= John T. Cullen =
My Teenage Novel: Summer Planets
Read Half Free/Try-Buy. Under the amazing new Bookstore Metaphor (read-a-latte) you can try half the novel free, no obligation. If you like it, buy the whole Kindle edition e-book for the price of a cup of coffee (print edition more like a sandwich). Best deal in town.
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For over half a century, this novel gathered dust in manuscript form as I traveled and worked all over Europe and North America. Imagine me as a 15-year-old, starting to write it during summer vacation at my aunt's house in Meriden, Connecticut. I wrote at least five full drafts in pen and paper over the next four years, both at home in West Haven, CT during my high school years, and at the University of Connecticut, where I eventually earned my B.A. in Liberal Arts (English, plus History, Languages including Classics, and Journalism). I remember working on it on Friday and Saturday evenings at the dorm, while the halls smelled of aftershave and resounded with noisy young guys getting ready to go off to dances. By then I was typing on an Underwood upright Standard typewriter. And finally, as a sophomore in my dorm room, I typed the final draft (for the 20th Century).
Attempts at breaching the brick wall of NY failed. I also wrote poetry and essays during my teenage years, some of which were published in literary magazines around the USA. I was working as a professional author (summer interne reporter, New Haven Journal-Courier) by age 17, and for two summers after that. I won a few writing contests, but nothing to make me famous. Summer Planets survived for half a century as a single copy, faded photocopy in a sturdy university PhD thesis binder. Meanwhile, I did a stint as a starving artist in New Haven, then hitch-hiked all over the United States, moved out to San Diego, joined the Army
and was stationed for five years in the Federal Republic of Germany with a major U.S. Army logistics command. I worked hard (this is right after Vietnam, so I was not sent into combat). I managed to travel all over Europe (Paris, Brussels, Heidelberg, and many other great places) either by train or in my orange VW van.
While in my twenties in Germany, I wrote the last sixty of my nearly 500 poems, ending my poetry career around that famous age (27) when poets and rock stars famously burn out and crash, or go into other professions. For poets, it often means moving more solidly into prose. By that time, I had written ten novels, most of which will never be published. Some, however, are available at last thanks to the Internet. More on that in a moment. After my return to CONUS, I went back into a starving artist phase (for lack of a better way of describing post-Service readjustment) and then spent the next several decades making a decent living in the aerospace and computer systems development industries, primarily as a technical writer.
Internet 1996: John Argo I published the world's first HTML novels online in 1996. You can read the details at our Clocktower Books Museum site. Those novels included Neon Blue (suspense), This Shoal of Space (SF), Pioneers (SF) and CON2: The Generals of October. With a group of volunteer professional associates, all writers, most with computer and HTML savvy, I launched a publishing venture that evolved from several small websites to (late 1996) Clocktower Fiction and (c2001) Clocktower Books. In April 1998, Brian Callahan and I also launched Deep Outside SFFH, the world's first professional SFFH magazine online without print antecedents (our only competition in general being Ellen Datlow's post-Omni online magazine, soon retitled Event Horizon).
During those years, in 1998, I placed a SF short story titled Control Game in Andy McCann's pioneering online Planet Magazine whose origins date to 1993. (Internet Archive or Wayback Machine link capture from 23 Apr 1998).
Why John Argo? In those halcyon days, before cyber-crime and in fact before online commerce, I published most of my genre fiction under the pseudonym John Argo. Having a background in Classics and general Literature, I had a euphorious sense of wonder about the whole Internet publishing business. For the first time in my life, after being shut out by the brick wall of (too, too often) greed and myopia in New York, I was able to reach an audience with my stories. I actually did acquire a world-wide audience of readers on every continent, who raved about my work and clamored for more. You can follow all that on my (primarily) fiction site Caffeine Books (some reference to my nonfiction and poetry as well): see the Reviews & Notes pages there for some of the e-mails I salvaged at the time, and more
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Amid that amazing period, when the Web was still pure as virgin snow, I paid homage to my own sense of wonder by using the pseudonym Argo. That is the name of the Bronze Age ship of wonder that sailed the outer space of its day (the Pontic or Black Sea, for example). She was built by Argos, hence her name; and on her sailed the heroes captained by Jason on such glorious adventures as finding the Golden Fleece. Think how amazing those stories are, that they were already long-lost, archaic mythology in ancient Hellenic ('Greek') times over 2,300 years ago. The Bronze Age infrastructure collapsed around 1200 BCE (due primarily to a severe drought within a climate change catastrophe, I believe); the poet(s) named Homer penned the first drafts of the Iliad and the Odyssey about half a millennium later, and that in turn was a lost dark age by the time Athens and other Aegean centers came into bloom (after 500 BCE). But just imagine: in the 20th Century, famous movies were still being made on that theme like the 1963 Jason and the Argonauts (animation by Ray Harryhausen); as an aside, it including a key role by the late Honor Blackman, famously also of James Bond fame; she starred as the goddess Hera, wife of Theos or Zeos ('Zeus'). There have been television treatments including 2000's Jason and the Argonauts miniseries with stars like Natasha Henstridge.
