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, School for Sidekicks, Magic, Madness, and Mischief, and Spirits, Spells, and Snark — 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

Positive Lessons from Anxiety and OCD

August 20, 2018 in About Kelly, Musings, Speaking Up

Positive Lessons from Anxiety and OCD
I have a relatively light form of OCD with associated anxiety. It’s not a lot of fun and mostly it takes without giving back, but it has given me a couple of things. High on that list is a series of tools based on intellectual separation. See also: the recognition that my brain is a dick and that it messes with me.
One form of this is that I can often short circuit the worst of a flip-out by reminding myself that the source of something that’s stressing me out isn’t coming from what I think of as my core me, it’s my anxiety making shit up and lying to me.
Another aspect is an intellectual separation from impulse and this is going to take a bit of explaining so stay with me, I’ll get there. A side effect of my atypical neurochemistry is that I have frequent (like multiple times a night) vivid dreams which usually include at least one or two nightmares.
So, let me start there. It’s fairly easy to wake up from a dream in which you’re being pursued by gigantic carnivorous hamsters and realize that such things do not exist. Your fear from the dream is real. You feel it in your limbic system. But you know that gigantic carnivorous hamsters are not a real thing. That helps you step away from the fear once your thinking brain kicks in.
A nightmare about bears in your living room might be a bit harder to step away from because, while there are no bears in the living room, it’s an actual possibility. One about a fire starting in the basement is even tougher to let go of and might require a trip through the house sniffing for smoke. However, if you do it often enough (say three or four times a night) you develop the intellectual tools that allow you to quickly let go of even the most plausible nightmares.
Now apply that to incredibly vivid nightly dreams about all sort of things from the phantasmagoric to the sublime to the erotic. It quickly becomes apparent that your dream about wild sex with elves is no more real than the gigantic hamsters. So is the one about the rock star you’re crushing on, and from there to the dream about an actual human you know is another obvious step. The sex drive or affection is real, the connection to another specific person is not.
But dreams aren’t the only place where we experience parts of our brain coming up with impulses or scenarios that aren’t real. Especially if you’re not neurotypical and, given that neurotypicality is a spectrum, we’re all somewhat closer or farther from the mean on some axis. What this means as a tool for life management is that when I’m flipping out about getting stuck in traffic on the way to the airport, I can remind myself of the fact that we left two hours early, and that probably has us covered.
It also means that when I have an inappropriate attraction response to another human being, I’m pretty good at saying “That’s nice, brain, now find another hobby.” Which is an excellent skill for remaining happily married.
Skill. Let me pull that word out. Impulse control is a talent we all have to varying degrees, but it’s also a skill that can be practiced and improved upon. My anxiety and OCD have forced me to learn to separate impulse from action in a very intellectualized way—the fear of the hamsters is real but the hamsters not so much—and that’s been useful to me. I’m writing this in hopes that for at least a few of you folks out there the realization that it’s possible to make that separation between oneself and one’s brain being a dick might be useful to you.
So, when you’re stressing out about something, consider the question: is this me, or is it just my brain being an asshole?

Monday Meows Cat Blogging

August 14, 2018 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

I haz plan!

It look like dis.


I haz vegetables!

I like vegetables…

I fetches dem!

Monday Meows Cat Blogging

August 6, 2018 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

Two cats, both alike in dignity…it us!

I think that’s supposed to be “households…”

How can two cats be “both households in dignity?”

Here we go again…

Wake me when it’s over.

Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona where we—

I haz dignity! See!

We’re trying to do Shakespeare here and you are ruining it!

I haz dignity, but no spear to shake. How about my tail?!

We have an artistic charge, and…this is never going to work, is it?

Why would this time be any different?

Are we plotting to take over the world again? I love that! NARF

Wrong media property. Okay, that’s it, I’m out.

I love him, but he’s exhausting.

Now, in fair Verona, where we lay our…lay…lazzzzzzzzz

Monday Meows Cat Blogging

July 30, 2018 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?


Woodpecker who?

What part of woodpecker don’t you understand?

Please don’t get him started.

I implore you, don’t!

That way lies madness.

Truth. Bitter, dark, truth.

Hey now, lay off my brother.

Yeah, lay off…wait, is that me? I’m still hung up on “woodpecker”

With thanks to Matt, Mandy, and Neil for spare cats.


Monday Meows Cat Blogging

July 25, 2018 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

Ima just frog on out of here.

I like frogs…

I like whiskey…

Two great tastes…

Stop. Right. There.

Go here instead.

I’m in.

