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Updated August 2023.

A Documentary Memoir: Early Creative Works



My latest idea on journal publication: Take a few choice items from my journals (i.e., the only readable parts) and mix them with early writings. What I'm aiming at here is a collage of my teen years, an impression of what I'm like. Something like a mixture of I Seem to be a Verb and Up the Down Staircase. Only crazier.

Unless my journals are too awful ten years from now to publish.

—Excerpts from my journal, 1–2 April 1979, when I was about to turn sixteen.

I'm blessed with pack-rat genes.

Between my mother and me, I think we managed to save nearly every single piece of writing and important memorabilia from my childhood. I'm still digging them out of storage and organizing them (this will be a task of years, not months), which is why I will sometimes add a document out of order as I compile this documentary memoir.

For the sake of privacy – mine and other people's – I've kept my memoir focussed primarily on my life as a reader and writer, with only occasional glimpses into other aspects of my life. To be honest, reading and writing stories is where my thoughts have usually centered, throughout my life.

I began writing stories when I was eight, and within a year I had decided I wanted to be a professional writer. This was not an odd goal, given who my parents were. My father was a literary historian, my mother wrote poetry for fun, and the two of them had worked together on their college newspaper.

They were also book lovers. I was surrounded by books from the moment I was brought home from the hospital.

Both my parents were supportive of my desire to become a novelist (though judiciously cautioning me to get a day job too), and they provided me with much practical help. They were also understanding of my desire to read as many books as possible. (My younger brother, occasionally glimpsed in my journals, turned out to be a book lover too. All four of us explored bookstores together.)

I stuck with my writerly ambition. Throughout my childhood and adulthood, I wrote story after story, as well as poems, plays, and many different types of nonfiction. I kept my working notes and (for my early writings) illustrations. Just as importantly, I told in my journals and correspondence about my reading interests and my creative labors. In all, I completed 26 journals by the time I was twenty-eight years old, as well as writing many letters. Then I switched to electronic journals, e-mail, and social media posts.

It sometimes seems like I kept every piece of paper memorabilia that ever passed through my hands. What I didn't keep, my mother usually kept; it is largely thanks to her that I possess quite a few of my early childhood drawings, which shed light on my early narrative interests.

When my mother died in 2008, I inherited all her papers, adding them to my own considerable pile. Now, thanks in part to my mother's diligent collecting, I can share a small portion of my life as a reader and writer: literary frustrations and joys which have taken place over the space of more than half a century of my lifetime.

Dusk Peterson
August 2023


Content warning

Here is my current-day content warning for my fiction:

Most of my stories are speculative fiction set in worlds inspired by historical settings. Many forms of bigotry and oppression are fought against by characters in my stories. Other societal evils await reform at a future date and may be countenanced by sympathetic characters. In addition, bigotry that occurs in our world may not be present in these worlds.

Although my past writings are similar in many ways to what I write today, I did occasionally showcase common prejudices of the past . . . though not as many as I might have, thanks to my parents' training. Any views I expressed in the past may or may not match my views today.

Links and images

To save readers downloading time for the volumes of this series, I have linked to images and other documents, rather than include them within the e-books. All links are to caches at the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, so that such material will remain available in the future, knock wood. I will also make all those documents available in the form of a Zip file, accompanying each e-book. I do recommend downloading and saving any cached material you're interested in.

Alt text is provided to the images, where possible. The alt text can be found after the commentary to each image, within the relevant e-book.

I have occasionally linked to information on the web by other people.


I have cut many of the original documents freely, without ellipses, in order to focus in on the main topics of this memoir. Word changes or additions to the original text are indicated through curly brackets – {} – since I occasionally used straight brackets in the original documents.

My fiction is uncut, except when I provide only a sample or wish to protect private information.

I congratulate my elementary school teachers, because I didn't make many errors in spelling, punctuation, or grammar in my early writings. I've silently corrected any blatant spelling and punctuation errors I noticed, since I would have caught many of them myself when revising while I was young. I've let a few grammar errors remain, since they reveal my growth as a writer.

All names of real people in my early writings have been replaced with new names, except for the names of family members, authors, and public figures. I've used my present-day first name and pronouns in the memoir, including in third-party dialogue.

Titles and story codes

My working titles for stories at that time were preceded by a character of my own invention: a check mark crossed by an equal sign. In this volume, I've used a section marker to indicate working titles that are mentioned within journal entries: §

Following a suggestion offered by L. Sprague de Camp and Catherine C. de Camp in their Science Fiction Handbook, Revised – which they in turn had learned from Robert A. Heinlein – I originally assigned many of my handwritten and typewritten stories identifying codes. Unlike my predecessors' simple "opus" numbers, my codes provide abbreviated information about the stories. The story codes look like this:


For the sake of readers using screen readers, or who are simply uninintered in deciphering codes, I've spelled out the information contained in each code, when I cite it – all except the initial part of the code, which tells the order of the story in my notebooks or files.

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Creative Commons License: Some Rights Reserved This text, or a variation on it, was originally published at duskpeterson.com. Copyright (c) 2023 Dusk Peterson. Some rights reserved. The text is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License (creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0). You may freely print, post, e-mail, share, or otherwise distribute the text for noncommercial purposes, provided that you include this paragraph. The author's policies on derivative works and fan works are available online (duskpeterson.com/copyright.htm).