About me, I guess I’m Vanessa MacLaren-Wray, sometimes called Doctor Wray, sometimes Doc MacWray. The hyphenated name can be a pain, but you’ll never get me confused with somebody else.
What else do you want to know?
How about a set of random bits of information?
I spent my “formative years” (i.e., elementary school) in England, where I quickly became what they call “horse-mad” over there. My teachers despaired of reading a writing assignment that did not involve horses. My first magazine submission (and so, first rejection) came at age 9 with a horse adventure that my dad painstakingly typed up from my handwritten manuscript. There is no cure for horse madness. I still write horses (or horse-like creatures) into my stories. My life-companion horse died last summer, and I am mad about that, though in a different way. I maintain an information page for owners of horses with insulin resistance. It’s my most popular Facebook page.
I have engaged with social media, but try to keep it focused. This blog has a Facebook page, and I also maintain a page on science and astronomy stuff, and another on eclipse-chasing, started at Unity Lake during last year’s Great American Eclipse. I tweet as DocMacWray for serious techie stuff like SpaceX launches, NASA rover landings, and suchlike. For fannish stuff, education matters, and sometimes just for fun, I log into Twitter as Butterfly Macree. Very occasionally both of my personas are active, but that has to be something big, like a Mars landing. I do not follow anybody whose name begins with “Real”. Such persons tend to be, well, fake. I don’t follow-back. But I do follow people whose work matters to me. And, finally, as Butterfly again (Why that name? Think about it. Cheat. Use Google.), I have a tiny YouTube channel that mainly hosts robot and astronomy videos.
I started reading SF with a stash of 50’s Astounding and Galaxy mags I found in my grandparent’s attic. Thanks to Scholastic Books putting Volume 2 of Lord of the Rings into a junior-high school book-order offering, I added Tolkein to that English primary-school grounding in mythology, and only later learned that he wrote all those books in an effort to develop a new mythology for English people. With the help of a rule-breaking dad who sneaked books from the adults-only side of our local library, I made it through all the SF in that library before ninth grade. Now I have a few decades worth of my own subscriptions and just a few hundred volumes of my own. None are stuck up in an attic, no way.
My professional non-technical writing sales have been concentrated in poetry. Hadrosaur Tales (the SF poetry magazine) is no longer publishing, but is out there online. Yes, I edited literary magazines in high school and college, and it was fun, but that was a long time ago now, when mastodons roamed the earth, I think. I like stories that deal with the borders between cultures: first-contact stories or stories where peoples (of whatever species) are trying to work out how to coexist or how to come together under difficult times. No surprise, that’s the kind of story I’ve been working on.
At present, I make money mostly by doing technical writing. I’ve got a lot of expertise in the electric power industry (from just a few decades of engineering consulting work in the field), so I work half-time with a company that handles writing for the Electric Power Research Institute. Most of time, I can get my name on the document as part of the project team, so it can go onto my c.v., which is nice. I’m looking forward to getting off the tech-writer bench and getting back into the analytical side of things. Need to know anything about solar panels, energy storage, network reliability, stuff like that? I’ve got a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and economic systems, and I’m not afraid to use it.
I know this website needs updating. But I don’t want to just tear it apart. I like how I’ve set it up so usually you can just read a page or two of something and skip on to something else. Sure, maybe it’s a little neglected, but I’ve been working more on novel-writing the past couple of years, and sorry, but I didn’t want to just post that material for free. Writing up some notes for my BayCon bio this year prompted this very update to this introduction page.
I’m also an avid photographer, so you’ll find links to albums on my flickr page, where my whole collection, at least the photos I’ve edited enough to be worth sharing, lives. In 2017, I took a dive into photojournalism, documenting marches and other protests in our area. I volunteered at the women’s march and was on the photography staff for the science march. It’s been heartbreaking to witness the constant attacks on science at the top levels of our current government, but it remains encouraging to see the real Americans come out to the streets in support of science.
Oh, and there are the robots. I’ve been head judge for the junior division at RoboGames for several years now, a follow-on to about ten years of coaching a small but determined local robotics team. I love meeting and talking with the kids who come with their creations, especially when you stumble across someone with true passion for making things that work. I hate that I can’t give out prizes to everybody and I hate that some parents can’t see that it isn’t the medals that are the reward of coming to an event like RoboGames–it’s the chance to meet and exchange ideas with people who have similar passions and learn from their work. To keep my perspective on what being judged feels like, most years I also enter robots in the adult-level competitions. Here’s one of my LEGO robots in action. Check out the dragon wings.
I have come late to the gaming universe. It took the real-world games to do it for me. I play both Ingress (team Resistance) and Pokemon Go (Mystic, of course). I struggle a little with the social elements of each game. Ingress players can get overly serious about their territories and Pokemon players can sometimes be too impatient to wait for one last player to arrive at a raid. But I think coping with those social-interaction elements is a useful learning experience–even if it means learning when to turn off the social media side of the game and focus on the value in the face-to-face interactions. Fellow players can be a comforting resource when game mechanics let you down. Beyond that, my sons tell me that games are where the storytelling happens these days, and I’m beginning to see what they’re talking about.
I’m fortunate to live embedded in a family of hypernerds; I get to be the nerd who writes this blog. None of my family members has any responsibility for anything said here; they’re just supportive. My credentials? That Ph.D. from Stanford, Editor of “Weed” one of those antedeluvian Literary Magazines I mentioned (that was at North Dakota State University), power systems analyst with a focus on energy efficient systems and powerflow methods, and long-time education volunteer. When I first became The Science Mom, one teacher insisted it would inspire kids, especially girls, if she made them call me “Doctor Wray”, which I’ve since morphed into “Doc MacWray” when I’m at SF conventions. Other hypernerds in the family: a survivor of UC Berkeley’s undergraduate astrophysics program who’s now more into visual and auditory arts, a NASA physicist who reads tons of science and philosophy books and has erudite opinions on all of them, a UW biogeochemist who’s doubled up in astrobiology, and a former UCSB engineer who’s pretty darn serious about good design.