Writer Bio

J.A. Grier is a speculative fiction writer, poet, planetary scientist, nonfiction writer, and astronomy educator, who loves talkative cats, red wine, reading pretty much anything, and hiking through national parks.  More than four dozen of Dr. Grier's poems, essays, and stories have appeared or are forthcoming in venues such as:  Space and Time, Mad Scientist Journal, Mirror Dance, Liquid Imagination, and an anthology of the Maryland Writer's Association entitled "Life In Me Like Grass On Fire - Love Poems." Other credits include two textbooks: "The Inner Planets" published by Greenwood Press, and "Airless Bodies in the Inner Solar System" by Elsevier Inc.  There is also a host of tweets, occasionally profound but usually otherwise under @grierja on Twitter. Works in progress include a collection of creepy childhood horror poems and a space opera novel trilogy. And that book of essays about the alchemy of science and writing.  Dr. Grier contemplates various astronomy facts and speculative fictions at http://jagrier.com 

Formal Education - Ph.D. Planetary Sciences and B.S. Astronomy, University of Arizona

Professional Societies, Memberships, and Affiliations


I support NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month inspires writers of all ages to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboards) while engaging in community, promoting literacy, and having fun.  You can find my NaNoWriMo novel details here.

Why I Write  - The Reporter and the Medium

This question is asked of writers so often, and I am always surprised when fiction writers answer it in a non-fiction fashion.  Here's my stab at a fiction response from the perspective of the voices in my head in 750 words or less.

The Reporter and the Medium

The medium was frustrated, as usual, because the reporter did not understand him.  “I told you I wasn’t crazy. I channel these people; I don’t invent the stuff.  And you’re not supposed to ask these questions.” 

For her part, the reporter remained skeptical.  But it really didn’t matter how she felt, her job was to get the goods down on paper.  Still, she couldn’t help wanting to know, really know, what was going on in his head for a change.  “I spend hours recording these stories; days recording them.  You and I have been working together for years, and I’d like to have a little more insight.  I mean, why are these visions so important to you?” 

The medium walked to the window, turning his back on her, fighting his irritation.  “They are not visions.  These are real people.  I don’t know if they are dead or in another universe or what, but I can hear them, see them, and talk to them.  I know everything about them.  I can speak with their voices; feel their emotions.  So of course they are important, they are as real as you are.  They feel more real to me than myself, sometimes.” 

The reporter leaned back in her chair, tapping the eraser of her pencil against her top teeth.  It was a clicking sound that the medium knew well, and it meant she wasn’t done asking questions that had nothing to do with her job.  But this time, before she could open her mouth, he turned around to her and said, “And what about you?  You are obsessed with recording everything I say, at least as obsessed as I am with telling you.  Why?  What’s the point?  Why do you care?”

The reporter grinned.  Well, that was new; the medium never asked her questions.  New was good; new usually translated into a meaty story.  “Sure, I’ll talk.”  She gestured to the table in front of her, covered with a collection of junk, including a cup full of pens and pencils (always the mechanical kind that kept a good point), reams of paper, an old IBM ball typewriter (kept for ambiance) and then the laptop computer.  “I’m supposed to generate great stories.  You spew all these fantastical ideas, and I love hammering them out into something to share.  Crafting them.”  Then she leaned forward, one eyebrow up, “It’s a bitch taking your usual ramblings and getting them into any coherent form.”

He interrupted, almost petulant, “Sometimes you change things.  You don’t always tell the truth.”   

She nodded, unconcerned, “Of course.  Some of the things you say are so bizarre nobody would buy it, literally.  I know I’m producing fiction, here, but everybody has a limit on ‘suspension of disbelief.’  Besides, you don’t always make sense, you talk so fast, and I have to synthesize.”

He narrowed his eyes, “It isn’t fiction.  And what you end up doing is watering it down.  Taking the edge off.  I can see the truth of these people’s lives.  I tell it to you exactly the way it is.  I don’t like your choosing what to keep and what to throw away.”   

The reported rolled her eyes, “Look, you don’t get it.  Sometimes making a change is exactly the right way to tell the story, to tell the truth more precisely.  Language is an imperfect construct.  Unlike most of the people you tell me stories about, most people can’t read minds.  When I get the feel for what you want to convey, I do that, and sometimes it isn’t the literal truth.  You act like you’ve never read poetry.”

The medium laughed, “You write poetry with this stuff?”   

She nodded, pleased he was interested, “Yes, I do sometimes.  And if you think fiction is tough you should give poetry a try.  But there are times … times when you can’t say something in five thousand words, but somehow you can say it in fifteen.”

The medium was quiet.  Then said, “Do you want to take a break?”   

The reporter shook her head, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead, as they say.  You?”   

He chuckled, “Do I want to take a break?  Do I ever?” 

The reporter smiled, pulled up her computer and poised her fingers over the keys.  She looked up at the medium with thirsty eyes, “So then … what happened next?”

The medium’s gaze was intense.  “Let me tell you …”

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