Author’s Bio

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NEW — two of Wynn’s nov­els are avail­able as audio­books. [more]

Here is the “About the Author” page from Time Flies. It’s writ­ten by Wynn’s hus­band, Rik.


Rik Wallinby Rik Wallin

This is the point in each nov­el where a pub­lish­er hires a PR dude to scram­ble the author’s life into some­thing that sounds cool. They asked me to do that for Time Flies, and I have a unique point of view on the sub­ject. I’ve been in love with the man since the 1980s. Now I sleep with him as Wynn’s hus­band.

The first thing you have to know is that writ­ing is just one of the things Wynn’s done, but writ­ing is one of his favorite things to do.

When you ask him about writ­ing fic­tion, he denies it. He says he’s only the stenog­ra­pher for the voic­es in his head. I find that real­ly trou­bling as his hus­band.

Time Flies is the book he wrote for him­self as a defi­ant cel­e­bra­tion of life. It’s his angri­est nov­el, and yet the main char­ac­ters over­come tribu­la­tions. They even flour­ish.

As he worked in cor­po­rate Amer­i­ca, he saved up for retire­ment, plan­ning for a cat­a­stroph­ic dis­ease. He won the lot­to and got two: HIV and pan­cre­ati­tis. The weird thing is that – thanks to agi­ta­tion from the likes of my friend Lar­ry Kramer, HIV is the eas­i­est con­di­tions to man­age.

Pan­cre­ati­tis is an entire­ly dif­fer­ent mat­ter. It nev­er gets bet­ter. It nev­er goes away. He makes no insulin for him­self, and he can no longer make diges­tive enzymes. I wouldn’t wish it on any­body.

We almost lost him in 2010 from pan­cre­ati­tis. Since then there hasn’t been a sin­gle day that he wasn’t in so much pain that we’d all be jump­ing off cliffs.

Thank good­ness for soft­ware like SCRIVENER (which he curs­es hourly), but it lets him pop around to jog­gle his mind.Wynn Wagner

If you didn’t already know, every one of his nov­els is writ­ten in a first per­son point of view. That always means the plot is incom­plete. If the nar­ra­tor knows it, you know it. If the nar­ra­tor is inept at some­thing, it may seem like Wynn is an inept sto­ry-teller: read on, he’ll get to the expla­na­tion. All of Wynn’s books do that.

Wynn start­ed being a pro­fes­sion­al singer in the Tex­as Boys Choir, as a boy sopra­no not the bari­tone voice he has today. His first pay­check was from the Lori­mar com­pa­ny for singing on the “Ed Sul­li­van Show.” He also sang on a Per­ry Como spe­cial pro­duced in Dal­las to calm the nation after JFK was mur­dered (#285, 01/​23/​1964). His boy sopra­no voice is on albums of Christ­mas music and hymns. He was on the last record­ing of Perse­phone con­duct­ed by the com­poser, Igor Stravin­sky. He was a soloist with the choir. When they did Mendelssohn’s Inci­den­tal Music to Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream, Wynn was picked to be the Fairy King, Oberon (who resur­faces in one of his Vamp Camp books). He had real­ly want­ed to be Puck, but nobody was moved by his kik­ing the car­pet. So he got an ear­ly start being a fairy, speak­ing the words of William Shake­speare from the Dorothy Chan­dler Pavil­ion to Carnegie and Town Halls in New York City.

Wynn was to be the soloist for a one act opera, Bar­tolomeo Boni­fa­cio, about a boy sopra­no whose voice start­ed chang­ing. It’s when Wynn’s voice real­ly start­ed to change. It was in rehearsal, and his voice cracked at the wrong time. That was the end of his days in a boys’ choir.

He was so tired of singing that he didn’t sing for years, and he was so tired of being on tour for long stretch­es of time that he didn’t leave Tex­as for a decade.

Younger WynnSo back home in Fort Worth, he need­ed spend­ing mon­ey. That’s main­ly because he had fal­l­en in love with fast cars, and those take coins. He did a bit of mod­el­ing (lots and lots of TV com­mer­cials are pro­duced here).

Wynn taught piano. Not well, he’d say, although one of his stu­dents end­ed up at Juil­liard. He played in restau­rants and piano bars for sev­er­al years and was on the key­board at a French Bistro when Frank Sina­tra walked in for sup­per. Wynn says he prac­ti­cal­ly shit in his pants. He was only 17 years old then. Before Wynn could play a sin­gle note, Sina­tra came up and put a $100 bill in the tip jar. “Just don’t play any of my songs,” Sina­tra said.

