Biography of Steve Rasnic Tem

For MileHiCon 52, I was asked to write a biography of Writer Guest of Honor Steve Rasnic Tem for the convention program book. Due to COVID-19’s effect on … well, everything, basically … the program book was never produced, but I did complete the assignment, so I’m posting it here with permission from both Steve and the MHC programming director. I also interviewed Steve via Zoom for the convention itself. A link to that interview is at the end of the bio.

For more information about Steve and his writing, please visit his website: SteveTem.com

Biography

Meet Steve Rasnic Tem, award-winning writer and Toastmaster for MileHiCon 2020. I’ve known Steve for over 20 years, and I’m honored to call him my friend. Steve has been a fixture in the Denver writing scene since the mid ‘70s, when he moved here from Lee County, Virginia. Having already attended Virginia Polytechnic prior to moving, he studied creative writing with a combined focus on poetry and fiction at Colorado State University and published several science fiction stories under his given name, Steve Rasnic, starting in 1978.

After moving to Denver, Steve met fellow writer Melanie Kubachko. They fell in love and married, choosing to take the joint surname of “Tem,” a term with roots in both gypsy and Egyptian cultures, representing the creative landscape that always existed within them both but didn’t fully awaken until they found each other. Thus began a decades-long partnership in parenting, writing, and teaching, and a productivity streak that resulted in a large vintage bookcase filled — spine-out — with books containing their work. Sadly, Melanie left this world in early 2015, but Steve soldiers on, with numerous short story and novel sales in recent years, including The Night Doctor and Other Tales, Figures Unseen: Selected Stories from Valancourt, The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack, and Ubo, a novel about a man forced to relive evil acts committed by historical figures, but from their viewpoint.

Steve is one of the most prolific writers working today, with over 450 short stories, three plays, six graphic stories/comics, and 39 novels and chapbooks across a wide range of poetry, fiction, YA fiction, nonfiction, and instructional works. He publishes so much that rather than updating a giant list on his website whenever he makes a sale, he just uploads a new version of his constantly updated bibliography. (It’s currently 28 pages long.) He has won the Bram Stoker Award four times, the International Horror Guild award twice, the World Fantasy Award, and the British Fantasy Award. His collaborative chapbook with Melanie Tem, The Man on the Ceiling, is the only work ever to have won the International Horror Guild, World Fantasy, and Bram Stoker awards in the same year. He has also been a resident instructor at the Odyssey Writing Workshop, and compiled the seminal Umbral Anthology of Science Fiction Poetry, which was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award.

In person, he’s quiet and unassuming, with a dry, sometimes wry sense of humor. Once, while I was helping him run a network cable at his house, I had to reach under a particularly large and heavy desk, where a community of spiders had been busy at work. After I fished out the cable and cleaned off my hands, I said something like, “You know, you have a pretty healthy collection of spider webs under there. I’d hate for you to get bitten.” After a perfect pause, Steve deadpanned in his soft Appalachian accent, “I prefer to think of them as cobwebs.”

None of these are the reasons you should read Steve Rasnic Tem’s writing, though. You should read him because of lines like this gut-wrencher, from the story “Half-Light” in The Night Doctor and Other Tales: “When work is done, when love is done, the soul can wonder what remains, but the one thing it cannot do is explain.”

And this one, from “Twember” in Figures Unseen: Selected Stories from Valancourt: “Of course, this wasn’t snow — it was nothing like snow. It was like the moments had been snatched from the air and allowed to die, left to litter the ground. He tried to step carefully, but still they fractured with very little force.”

Or this, from the triple-award-winning The Man on the Ceiling: “He rakes back the curtains and shows me the sky: peach and purple and gray like the colors of his eyes when he opens them, like the colors of his mouth, the colors of his tongue when he laughs even more loudly and heads for the open door of one of my children’s rooms.”

Steve’s writing is rich with imagery and emotion. Sometimes chilling, more often ephemeral than visceral, his stories force us to confront our successes and failures as human beings. He writes about fear, pain, and loss, but always in the context of love, and we are better people for having joined him on the journey.

Stace Johnson
September 2020

Interview with MileHiCon Writer Guest of Honor Steve Rasnic Tem

(This being a virtual convention, there were some technical difficulties, so the actual interview begins about 18:00 minutes in. I’ve embedded the video to start at that point.)

February Word Challenge, Day 11 (with poem)

(If you’re wondering what this is about, read this.)

My five random words for today’s exercise are sand, napkin, ski, insult, race.

