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+, ello
I’ll start with this. Jim has no business being a guest liaison for any convention. Full stop.
Now, on to the nuance. I understand the impulse to give second chances to people who’ve done us a good turn, or to ignore reports of behavior we’ve never witnessed when it’s a friend on the grill. I even understand it in the specific case of Jim Frenkel. He was my first agent and, some years later, he was very nearly my editor. He’s bought me dinner, we’ve laughed together, been in business together and for years I thought of him as a friend.
None of that excuses his reported behavior toward women.
None of that is a reason to give him a pass on this.
One of the reasons why serial harassment happens in our society is the tendency to forgive or ignore behaviors that don’t affect us directly or that happen out of sight, if that’s more convenient for us. It’s uncomfortable to call out someone you know and have liked. It feels like disloyalty to turn away from someone who helped you out when they’re in trouble. But, sometimes, that’s exactly what we have to do.
I don’t remember ever seeing Jim make unwelcome advances or any of the other reported behaviors that have given him his reputation as a serial harasser, but I don’t have to witness a behavior myself to condemn it. All I have to do is believe the accounts of the women who were affected, and I do. It’s that simple. So, though it gives me no pleasure to say this about a man who advanced my career and who I thought of as a friend, I will repeat myself.
Jim has no business being a guest liaison for any convention.
ETA: In case it wasn’t clear, he shouldn’t be anywhere else on the concom either.
ETA 2: Corrected “I never saw” to “I don’t remember ever seeing”.
Make sure you get my good side.
You’re so vain, you probably think this blog is about you.
Well, duh. Everything is about me.
Wrong. This monkey is all about me.
Here, try this one. Still life with me. Also, fork. Perfect portrait.
No. I’m a perfect portrait.
Okay, y’all are weird. Everyone know this is how portraits work.
Thanks to Kim, Jonny, Neil, and the National Gallery
Michael Levy, one of best men it has ever been my pleasure to know, has left the world. He was a friend, a mentor, and something halfway between a brother and father to me and to Laura.
I first met Mike in 2000, the year my wife, Laura, took her current position as a professor in the physics department at UW-Stout. The then director of research services heard that Laura’s husband was a science fiction writer and immediately thought of Mike’s work as a reviewer and scholar of science fiction. Introductions were made, and we soon became friends with Mike and his wife, Sandy. Over the following seventeen years that relationship has deepened into a connection that is as much family as it is friendship.
Mike was brilliant, giving, gentle, kind, and possessed of a bottomless and quirky sense of humor that meshed with mine in a delightfully odd sort of way. I think that the laughter we so often shared is what I will miss the most about him. We shared many meals, we played games together, and critiqued each other’s writing. We shared good times and bad and we were always there for each other. But most of all, we laughed together every time we were in the same room, even in darker moments. It hurts my heart so very much to know that we will never share another joke or quip.
Other people will talk about Mike’s many important contributions to the field of speculative fiction and they will do a better a job of it than I could, but I do want to talk a little about how his work affected mine, because my writing is at the center of who I am and Mike deeply affected my writing. One of the first things that Mike did after we met was ask to see my most recent book, though I was at that point still barely published with only a couple of short story sales to my name. It was a contemporary fantasy with the working title Winter of Discontent and I had finished the book within the last few weeks. It was steeped in theater and set in a production of Shakespeare’s Richard III. Of everything I have ever written it was far and away the most literary. Handing it to a man who was not only a speculative fiction reviewer for Publisher’s Weekly, but also an English professor was more than a bit intimidating, especially when we had only just met, but I swallowed hard and handed it over.