But you’ve record­ed every song that’s been writ­ten,” Wynn told Sina­tra. “You’re leav­ing me with a paper thin song­book.” The croon­er sug­gest­ed “Chop Sticks,” which Wynn start­ed play­ing, first as a Debussy arabesque then as a Bach inven­tion. When every­one was sick of “Chop Sticks,” he moved on and played: “Alice’s Restau­rant,” which was greet­ed with hoots and hollers from the Sina­tra table. He also did “Step­pen­wolf,” and Tiny Tim’s “Tip­toe Through the Tulips.” At that point, a wait­er brought anoth­er $100 bill from Sina­tra. A note said: “point not­ed.

He start­ed work­ing in the­ater (back­stage, not act­ing), radio, and TV. Full dis­clo­sure: Wynn tells me that the scene in Time Flies whose set­ting was the Scott The­ater in Fort Worth real­ly hap­pened.

The­ater doesn’t pay much of a liv­ing wage, so he got into broad­cast­ing. His Dad owned radio sta­tions on and off, so it’s a busi­ness he grew up in.

Radio was fun, and he was excit­ed to be hired by one of the Big­gie Net­works. Union Scale in New York was pover­ty lev­el, so he came back to Tex­as, mov­ing from the music side over to the news­room. Broad­cast­ing was chang­ing. Real jour­nal­ism was being pushed aside by pim­ply-faced kids with that day’s wis­dom print­ed on fan­fold paper with lit­tle holes run­ning down each side. The rule at his sta­tion was to lead with a “feel good” local sto­ry. When some stu­dents in Tehran, Iran, took over the U.S. Embassy, Wynn felt that was too impor­tant to bury. He led with it, and was prompt­ly fired for it.

Wynn need­ed cash (a recur­ring the­me), and he saw the only cre­ativ­i­ty was in com­put­ers. The thing is that he didn’t know any­thing about com­put­ers. That slowed him down a bit, but he made things hap­pen. His boyfriend at the time bought a shiny new giz­mo called an Apple ][. Its flop­py dri­ve had a 6 dig­it seri­al num­ber and 3 or 4 of the lead­ing num­bers were 0. So Wynn just sat down and poked around. They kept the Apple in a clos­et in their apart­ment, so yes, he real­ly became a clos­et pro­gram­mer. The inter­est­ing thing is that he just knew how to make it do things. He can’t even mul­ti­ply or divide, but Wynn can make a com­put­er do any­thing he needs doing. He start­ed tak­ing in the odd job at pro­gram­ming, end­ing up with two employ­ees. He got so frus­trat­ed that he found work for his employ­ees and then closed his busi­ness. He went cor­po­rate, and that felt like a defeat for his free-spir­it life. But the big busi­ness pay was okay, and they didn’t mind that he attacked prob­lems in his own unique way.

At one com­pa­ny, every­one was using the C pro­gram­ming lan­guage. Wynn thought it was sil­ly because assem­bly lan­guage was much more direct, but he agreed to give C a shot. His boss even­tu­al­ly bought him a Nerf bat so he could hit things with­out doing any real dam­age to the equip­ment. He was in his own lit­tle world, grum­bling that his hip­pie days were done.

He rode his Harley to work every day when it wasn’t wet. It was about 20º one day. When he passed anoth­er bik­er in a hall­way, the oth­er man said it was too cold to be on 2-wheels. Wynn gave it about 2-sec­onds after they passed each oth­er and said, “I’m sup­posed to be the sis­sy in this place, and you’re mak­ing that real­ly hard.”

One sto­ry I’ve heard repeat­ed from sev­er­al is about a guy where he worked say­ing he was going to reveal some of Wynn’s per­son­al secrets. With­out miss­ing a beat, Wynn said, “So you’re telling some­body I’m queer? Let’s see: my man­ager knew it before she hired me; my whole team knows I’m gay; the pres­i­dent of the com­pa­ny knows, too. My Mom knows. My dad knows. And my boyfriend is begin­ning to sus­pect.” Going back and forth with Wynn, you have to know he plays real close to the net.

Then the 1980s came, and his friends start­ed dying. Beau­ti­ful men with won­der­ful per­son­al­i­ties were get­ting hor­ri­ble dis­eases and dying. His whole world crum­bled, and he couldn’t do any­thing about it. Nobody could do any­thing. He was ashamed to be alive when every­one else was dying. The entire gay com­mu­ni­ty was ter­ri­fied.

