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27 June 2002



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Kelly Link: Making Strange Things Happen July 2002

Kelly Link grew up on the East Coast and attended Columbia University in New York and the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. She sold her first story, "Water Off a Black Dog's Back", just before attending Clarion in 1995. Later stories have won and been nominated for numerous prestigious awards: "Travels With the Snow Queen" (1997) won the James Tiptree Jr. Award and was a World Fantasy Award nominee, "The Specialist's Hat" (1998) won a World Fantasy Award, "Shoe and Marriage" (2000) was nominated for a Word Fantasy Award, and novelette "Louise's Ghost" (2001) won a Nebula. Her stories have been gathered in chapbook 4 Stories (2000) and collection Stranger Things Happen (2001), both from Small Beer Press, which she owns with her husband, publisher Gavin Grant; they also co-edit Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet. They live in Brooklyn, New York.
Photo by Beth Gwinn

Excerpts from the interview:

‘‘I've always thought of myself as a reader first and a writer second, because I've spent a larger percentage of my life reading than writing. I think the more you read, the more perverse your taste becomes — the more refined. You look for different things. When I was first reading, I didn't care if books were good or not. But I didn't want to read things that were told in the first person. Then I read Black Beauty and decided the first person was OK. Later I wrote a story in second person because I was fed up with very bad stories written in second person, and at the Clarion workshop you could not use more passive verbs, ever, and you could not tell things in second person. I was so fed up with the idea of rules I thought, 'Well, I probably could.' I don't like reading that story aloud because I still find second person kind of obnoxious, but I think you can do anything as long as there's enough substance in it.’’


‘‘An e-mail I got recently from somebody who had gone to a reading said, 'I didn't want to ask you this at the reading, but how do you feel about being co-opted by the genre? Because you're clearly not a science fiction writer.' For most of the time I've been writing, people have been explaining to me — either in an encouraging or discouraging way — that what I wrote was not science fiction. Of course I had really hoped that it was science fiction in some way! I finally decided that everything I write was SF, whether or not it had science fiction in it. And I decided there are two things science fiction does: it takes things which are comfortable and familiar and makes them really strange, or else it takes things which are strange and impossible and finally makes them feel comfortable, to a certain extent. I love both of those things. It's like having a telescope, looking through one way and then turning it around and looking the other way as well. Good science fiction (and also good fiction) does that for me. I don't want to read something that doesn't look at things in that double way. Maybe it's a bifocal way of looking at the world. When I read fiction that doesn't have layers — whether it's mainstream or science fiction — I'm not very happy, because the world is so complicated and strange, I think fiction should reflect that. I don't want to see things boiled down and made simple. What's the point? We can watch the news.’’


‘‘I love the form of short fiction best of all, but I have an agent now and she's telling me that if I write a novel somebody will give me enough money to live on. It's a wonderful problem, the thought of making money! The older novels I love the most are things like The Decameron, where groups of people tell stories and all the stories reflect in different ways. The only way I can imagine writing a novel is one full of people telling stories to each other. Jonathan Carroll novels do that. I'm writing a short story for the Conjunctions anthology that has four beginnings and then one very short explosive fast end. I'm hoping I can use it as a backbone for a novel. I've also been thinking a lot about the child Anna in 'Louise's Ghost'. I would love to follow her further, but at the moment I find her such an impenetrable character I'm waiting to figure her out!’’

The full interview and biographical profile is published in the July 2002 issue of Locus Magazine.


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