Michael Raymond is a Computer Scientist, Author, and All-around Philosophy, Science, and Technology Geek. From an early age, Michael loved stories and science, and strove to combine the two wherever possible. Michael lives with his family on Long Island, just a few miles from the home he grew up in.
For as long as I can remember, my imagination has been captivated by technology. My first computer was a VIC-20. It was everything to me for about two weeks. My father saw it in an entirely different light: It was his first lesson that any cool piece of technology on sale is probably already outdated. He quickly returned it and came home with a Commodore 64 instead. It was on that machine that I fell in love with coding. First in BASIC. Then in Assembly.
By this time in my life, I'd already fallen in love with stories. From Richard Scarry's illustrated masterpieces to the always relatable Berenstain Bears, books were a constant presence in my life since before I could properly read. I loved to encounter interesting characters and see what adventures befell them. Most of all, through the fictional lives of those characters on the page I learned about amazing things that really existed somewhere in the world. And I learned about amazing things that only existed in the author's imagination, and now in mine, and I wondered how the world might change if they became real. Some of them already have.
My separate worlds of technology and stories came together for the first time when I discovered Below the Root, a game that is the fourth story in Zilpha Keatley Snyder's fantastic Green Sky Trilogy. When I first played I knew it was something special, though I had not yet read, nor even heard of the books it was based on. The game had deceiving emotional depth, a real interactive story, and incredible, original gameplay. Especially considering the limitations of the Commodore 64.
When I stumbled on a book by the same title (the first book in the trilogy) I became utterly changed. I had been inside this story. I knew these characters. They were not people I was watching from outside the story. They were people I'd interacted with, that I felt I knew. It was an emotional and thought provoking experience. And I wanted more.
Deep within my closet lay a pile of books that had no pictures. Behind the Encyclopedia Brown novels, underneath the illustrated versions of classics by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, was a book called The Hobbit. A friend of my parents had given it to me before I was old enough to appreciate it. Bending the paperback cover open, I started reading it right there on the closet floor and remained there until dinner that night. I couldn't put it down. Then, of course, that one ring took me on a much longer ride, and into darker territory.
After that, I read everything I could get my hands on. Most randomly, the MythAdventures series by Robert Asprin. It was around then that I tried my hand at writing for the first time, a book about a brotherhood of misfit, quibbling, squabbling assassins that went around killing bad guys for money. Grisly. Hilarious. Invincible heroes. Nonexistent plot. Writing was incredibly fun, and also turned out to be kind of hard!
But I tried again. And again. Each time trying something a little bit different. Writing stories that were a little bit longer, a little bit better, and occasionally, even had plots. And proper endings too. Sometimes. The first novel that I truly considered "finished" and worthy of publication was The Robinsons' Dark Matter, a story about a brother and sister who investigate the kidnapping of their parents and discover they might actually be aliens. Except, not in a light-hearted, silly kind of way, but something darker, with grit.
When I take a break these days I still read and game. Asimov's Foundation, Zelazny's Amber, King's Dark Tower, and Jordan's Wheel of Time (completed by the incredible Brandon Sanderson) all have a special place in my heart. More recently I've been bowled over by Ernest Cline's Ready Player One and Andy Weir's The Martian. In the digital world I've been captivated by the Deus Ex, Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and Bioshock series of games, which have collectively stolen thousands of hours that might have been spent writing. So, Robinson fans, you know who to blame (Bethesda!).