Kelly McCullough writes fantasy, science fiction, and books for kids of varying ages. He lives in Wisconsin with his physics professor wife and a small herd of cats. His novels include the WebMage and Fallen Blade series — Penguin/ACE, and the forthcoming School for Sidekicks — Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan. His short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. He also dabbles in science fiction as science education with The Chronicles of the Wandering Star — part of an NSF-funded science curriculum — and the science comic Hanny & the Mystery of the Voorwerp, which he co-authored and co-edited — funding provided by NASA and the Hubble Space Telescope. Kelly on Twitter, Facebook, G+

ConClave is Imminent

September 30, 2014 in About Kelly, Events/Appearaces

I will be Guest of Honor at ConClave 38 in Detroit October 10-12. 

Friday Cat Blogging

September 26, 2014 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

It is the east and Juliet, the sun…and she’s way too bright.

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I am round like the sun, but not as bright…

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I’m a dog.

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What the hell…

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That was my dog.

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I like dogs…they are almost as delicious as my feet.

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Friday Cat Blogging

September 19, 2014 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging

My lap. Mine. My own. My precious…

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Not so sure about the precious, but the lap is mine.

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Probably a better plan than these feet…

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Ashbless has no lap. Ashbless needs no lap.

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I could swear there was a lap here when I went to sleep…

 

 

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People like stuff that you don’t. Get over it.

September 15, 2014 in About Kelly, Musings, rant

This is a rant that grows out of the whole anti/pro steampunk kerfuffle that the f&sf genresphere has been aflutter with of late in which many on the two sides are flinging great gobs of words at each other like punctuation-laden poo. It’s not pretty and in many cases it seems to be a mix of sour grapes and tribalism, and it looks just like every other variation of this argument we’ve had for the last fifty years. The only real difference being what sub-genre/genre/literary sensibility we’re arguing about.

One of the things that we as a genre community seem to be most vulnerable to is the idea that our personal favorite type of writing is the only type of writing that other people should love and pay attention to, and that anyone who disagrees that our pet subgenre is the one true form of worthwhile writing is a poo-poo head. This tends to be expressed in one of two ways:

1) I want more of my stuff, and why isn’t everyone writing and publishing that? “Waaaaah!” *POUT* It is often accompanied by the stomping of rhetorical feet and tearing of hair. It mostly looks like highly articulate toddlers throwing a tantrum because the world isn’t treating them and their pet interests as the center of the universe.

2) How can anyone believe that XXXXX is worthy of their attention and dollars? XXXXX is immoral and anti-intellectual or just plain bad. The people who read/write it are dupes/exploiters or simply uncultured. If people really understood the underlying dynamic of XXXXX they’d realize that and come over and read YYYYY which is the one true way. It mostly looks like even more articulate toddlers throwing a tantrum because the world isn’t treating them and their pet interests as the center of the universe.

People, get a freaking grip! Not everyone likes what you like, and that’s okay. In fact it’s wonderful and healthy and necessary for the survival of a culture. Diversity of thought and idea and taste is one of the single most important parts of our ongoing survival as a species. It’s what drives us to try that funny looking new fruit, or accept that those who don’t look and think like us are people too, or take a long walk over the hill and find out there’s cool stuff over there.

The tendency of people to act as though stuff they don’t like is awful and bad for the culture if not downright immoral is one of the human tribal reactions that I find least attractive. It’s genre fundamentalism and it’s ugly and petty and basically unhealthy, both for the culture and for the head of bile it builds up within the person in question.

Does this mean I’m immune to the impulse? Of course not. There are sub-genres I think are stupid or hateful or bad for people. When my stuff doesn’t sell as well as somebody else’s stuff I get a little jealous and pouty. Hey, I’m human. However, I really do try to throttle it down because it’s bad for me and indulging the impulse is bad for the culture. And I sure as hell don’t throw a public tantrum about it.

If you were a geek in school (and if you’re reading this, the odds are pretty good) you remember what it was like to have the cool kids looking down on you for loving Star Trek or Dr. Who or reading those funny Lord of the Rings books. This impulse to say my genre/subgenre good = your genre/subgenre bad is the exact same shit. Do you really want to be doing that?

(Originally published on the Wyrdsmiths blog Novemeber 10 2010, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)

Friday Cat Blogging Belatedly

September 14, 2014 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging

Call me TOOTHLESS!

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Where’s the mute button…

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I think I found the mute…

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I don’t even…

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Soggy doggy has no mute button. Soggy doggy needs no mute button.

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Hey, Thumb-Monkey, why you mucking around with cat blogging and not petting me?

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Farewell Muse

September 7, 2014 in Cat Things, Other People's Books, Pets and other friends

Last night the world lost a big glorious goofball of a cat. My dear friend Scott Lynch’s cat Muse died suddenly and unexpectedly at home. As those of you who follow me on social media or read Friday Cat Blogging know, we had the pleasure to play surrogate monkey for Muse, aka Giant War Cat to my readers, for nearly two months this summer. We will miss him enormously and we’re heartbroken for Scott and his other person, Elizabeth Bear. I haven’t the heart to write any more, so I will say goodbye to him in pictures.

 

This was the first time I met him.

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He had a ten minute staring contest with the concrete cat.

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I’m going to miss him.

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With Scott in our living room.

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Friday Cat Blogging

September 5, 2014 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging

I uses standing desk for works too!

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You know you’re a cat right? We don’t work.

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But wooly bears do! Right?

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Random wooly bear is confuzling. Also, possible sign of fall. Not good.

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Quick, must get in extra sleeps on porch.

