Local author and artist, Ron Miller, has written and illustrated over 30 books, including children's books and a mural in the Headquarters' storytime room, fantasy novels and nonfiction pieces. While his audiences may vary, Miller's work reveals one common thread: his love of science fiction.
Miller received the Hugo Award for Best Nonfiction in 2002 for his book, The Art of Chesley Bonestell. Miller captures the life of one of the most influential space artists of all time. The book contains a bibliography on Bonestell and displays over 300 of his illustrations, including images of the planets and outer space that have sparked public interest and support in the U.S. space program since the mid-1940s. Miller describes Bonestell's work as "snapshots taken by a space-traveling National Geographic photographer."
Miller traces his interest in science fiction to his childhood. He said, "I grew up watching Superman and Flash Gordon and Space Patrol on television when I was still in elementary school. I always liked space; it was something I grew up with."
His interest in writing and painting began at an early age. When he wasn't doing one, he was doing the other. "I can remember in high school, I had to do a book report and I made up the book from scratch-the author's biography and everything. I made up a British Romantic poet named Sir Percy Fairweather, I even made up the poems. The teacher never had a clue." Even today, Miller's writing table sits at a right angle from his computer, allowing him to transition easily from one workstation to the next.
In 1966, Miller graduated from the Columbus College of Art and Design with a BFA in Illustration and Advertising Design. He further developed his interest in space exploration when working as art director for the National Air and Space Museum's Albert Einstein Planetarium. Miller is also a member of the International Academy of Astronautics, a member of the North American Jules Verne Society, and Fellow and past Trustee of the International Association for Astronomical Arts.
While admitting, "I like everything I do," Miller's fascination with outer space is exemplified in two works he calls his greatest accomplishments. First, a series of ten books for young adults called Worlds Beyond. Written and illustrated by Miller, the series focuses on the solar system. Second, his Hugo-nominated work, The Grand Tour, an adult-oriented book in the same genre as that of Worlds Beyond.
For Miller, the most challenging part of writing is making a living at it. However, the rewards far outweigh the struggles, he says. A high point in Miller's career came when he met Pascal Lee, a space scientist. "I finally got in touch with him for one reason or another and it turns out he got into astronomy because of The Grand Tour, which was really gratifying and really made me feel old. Nonetheless, the nonfiction things I do are intended to inspire people about space and get them excited about it, so when I hear that it happened, I know it worked."
Miller's interest in science fiction extends into fantasy novels, as well. He has a special fascination with historic female warriors. He's written a tetralogy of fantasy novels featuring a female warrior, Bronwyn - Palaces and Prisons, Silk and Steel, Hearts and Armor, and Mermaids and Meteors. Also, his novel, Bradamant: The Iron Tempest, won the Violet Crown Award from the Writer's League of Texas.
Bradamant is based on a female character from a 15th century epic poem, "Orlando Furioso." He says, "I realized if I took the thread of her story from throughout the poem it was almost like a synopsis for a novel and I thought she was a cool character and deserved her own book."
His interest in historic heroines stems from his realization that they've always been ignored. Most heroic women are forgotten or lost in footnotes. "The ones you are familiar with, like Susan B. Anthony and Betsy Ross and Florence Nightingale, are heroic, but they're heroic doing women's roles, traditional things. But there were women pirates, women Vikings, women samurai, women explorers, and women generals going back 3,000 years. No one ever hears of these women."
Miller's other interests include making science fun and accessible for children and young adults. He began writing children's books to provide children with different ways to discover science. "There's very little good science information out there to inspire kids about science. Most kids I talk to really want to know, but they don't have any good resources."
Currently, Miller is working on multiple projects he hopes to see finished in the near future. These include a book on special effects and one on the elements, which catalogs them, "so now I know more about boron than I ever did before." Also, he's working on a female detective novel, Velda, and a book called The Seven Wonders of the Solar System.
Miller offers this advice to aspiring writers: "Write. You should write every day. It doesn't matter what you write . . . writing is writing. Write letters, write poetry, write articles, write reviews, write short stories, write essays. Just get used to writing; you're a wordsmith when you're a writer and no matter what you write, it's good for you. Also, you should read what you write because it will help you mentally fill in the gaps and things you left out, so read it out loud. You'll be amazed at the difference it will make in your writing when you hear how it sounds."