If you wish to email/contact me, take my first name, patrick, add the at symbol – @ and then tack thenewuniverse.com on the end. I’d put a link, but I don’t like spam… 😉
Patrick Hester is an author, blogger, 2013 & 2014 Hugo Award Winner, and an all around Functional Nerd. He (mostly) writes Science Fiction and Fantasy of all shapes and sizes. He tweets too much on his Twitter stream, posts writer memes to Facebook like any good writer should, and lives in Colorado with a cat named Shadow and an impressive collection of old and out dated computer bits and bobs he can’t seem to throw away. He produces and hosts the SF Signal podcast (nominated for multiple Hugo’s and Parsec awards), the Functional Nerds podcast (also nominated for multiple Parsec awards), and for a few years, produced ‘I Should Be Writing‘, the podcast for wannabe fiction writers created/hosted by 2013 Campbell Award Winner Mur Lafferty. He writes for his website, atfmb.com, for SFSignal.com, FunctionalNerds.com and KirkusReviews.com. His fiction is out there in the aether – if you have Google-fu, you’ll find it – if you don’t have Google-fu, just click here to see a bunch of it.
I was born in Chicago in 1972. My dad worked in an Italian restaurant that he used to own and my mom, well – I’m honestly not sure what she was doing at the time. I can’t imagine that she wasn’t working. Just knowing her, I know that she was probably working her ass off as a waitress somewhere. I should probably know this and will attempt to rectify that lapse of knowledge as soon as possible.
EDIT: JANUARY 2012 – Mom worked as a waitress making $1.50 /hr. How crazy is that?!
When I was 7 or 8, forgive my bad memory here, my parents split up and my mom, older half-brother and I moved to California along with my aunt and uncle, their son, and my grandmother. We all lived in a huge house together, which was fun and not fun on equal turns. I remember, vaguely, our time in that house. As an example; I remember that, since we were in California, we absolutely had to have a swimming pool. So we got an above ground pool from Sears. It was a lot of fun. I remember swimming in there with my cousin and also getting the dog in on the act. My aunt and uncle, however, were not very happy and soon moved back to Chicago, leaving the rest of us to move to a new house that we could better afford.
EDIT: JANUARY 2012 – Also, that pool died. When my uncle and brother installed it, they failed to kill all the grass so weeds started to grow up, through the liner.
I attended a couple years of public school (or so it seems – it was probably more like one year), then returned to Catholic school, attending Our Lady of Victory for several years. I liked OLV, as we called it. But the thing about Catholic school is that the kids tend to all know each other from kindergarten and that makes it difficult for new kids to break in and make friends. Still, I managed.
Mouthing off to my mother once too often, it was decided that I should spend some time with my dad. (I kept saying, “My dad would let me do this! My dad would buy that for me!”). Sigh. Let’s call that a ‘lost summer’, shall we? Not a great experience and it caused a rift between my dad and I that lasted for years. Suffice it to say, I returned home after a few months but could not return to OLV as they were ‘full’, so I instead started attending St Therese. I was there til the 8th grade and that’s where I made one of the longest lasting friendships I have to this day and also where my imagination and love for reading was fostered.
One of the lay teachers (she wasn’t a Nun or a Priest), introduced me to The Lord of the Rings. I’d already read CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, but this new thing she’d given me, The Hobbit – that was different. I was hooked. She let me borrow her copy of The Lord of the Rings in sections; The Fellowship of the Ring was first, then The Two Towers and finally, The Return of the King. She had very nice, hard cover editions of each and I was absolutely fascinated by this book.
We ended up reading a lot of books in that school that I would not have otherwise read if left to my own devices (I think I was still reading Encyclopedia Brown and Archie & Jughead at the time). Books like To Kill a Mockingbird, which is still a favorite of mine to this day. It was amusing to me that, in the 10th grade when a teacher assigned us to read that same book, I asked for a different assignment and the teacher gave me a lecture about reading for pleasure and to just give it a chance and how I ‘might even like it’. Then I told him I read it in the 7th grade and he paused. I think he was taken aback. This was a public high school and I don’t think, even in AP English, he was prepared to hear that someone had read that book in the 7th grade. He assigned me something else; Catcher in the Rye I think.
I didn’t start writing until later that year when a substitute gave us an assignment to write about ourselves but to give us a hidden agenda and tell the class, anonymously, what that agenda was. I wrote about taking over the world by tricking high school kids into following my cause through subliminal messages in their textbooks and he really liked it. Something sparked there.
At some point, and I don’t know when, I asked for a typewriter. My other aunt and uncle, the ones who’d lived in town far longer than we, offered me one from their garage I think. It was ancient. It weighed more than I did. It was the kind of thing you put someplace and then never ever moved it again.
It had large, oval keys, no power whatsoever, and when you pushed the keys down, you watched the letter come up and strike the ribbon. I was fascinated by this. I cleaned it up, bought some paper and a new ribbon and went to town learning how to use the danged thing. Eventually, I started writing actual stories. They were short and horrible.
