Frequently Asked Questions

Vital Statistics

What’s your full name?

Ian Pierce Shafer Johnson.

How old are you?

I was born on September 4, 1992. Which means that, as of this writing (May 21, 2012), I’m nineteen.

Wow. That’s surprisingly young.

Your point?

Well, I mean… how can you feel that you have anything worthwhile to say with this blog? 

A lot of the time, I don’t. But that’s not the point. Some writers keep blogs that say deep and profound things. Others just have blogs because they feel like having a place to dump their random blatherings.

I’m more in the second camp.

Do you have any family?

I have a father named Pete, a mother named Beth, and a younger brother named Calum, who is seventeen at this writing, and a junior in high school. My dad reads this blog regularly. Sometimes you’ll see him comment.

In addition, I have a sort of extended family who I’m not related to. My little brother’s girlfriend Gabby is a lot like a little sister to me, and in addition, we have a German foreign exchange student named Jannek who’s a lot like my younger brother– to the point where he annoys me all the time. Just like a real younger brother.

How about pets? Do you have any pets?

Not personally, no, but my family has two elderly cats named Tomo and Tsunami, a leopard gecko named Larry, and a fluctuating number of chickens (usually three to seven), which at the moment includes Éowyn (the world’s most badass Rhode Island Red); Henrietta; Gertrude; Pancha; Leonie; Graybeard; and Ospreya, Destroyer of Worlds.

Where do you live?

I live in Santa Cruz, California.

I heard that you grew up in Santa Cruz, yet you go to college at UC Santa Cruz. Why’d you choose to go to college in your hometown? 

Various reasons, which I will not go into at this moment.

Aww, come on. Just between you and me?



Okay, look: this is a personal blog, and in many ways is like my journal. But I don’t want people to know what goes on in my personal life. There are things that I’m not comfortable with sharing to the entire world.

It’s like this: you may have things that you’d share with your mom, or your brother, or your boyfriend, or your psychologist, or your best friend. And then there are the things you scream from the rooftops, to the entire world.

The posts on Axolotl Ceviche are like my shouted rooftop declarations. They are not what I’d share with my immediate family and friends.

You sometimes talk about having autism. Care to elaborate on that?

I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when I was very young– I think it was shortly after my little brother was born. In any case, having autism meant that my life was profoundly affected. It’s an important part of who I am, as much as being a Californian, or a writer– perhaps even moreso.

As for my status as a person with autism… I’m not sure, at the moment. Because the criteria for diagnosis for autism is going to change with the DSM V, I don’t know whether I have ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) or whether I’m just another run-of-the-mill neurotypical. It’s complicated.

So, you have autism. Does this mean that you’re retarded?

Go die in a fire.


You mention that you’re an aspiring writer. What do you write?

Currently, it’s short fiction and poetry. I have a few ideas for novels, but I need to think those over before I start those.

Where is your work published?

Currently, just here on Axolotl Ceviche.

That will change in the future, though.

What’s your writing process? Do you outline? How much do you plan ahead when you’re writing a story?

I think a lot about the story I’m going to write, and then when I can’t think about it anymore, I write the first draft. Then I revise.

As far as outlining goes, no: I don’t outline. In George R.R. Martin’s metaphor for the two types of writers, I’m a “gardener”: I put seeds in the ground, tend them and water them, and see if they grow up into plants. Other than that, I just take it as it goes.

You don’t outline? That’s very bad writing technique.

If you’ve taken writing courses at school, they teach you how to make outlines, often in excruciating detail.

But creative writing isn’t like writing at school. Oftentimes, the story has a mind of its own, and when you’re in the throes of creation, it’s less like forging a dwarven battleaxe from truesteel, deep within the heart of a volcano. It’s more like riding a dragon. You try to hold on, and to direct it in the general direction you want it to go, but you can’t control it entirely. Dragons are clever. They have their own minds. Just be aware that whenever the dragon goes off in its own direction, you have to know two things: 1. You have to be able to hold on tight, or you’ll fall, and 2. The dragon will take you to more interesting places than you’d ever have dreamed of going.

And when the writing’s going the right way, you soar…

Have you ever tried outlining a novel rather than just winging it?

Yes. In the summer of 2011, I tried writing a science fiction novel from an outline.

It didn’t go well.

Do you have any writing advice?

Write the story you want to write. Don’t worry about anyone else telling you what you have to write, what they think is good, what they think a writer should write. Tell the story you want to tell. Trust me– it’ll be better than anything someone else told you to write.

So… write what you know, then?

No. Write what you love.

There’s a key difference.

What’s your favorite story that you’ve written? 

At the moment, it’s “Cassandra”, which you can read about on my blog.

My favorite poem that I’ve written is “Rowan: A Poem of Love and the Border”, which you can also find here.


Why is this blog called Axolotl Ceviche?

Oh god…

When I was first having a plan for a homepage, back in spring 2011, I wanted a name that was distinctive and original. I chose the name by taking the first two completely random words that I thought of, and put them together.

The two words were Axolotl, which is a kind of salamander, and Ceviche, which is a Latin American seafood dish.

I make no apologies for this. It’s simply the way my mind works.

What is Creative Writing Wednesday?

Every Wednesday, I share some of my writing on the website. You can come check back every Wednesday for samples of my creative genius (or, more likely, some stuff I done wrote).

You don’t blog very much about politics or religion. Why is that?

Because I care too much about the subjects.

I have three rules about blogging: never blog while drunk, never blog while tired, and never blog while angry.

And too often, the state of politics in the world makes me angry. So I avoid blogging about them, because I know that too often, politics and religion piss people off too much. And I don’t want to pick fights with people.

It’s not that I don’t care. I do– I care too much. Which means that I have to make a conscious decision to avoid blogging about these subjects.

If you want politics, then there are lots of political blogs all over the internet. This is not one of them. Go find one of those.

Are you willing to at least tell me your politics/ religion?

I am.

Politics: Registered Independent (far left-leaning)

Religion: Atheist


What’s your favorite book?

Oh, man. There are so many…

In any case, here are my current top 10 (in no particular order):

  • Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Kingkiller Chronicles, Patrick Rothfuss
  • Shogun, James Clavell
  • Among Others, Jo Walton
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon
  • American Gods, Neil Gaiman
  • Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
  • The Inheritance Trilogy, N.K. Jemisin
  • Tiffany Aching series, Terry Pratchett
  • The Dragons of Babel, Michael Swanwick

What kind of music do you listen to?

My favorite band is Pink Floyd.

You’ll find that I quote their lyrics constantly on this blog.

What’s your favorite color?


Who are the writers who inspire you the most?

The three writers who I consider to be my personal Divine Triumvirate of Writing are Neil Gaiman, Joss Whedon, and Roger Waters.

I take the most inspiration from reading/watching/listening to their work.

You have an awesome beard! How did you get it?


No, seriously: I hate shaving, so I went for about a month without shaving fall quarter of my freshman year.

When I grew a beard that actually looked good, in fact much better than my face without a beard, I just kept it.

I’m trying to grow a beard. Do you have any beard-care tips?

Not much. Just remember to shampoo it regularly.

What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

You are neither original nor funny.

  1. Blake says:

    Shizz yeah, James Clavell and Shogun!

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