Name: Rob Callahan
What’s your job?
“Mostly, I call myself a writer. I pay the day-to-day bills with all manner of freelance work. I write articles on health, fitness and lifestyle for Livestrong. I pen the occasional humor piece for Cracked. Every so often I get an arts or events review up on l’etoile. I’ve had a few other one-offs. Band bios, official product copy, some technical writing and science/technology articles aimed at the reader with a layman’s understanding. You know, that sort of thing. I’ve got a novel and a short story collection floating around out there as well, and I’m working on getting more fiction out there. Writing fiction is great fun and it’s definitely where my passion is, but I don’t make nearly enough to pay the bills writing fiction alone, so it sometimes takes a back seat to other work.
“And I think that’s really a shame. I was a science fiction writer first. My first professional sale of a short story was to Gothic.net back in 2003. Three years later, I’d done enough of that to assemble an entire book full of my short stories. In 2008 I published a wonderful little novel through Raised All Wrong Press, who were a small press that Erik Evans was just starting up at the time, and my book was essentially their flagship publication. It was all manner of thrilling to have a real book out there that people could buy and sit around in coffee shops pretending to read.
“I wasn’t making very much money in fiction but I was, as it turned out, gaining clout from it. For years before there were any books to my name, I’d been applying for writing jobs and getting laughed at pretty relentlessly by the people in charge of hiring for those jobs, but things started to change once there were books on my resume. Over time, I found myself taking more and more paid writing gigs. In more time, my nonfiction work was earning me as much as I made at my stupid day job. So I was able to quit that and become a full-time writer once and for all. That was back in January of 2010, which leads us to now.”
Other than your job, what are your claims to fame?
“There are plenty of circles where I’m more well-known for my clothing than I am as a writer. Most of what’s hanging in my closet looks like something you’d wear to an Edwardian cosplay party. I’m nearly always wearing a vest, a necktie, slacks, and a long-ish coat. I sometimes walk with a cane due to an old leg injury as well. When I go to conventions, strangers sometimes ask if I’m dressed as Doctor Who because that character usually dresses in Victorian and Edwardian costumes that resemble some of the stuff I wear. I suppose on some unconscious level, this might actually be the very reason I dress the way I do. I’m quite a fan of the show, after all, and I wouldn’t put it past my own subconscious to be convinced by now that I actually am the Doctor.
“I’ve been hosting a pub quiz on Tuesdays at Clubhouse Jäger for some time now and the quiz has started to build a following of its own. So I’d suspect that there are plenty of people who think of me primarily as that guy who does the trivia. I’m also part of the team that writes questions for KVSC’s annual trivia marathon in St. Cloud. Been doing that for years.
“The Rockstar Storytellers, who do a monthly live storytelling show, have me on as a guest from time to time and I’ve become known as a professional storyteller through them. I’ve also been called a comic and, just recently, I was introduced to someone as an actor. I should point out that I don’t actually do any acting, though, on account of how awful I’d be at it.”
What’s your relationship status?
“I’ve been with Nancy Cerkvenik since last summer. Before that, I’d gone through about four years of singledom that were peppered with brief, irregular attempts at dating. One notable thing about Nancy Cerkvenik is that she doesn’t mind if I mention her name. In past relationships my partners always wanted their names kept out of the public because they didn’t want to feel like strangers had a sort of voyeur’s eye view into their life through my blogs and whatnot. But not Nancy Cerkvenik. She’s cool.”
Where are you most likely to be seen?
“I try to get out whenever I get the time. If I know of a band, a poet, or a writer I want to see, then I’ll check out their shows and their readings. This lands me at places like the 501, Turf Club, Bryant-Lake Bowl, Kieran’s, Cause, and First Avenue. There are a ton of spoken word events in town that I’d love to attend on just about any given night, but whether or not I can actually get the time for them is another question.
“I think that’s one of the best things about Minneapolis. This may only be a mid-sized city but, on just about any night of the week, there are more cool things to do than there is time to do them all. So if you’re in Minneapolis and you’re bored because can’t find something to do, you’re doing something wrong. When possible, I find my way to the Cheap Theatre series at Black Forest Inn, the Monday Night Comedy Show at The Beat, the Word Ninjas open mic at Kieran’s, JägerCon and Transmission at Club Jäger, and probably a dozen other places and events that are just slipping my mind right now.
“Oh, and if there’s a science fiction convention in town, there’s a good chance you’ll see me there. MarsCon, MiniCon and CONvergence are a certainty every year. There are smaller cons like Diversicon, Fallcon, and a bunch more I’m presently forgetting that I also attend if I can make the time.”
Where are you most likely not to be seen?
“I tend to stay clear of the big dance clubs downtown: the ones where it’s all Top 40 music, cheap drinks and variously-successful attempts at mating. Any venue modeled after that sort of thing is a place I’ll avoid. I have nothing against the pastime itself, but it’s just not for me. I tend to be very interested in a person’s intangible qualities. When I meet a stranger, I want to know about their values, their passions and that sort of thing. In the meat markets, values and passions are actively discouraged and others’ interest in you is entirely superficial, and that’s not my scene.”
