Snapshots: James Patrick Kelly interviewed

What are you working on now?

I am working on a novel, bits of which have already been published:  “Going Deep” (Asimov’s, June, 2009) “Plus or Minus” (Asimov’s, December 2010) and “Tourists” (Eclipse Four edited by Jonthan Strahan, Night Shade Books, May, 2011). Some of these were nominated for awards and appeared in Best of the Year collections, so there’s some pressure to make sure that the end is up to snuff. I made a vow to myself a long time ago that I would never write another fix-up novel, but since then I haven’t had the impulse to write a novel of any sort. So I’m breaking my vow here – and good riddance!

What have you recently finished?

Two longish stories: one in an odd place and the other in a familiar one. I wrote an online novelette called “The Biggest” which went live on Angry Robot’s WorldBuilder site in early January. It’s a superhero story, a companion piece to Adam Christopher’s new novel Empire State. Meanwhile back in DeadTreeLand, my novella “The Last Judgment” is the cover story of the current issue of Asimov’s.

What’s recently or soon out?

See above. I finished the “The Biggest” just days before it was posted! Also, John Kessel and I just turned in a new anthology to Tachyon called Digital Rapture: The Singularity Anthology. It’s scheduled for August.

Describe your typical writing day.

I wake up. I eat breakfast. I drink too much coffee and waste too much time puttering around the web. Around 9ish I sit down at the keyboard. Around noonish I eat lunch. Around 1ish, I’m back. Around 4ish I quit. However, there are days when I don’t write much because I have teaching responsibilities. I’m on the faculty of the Stonecoast Creative Writing MFA program at the University of Southern Maine. Also, when I am very close – or very late! – on a project, I will often return to my office and work late into the evening to try to catch up.

What would you draw attention to from your back-list?

A couple of stories are personal favorites: “The Pyramid of Amirah” and “Men Are Trouble”. You can hear podcasts of them at along with a lot of other fine Kelly fiction.

Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?

John Kessel obviously. How about three former students who are doing wonders? Will McIntosh, Will Ludwigsen and Sandra McDonald. Oh, and I am really, really psyched about Hannu Rajaniemi.

I know that it’s self-serving to type this, but it’s your blog and my answer, so who’s going to stop me? I really, really like this new book

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?

I wrote this last year for a Locus Roundtable and it’s still true:

A former student of mine, Eljay Daly, who graduated from both Viable Paradise and Stonecoast, was interviewed the other day on the Underwords blog’s New Writer Spotlight. Asked the most important lesson she had learned at these various programs, she wrote something that I now have tacked up beside my desk. “If I have to narrow it down to one, I guess it would be ‘Writing teaches writing.’ Keep trying. If my system isn’t working, try another system. If the story I’m working on is lousy, finish it anyway, then write another one.” I don’t remember saying anything quite so smart; Eljay figured that out all on her own. But as I read it, a heavenly choir began to sing.

Writing teaches writing. That is all we know and all we need to know.

So… the easy one: what’s the future of publishing? How will writers be making a living and publishing in five or ten years? What will readers be reading?

In ten years, DeadTreeLand will be in steep decline but it will never disappear completely. 83.328% of all publishing will be electronic. You’ll be able to fold Epads like sheets of paper and cram them into your shirt pocket. Also, Google Goggles will be everywhere. As to what readers will read, who knows? They’ll have at least a chance to read me … I intend to keep typing unless Martin Lewis shows up to break my fingers.


James Patrick Kelly has written novels, short stories, essays, reviews, poetry, plays and planetarium shows. His short novel Burn won the Science Fiction Writers of America’s Nebula Award in 2007. He has won the World Science Fiction Society’s Hugo Award twice: in 1996, for his novelette “Think Like A Dinosaur” and in 2000, for his novelette, “Ten to the Sixteenth to One.” His fiction has been translated into eighteen languages. With John Kessel he is co-editor of Digital Rapture; The Singularity Anthology, Kafkaesque: Stories Inspired by Franz Kafka, The Secret History Of Science Fiction, Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology and Rewired: The Post Cyberpunk Anthology. His most recent publishing venture is the ezine James Patrick Kelly’s Strangeways. His website is

Jim wrote the chapter ‘Who Owns Cyberpunk?’ in Strange Divisions and Alien Territories: the sub-genres of science fiction (edited by Keith Brooke, published by Palgrave Macmillan, February 2012).

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About Keith Brooke and infinity plus

Keith Brooke is a writer of crime fiction, science fiction, fantasy and other strange stuff, and editor and reviewer of same. He is also the publisher at infinity plus, an independent imprint publishing books by leading genre fiction authors. View all posts by Keith Brooke and infinity plus

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