When Case Western Reserve University staff member and alumna Marie Vibbert (CWR ’98) isn’t working as a programmer for the Freedman Center for Digital Scholarship through [U]Tech, she can often be found working on her other passion: creative writing.
The idea for Vibbert’s latest project dates back to her junior high school days in the 1980s. Inspired by a sketch of three “punk ladies” drawn by her twin sister, Grace—who also works at the university—Vibbert filled the pages of a notebook with some initial thoughts on what she called the “Stardust Gang.”
The idea resurfaced years later when she took part in the Clarion Write-A-Thon in 2012, tasked with writing 50 short stories in six weeks. The piece ended up being nearly 10 times longer than Vibbert’s typical short stories, leading others to encourage her to transform it into a novel during a later National Novel Writing Month.
Now, what was once just a drawing in junior high will soon hit shelves as the forthcoming Galactic Hellcats (Vernacular Books), the story of a female space biker gang on a mission to rescue a gay prince. The novel is set to be released in March.
At 16, Vibbert joined the Cajun Sushi Hamsters, a Cleveland science fiction writing workshop, where she found a community that has supported her over the years. While Galactic Hellcats is Vibbert’s first novel, she’s published 70 short stories and hopes to write a novella soon. Most of her works are in the science fiction realm, but she has dabbled in horror and urban fantasy, even selling comic book scripts and poems.
“The moment I reached the point where I wasn’t keeping track of how many stories I had sold was a big moment,” she said.
Vibbert views writing as her “side hustle,” having first joined the university as a full-time employee at the university’s first help desk in 1998. Now, more than 20 years later, her cubicle is about four feet from where her first desk sat at Kelvin Smith Library.
Vibbert is the only in-house programmer for digital libraries, maintaining the catalog on case.edu, the library website and vendor-operated applications. She also maintains the database that allows members of the community to check books out of the library using their CWRU IDs.
According to Vibbert, her role at CWRU allows her to be a better writer. She appreciates having eight hours a day doing something that relies on a different part of her brain, while still forcing her to embrace problem solving—albeit with a distinct difference.
“I don’t get to just make up a reason why software isn’t working,” she said.
Outside of writing and her work at CWRU, Vibbert enjoys sewing and knitting. She’s also spent time playing for the Cleveland Fusion, a professional women’s football team—which she says has also provided inspiration for her writing.
“Having this great group of female friends that I got through the Fusion made a difference in my life,” she said. “I think it helps me write different characters.”
Want to read Galactic Hellcats? Pre-order your copy today, but first, be sure to check out Vibbert’s answers to our five questions.
1. What was the last book you read?
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia—it’s what it says on the tin—a very Wuthering Heights vibe, in Mexico in the middle of the 20th Century, but with a supernatural twist that was quite enjoyable.
2. When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was four or five, my older sister sat me and my twin sister down and told us we could be anything we wanted when we grew up. “So, what are you going to be?” I was quick to answer, “I want to be a banker, so I have all the money!” I was thinking of Monopoly. My twin sister [Grace] looked grave and said, “I’ll be a vampire, and live forever.” And I learned a valuable lesson: Grace is smarter than me.
3. If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
Definitely flying, but not for joy riding over the city, I mean, that’s fun, but the real reason is to have clean transportation! No need for parking spots! I’ll have to be careful not to drop my shopping, though.
4. Who has had the greatest influence on you?
My dad. He raised four girls on his own, is a fine visual artist and worked as a laborer. He taught me to question stereotypes, to value art, and not to quit my day job.
5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
The community. I’ve met so many wonderful people here, from all walks of life, and they didn’t even know I was secretly basing characters on them.