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.)

Reflections on 2019

2020 is on its way. The year flew by, with no significant tragedies (knock on wood; there are still a couple of weeks left) and I was able to check off several mental boxes.

In my end-of-year post last year, I listed the following goals.

Publish at least two short stories
Publish at least two poems
Perform at open mics more often
Drum up some music gigs
Write and perform at least two new songs
Complete Half-Lives of Quiet Desperation after attending Futurescapes

Time for the reckoning.

Publish at Least Two Short Stories
I succeeded at this, with flash fiction publications in both Itty Bitty Writing Space (see link at left) and Flash in a Flash, a weekly flash fiction newsletter. “Jalopy Racer” appeared in IBWS in July and “A Knight’s Tour” ran in September.

Publish at Least Two Poems
I failed at this, with no poetry sales in 2019, though my sale to Star*Line was published in 2019, so that’s something.

Perform at Open Mics More Often
I rocked this one (sometimes literally!) I performed at Lincoln Station‘s open mic night at least seven times, once with a full crowd of friends in the audience, and I’m getting to know the regulars there a bit. I intend to sign up for at least one more this year. I’m trying to play something new each time; it hasn’t always worked out that way, but I know I’ve played at least 15 different songs there this year. Thank you to all who came out to support me, and more importantly, to support live music and the venues that offer it.

Drum Up Some Music Gigs
I succeeded at this, as well. In addition to the open mic appearances, which are technically not gigs, I performed at WhimsyCon, Superstars, FutureScapes, Aurora Mini-Con, Denver Pop Culture Con (as part of a music panel), and the final Myths & Legends Con (MALCon 7.) I also participated in filk circles at MALCon and MileHiCon 51. I’m lined up for another performance at Superstars 2020 with the indefatigable Wulf Moon, Writers of the Future contest winner and ascending literary star, and hopefully Shiny Garden will want me back again for WhimsyCon in 2020.

Write and Perform at Least Two Songs
Success! Around the beginning of the year, I collaborated with the aforementioned Wulf Moon to create music for his song “Vampire,” and we debuted it together at Superstars. I also collaborated with Nathan Crowder to set music to his lyrics for a song called “Tacos and D&D,” which I debuted at WhimsyCon. I played both songs several times at gigs and open mics throughout the year. I also wrote an entirely new filk song set to the tune of Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive.” I called it “Scoundrel.” It’s about Han Solo, and I debuted that at the Aurora Mini-Con. I have a couple more filk songs in the pipeline, and I’m working on a solo acoustic Rush medley, which I can hopefully pull off at Superstars 2020.

Complete Half-Lives of Quiet Desperation
Yeah … that didn’t happen. I got great feedback on that partial novel at Futurescapes, but ultimately, I made no progress on that. I did start another piece that may become a novel, but novels seem to be my bugbear, so I’m going to try to let that project grow to what it wants to be, rather than force it into a mold.

Other Things Happened, Too
For most of the year, I worked part-time on the weekends for The Inquisitr website, initially as a writer, then as a copy editor. I enjoyed my time there, but had to leave that position late in the year because I got a promotion at my main job that requires me to be more available than before. I feel like I’m finally settling into the new position and not having to put out as many fires, which is nice. I’m grateful to both Inquisitr and my employer for the opportunities they have given me.

In July, Readercon took place in Boston. I was unable to go, but my late friend and mentor, Ed Bryant, was the Memorial Guest of Honor, and Readercon asked me if I would like to contribute a remembrance for their souvenir book. I was honored to do so and have my name appear alongside essays by Mark Barsotti, Steve Rasnic Tem, and Connie Willis. I couldn’t ask for my words to have better company.

Finally, I was a panelist at all of the aforementioned cons, and had the distinction of moderating some pretty significant ones. Thank you to the convention organizers for trusting me as a panelist and moderator. At the final Myths and Legends con, I participated in my first featured reading with Aaron Michael Ritchey and Lou J Berger, and at MileHiCon, I was ecstatic to have a spot in the autograph room next to Connie Willis and Carrie Vaughn!

Carrie Vaughan, Stace Johnson, Connie Willis (l to r)

Moving Forward
All in all, it was a great year of creativity for me, and I’m hoping to build on it in the coming year. 2020 is already off to a good start, with my first appearance at COSine in Colorado Springs scheduled for January and attendance at Superstars in February, complete with another Moon/Lyt collaboration (as Moon and I like to call ourselves.)

I wish you all the best of holidays, whatever your tradition. Watch this space for future announcements, and feel free to connect with me at any of the following venues online. (They are listed roughly in order of the amount I utilize them.) I look forward to hearing from you!

Facebook: Personal page / Author & Musician page
Twitter
Instagram
YouTube
Pinterest
LinkedIn

MileHiCon 51 Schedule

MileHiCon 51 is happening this weekend, and I’ll be appearing on six panels! Please see below for my schedule.

Friday, October 18, 2019

2 P.M., Mesa Verde A — Moderator 101 (M) — I’m honored to be moderating the Moderator 101 panel to kick off the convention. If you’ve never been a panel moderator before, come join us to get a rundown of the dos and don’ts of moderating a MileHiCon panel.