And nobody helped. Park­land Hos­pi­tal, the big hos­pi­tal in Dal­las (where JFK died), opened a ward for dis­eased gay men. Many of the doc­tors and nurs­es refused to go into any of the rooms. They refused to do the job they swore an oath to do. The US gov­ern­ment had Ronald Rea­gan who dis­missed the whole thing. To this day, Wynn says Ronald Rea­gan and George H.W. Bush are the two ass­holes more respon­si­ble for the AIDS pan­demic.

Nobody did much of any­thing. There was the SHANTI project in San Fran­cis­co and Lar­ry Kramer’s GMHC (and Act Up lat­er) in New York, and that’s about it.

Wynn knew we had to do some­thing, and we had to do it our­selves, and we had to act right then. He and I knew each oth­er through a fledg­ling group of com­put­er oper­a­tors. There was no inter­net, so com­put­er oper­a­tors (“SYSOPS”) had to con­nect their com­put­ers through reg­u­lar phone lines. Wynn kept notic­ing the lights on his tele­phone modem flick­er. Send and it flick­ers. Receive and it flick­ers again. When the lights were dark, noth­ing was com­ing or going, but the phone bill was still tick­ing along. He was always annoyed by that.

Wynn start­ed writ­ing a com­put­er pro­gram to let com­put­ers exchange mes­sages and have forums on lots of top­ics. It was like the Inter­net before there was an Inter­net (out­side of secret DARPA mil­i­tary instal­la­tions). Wynn got busy and fig­ured a way to send with the light on con­stant­ly. When the trans­mis­sion starts, it doesn’t stop. If the line has noise, the trans­mis­sion con­tin­ues and fix­es missed blocks as it goes. If the line is dropped com­plete­ly, it just starts where it left off the next time the two com­put­ers are con­nect­ed again. It saved indi­vid­u­al SYSOPS, includ­ing me, lots of coins.

He called his pro­gram OPUS. At the height of its pop­u­lar­i­ty, 90% of the con­nect­ed per­son­al com­put­ers in the US were run­ning Wynn’s soft­ware. Nobody does that kind of thing. And he nev­er made a sin­gle nick­el from any­one. He asked SYSOPS to donate mon­ey to a local char­i­ty that works with AIDS patients or HIV research. They raised mil­lions of dol­lars around the world. One char­i­ty list­ed “OPUS SYSOPS” as their biggest “cor­po­rate” con­trib­u­tor. Eliz­a­beth Taylor’s AmFAR came along fair­ly late in the pan­demic, but they’ve done so much good, and they rec­og­nized the pio­neer­ing work Wynn’s OPUS did for HIV char­i­ties.

Wynn is nei­ther a sci­en­tist nor med­ical pro­fes­sion­al, but he knew he had to do some­thing. He has no clue (and no desire) to rub elbows with the richy-rich­es of the world, try­ing to get them to write checks. He did what he knew, and that raised mil­lions of dol­lars around the world. Even big cor­po­ra­tions and US gov­ern­men­tal agen­cies that used OPUS for its dogged reli­a­bil­i­ty sent mon­ey to the­se char­i­ties, despite of what Ronald Rea­gan said. Wynn made that hap­pen, with­out get­ting any­thing back. Few even know of his work, out­side the BBS com­mu­ni­ty, because he is always in the back­ground.

Then came AEGiS, which became the largest Inter­net web­site in the world. Based in San Juan Capis­tra­no, CA, it had mil­lions of arti­cles that were repost­ed with per­mis­sion, and it was all about HIV/​AIDS. I know about AEGiS because I was one of the orig­i­nal engi­neers, help­ing AEGiS Founder, Sis­ter Mary Eliz­a­beth. She’s not my sis­ter, she’s a reli­gious sis­ter. Like Wynn, she saw a need and went to work.

AEGiS got so unwieldy that it was ready to col­lapse under its own weight. Build­ing the data­base used for user search­es took more than a day. We brought in Wynn to work some mag­ic. It was the only time I saw him intim­i­dat­ed. Turns out, when Wynn real­izes the sit­u­a­tion is hope­less is when he does his best work. He put a but­tress here and a splint there.

When his engi­neer­ing was done, he spot­ted anoth­er flaw. He’d looked all over the Inter­net and found almost noth­ing writ­ten for peo­ple diag­nosed with HIV. What was avail­able was done by med­ical authors, and it was con­fus­ing to the new patient, who was ter­ri­fied at the death sen­tence he or she just received. Wynn sat down at a word proces­sor, and when he stood up “Day One” was on that com­put­er.