When Mike finished the book we got together in his office for a chat about it. Scary stuff for an unpublished novelist. I’m not sure what I expected to hear. I was proud of the book, certainly, but not at all sure I had pulled off even half of what I intended. I cannot begin to express how validating it was to hear him say that not only was it good work, it was important work. He thought it had the potential to be a big book. Not necessarily in terms of sales, but in stature. That conversation is one of the things that kept me writing in the years between 2000 and selling my first novel in 2005. Sadly, Winter of Discontent has never been published, though it has come very close several times. It is out on submission again now, after sitting in a trunk for most of a decade followed by a recent rewrite. When it sells, I will owe a huge debt for any successes it has to Mike.
Though he never got the chance to formally review Winter of Discontent, Mike did review several of my other books and was a champion of my work, taking me more seriously as a writer and an artist than I often do myself. For the last decade when Mike taught his yearly science fiction course, one of the assigned books was always my WebMage. Every time he taught it he would invite me in to speak with his class about the work, which was always a pleasure. Now, I think of myself as a commercial writer first and foremost and that is how I generally talk about my work at places like Mike’s class. But it’s not something he was ever willing to let pass unchallenged. When he spoke about my work he would argue for me having a great passion for politics and ethics in my writing, a tendency to slip deeper topics into light books, and even my literary merit. He always took my work more seriously than I do, and believed in it in ways that I am not generally willing to. My gratitude for that is boundless.
Mike was an academic mentor to Laura as well, helping her negotiate the academic politics specific to Stout, the challenges of being a department chair, the world of academic publishing, and so much more. He made us better, stronger, happier people, and we are not alone in that. Over the last few weeks we have heard similar stories from many of his friends. Wherever he went, he helped people to achieve their dreams and be their best selves. His absence is going to take a bright light out of our world. He was endlessly generous with his time, his insights, and his love. He was a great mentor and a great teacher and he made a huge difference in the lives of his friends, his colleagues, his many proteges, his students and the whole world of speculative fiction. He was taken from us both too soon and too young and Laura and I will miss him as long as we live.
This is the third of three photo tributes I have put together for our late and very much lamented Isabelle. The first is here along with the links to other lost friends. And here is the second. I also eulogized her in some detail here.
This is how I think of her most often, asleep or purring in my lap.
She was happiest there.
Or on a shoulder—so happy she would get drooly.
In her last summers we took to letting her join us on the deck.
She loved it and was far too mellow for us to worry about her bolting.
I loved sitting with her by the fire.
Here she is demanding we cancel winter so she can go out.
Which is in character. She could be very demanding.
But she more than earned her keep in lowered blood pressure.
She was also good at doing the writer cat poses.
And the geek cat.
She could be incredibly dignified.
Even when dignity was maybe not the best play.
We called this her “break my heart” pose, as arthritis started gnawing her.
But even stiff and sore and late in life she could sometimes simply sprawl.
This is her “Why are you not sitting on the couch?” face.
I love this picture for the composition that’s it’s doubly painful.
This is the afghan my grandmother was making me when she died.
Every morning after Laura showered she hopped into the tub for reasons.
Waiting in the sun at the top of the stairs for her monkeys.
She loved the western windows on a sunny afternoon.
And the eastern ones in the morning.
When there was no sun at all, there were always blanket forts.
And cat pods.
Or sprawling on the monkeys’ laps.
She often played the centerpiece on the dining room table.
I miss this so much.
My life as cat furniture is a huge a part of who I am.
Both of my special girls are gone now, though Chamomile is helping there.
I miss seeing her “helping” Laura with puzzles.
I miss having her snuggled in her heated bed on my writing chaise.
And most of all on my lap.
This was her “pick me up now face” and how didn’t really matter.
She trusted me to a ridiculous degree. I could carry her anywhere 1 handed.
Which is more or less how this happened.
This is the last picture I took of her, sleeping beside me as she always did.
Perhaps most of all I miss waking up to this face every morning.
I iz the ghost of catmas past!
You’re kidding right? Because catmas was months ago.
Yeah, get with the program, dude.
Exactly. There are much scarier things to worry about.
Like thumb-monkeys that think they have a sense of humor.
Now, that’s scary.