With what person or people, besides your significant other, are you most likely to be seen?
“I can think of two people with whom I’ll go out of my way to hang if I run into them while I’m out. First there’s Christian Erickson, who many people know as one of the members of Astronaut Wife or as the singer in Blue Sky Blackout. Christian has been involved with music in this town for over 20 years and he is full of stories about the people and events that have shaped the music community we have today. Chatting with him can be like having a local music history lesson full of personal anecdotes and behind-the-scenes stories, and I have yet to grow tired of that. Also, the gears in his head are rotating at phenomenal speeds. This has him brimming constantly with new ideas and projects that he’ll gladly tell you about if you ask, and he delivers the concepts so passionately that you can’t help but be excited when you listen to him talk.
“Second, I never pass up an opportunity to hang out with Kate Iverson if I can help it. Kate edits l’etoile and she’s connected to just about every event and community in town. Her main focus is on arts and fashion, but if there’s any manner of cool going down in town, she probably had a hand in that as well. So she keeps me in the loop but, more importantly, she’s incredibly fun to be around. When I run into Kate, I always enjoy a night full of great conversation that is both intimate and ridiculous at the same time.
“Every now and then, I catch the two of them together and it’s times like those that are the reason the word ‘awesome’ was invented.”
Where were you born?
“I was born in Fairmont, Minnesota, which is probably most well-known in some circles as the city where Jay Maynard (a.k.a. Tron Guy) lives. I have no memory of living there, though. The way it all happened was that my dad came out from Brooklyn to stay with some relatives and he met my mom, who was from Fairmont. Some time before or near my turning one, we moved to St. Paul and that’s where my earliest childhood memories reside. We lived in an apartment off of Rice and McCarrons Boulevard and I could see the Capitol from my bedroom window. When I was about six, we moved out to what was then the suburbs but my parents divorced not long after that and I spent the rest of my childhood moving around a lot. I grew up in various parts of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as well as small towns like Circle Pines and Lexington. Parts of me still feel rooted in each of those places. I went to St. Cloud for college and I made some lasting connections there as well. So I feel a sense of belonging in various places throughout the state, but I have practically no significant memories about my actual place of birth. Is that weird? I think it’s weird.”
What neighborhood do you live in now?
“In 2008 I bought a house in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood of St. Paul. It’s a 126-year-old craftsman-style home built on a small hill and it currently overlooks a vast expanse of construction sites. Shortly after I moved there, the city went ahead full bore on a massive revitalization initiative. They started tearing down the old 3M buildings that used to be all around my neighborhood. Now they’re at various stages of building office parks and strip malls where the empty buildings used to stand. It isn’t the prettiest place in the city right now, but I have a feeling it’ll look nice once they’ve finished it all up.
“Oh, and City Pages named it the best undiscovered neighborhood in 2010, so hipsters have been trickling in ever since.”
What’s your ride?
“I own a 2004 Mini Cooper. She is black with white trim and her name is Winona. Prior to Winona I had a 2001 Honda Insight named Serenity. I used to buy old mopeds and bikes on the cheap and restore them. I’d ride them for a few months while I was fixing them up. Then I’d sell them and use the cash to buy another and start over. My favorite bikes were a couple of old Honda Elites that I restored and a 1999 Tomos TT Classic. That was just a little 50cc moped that was made to look like a street bike. It wasn’t especially valuable, but it was rare. They only made about five hundred of them and most of those were not maintained, so you probably won’t see one outside of a moped rally today. Lately, I’ve been looking at Veken hybrid scooters which are said to get up to 200mpg. If I can manage to set the money aside, I think I’ll pick one of those up in the spring.”
What’s the best way for someone to start a conversation with you?
“I think the best thing to do is find something in which we both have a common interest, and then just start sharing thoughts and opinions so we can get to know each other through them. I’m avidly appreciative of some of the more well-made science fiction shows that I’ve seen over the years. These would include Doctor Who, which I started watching as a kid in the mid-80s, and Deep Space Nine, which I think was one of the best television dramas of its time. I think the reason it failed to get a lot of critical recognition was because science fiction was not generally considered a serious art form back then.
“Science of the nonfiction variety is also a good topic. I’d actually wanted to be a physicist when I was younger but once I got to college I was overwhelmed by the math requirements. Still, get me into a conversation about astronomy or artificial intelligence and you’ll probably have my ear all night. Certain branches of philosophy can’t help but hold my interest. Epistemology comes to mind. I’m also fond of paradoxes and I enjoy secular discussions about theology. I should say, though, that I’m not looking to argue my beliefs against anyone else’s. I’m more interested in examining the nuts and bolts of belief systems than I am in taking a pro or con stance on them.”
Photo by Christian Erickson