www
jamesphogan
com
Biography

Note added on July 13, 2010 by Tim Gleason

James P. Hogan died suddenly on July 12, 2010. He was alone at his home in Ireland at the time.

The cause of Jim's death has been determined to be a myocardial infarction (heart attack).

Jim is survived by his wife, Sheryl, and his six children.


James P. hogan - 2006

I was born in London in 1941, my father Irish, mother German. She crossed Europe on foot at the age of 19 to find England and a soldier that she had met in the British occupying forces stationed in Silesia, nowadays a part of Poland, after World War I. She did, and they married, and had three children. However, he had been gassed in the trenches and died from the effects during the thirties. She remarried the Hogan who was my father. A lot of people have said that story should be written as a book. Maybe, one day.

So I grew up in the Portobello Road area on the west side of London, very down-to-earth and working class. I'd arrived in the world with quite severe deformities to both feet, which took many years of surgery to correct. But the doctors did a good job, and by the time I was a teenager I was able to go hiking, camping, and rock climbing around the mountains in Wales and Scotland. One thing that resulted from those early years was an insatiable appetite for reading books--an interest that has obviously persisted.

I didn't care much for school, though, which was too classically oriented for my tastes at the time, and so, I left at age sixteen to embark on a miscellany of jobs leading nowhere until my mother persuaded me to have a try at a series of competitive examinations held every year for scholarships at government research institutions around the country. The upshot was that I joined the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough to take an intensive, broad-based five-year program covering the practical and theoretical sides of electrical, electronic, and mechanical engineering. (Despite what the flap copy of some of my books says, although the curriculum included some basic aerodynamics, I wasn't an aeronautical engineer. Once these things are inside somebody's computer you can never get them out. I finally specialized in electronics.)

The course at Farnborough was very comprehensive, structured in the form of a "thin sandwich," which consisted of three months in college alternating with three months of practical work, commencing with turning, milling, fitting, welding, carpentry, and so on in the Establishment workshops, and progressing in subsequent years through departments like Photography, Instrumentation, Chemistry, Engines, Structures, Wind Tunnels, with some lucky individuals ending up flying as observers in planes on research missions over the Atlantic. The college itself was run by the Establishment and staffed not by educationalists but by former engineers and other professionals. The speech given by the RAE Technical College principal to new intakes and their proud parents at the beginning of each academic year was a masterpiece of brevity and astute psychological insight to the minds of 16-to-18-year-olds just venturing out into the world and conscious of their impending independence a role of responsibility that comes with it. He said, "We have no book of rules or regulations at this college. You have left school and are now adults. You are expected to behave accordingly." And then he sat down.

The standards at Farnborough were high, but perhaps partly as a consequence of the impetuousness of Irish genes, in addition to enjoying the work and meeting its demands, I married young to a Yorkshire lass called Iris, and at twenty found myself the proud father of twins, Debbie and Jane, and then two years later of another daughter, Tina. There had been some talk at Farnborough of my being sent on a physics scholarship to Cambridge, but the new family responsibilities pretty much put the lid on that. To begin with, I worked as a design engineer for several companies, involved mainly with digital control and instrumentation for scientific and industrial applications--data collection and analysis in industrial and academic labs; control and monitoring in paper, glass, and steelmaking, manufacturing, defense-related research. Our sins eventually catch up with us, however, and eventually I moved into sales. That was in the 1960s. On-line, realtime computers were rapidly taking over from hard-wired electronics, and it was probably inevitable that anyone working in those areas would gravitate into the computer industry. I traveled around Europe as a sales engineer for Honeywell, and in the seventies joined Digital Equipment Corporation's Laboratory Data Processing Group, working for several years in the London area and then transferring north to the company's Yorkshire office in Leeds.

In 1977 I married my second wife, Lyn, who was from Worcester, and in the same year DEC shipped me over to Massachusetts to run their training program for salespeople specializing in scientific applications. Following after the magnificent years of the Apollo Program, this was a tremendous experience for people who at that time saw Americans as these incredible "can-do" people across the ocean, who produced the jets and computers used everywhere around the world and walked on the Moon even as experts in other places were still writing papers proving that it was impossible.

