When I found out I was being granted the immense privilege of spending the year at the University of Colorado-Boulder, I knew immediately that one of the most important goals for my year was to meet the husband-wife, science-fiction team of Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta. Not that I wanted to be a stalker or a troll…. I just thought: I will offer an invitation to make contact and see what happens. Much to my delight, Kevin graciously responded to my invitation within hours. Now we have met several times, and I have gained immeasurably from our budding friendship.
I started reading the works of Kevin J. Anderson roughly twenty or twenty-one years ago. I wish I could pinpoint the date, but I cannot with exactness. Since first “discovering” his writings, I have watched his career with great interest. As most readers of The Imaginative Conservative know, I love to write. I am rather obsessed with it. I have tried my hand at fiction, but it does not come easily—not that I expect good things to come easily. But, being obsessed with writing, I knew that I would probably have to write about writing, rather than creating whole new worlds. Being especially partial to biographies (and, admittedly, following the lead of Joseph Pearce), I have happily gone the biographer route. Regardless, I had encountered the work of Kevin J. Anderson and J. Michael Straczynski at the same time, and I decided to make a study of their careers as writers, in and out of Hollywood and New York publishing. I thought—and still think—they remain the two most talented writers of our generation in terms of sheer story telling. Each is just a bit older than I am, and I figured twenty-plus years ago that this would be a perfect long-term project. So it has been. Not only has watching these two greats been fascinating, it has also been intelligently entertaining as well.
Reading Kevin J. Anderson, in particular, has humbled me and what I think of my own talents. You see, Mr. Anderson and I both suffer from what is known properly as hypergraphia, a writing disorder. Neither of us can stop writing. My case, at least in a relative fashion, is minor; Mr. Anderson’s is extreme and severe. For every word I write, Anderson writes one hundred.
And, no, I do not offer hyperbole in this assessment. Try as I might, I cannot keep up with Mr. Anderson’s books, even as a reader. Though he has only been writing since the late 1980s, he has published some 130 novels, fifty of which have been best-sellers. The man’s imagination never stops. The genres he explores are fairly limitless, as well: space operas, hard science fiction, military science fiction, fantasies, fairy tales, children’s fiction, young adult fiction, graphic novels, essays, writing guides, detective, and horror. He creates his own vast universes—such as the brilliant Terra Incognita series, the Saga of the Seven Suns series, and the Dark Between the Star series (a sequel to the Saga of the Seven Suns)—and he plays in the Star Wars, Star Trek, Dune, Superman, Batman, and X-Files universes. He writes comics, movie novelizations, and rock lyrics, as well. When he is not writing his own stuff, he serves as a sort of guru and mentor to a large community of writers, including Canada’s Neil Peart.
But it would be a mistake to limit him to being “just a writer.” He and his wife (Rebecca, with whom he often co-writes) run a successful publishing and writing company as well, WordFire Press. Pioneers in e-publishing, Kevin and Rebecca also run a variety of seminars throughout the year on the art of writing and publishing. WordFire is moving rapidly toward defining the market, having recently acquired the rights, for example, to entire corpus of the late Allen Drury.
As to Kevin’s professional background, all of which serves his current writing, publishing, and entrepreneurial talents, he graduated with a physics/astronomy degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory hired him as a technical writer. During his many years in California, he not only met and married the love of his life, the truly impressive Rebecca, but he also published his first novel, the delightfully creepy, Resurrection, Inc. (Signet, 1988), a story loosely based on Rush’s 1984 album, Grace Under Pressure.
On January 28, 2015, Mr. Anderson and Ms. Moesta visited us at the University of Colorado-Boulder, as a part of the Conservative Thought and Policy program. I have no idea what their politics are, but I can state with certainty that each participant that night walked away rather happy and more than satisfied—electrified by grace and imagination. As if he were not talented enough, Kevin also possesses a natural oratorical skill. For well more an hour he mesmerized the crowd with the story of his hard work, his rise from obscurity, and his continued persistence and innovation in the face of a radically changing market. He did all of this with humor and humility. Indeed, no one in that audience could have left the auditorium without reveling in a sense of wonder. For Kevin does not just explain his sense of wonder, he invites all into a transcendent and all-encompassing sense of wonder.
Raised in Franksville, Wisconsin, Kevin began to read and write from the first moments possible. Indeed, reading and writing went together for him as naturally as breathing comes to the rest of us. His mother, a former Sauerkraut Queen, and his father, a banker, encouraged their son to explore the worlds of literature and ideas. Kevin told about his first introduction to a library, a bookmobile, the Airmont Classics Library, and to his very own typewriter (“a steampunk version of a laptop”). His first novel, only three pages long, was called “The Injection.” While in high school, his history professor let him write a short story about the bubonic plague. A Wisconsin paper published his first story, “Memorial.”
And, the stories continued, riveting the audience. Each story came as well with Mr. Anderson’s self-deprecating humor and his perfect sense of timing.
As he described his own life, he compared it to making popcorn…back before microwave popcorn. No person would ever pop one kernel at a time. Instead, we allow the popcorn—in bunches—to pop as heat works upon each kernel: one shoots one direction, another in the other direction. For Anderson, a writer should approach his craft in the same fashion. As with any profession and talent, writing is as much hard work and skill as it is art. It is best to write and let the ideas flow, taking the writer (and, hopefully, the reader) where they fly, collide, miss, and land.
Upon my first reading of Mr. Anderson’s works, now more than two decades ago, I knew I would love the mind and soul behind those words. Upon my actual meeting of the man over the past several months, I can state with certainty that Kevin Anderson is not only a genius, but also elegant, eccentric, wise, intelligent, generous, gracious, and a builder of a million vital, overlapping communities.
Whether Mr. Anderson is conservative or not, I have no idea. He is, unquestionably, imaginative, and we are blessed to have his talents in this postmodern world of chaos and sorrows. For Kevin Anderson, in every word and every action, calls us back to the most important and most beautiful things.
Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.