Oh, get a grip.
I haz grip on my own face!
You play the fools. Meanwhile, we plot our global conquest.
Thanks for the extra cats goes to Kim, Jonny Matt, Mandy and Neil
This is the second of three photo tributes I have put together for our late and very much lamented Isabelle. The first is here along with the links to other lost friends. I also eulogized her in some detail here.
As long as she got to be close to us she was tolerant of her monkeys’ foibles.
I mean, really tolerant.
She was even willing to put up with other cats and their smooches.
No matter if she was surrounded.
As long as she got to be with her people.
Snuggling was basically her reason for living. Whether we were sleeping.
Or watching a movie.
She always wanted to be with people.
Though her definition of people could get pretty broad.
She was beautiful and I took hundreds of pictures trying to capture that.
I especially tried to get a shot of her perfect white bib.
And of her big blue eyes.
She spent a lot of time staring at us. Sometimes curiously.
But most often with a sleepy sort of affection.
In her later years she took to reaching up and holding onto my ribs.
Speaking of holding things, she loved Laura’s braid.
She wasn’t always dignified. (post surgery for bladder stones)
She had a gentle heart.
And a curious one.
We bought her cat games which she liked to watch though rarely played.
If she couldn’t have a person the sun was all right too.
But both together was best.
We built the screen porch as much to indulge her as anything.
She got indulged a lot. HER chair had a permanent blanket fort.
She was tucked in whenever she wanted.
And she had the run of the house, from piano top…
…to bed, and beyond.
She could be playful in a sleepy sort of way.
She was very rarely grumpy.
Though she hated when we traveled and would try to stop us.
She grew to be good friends with our other main lapcat, Meglet.
It was always fun to catch her in an undignified moment.
She wasn’t very good at hiding. Mostly because she wanted to be found.
I miss her so much.
It is my custom to post a photo tribute to my animal friends and companions when they die. Meglet. Jordan. Cabal. Princess. I had to say goodbye to my beloved Isabelle cat last Tuesday and I will miss her forever. She has been my constant companion for 17 years, and not having her within touching distance is still incredibly alien for me.
I posted a eulogy for her the day after she died. Today I am posting the first of three sets of photos of Isabelle—I simply couldn’t get the set of pictures I wanted to share down below 11o, so I’m breaking it up across several postings. Here is the first set.
The oldest picture I have of her, transferred from actual film.
One of a handful of shot of her and my Norwegian bachelor farmer cats. Taken at our old place in Saint Paul.
Here she is taking a nap amidst the chaos of getting ready to move.
She was always a snuggler. Here with our friend James.
But she wasn’t above tenderizing the spot where she wanted to lie down.
She loved to lie on her back. That’s the Melchior laptop, btw.
She actually really liked other cats. With Spot in my old summer office.
With Jordan when we first got our black beauty.
Snuggled up with Spot the day Jordan was spayed. Thankful the damn kitten is gone.
A year or so later with Jordan while Meglet and Ash were being spayed.
I am bowl. Big, fuzzy bowl.
She’s asleep like that.
A rare shot of our then five cats in one place. Only Ash remains.
Action shot! Meglet leaping over Belle.
She loved the sun. On the screen porch.
On the piano.
Snuggled up on a windowsill.
A trio of cats on the tower I built for them.
She big on “helping.” One of her favorite typing positions.
Here she is “helping” Laura with a puzzle.
Sprawled on my knee while I worked. She was usually close.
Probably her favorite thing in the world was snuggling sleepers in bed.
She was incredibly tolerant of our foibles.
And always mysterious.
But she could be quite undignified.
Part of the moving catpile that followed me wherever I went.
She loved to be mostly under blankets.
Did I mention the thing about the sun?
She was also a lover of video games. Both as observer.
And as participant.
She liked to help put away groceries.
And braid hair.
She found the silliest places to sleep.
She was my little otter cat.
I miss her.