I’m not blurry, that’s the whiskey.

You and me both, lady, you and me both.

Community Means Helping People

July 24, 2018 in Musings, Politics/Public Service, Speaking Up

I had an experience today that reminds me of why I support the social safety net and why I wish we were doing better at creating and maintaining those systems.

I biked to a doctor’s appointment this morning. When I pulled my bike in under the shade of a tree to lock it up, I noticed a young woman sitting there, somewhere in the 19-25 year old range. She was looking more than a little ragged around the edges, and tired, and she was on her phone.

I nodded at her, but I was very careful not to pay too much attention to her. As a burly white guy I know that it is incredibly easy and not unreasonable for women to see me as a potentially serious danger. I figure I pretty much register as the threat equivalent of a puma entering your space. As I was locking my bike up I couldn’t help overhearing her making an effort to access local social services in hopes of finding a safe place to sleep.

Once I was completely locked up and ready to go in, I pulled out a $20 and offered it to her, saying I’d been in rough places too, and I hoped she found what she needed. Then, as soon as she took it, I immediately went in to my appointment. Again, I wanted to be as minimally threatening as possible.

When I got done with my appointment I came back out to my bike. The woman was still there, but no longer on her phone. She didn’t make eye contact, and I made sure to do no more than nod in her direction and then ignore her as I got my bike loose and put my gear back on. Just as I was about to start pedaling and after it was obvious I wasn’t going to bother her more she called out, “I wish you safe travels.” So I wished her luck and went on my way. I don’t know if she found what she needed, but I hope she did.

I would have liked to have done more for her, but it was clear from her body language that she was very wary of me, and I feel it’s important to respect that because I’m quite aware that while personally I am not a threat to her, for her demographic she has every reason to be super cautious around folks like me. So, all that I can hope is that through my taxes and my efforts at supporting good social services as a local elected official that the resources are there for her to access.

As far as I’m concerned, being there for people like her who are in obvious need is one of the important reasons for government to exist, and it’s why I would cheerfully pay more in taxes to make those resources available. I’m glad I was able to help a little, and I would happily have helped more, but I think that it would be better for community and general well being if there were stronger systems in place to make sure that help is available on an institutional rather than a personal level. It’s a hugely important investment in people and the community we are all collectively a part of. I don’t want people like that young woman to have to be afraid of those who are offering help.

Monday Meows Cat Blogging

July 17, 2018 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

Squirrel! We’re gonna need to stage a raid!

About that…

Here’s my plan.

Dude, that’s just wrong.

No, that’s war, baby!


I’m afraid of giant birds.

Who isn’t?

Me. I kill them with fire and then eat them roasted.

With thanks to Matt and Mandy for the spare cats and Matt’s raid art.


Monday Meows Cat Blogging

July 9, 2018 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

Look, we iz a science fiction convention.

I iz Cat of Honor!

I be your liaison.

I your biggest fan.

I champion cosplayer!

Which character iz you?


As Cat of Honor I judges costume contest. You 7.6.

I 8.7 at least. Bad judge, no treat.

I cosplay the CoH! No one can tell us airport.

No ebil twins!

Dead dog party!

Monday Meows Cat Blogging: Remembering Pippin

July 3, 2018 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

Those of you who have been following my cat blogging for a while know that in addition to our own floofs, we have a few recurring guest cats. Sadly one of our frequent fuzzy friends has passed from this world. Pippin was a big fluffy powder puff who was much adored by his humans, Matt and Mandy. He was generally much less impressed with me, but that was because we most often interacted when I was playing substitute human while Matt and Mandy were off having adventures, and I was hardly adequate compensation for the lost time with his loved ones. I’ll miss him.

This is the 1st picture from the 1st time I cat sat. He was not impressed.

That was a theme.

Though, he liked Laura well enough when she was available

Here he is with his “brother” and age mate, Birkie.

And his baby “sister” Trilly.

Mostly I saw him like this.

He loved his food.

Even to the point of tolerating indignity for treats.

This is one of the last pictures I took of him after he’d slowed a bit.

Dignity in all things.

And my favorite picture of him.

Goodbye, Pippin, I’m glad I got to know you. (More pics follow)

But I’m out of heart for captions.


Monday Meows Cat Blogging

June 25, 2018 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

I am a turkey, eat me!

The hell…

That looks delicious!

No, I’ll show you delicious.

Delicious looks more like this.

Is that tequila? I like tequila.

I shall stalk and kill the…

HOLY SHIT, IT’S ALL LIME! I should not have swallowed.