Chosen word for free association: sand
Wyoming, wind, Ed, cats, Wheatland, Wyoming Sun, Wyoming son, Landshark

Exercise (haiku):

“Wyoming Son”
for Ed

Wheatland winter
Winds moan, mourning the loss of
Their Wyoming son.

— Stace Johnson, 2017

Title page of Wyoming Sun, inscribed to me by Ed Bryant

Title page of Wyoming Sun, inscribed to me by Ed Bryant

Speak Out with Your Geek Out: Sense of Community

It’s Speak Out with Your Geek Out week, during which self-described geeks blog about various positive aspects of geek culture.

As an unabashed geek, I’m all over that.

One of the most important aspects of geek culture is the fact that geeks have each other’s backs, as illustrated by the very idea of SOwYGO; Monica Valentinelli came up with the idea after witnessing the development of a geek-bashing thread on a pay-per-click website.  It’s also illustrated by the outpouring of support for one of geekdom’s most brilliant lights: sf/f/h writer, critic, and mentor Edward W. Bryant.

Ed has been a fixture in the speculative fiction world since the early 1970s, when he first began publishing short fiction.  Not long after that, he founded the Northern Colorado Writers Workshop, from which many of the most successful writers in speculative fiction and mystery have graduated, including Connie Willis, Dan Simmons, Melanie Tem, Steve Rasnic Tem, and John Dunning.

Although Ed has published hundreds of stories, essays, and reviews, perhaps his greatest legacy will be his longstanding mentoring in the sf/f/h community.  He is an unabashedly kind man, and has patiently helped hundreds of fledgling writers and pro writers alike improve their writing and critiquing skills.  He is well-spoken, with a resonant, commanding-yet-gentle baritone voice, and he has irresistable charisma and charm.  If we were to apply old-school D&D stats to him, I think his charisma would be a natural 18, and his intelligence would have to be up there, as well.

Ed has been a Type I diabetic since 1968, the same year he attended the Clarion writer’s workshop and launched his writing career.  As he has progressed in years, the diabetes has become a frequent issue due to nerve degeneration.  He recently finished a ten day stay in a Denver-area hospital with a bout of gastroparesis, his fourth in the last three years.  In addition, doctors discovered that his esophagus has slowly been turning to scar tissue over that time, a result of the repeated bouts of gastroparesis.  He also had open heart surgery a few years ago.  The health problems have taken a toll on his writing, and his output has dropped dramatically since the heart surgery.  Unfortunately, this also means his income has dropped accordingly.

Here’s where the geek community shines.  Ed’s friends, students, and neighbors banded together in late 2008 to form the loosely-knit Friends of Ed Bryant organization.  The Friends of Ed Bryant website and Facebook group formed shortly thereafter.  The purpose was to get the word out to all the people who love and respect Ed that his health and finances were in jeopardy; it was time for the geek community to step up and pay back some of what Ed had given to us over the last four decades.  And pay back we did!  Within a couple of weeks, we had enough donations of money, labor, and medical supplies to dig Ed out of the financial bind he was in at the time.

Folks, it’s time to pitch in again.  Ed is currently facing the very real possibility of losing his home due to unpaid property taxes.  Eventually, he will likely sell that house and move into some form of assisted living arrangement, but right now, he needs to get the taxes paid so he can buy time to sell the house.  The Friends of Ed have mobilized again to solicit donations on his behalf, as well as brainstorming ideas to help him out over the long term.  Donations have started rolling in, some as little as $5, others in the hundreds, but we’re still far short of the amount he needs in order to pay the tax bill.  If you can afford anything — even $5 — please consider visiting the Friends of Ed website and giving what you can.  The donations are processed by Paypal and go directly into an account managed by the Colorado Fund for People with Disabilities.  Unfortunately, this is not a tax-deductable donation, but it does go to support one of the kindest, most influential writers in the geek community.  Ed has stood with us for nearly 40 years; it’s time for us to stand in support of one of our own.  Visit the Friends of Ed Bryant website, make a donation, and join the Facebook group to stay in the loop about Ed’s status.

Make me proud, fellow geeks.

“Poem In Your Pocket” Day

Today is National “Carry A Poem In Your Pocket” Day.  Below is the poem I’m carrying in honor of Leonard “Red” Bird.

 

Ambition

by Leonard Bird

When guilt begins to rip apart my soul
for ignoring entropy, my science whispers:
The time the wind took to hone one red stone
is no more than one beat of a raven’s wing
carved on the carousel of the galaxy.
Then I lie back in the grass and smile at
drifting clouds, as they slowly change
from warring giants to meandering dreams.

(From River of Lost Souls, 1977, Tooth of Time Press, Guadalupita, New Mexico.)