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The McCullough cat are super weird.

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But my nose is delicious, that’s something, right?

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Friday Cat Blogging on Saturday

August 31, 2014 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging

Not sure I should have drunk all that…

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Why have you not burst?

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Maybe he did…maybe that is Ghost of Giant War Cat!
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Y’all run with that. I’ll be over here tasting my paw because it’s awesome!

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If I had thumb I could open this thing up and write better captions…

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Non sequitur cat says they went that way!

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Friday Cat Blogging Bids farewell to Giant War Cat, Musimus Maximus Butthead Rex who has returned to his own thumb monkey the ever charming Scott Lynch.

Art and Death and Finding the Right Words

August 26, 2014 in About Kelly, Art, Musings, Writing

I recently had an experience that both moved and shook me. I’m going to tell that story first and then I’m going to try to talk about being a writer and experiencing a moment both from within and at one remove. The story:

I was on vacation in the Dominican Republic when I got an urgent message from my friend Pamela Gay—a gifted astronomer and podcaster.

A very close friend of hers, author and podcaster P.G. (Patrick) Holyfield, was dying of cancer—quite possibly within the next few hours—and would it be possible for me to record a goodbye message for him because my books had been important to him.

I don’t know if I can quite convey how that hit me. I’ve never met Patrick and I didn’t really know anything about him before that moment. I had one moment of complete terror when I read the message. What could I possibly say to a dying man that might make his path a little easier? While my forebrain was trying to get a grip on that, my backbrain was typing a reply to Pamela. Of course I would do it.

How could I not?

Here was a dear friend asking a favor for a dying man who had cared about my words. How could I not find a few more to help him on his way? For that matter, even if Pamela wasn’t someone I care about, even if you removed her from the equation, the question still stands. It was simply the right thing to do.

So, I grabbed my iPhone and I walked out into the dark tropical night and I recorded a message. I did it in several short fits as I struggled to find the right words and my voice kept trying to break as I did it. I don’t know if it eased Patrick’s passing—I hope that it helped at least a little—but I’m told that his family was aware that I was a writer that mattered to him and that it meant a lot to them.

As I finished my recording, the sky opened up and started pouring rain. If I were religious, I might take that as a sign of some sort and maybe find comfort in it. But I’m not, and that’s not how I find meaning. I find it in the right words. I’m finding it as I write this, I was finding it that night as I spoke to a dying man, and I will find it in the future as my brain cannibalizes the experience and puts bits of it into my fiction.

Because that’s what writers do. We analyze and pick and pull and we try to find ways to lay out the bits we extract so that others can see them. The shiny bits. The sweet bits. The horrible bits. All of them. And we don’t just do it later, we do it in the moment, and sometimes we hate ourselves while we’re doing it.

My grandmother, Phyllis Neese, was a second mother to me. I loved her completely and unreservedly. When she died a few years ago it gutted me. And I used that. I stood by her bedside after they disconnected the life support and I waited for the monitors to go still, even though it tore at me to do it. I did it because I loved her and because I owed it to her and because it was the right thing to do.

And every second that I stood there, a part of my brain was standing back and looking on at what I was doing and how it felt, and it made notes. I couldn’t not, and it made me feel like a vampire—here I was in one the hardest, rawest, most devastating moments of my life, and I was making mental notes about it for later use.

It wasn’t the first time, and I knew it wouldn’t be the last, and I really didn’t much like that part of myself in the moment. Nor for years after. It seemed somehow horrible and inhuman, and it wasn’t until I was trying to think of words to say to a dying man that I found a different sort of meaning for that experience. Just as it had with my grandmother, a part of me was standing back and observing the part of me that was talking to Patrick.

It seemed ghoulish at first, but then I realized something. The part of me that had stepped back and watched while my grandmother died was handing me things from that moment to use in the present one. The part that stood and took notes while I was hurting was the same part that gave me what I needed to at least try to ease another person’s death. It’s not a vampire, it’s a witness.

We step outside of ourselves in these moments so that later, when someone needs the right words, we have a place in our hearts where the hard things are written: a record that we can share and maybe, just maybe, ease the pain for someone else. As writers, when we hurt or grieve or bleed, we stand apart in some ways and we take notes. We do it because we can. We do it because we must. We do it because somebody has to try to find the right words.

For the first time in my life I’m entirely at peace with the observer in my head. I don’t know how much my words helped Patrick that night, but I know that trying to find them helped me—that Patrick helped me. I’d like to believe that, through this essay, they’ll help a few more people along the way.

P. G. Holyfield was a writer. He knew what it meant to try to find the right words, and I hope that he would be pleased to know that he’s helped someone else to find a few of them.

Thank you, Patrick. Hail and Farewell.

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The original post about P.G. Holyfield’s cancer diagnosis and sudden decline can be found at specficmedia.com.

Pamela Gay has written a touching tribute and farewell to her friend P.G. Holyfield at her site.

Finally, I want to say a quick thank you to my friend, essayist and generally wonderful writer Patrick Rhone for taking a look at this essay and reassuring me that it was something I ought to share with people.

Friday Cat Blogging

August 22, 2014 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging

I put something on the shopping list…

 

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I promise to only use it for good!*

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Potential load of good is not amused.

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You could trust me with it…

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You? Ha-ha-hoo-hee-hee-hee, right.

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I too am skeptical.

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Great, now I have to sleep with one eye open until the end of time.

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Not gonna sweat it. “I will only use it for good” generates an auto veto from Laura.

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Art courtesy of Matt Kuchta. Guest kitties courtesy of Neil Gaiman and Scott Lynch.