read to celebrate a teenage and YA poet and novelist


YA Novel by A Teenager (A. T. Nager)

About the Teenage Novelist: Readers will wonder why they see Jean T. Cullen or Jean-Thomas Cullen in one place, and John T. Cullen in another. And then there is that John Argo question.

JTC (for short) was born in Europe, an Army brat, son of a U.S. Army NCO and a Luxembourg expat mother. His birth name, after both grandfathers, is Jean-Thomas. He was born a U.S. citizen, with State Department papers to prove it, one of nearly two million born in this manner to parents serving overseas with the U.S. military, State Department, CIA, and other agencies.

After spending his childhood in several European countries, he was brought to his father's birth city of New Haven, Conn. at age 10. In the English-speaking world, he has always used John T. Cullen for ease of passage. He still finds it useful and fun, when traveling in places like Quebec, France, or the Benelux, to go by Jean or Jean-Thomas. He holds dual citizenship (U.S. and Luxembourg, thus also European Union), is multi-lingual, and has three university degrees including a B. A. in English (University of Connecticut) and a Master's in Business Administration (Boston University, Metropolitan College Overseas in Heidelberg FRG, earned while serving in the U.S. Army for five years in Cold War NATO during the 1970s.

John Argo… And, readers may note, this other pen name that frequently pops up around his genre fiction, written long after his poetry days were over, and he turned all that creative writing juice loose on the prose pages of his SF and Suspense fiction. When the Internet age began, JTC was enthralled, and instantly became a pioneer digital writer/publisher, using the pen name John Argo. That reflects his Classically trained Sense of Wonder about the early Web, before digital money and cyber crime, in honor of another Age of Wonder. That refers to the Bronze Age, well over three thousand years ago, which came to a crashing halt due to climate change around 1200 BCE. The Bronze Age was remembered with love and awe a millennium later by Classic poets like Homer, Hesiod, and the like; later by Romans like Ovid. In the modern age, Sense of Wonder is a term frequently applied to the best of Speculative Fiction.

So what about Argo? Think of Jason and the Argonauts (literally, 'Argo Sailors') aboard their own ship of wonder, called the Argo. The Argonauts cruised into the outer space of their own age, the Aegean and Pontic Seas, in search of the Golden Fleece and other mythic, wonderous adventures. In homage of all that, which is the foundation of Western civilization, JTC picked the pen name John Argo: now you know why.

But that is all long after JTC's own age of youth and wonder, when as a teenager and Young Adult (YA) he wrote a wealth of poetry celebrated on this website along with his first full novel now titled Summer Planets. As he began writing it, age 15, he originally titled it Cosmopolis: City of the Universe. He completed the last draft at age 19 while a sophomore at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, while bunking in Room 310 in McMahon Hall. And this ain't no bunk.

When Teenagers Write Novels. First, here's a quick tidbit from long-ago memory. When you are a teenager, trying or daring to write a novel in which the hero is a young man in his twenties, there's this fundamental gnawing problem that you have no idea what a man in his twenties would think about anything at all in life. You're a teenager, like JTC was at the start of this project (age 15) and still at its conclusion (age 19). It's quite hilarious, because most YA fiction is written by older people trying to remember what it's like to be YA (much less a teenager). U.S. publishing categories in the 21st Century include Teen (roughly puberty through end of high school); Young Adult or YA generally about 18 through 22 (college, trade school, early working life); and a newer category called New Adult, roughly 22 to mid twenties or so. A middle-aged author trying to write YA is hilarious enough. A teenager looking forward to the New Adult category has to be positively courageous because he or she can only guess. To JTC, in high school, the notion of his hero Jared Fallon (an early 20s/mid-20s Star Fleet officer in the Year 5000 CE), is as far-fetched as writing about a 26 year old Air Force lieutenant in our age, let's say. The story as finally published circa 2018 is almost exactly the same as it was long ago as JTC pounded those Remington Standard Upright keys in his college dorm. Aside from a little polishing, the one enhancement was the fuller development of the diaphanes or djia like Stella and Lelli in the story—who were anticipated in that long-ago manuscript that smelled of sturdy bond paper and warm typewriter ink. And Mala Alamala, the beautiful, golden-tanned surfer girl who works in a bookstore by the sea on a remote world with a faint samba-music aura, was the imaginative and loving creation of that teenage boy sitting in his dorm room.

Another deeply honest moment here: JTC is pushing 70 as he types these words on a networked computer in the Space Age. He was a teenager back in the 1960s. To be precise, he hammered the final punctuation home on his Remington one fine spring day in 1969… which is half a century ago now that it's Blade Runner Year (2019). Time just keeps moving on at a dizzy pace, just like those Vellallo bipeds in a remote galaxy. Read and enjoy, my friend or friendette. That teenager deserves your belated interest, after his poems and stories have been ignored for so many years. Love you. Thanks! JTC


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