One day, I wrote a letter to DC comics, to the creators of their long running Star Trek comic. To my surprise and delight, they printed it. Based on that letter, I was contacted by a guy in North Carolina who printed a Star Trek fanzine. We struck up a dialogue and before I knew it, I was writing a story for inclusion in that fanzine. It was about a Mirror Universe Saavik trying to save her Spock from being killed, which had already happened, by traveling through time. It wasn’t terrible. It ended up being novella length and was the featured story for that issue of the fanzine, which just blew my mind. I figured at that point that I was on to something.
As we all know, life happens. I was out of high school and into college but it wasn’t agreeing with me. I was working, but that was still part time. Felt sort of like I was drifting. Stopped going to school, took a full time job, moved out. Writing was still there, in the background. I moved up from the old ten ton typewriter to a nine ton electric model from the 60’s that was picked up at a garage sale, then onto a word processor that I bought; it was essentially a modern typewriter but had a monochrome monitor and a disk drive – this meant I could actually type my stuff and save them to disk. I thought this was the coolest thing ever.
I continued to write fan fiction mostly. It wasn’t until a few years later that I created my first original piece. It was about a man who wakes up in a hospital; no memory of who he was or how he got there. Sort of a Bourneesque story, with more SciFi. I never completed it. Life happened and my work stuff started to take over more of my life. Writing, sadly, became a thing of the past.
1999. The company I work for is sold off and the new owner makes some demands that I don’t particularly care for. Namely, he suggests that I need to either: A) Accept a decrease in my salary or B) Accept more responsibilities because I wasn’t doing enough to justify my salary. I went with C) Find a new job. He hired three people to replace me and made a point of calling to apologize, admitting that he’d been wrong. No easy thing for anyone to do. I really appreciated the effort, but I’d already moved on to a new job that would take me out of state. I moved to Tennessee.
The new job had a lot of traveling involved and that meant more downtime on airplanes and in hotel rooms. I was getting bored pretty quickly. I saw a lady reading a paperback on one plane ride and decided that’s what I needed to do. Rushing for a connecting flight, I ran into the airport booksellers and quickly scanned the titles and authors on this large table. It was all about lawyers and spies and that didn’t appeal to me. I saw one with a dragon on the cover, scooped it up, paid for it and then made my flight.
It was Dragondoom by Dennis L. McKiernan. It reminded me of The Lord of the Rings; here were Hobbits (okay, he called them Halflings like in D&D, but still) and Elves and Dragons and… I was hooked. I’d forgotten that these books existed. I’d fallen into a rut when I was reading, picking up Star Trek and Star wars novels and the occasional Clancy. It was easy to get those books because you pretty much knew what was going to happen. Of course the Enterprise wasn’t going to be destroyed and there was no way Han Solo was gonna die. This book was different though, it was new and different and it rekindled my love of fantasy books.
When I returned to Knoxville, I found a Barnes & Nobles and checked out the SciFi/Fantasy section. McKiernan only had one other book on the shelf (I later found out that most of his stuff was out of print, but that he was working on getting them back into print – which he did), but there was all this other stuff to read. Who the heck was Robert Jordan? L.E. Modesitt Jr.? Geez – that guy had like 20 books on the shelf. Terry Brooks? He had a ton too. What the heck was I missing out on here?!
I started reading again. I read everything I could get my hands on. Then, one night in a Holiday Inn Express in Memphis, I pulled out my work laptop, opened Word and stared at the blank page. I saw in my mind the image of a Wizard holding a green flame suspended above his hand. I had no idea who he was or what he was doing, but I wanted to tell that story. So I started writing again.
I wrote little things here and there, nothing worthy of much mention. I was getting my feet wet, remembering how this whole thing worked. Then, on one lonely three day weekend (can’t remember if it was Memorial or Labor Day), I opened up the laptop, sat on the bed and set out to write a piece of ‘epic fantasy’. I did 110,000 words over that three day weekend thanks to take out/delivery food and a lot of Mt Dew. That’s when I knew I needed to do this stuff for real. That was also the birth of ‘The New Universe’.
Today I work as a Marketing Professional, but I still write rabidly.
Recently, I won a couple of Hugo Awards in the fan categories. That blew me away. Being up on that stage where so many greats have stood, is a heady experience. I came away with a renewed sense of needing to write and be published. I don’t want to let go of that. Ever. The second win, I wore my Gail Carriger costume. Seriously… Look it up.
I have never been married, and have no kids. I play the guitar,
preferring my acoustic Takamine, EDIT 2013: Alas, the Takamine is broken. this came on the heels of Dakota the Cat, who was quite old when adopted into my house, passing away. In the wake of that event, and the breaking of the Takamine, I was quite distraught. A very good friend sent me a special replacement guitar – a Dakota… Did I mention, very good friend? /END EDIT I also have a hollow body Gibson that I treasure, and it sounds great when hooked up to my acoustic amp. And some friends found a classical at a yard sale and bought it for me. I’m becoming a bit of a guitar collector… I love music but, especially, the Blues – I have written a few songs that have impressed those around me. I enjoy playing for people who want to listen but I’m a bit too shy for large crowds (for now anyway) and prefer more intimate settings when I play.
My professional life is often odd and chaotic and I’m sure I’ll talk about it from time to time here.