth anniversary of Farscape‘s debut, and I was doing a ton of Farscape comics for BOOM! Studios, including the second, third, and fourth issues of our debut miniseries, two more miniseries (Strange Detractors and Gone and Back), starting an ongoing monthly series, and writing three D’Argo-focused miniseries. My Star Trek: Alien Spotlight comic book one-shot on the Klingons came out that year, as well as short stories in Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Shards and Shadows and BattleTech: 25 Years of Art & Fiction, and nonfiction in Star Trek Magazine, In the Hunt: Unauthorized Essays on Supernatural, and Assembled! 2: The Unauthorized Guide to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Villains. In addition, my Executioner novel Code of Honor and what has so far been my last Star Trek novel A Singular Destiny were both published.
In 2019, I’m fifty years old. What a long, strange trip it’s been…………………….