I’m just going to share an excerpt. AEGiS has since gone off-line because oth­ers (with big bud­gets) are able to do the work of a repos­i­to­ry of data. You can still see “Day One” in a num­ber of ver­sions. The ver­sions came about as the sci­ence in treat­ment changed. AEGiS had a staff of pro­fes­sion­als who kept chang­ing (or “ruin­ing” accord­ing to Wynn) his orig­i­nal piece. Med­ical strate­gies changed, and “Day One” had to keep up. But you can go to the WAYBACK MACHINE web­site at archive.org to see his full arti­cle. Go to their snap­shots of aegis.org and pick a date to see the full arti­cle. Here’s an excerpt from a 2006 ver­sion:

Day One
by Wynn Wag­n­er

You are in the right place if you just found out you have HIV.
Yeah, me too. This web page is the begin­nings of your Sur­vival Kit. I’m not a doc­tor or pro­fes­sion­al coun­selor I’m just a per­son with HIV, and I’ve gone through the same thing you’re going through.
My plan here is to give you five point­ers that I think are Big Deals. Then, I’ll show you where you can go get what­ev­er infor­ma­tion you are ready for.

Five Point­ers for Sur­vival
1. Use a spe­cial­ist. Make sure you find a doc­tor who spe­cial­izes in HIV. That’s a Big Deal. Stud­ies have shown that your sur­vival depends on you being treat­ed by a doc­tor who deals with HIV on a dai­ly basis.
Your reg­u­lar doc­tor may be great, but you don’t need gen­er­al med­i­cine right now. You need a spe­cial­ist.
Those who get treat­ed by an HIV spe­cial­ist live longer. Peri­od.
If you can’t afford or locate a doc­tor, find an HIV/​AIDS orga­ni­za­tion that can help you direct­ly, or help you find pub­lic assis­tance.
2. Be good to your­self. That means eat right and take vit­a­mins, and it means find­ing some­body to hug you from time to time.
It also means stop beat­ing your­self up over being HIV-pos­i­tive. Oh, okay … do some self-pity for a day or two, if you want … but remem­ber to snap out of it.

[etc]

[This is my favorite part: ]

Hear­ing you have HIV is like hear­ing a death sen­tence.
It can ruin your day.
It ruined my whole week.

[and so forth]

Yeah, parts of “Day One” are so fun­ny they catch you off-guard. The new­ly diag­nosed patient needs some grins. I used to hear Wynn say that you can be seri­ous with­out being solemn. Damn word­smiths like to shave a def­i­n­i­tion with a scalpel. Play­time with gram­mar and words is his Hap­py Place.

AEGiS got Thank You notes by the hun­dreds: “Thank you so much.” or “You saved my life.”

Day One” is direct and to-the-point of a new­ly diag­nosed patient. It tells the new patient to take charge. At one point, he told the patient to fire his doc­tor if he didn’t like him.

What sur­pris­es most peo­ple who don’t real­ly know Wynn is that line: “Yeah, me too.” Wynn almost ever talks about it, but he’s one of those long-term sur­vivors. He suf­fers from what’s called “sur­vivors’ guilt” which is a kind of PTSD.

Does he com­plain? He goes beyond com­plain sev­er­al meters into whine. Oh, you’d bet­ter believe he com­plains. All the damn day, some­days. But that’s only around the house.

Out­side the house, his main point is hope. You don’t com­plain. You fix. When oth­ers see that the impos­si­ble isn’t so impreg­nable if you stick to it.

You see the pat­tern again: Wynn sees a sit­u­a­tion, and a solu­tion is com­plete­ly impos­si­ble, so Wynn chips away until there’s some kind of some­thing we can do. It’s always for­ward. We live in a dan­ger­ous time. Nukes abound. Sor­ry, this is Tex­as… noo’cleer. Peo­ple hate gays. Gay peo­ple, many of them, hate those who are HIV-pos­i­tive.

Look what we’ve over­come. Until the 1800s, it was legal for a white landown­er to own a human being. This was at a time when our indige­nous peo­ple thought it was wrong even to claim own­er­ship of the sacred earth. In the 1940s, crazy peo­ple like Mus­solini and Hitler hyp­no­tized whole pop­u­la­tions into geno­cide again­st Jews, Gyp­sies, gays, and oth­ers. In the 1980s, we lost a whole gen­er­a­tion of beau­ti­ful gay men because of creeps like Ronald Rea­gan and George Bush.

Today, when the major­i­ty of a country’s pop­u­la­tion is Mus­lim, being gay is like­ly a death sen­tence. If anoth­er reli­gion is in the major­i­ty, it may not be pleas­ant or easy to be gay, but at least it isn’t a cap­i­tal offense. The world should be ashamed of that sta­tis­tic, but we rarely hear about it.