By this time I'd been writing science-fiction as a hobby for some years. It began when I saw and enjoyed the movie 2001 but didn't understand the ending. The whole thing ended up as an office bet that I couldn't write a science fiction novel and get it published. To cut a long story short I did, and it was, in the shape of Inherit the Stars, which made 50 pounds (I was still in the UK at the time) on top of Del Rey's advance. By 1979 I had written four novels, which were well received among professional scientists as well as the regular s.f. community, and embarked on the renovation of a large, 7-bedroom colonial house in Massachusetts. No sooner was this project completed, however, when Lyn and I decided to go separate ways. For good measure I quit DEC too to write full-time, and left Boston in the Fall of '79 to become one of the romantically unemployed, with a car, two suitcases, a portable typewriter and a contract for another book with Del Rey, and no clear idea of where I was heading.

After several months of adventuring around the southeastern and southern States I wound up in Orlando, Florida, where I spent a year and took up with a lady called Jackie, who had been a handguns instructor in the U.S. Navy, transferred to the Army to become a general's secretary, and had also seen the end of her second marriage. She was originally from California, and we ended up moving there, to a former gold mining town in the Sierra Nevada foothills called Sonora. One of the most predictable things in life is that the unpredictable will happen. Something that my idyllic visions of a carefree writer's life hadn't taken into account on the day I drove south from Massachusetts was acquiring another wife and three sons--Alex, Mike, and Joe--to go with the three daughters that I already had. And, yes, we bought another old house in the center of town and embarked on a scheme of renovations and alterations. As is so often said of life, we live and we learn . . . and then we forget. Women tell me it's much the same with having babies.

Life in the mountain foothill country was free, easy, and invigoratingly "different." Surrounded by hills, Sonora had never expanded to automobile scale, and was still one of those towns with a Main Street lined by shops and bars close together, where people walked places, built around a T-junction which in those days boasted the only set of traffic lights in Tuolumne County. It seemed to be a town of individualists, where people gravitated who had woken up one morning deciding to quit their crummy job and do what they wanted to do. The bookstore was run by a former psychologist from UCLA; a one-time weapons designer from Lockheed owned the health-food store; passing the sandwich store frequently earned a Biblical harangue from the evangelical fundamentalist manager, while the best friend of the Iranian with the restaurant around the corner was an Israeli. We had recluse who spent most of his time studying mathematics, when he wasn't hobnobbing with the local barber, whose other consuming interest was chess, and who sometimes took on 20 players simultaneously in the ice-cream parlor. We had an admirer of Nazism who played German military choral music when he and his wife invited you for dinner, a hard-drinking, pot-smoking, fornicating Jehovah's Witness, and an ex-Air Force chemist with a love of spelunking, who now owned commercial caves. The striking thing was that everyone accepted everyone else as they were and had no ideas about how people "ought" to be. A microcosm, maybe, of how the world could be too.

With its surroundings of mountains, lakes, and forests it was a fine location for three boys to grow up in. But somehow it seems that whenever life threatens to become too settled and secure, I have this compulsion to uproot and try something else. Jackie said it was because I write to escape from the regular world, and I need to create complications in order to provide something to escape from. She was probably right--people who live with us have to know us a lot better than we think we know ourselves. In any case, the result this time was that I decided to rediscover "the auld country" that I had visited frequently as a boy with my father, and in 1988 we moved from California to a town called Bray in County Wicklow, just south of Dublin in Ireland. And sure enough, along with the move we acquire a huge old house, 9 bedrooms this time, the result of a series of agglomerations that had begun as a farmhouse shown on a map of Bray dated 1817, the subsequent experiences in the restoration of which became the subject of an article I wrote entitled "Sorry About That."

