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M.J. Carlson is an American science fiction author. His short story, PARADOX EFFECT received an honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest in the 2nd quarter of 2013. A SIMPLE BREACH OF ETIQUETTE, another short story, received an honorable mention in the 3rd quarter, 2012 in the same contest. His early novel, THE ALIEN WHO FELL and short story, WISH UPON A STAR were finalists in the 2010 Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Award competition. He’s currently working on the book to accompany HURTING YOUR CHARACTERS — GET REAL, a talk he did at the 2012 and 2013 FWA conference and for several local writer’s groups, and the Nicole Piricelli futuristic suspense series. He is anticipating the release of CHANGED, a futuristic, suspense novel in 2014 and NATURAL SELECTION, before Thanksgiving. He formerly moderated City Island Fiction Writers, a critique group in Daytona Beach, and currently moderates the Space Coast Fiction Writers in Cocoa—right down the road from where Major Anthony Nelson used to live with that nice girl, Genie. M.J. lives in Brevard County, Florida with Sparkle, his Wise reader and muse.
Okay, enough of the Wikipedia answer.
Who am I?
The Real Me
Like the caterpillar’s question to Alice, I’ve always found “Who are you?” to be the most difficult one to answer. More so because it has always struck me as less about personal trivia than the more esoteric aspects of personality, like “what are your beliefs,” and “what is your philosophy,” or “what color are the glasses through which you peer at life?”—not to be confused with the question I’m more commonly asked—“what color is the sky on your planet?”
When the graduate school interview committee asked me to tell them about myself, I knew they had all the facts about me on paper, right in front of them, because I spent hours typing the forms (when such things were done). So, as I sat perspiring in my single plastic chair, across the table and separated from those three stony-faced pillars of academia, I chose the more inscrutable answer of a parable. I chose the one about the thief who, captured in the harem of a sheik, offered to teach the sheik’s favorite horse to fly if he would be pardoned in exchange. The deal was struck, but with a one-year time limit. When the thief’s friend asked him what he was thinking, to make such an outrageous claim, he replied, “Many things can happen in a year. The sheik could die; he could be deposed; or he might take pity and pardon me. Also, it’s a large palace, and I will always be on the lookout for a means of escape, but if all else fails, I might just be able to teach the damned horse to fly.”
Needless to say, they were not impressed.
I got in anyway—and graduated, much to everyone’s surprise (especially mine).
In that same vein, I’ve always believed that the inner person is reflected in his or her description of their world. Not all, perhaps, but more than a curriculum vitae will ever tell me.
My home is Florida. It’s who I am. But my Florida isn’t tied tightly together by six-lane ribbons of asphalt, or strutting, pastel, multi-million-dollar beach sandcastles. It’s a Florida of scrub palms and sand spurs; of cool December beach breezes, forty-minute four o’clock August thunderstorms, and sultry, honeysuckle-scented summer nights. And when I say Florida, I mean all of it. I’ve lived in every corner of my prickly paradise, from the rusty buckle of the bible belt in the northeast corner to a stone’s throw from Ft. Lauderdale’s Slip F-18; from Gainesville’s pines dripping with Spanish moss to walking distance from where the road ended for Jack Kerouac. I’ve watched the sun rise over the Atlantic and drop into the Gulf on the same day; walked the heat-shimmered backroads, raced motorcycles across the Everglades, and awoke, bleary-eyed and cotton-mouthed, on Key West’s Duval Street more than once.
Along the way I’ve met good people and said good-by to some bad ones; made a few friends and, I hope, not hurt anyone too badly. Over the decades, Florida’s changed under my vagabond shoes, but my restless quest for the perfection of the next butterfly wing continues. Somehow, I found a statuesque, gray-eyed, blond, native beauty who manages to read my first-drafts and still believe in me as we search together for those ever-elusive slow-gin sunsets. When I get old enough, I want smile lines deep enough to hold all my memories, and when I’ve run far enough and I’m done skinning my knees, I want my ashes to feed the mangroves and orchids.