The author as an attorney, 2015
The author as an attorney, 2015

I was born in upstate New York and not long after, was driven across the country in a blue Dodge Dart by my parents. This was the first of four trips I’d take—by car—across the United States from east to west and back again. I can still remember some of the first journey, more than 50 years ago. I remembers seeing buffalo and the Badlands of South Dakota. I also remember seeing a marmot in Glacier National Park, a curious, cat-sized creature which whistled briefly before scurrying under a rock.

The author in Venice, 1972, with his older sister
The author, with his older sister, in Venice, 1973.

Since then I’ve mostly lived in California with sojourns in London, Washington D.C., and Seoul (South Korea). And all over Europe by rail and across much of eastern Asia by plane, boat and train.


What did I read? Just about every major science fiction and fantasy book published between 1950 and 1980. Tolkien, Asimov, E. R. Edison, Arthur C. Clarke, Poul Anderson, Jack Vance, Michael Moorcock, Frank Herbert, Roger Zelazny, David Brin, Tad Williamson, and on and on. One summer, I worked at the fairly-well-known science fiction and fantasy bookstore The Other Change of Hobbit.

In the early 80s, I attended U.C. Davis (in Davis, California) where I studied history and philosophy as well as literature from around the world and cultural anthropology. My prime focus for two years was the world of Ancient Greece. Later I concentrated on modern United States history from 1900 to 1960 and then East Asian history.

The author's college graduation, with his grandparents
The author at his first college graduation (there would be two more), with his grandparents, 1983

Throughout, I was writing. My first published work was set of rules for playing a game similar to Dragons and Dungeons. My co-author (Aaron Willbanks) and I named our system Mythrules. We wrote up our rules, invented some backstory, and published the book in 1977. We printed 100 copies, and sold them at the DunDraCon held in Oakland that year. Copies of Mythrules are now very, very, rare. Cover of Mythrules

After that, I wrote history papers and poems. One of my poems won an award when I was in college. In addition, I wrote a few short stories set in a science fiction universe of my own invention. But I gave up writing science fiction after I read David Brin’s epic novel Startide Rising as this book was everything I wanted to do and more.

Author and his younger brother, dressed in costumes, 1978
The author and his younger brother, heading to the Renaissance Faire, 1978. My brother is the cleric, the author is the barbarian.

I met my first wife on the campus of U.C. Berkeley. She had come to the USA less than ten years before, a refugee from Vietnam, not knowing a word of English. We fell in love, got married and had three children over the next twenty five years while I worked first as a technical writer, and then as a software engineer for a number of companies—most of whom no longer exist (Berkeley Systems, Brio Technology, Borland International, Broderbund Software, Netcom Online,, and others…).

The author's patent
Yes, I have a patent. Yes, I got the fancy brass plate version. The patent has expired now; I have outlived it, in a manner of speaking.

Later I taught in schools and attended law school while my wife and I drifted apart under the stress of daily life.

I started writing again in 2009, this time a story set in Vietnam during its heroic age (roughly 1500 A.D.). That book remains unpublished but it should see the light of day before too long. I also wrote a short history of Vietnam because so very little was available in English.

My nome de plume: Shan zhen shi – 山鎮士  (Mountain Town Scholar)