The Shoals Of Time
January 14, 2001
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P. Orin Zack

I've always been a bit off. Even in grade school, I questioned everything. By my thirteenth year, I knew that my family's religion wasn't for me and started a journey of discovery which has continued to this day. Along the way, my path split apart, so I walk through life with one foot in technology and the other in philosophy.

My two sides helped one another by providing insights and illuminating problems in novel ways. It started at my first job after leaving college, in the operations center at the long-defunct Franklin National Bank. By the early 1980's, I had mutated into a scientific programmer and was helping to automate the operational software controlling the 64-meter radio dishes in NASA's Deep Space Network. Shortly after that, I had a watershed assignment developing technician's troubleshooting software for a US Air Force RADAR countermeasures. By the end of that project, I had decided to stop programming for anyone but my own company and concentrate on writing.

While working on that test set, I had also begun writing what turned out to be a science fiction novel called THE SHOALS OF TIME. It had such a profound effect on my life that I had no choice but to quit my job and finish writing. The day I first sent off a manuscript, the Challenger exploded. The book didn't do too well, either.

This eventually led to a technical writing job with the Science and Engineering Tools group at Microsoft, where I started bringing my programming side back into the spotlight. I left Microsoft in 1995 to program CBT for what became AT&T Wireless Services. Later when Grand Designs, a company I co-founded in 1991, broke into the Internet Service Provider business in 1996, I was in a perfect position to step into the role of WebMaster.

Of course, the other side of my life was still around. In an early planning meeting, I suggested a time-travel theme to the board of the committee bidding to hold the 1997 Westercon 50 Science Fiction Convention in Seattle. They liked the idea, and gave me the job of planning the program. Although my professional experience covers both software and technical communications, I have also learned much about film and video production from working on shoots with my wife and partner (Deb Hardy) and have some skills in photo-retouching and desktop video editing.

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