For those who like to know
I was born in 1964, in California, and I’m a U.S. citizen. My immediate family is pretty old; my parents were born in 1926 and 1931, and my stepdad was born in 1918. I have a lot of siblings, step-siblings, and sort-of siblings, most of whom are old enough to be the parents of my friends.
I am a professional academic, specifically evolutionary biology, with a Master’s and Ph.D. in Zoology. I did my undergrad at the University of Chicago (Biological Sciences, class of 1987) and my grad work at the University of Florida, and from 2000-2014, a professor in the Chicago area, at DePaul University. I’ve always considered science to be a subset of the liberal arts and that greatly influenced my research and teaching.
As of 2015, I’ve switched to full-time authorship and my first popular science book will be published by Oxford University Press this fall.
I’m married and have three kids: boy-girl twins born September 2007 and a boy born in March 2009. My wife is native Swedish and we travel to northern Europe pretty often, to Sweden of course and as often as I can to my favorite city, Berlin.
I never found any sort of organized sports I like very much. I spent a lot of my early life camping and backpacking in pretty rugged circumstances, and I’ve hitch-hiked and backpacked over quite a bit of the U.S. Both academics and settling in the midwest kind of stopped that, though. Before I developed some troubles with breathing a few years ago, I was very active in martial arts and was in a lot better shape.
I played the trumpet for a long time as a kid, in all sorts of types of music, and for a while as well I was pretty into theater, including co-founding a kind of guerrilla theater group in college.
I’m politically active and come from a schizophrenic, various political family background so it’s hard to characterize myself in terms of parties or groups. I guess you could call me an anti-Cold Warrior. My main efforts at the moment concern Palestine and Israel, mainly campus events.
I first learned about role-playing in 1977-1978, and I think my first games were in the latter year. At that moment, there were three main D&D texts available: the re-released 1974 original boxed set, the 1977 Holmes “Dungeons and Dragons,” and the brand-new AD&D Monster Manual, none of which were compatible. Anyone playing the game at that time was also armed with some personally-contingent assortment of Judges’ Guild items, the rather baffling World of Greyhawk I booklet, the three original Arduin Grimoire booklets, Dragon Magazine articles, and similar things.
I didn’t play that much D&D – a few multi-session adventures, a number of sit-in or lose-your-1st-level-guy experiences, mainly. I didn’t get into the tournament scene, although it was very active in my area. Other games I was interested in the time included DragonQuest, RuneQuest, and Tunnels & Trolls, although I would not play them until many years later. The main rules that I played the hell out of, though, were the Metagaming publications for The Fantasy Trip: the original Melee and Wizarrd, then the Advanced versions which acccompanied the TFT role-playing game. When the latter was published in 1980, it became my go-to, “this is it” game at the time.
From 1985 through 1994, my go-to game was Champions, specifically 3rd edition with the previous editions’ supplements and the supplement, confusingly called Champions III, that went with 3rd edition. I played more Champions both as GM and player than I can possibly describe and participated in a lot of dialogue through an APA called The Clobberin’ Times; after 4th edition came out, I played a fair amount of it but didn’t like it. During this time, I also played a metric ton of GURPS, Cyberpunk, Rolemaster, and others … a bit of Warhammer, Justice Inc, and I guess I could remember more titles under hypnosis. I was typically involved in two or three groups at a time. By this point as well I had at least three or four working drafts of game designs running.
By the mid 90s, I was getting experimental and threw myself into the more ambitious designs of the times: The Whispering Vault, Maelstrom, Hong Kong Action Theater, Feng Shui, Extreme Vengeance, Zero, Everway, and more; as well as revisiting older games like Marvel Super Heroes to discover their many virtues. From about 1994 through 2007 (when my gaming was dampened by the birth of my twins), I constantly played in as many as four groups at once, seeking innovations and diversity of play in new designs and old games. I’ve managed to keep playing since then, but not as often.