Those things aren’t going to change, not by them­selves. There’s noth­ing in it for Saudi Ara­bia or Iran to treat their gay cit­i­zens with the respect they deserve.

Wynn’s idea is that ordi­nary folks are the ones who have to bring change. You have to grow some balls and do some­thing. If you can write: write. If you can schmooze: fundraise. If you’re hope­less­ly cor­rupt: get into pol­i­tics. (Just kid­ding on that last one.) (More or less kid­ding.)

He says we have to be our own hero. If you look at every one of Wynn’s nov­els, includ­ing this one, you find a per­son who learns how to love him­self and to be his own hero. You find char­ac­ters who face a sit­u­a­tion that has no solu­tion, and they go make one any­way. The man is far from per­fect. He under­cooks beef, which he swears is a Tex­as thing. But his Tex-Mex food always comes out with a French twist.

I some­times think his cor­pus is “ours” because I’m the first one to read every­thing he writes. I’m his alpha tester, and he makes me cry and laugh. He also makes my dick hard because he real­ly knows how to write a sex scene. This book was sup­posed to be his PG rat­ed nov­el, like that was ever going to hap­pen.

If you want to know more about him, good luck. He has demen­tia, and he says J.D. Salinger used to ask him for point­ers in stay­ing anony­mous in every­day life.

He did sev­er­al inter­views back in the OPUS days, but he only spoke once about his nov­els. He talked with John Selig about writ­ing. It was for his “Out­spo­ken” pod­cast. Go out to a Google near you and look for “John Selig Out­spo­ken.” Wynn is in there some­where. Wynn agreed to sit down only because John’s such a good friend, and he likes skat­ing on the wrong side of the ice (what­ev­er the hell that means).

Today Wynn has no pan­creas after a Whip­ple Pro­ce­dure in 2010, which is also part of the plot of this book. He got pan­cre­ati­tis from an adverse reac­tion to an the ear­ly HIV drug, ddI.

When he writes about dia­betes and addic­tion (Com­mit­ment Issues), Non-Hodgkin’s Lym­phoma (influ­en­tial), HIV, Pan­cre­ati­tis, Whip­ple Pro­ce­dures (Time Flies), know this: Wynn walks those walks every day.

I nev­er thought this book would hap­pen. He hadn’t writ­ten since 2010, but look­ie here.

What you’ll always get in a Wynn Wag­n­er nov­el is hope. Shit hits the wall all over the place. His char­ac­ters are bul­lied, cru­el­ly turned into vam­pires, kid­napped. Each time, they refuse to wait for help. If somebody’s going to be homo­pho­bic, he’ll will find a way to kill that char­ac­ter. If some­body picks on a kid, heav­en help that char­ac­ter. He loves killing off homo­phobes: like the vam­pire Ham­let fly­ing over the Swiss alps pick­ing apart a bul­ly who just killed a gay kid. One leg at a time: he loves me, he loves me not.

Take our his­to­ry and be grate­ful. Gays don’t have fam­i­ly his­to­ry, so we have to be care­ful to tell kids about what’s already hap­pened: Oscar Wilde, Alan Tur­ing, Har­ry Hay, Rachel Mad­dow, Patri­cia Nell War­ren (espe­cial­ly Patri­cia Nell War­ren), and so many more. None of those is a fin­ish­ing point. We need to learn about them so we can build a bet­ter future for our LGBT broth­ers and sis­ters. We’re the only ones who will do that.

Mar­t­in Luther King, Jr pushed us when he said nobody’s going to give us jus­tice, we have to take it.

Rev. Jesse Jack­son is right: hope is alive, but we are the ones who have to keep it alive.

The author and his muse (Scooby)Dan Sav­age does so much good work with his “It Gets Bet­ter” cam­paign (and his The Real O’Neals, which is Wynn’s favorite show right now). Sav­age does every­thing with such panache that he does good while leav­ing a smile on your face. *That’s* the way to make things bet­ter.

You have to put it togeth­er and be vis­i­ble to LGBT kids. We have to show them it gets bet­ter. We have to show them every day. We have to seize jus­tice and resist homo­pho­bia.

Hope and love are uplift­ing, and they’re both hard work. Mark this: hope and love only hap­pen when we give them to oth­ers.

Wynn says we have to be the face of hope. That’s on us.

Mean­while, please send him heal­ing energies. Not hav­ing a pan­creas isn’t exact­ly a walk in the park. Nei­ther is being “poz” almost forever.

Love you, hub­by,

Rik

 

Authors Guild Wynn Wag­n­er is a mem­ber of The Authors Guild