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

Friday Cat Blogging

May 6, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

I’m the queen of the world!

I’m a huge manatee!*

I’m trapped on a monkey, helllllllp!

I’m indifferent to your plight.

Not as indifferent as I am. zzzzzzzzzzz

I am also SUPER dignified!


*With thanks to Daisy and Andy and Neil for extra cats.


Mike Levy’s Memorial—A Few More Words

May 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

My friend Mike Levy died a few weeks ago and his memorial was this weekend. I spoke at the funeral and this is what I said.


For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Kelly McCullough and Mike was one of my closest friends. My designated job today is to try to lighten the mood a bit, because we all know Mike would have wanted there to be smiles and laughter here along with the tears and the mourning. Wherever Mike went he carried his wit and wisdom and a profound sense of silliness. He was a man who brought light into dark places—a sort of human phial of Galadriel if you will allow me the reference.

That is the thing I would like us all to carry away from this celebration of his life today, light, wit, silly joy. I can’t imagine anything that would make him happier than to hear his friends and loved ones laughing as they remember him. Over the sixteen years I knew Mike he was a frequent presence at the small gatherings we often have on Friday evenings, and he was always a merry one. Even when he was feeling terrible, and that was too often over the last few years, he was always quick with a joke or a smile and he always wanted to be in the circle where merriment was happening.

There are two pictures of Mike on my social media that I loved more than any others. In one he is standing in my living room with one of my cats on his shoulder and a huge smile on his face. For me it’s the perfect image of happy, kind, Mike, taking joy in communing with a silly little cat. In the second, he and our friend Jonny are both in my kitchen wearing stuffed turkey hats with their arms thrown wide, greeting each other like they were brothers in the International Order of the Turkey—silly Mike in all his goofy glory.

He could be serious too, of course. A scholar, a reviewer, a teacher, a man of words and deep thought who was loved by so many for very good reason. I want to touch on that too, if more briefly. Mike and I have had a number of good natured debates over the years. One of them involves my work.

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 invariably 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.

On another matter, though, I have a minor bone to pick with him. I am a fitness buff. I lift weights, run, and do various other things to keep in shape. As I’ve grown older, Mike was quite vigorous in warning me that I need to learn to be gentler with myself, or that one of these days something was going to go pop and stop working. I, on the other hand, have maintained that I know exactly what I’m doing. It’s been a gentle tug of war with no resolution until quite recently. Coincidentally, the same week that he went into the hospital for the last time, I was doing pull-ups when, sure enough, something went pop in my shoulder and stopped working. As was too often the case in arguments with Mike—as I’m sure you all know—it turns out that he was right. It vexes me deeply that he didn’t get the chance to give me that sly smile and gently and kindly say I told you so in a way that made me laugh at myself.

He was a good man and a funny one and I will miss the laughs most of all.

Friday Cat Blogging

April 29, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

Is this where you apply for the cat blog?

Has anyone mentioned to you that you’re not a cat?

Sure I am, look at my shadow.

Can’t. Eyes closed. Sleeping.

But I do really good cat shadow.

Shadow or not, I am skeptical.*

With huge thanks to Shari Emerson, who did this amazing rendition of Dragon’s Cat as part of the not so secret Dragon Diaries project.

Friday Cat Blogging

April 14, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

I comfortable. Really.

You don’t look comfortable. Dis look comfortable.

Dat look stupid.

Yeah have bad taste, unlike me. I taste great!

You wound me, sir and madam, you wound me.



On The Matter of Jim Frenkel

April 11, 2017 in Professionalism, Publishing

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”.

Friday Cat Blogging

April 8, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Plot

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, an Appreciation and a Farewell

April 4, 2017 in About Kelly, Pets and other friends, Politics/Public Service, Publishing

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.

Friday Cat Blogging

April 1, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

I can take it! Pow! Bam! Thud!

Ooh, let me try!

Make naps not war.

Or fluffs. Fluffs are good to make.*

*This floof is the marvelous Maisie. I’ve been thinking about her recently.

She was the much loved cat of my friend Mike Levy who is in hospice right now.

Friday Cat Blogging

March 24, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

Waiter, where the hell is my tuna water?

You too? This bar is the worst!

So bad I walked out.

The stools are pretty comfortable, but yeah, no drinks. What gives?

I’ve got the bartender pinned. Now what?

Eat him!

Thanks for the extra cats goes to Matt, Mandy and Neil.

Friday Cat Blogging, A Farewell To Isabelle Part 3

March 24, 2017 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

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.

Also playful.

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.