John T. Cullen Teenage SF Novel Age 19
Pseudonym Explanation: I tried various marketing techniques over many years, hoping to reaching readers. Among these was the pseudonym A. T. Nager ('a teenager') which
well, read note at bottom. Here, author name is John T. Cullen. You may find A.T.Nager in a few other places. JTC.
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Last but not least, it bears mentioning that the constellation Argo Navis (Ship Argo) was for a long time the biggest in the southern skies (as seen from the Eurocentric north). More recently, astronomers have broken her up into smaller constellations named for ships' parts (Puppis, stern; Vela, sail; Carina, keel). In all, the complex contains dozens of stars. So now you know why I chose the pen name John Argo. It was to express my overwhelming sense of wonder at the limitless potential of cyberspace during the genesis age of the World Wide Web or WWW. The Internet has not let me down.
Editor/Publisher/Author. I was able to retire from the tech writing world and devote the next twenty+ years to my writing and online publishing. During that time, I have written a number of new novels and nonfiction books/articles. I have also engaged the help of a great friend, Mr. Lucas Abegglen, M.S. who has helped move some of my long-ago manuscripts into digital format, so that I could format them into publishable editions. I will publish more info about all that soon.
In the meantime, I offer the first half of Summer Planets for free reading at my massive Galley City bookstore metaphor website. The novel was originally titled Cosmopolis: City of the Universe sometime after my 15th birthday, more years ago than I care to share just now. I kept the original writing intact. The story is exactly as I told it at age 19. I did add some editorial polish (not much needed) with the hindsight of experience. The biggest addition was that I took the ghostly starship riders in the original story and built the diaphanes (or dja) like Stella and Lelli into the story; and I fleshed out the brief but glorious stay of the refugee Olympic champion and star fleet officer Jared Fallon on a summer planet on or near Aldebaran, where he meets the love of his life (Mala Alamala) in a samba-like setting reminiscent of Brazil at its most romantic.
Empire of Time SF Series. That novel, finished at age 19, became the cornerstone of a SF novel and short story series now up to six novels and still growing. See the Empire of Time Series dedicated website with its own bookshop as part of my four main Fiction Genres site covering most of my fiction. Those are also covered at my Caffeine Books summary site (all my fiction) from which you can access read-half/try-buy over all million words at Galley City.
Read Half Free at Galley City. Again, as I close this oratorio on a dark and story night (15 Nov 2020, in the Vision Year), I'll offer my pitch to join the Bookstore Metaphor. I also call it Read-a-Latte. At the bookstore, you can sit and read all day, but you do have to pay for the book if you want to take it home. If you read half, you're undoubtedly hooked. For the price of a cup of coffee, indulge yourself, dear reader, and take the book home. A latte (coffee) is gone in minutes, but a book is yours forever whether in e-book or p-book form. Happy Reading! [JTC].
Quick A.T. Nager Anecdote. In my efforts at marketing over the years, I have tried various titles, covers, and even pseudonyms for several of my books. For this novel, I tried A. T. Nager, which (ahem) is pronounced 'a teenager' and refers to the author's age. Ah, but when I tested its findability at the bookstore, my dear friend the clerk looked it up on her kompooter and exclaimed helpfully: "Here it is! A. T. Nogger" (rhymes with 'jogger'). So much for marketing, or as they say in Nooyawk, 'moah-keting.'