But Jackie was an American, the boys had all been born in California, and there were aspects of America that they missed. In the early 1990s we traded the large house for two smaller places, one in Ireland and one in Florida, and Jackie and the boys returned to take up residence in Pensacola, where she had lived previously, and where we had first met when I was visiting an older sister of mine who had moved there from England after the war. I have to admit, I suppose, to not being really suited to the strains of settled domestic life. I found that I functioned best living a kind of peripatetic trans-Atlantic life, retiring to Ireland to work in the 16 hour, seven-day-a-week mode that a get into when I have a book going, and then coming back to relax in Florida and spend time with the boys and traveling around the States in between. During this time the house-pricing lunacy that had been afflicting Dublin spread south into Wicklow, and the place in Bray, which I had converted into two flats--one as a rental, the other for my own use when in Ireland--more than doubled in value in 8 years. At the time nobody believed it could last, so applying the good advice dispensed to poker players--who usually disregard it--to quit while they're ahead, and deciding it was time for a complete change once again, I sold the house and decided to try life on the far side of Ireland in the mysterious world that lies west of the Shannon, taking a flat over a pizza parlor in Sligo town while I was getting my bearings. Sligo had a great atmosphere in those days, before it was ravaged by the attentions of developers and municipal planners. I could look out over the town from the window of the flat and count ten pubs, most of which featured lively sessions of traditional Irish music by local performers, and there were always plenty of artists, writers, and visitors around. Today it's been cut in half by a "bypass" that goes through the middle, neatly severing the bus station, railroad terminal, and airport (my favorite anywhere--it has one boarding gate) from the center that they're supposed to serve.

Eventually the time came when the boys reached the age of leaving home and moving away to live their own lives. Jackie and I realized the same was true for us too, and I sold the townhouse that I'd been maintaining as a place to work away from the family house in Pensacola, with a view to spending more time in the future in Ireland. This meant finding more space there than the flat over the pizza parlor could offer. Since the town center no longer had its former appeal I started looking farther afield, and eventually settled on a four-bedroom farm cottage with a huge tin "zeppelin shed" and some outbuildings on a acre of hillside at the far end of Lough Gill, the lake that contains Yeats's famous "Isle of Innisfree." By the time I'd knocked two of the bedrooms together to make an office, and turned another into a dining room connecting via an archway to the kitchen, it was evident that an extension would need to be added to accommodate guests and provide additional utility space--which is all work currently (2007) in progress. Hence, the place has turned out to be not so much a house as an adventure, and I find myself into the business of dealing with contractors and construction workers again. It seems strange, sometimes, how life seems to have this curious repetitive pattern about it.

And not just with contractors and construction workers. In the course of the latter years in the southern States, I met a lady called Sheryl, originally from the Great Lakes region and working as an intensive care technician in a hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After several years of her visiting Ireland and my visiting Tulsa, the inescapable truth revealed itself that life was heading in the direction of getting married once again. (Remember the bit earlier about us living and learning, and then we forget?) Originally we intended doing so in Ireland, but the system here tends to be somewhat bureaucratic, costly, and fraught with various delays. Then it turned out the in the Fall of 2006 I was due to be Guest of Honor at a science fiction convention in Austin, Texas, and was planning a two-week itinerary of various stops around the West Coast in order to take in the World Convention, being held in Los Angeles that year, before returning home. Sheryl said, "Why not schedule the trip through Las Vegas? That way it will take 20 minutes." I though, why not? At least it will be something different. So that's what we did. And I have to say, it turned out to be a surprisingly pleasant experience. Yes, you can have the drive-through affair with the pink Cadillac and the Elvis look-alike, if that's what you want. But Las Vegas is all things for all people. The city also offers its own low-key, secular ceremony, which we opted for, and it was very tastefully done and delightful. Sheryl has now moved into the farm and is revealing an invaluable talent for getting some American-style organization and "go" into the remodeling and landscaping.


So there's an outline of the plot so far, which has gotten a little more convoluted in places than the kind of thing I had in mind at the outset. I haven't really worked out the ending yet, either. But I'd hope there are a few more chapters to go before that becomes too much of a pressing issue.

 
Content © The Estate of James P. Hogan, 1998-2014. All rights reserved.
Site Maintained by GMAG, E. Hartford, CT, USA

Page URL: http://www.jamesphogan.com/bio/