3 P.M., Mesa Verde A — Fannish Civility and Kindness — Genre fans are passionate, but that doesn’t mean those passions have to get in the way of general kindness or civility. This panel is a reminder that we’re all here for the same geeky reasons, despite differences between Hogwarts houses or Federation factions, and a little respect goes a long way.

5 P.M., Mesa Verde B — Project in a Drawer (M) — A discussion of what projects our experts have lurking in basement file cabinets and whether (or when) they might see the light of day.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

12 P.M. Wind River B — The Edward W. Bryant Memorial Panel, 2019 Edition (M) — A discussion of the life and works of the writer Edward W. Bryant, the upcoming Retrospective of his career, his appearance as Memorial Guest of Honor at the 2019 ReaderCon, and other miscellaneous items related to this terrific writer, fan, critic, and human being. Featuring Jean-Philippe Gervais, the publisher of the forthcoming three volume Retrospective of Ed’s work.

5 P.M., Mesa Verde B — SF Poetry Slam (M) — A tradition at MileHiCon, it’s once again time for the SF Poetry Slam/panel. Generally, this is more of a reading than a traditional poetry slam. We will be featuring at least three members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association, and anyone else who wishes to read their SF-related work is welcome to join in.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

10 A.M. Mesa Verde B — Gaming as a Way of Exploring Identity — Roleplaying games, whether tabletop or online, have always been a good way to explore identity and gain different perspectives into oneself and one’s beliefs. This panel digs deep into using roleplaying games to explore self-identity.

Publication and Convention Announcement

It’s been a busy summer, and it keeps getting busier. Today, I’m happy to announce that Itty Bitty Writing Space, the anthology of flash fiction containing my story “Jalopy Racer”, is available for purchase on Amazon! I should be receiving my contributor’s copies soon, and three copies are on their way to libraries as part of the Kickstarter early backer perk. The link to purchase a copy is at left.

If you happen to pick up a copy of IBWS, please consider writing a short Amazon or Goodreads review. It really helps us authors with product visibility on the Amazon website!

My other announcement is that I’ll once again be participating in Myths and Legends Con on August 9-11, 2019, as a panelist, writer, and musician. This may very well be the final MALCon, so please try to make it!

The location for MALCon has changed this year. It will be held at the Radisson Denver-Aurora, located near the intersection of I-225 and Parker Road, 3155 South Vaughn Way, Aurora, CO 80014.

My panelist schedule is preliminary and subject to change, so please check this link for any last minute changes. Without further adieu, here’s my schedule:

Friday, 8/9/2019
Fri, 5:30 PM-6:20 PM, Musical performance by Stace Johnson (Arapahoe Room)
Fri, 9:00 PM-9:50 PM, So Charming, Not Creepy (Golden)

Saturday, 8/10/2019
Sat, 12:00 PM-12:50 PM, Intro to Filk (Pikes Peak A)
Sat, 2:00 PM-2:50 PM, Verse in the ‘Verse: Poetry and the Firefly Universe (Golden)
Sat, 3:00 PM-3:50 PM, Author Autograph Mega-Session (Arapahoe Room)
Sat, 5:00 PM-5:50 PM, Geek Songwriting (Pikes Peak A)
Sat, 7:00 PM-7:50 PM, Storytelling via Songwriting (Golden)
Sat, 8:00 PM-10:50 PM, Open Filking (Pikes Peak A)

Sunday, 8/11/2019
Sun, 10:00 AM-10:50 AM, Polyamory and Non-monogamy in Science Fiction and Fantasy (Evergreen)
Sun, 12:00 PM-12:50 PM, Author Readings – Ritchey, Berger, Johnson (Mt Evans)
Sun, 2:00 PM-2:50 PM, MALCon Farewell Session (Golden)

Announcements Galore!

Convention season is starting, and I have a couple of announcements for May.

First, I’ll be wearing both my writer and musician hats at the Aurora Mini-Con 2 on Saturday, May 18, 2019. I’ll be on the Authors Unbound panel with my friend Greg Hyde and two other writers at 12:30 PM, then kicking off the musical portion of the con at 2 PM, opening for Tonks and the Aurors! The convention is free and family-friendly, so bring the kids. Here’s a Facebook event link for your calendars.

Then, a couple of weeks later, I’ll be braving the crowds at Denver Pop Culture Con again (formerly Denver Comic Con.) I’m on the “I Sing and I Know Things” panel with Losing Lara (Wizard Rocker extraordinaire) and members of Sunnydale High (a Buffy the Vampire Slayer themed geek punk band.) We’ll be answering questions and playing music at 3:00 PM on Friday, May 31, 2019 in the Coast City room. Here’s a Facebook event link for that, too.

Finally, the Itty Bitty Writing Space flash fiction anthology containing my story “Jalopy Racer” is progressing quite well, and the books should be going out sometime in June. I’ll post a cover image at left as soon as I get one, and I’ll add an Amazon link for those who missed out on the Kickstarter when the book becomes available for post-Kickstarter purchase. I’m really looking forward to reading the 99 other stories in the book!