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November 2007
Locus Magazine
Kelly Link: The Uses of Boredom
Kelly Link was born in Miami and has lived in various places along the East Coast since childhood. She sold her first story, "Water Off a Black Dog's Back", just before she went to Clarion in 1995, and during the workshop received an acceptance for novelette "Flying Lessons" from Asimov's (1996). Since then her stories have won and been nominated for many of the field's most prestigious awards: "Travels with the Snow Queen" (1997) won the James Tiptree, Jr. Award; "The Specialist's Hat" (1998) won a World Fantasy Award; "Louise's Ghost" (2001) won a Nebula; "The Faery Handbag" (2004) won Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards; "Magic for Beginners" (2005) was a Nebula winner and Hugo, Sturgeon, and World Fantasy finalist; and "Some Zombie Contingency Plans" (2005) was a Stoker Award finalist. "Stone Animals" (2004) was a Sturgeon finalist and was reprinted in The Best American Short Stories: 2005.

Link's stories have been gathered in collections Stranger Things Happen (2001) and Magic for Beginners (2005), both from Small Beer Press, which she runs with her husband, publisher Gavin J. Grant.
Photo by Amelia Beamer

Kelly Link

Link & Grant also co-edit Hugo-nominated 'zine Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, and in 2004 began editing the fantasy half of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror anthology. Link & Grant were married in 2002 and live in Northampton MA.
Excerpts from the interview:

“It's hard for me to gauge whether the field is going through a good period or a bad one, because it's a good period for us at Small Beer. We're getting to publish a lot of books by authors we love. At first we published two books a year, and now we're publishing five books a year. On the other hand, the fact that we're getting to publish people like John Crowley probably suggests that publishing is not necessarily in a great state. Most of the small presses do seem to be expanding now: Night Shade has just put out its first paperback; Subterranean is doing a lot of interesting projects; Tachyon is putting out more books than they were before.”


“Reading for the fantasy half of the Year's Best anthology, Gavin and I have noticed that the best collections aren't straight fantasy, straight horror, or straight science fiction. Writers recombine or tease out elements of all of these genres to really good effect (my favorite example is probably Joe Hill's 20th Century Ghosts). There's a lot of energy in the hybrid forms. My favorite writers when I was growing up wrote for both young adults and adults. They wrote ghost stories and also fantasy stories and science fiction -- people like John Collier and Joan Aiken.”


“I have to find a set of new problems to tackle. The novella I wrote for Jonathan Strahan's Starry Rift anthology is the closest thing to science fiction I've ever written, and guess what? Science fiction is really, really hard. So damn hard. It's much harder to convey how the world has changed, even (or maybe especially) in a near-future story.

“If I could, I would write science fiction like Alfred Bester or Cordwainer Smith. But I'm not playing to my strengths, here. For science fiction, coming up with the ideas isn't my problem, the problem is writing them in a way that doesn't interfere with the actual story. With fantasy you can change as much or as little as you like, but in the best science fiction, like Geoff Ryman's Air, everything changes.

“I feel as if the future caught up with me, moved past me at a brisk pace, and is now receding into the distance. I'm not particularly comfortable with cell phones, not all that great with e-mail. I don't text message. I'd never played video games until Ted Chiang introduced me to Katamari Damacy. (Now I'm hooked, but only on Katamari Damacy.)”


“Boredom is useful for writers. I need a certain amount of boredom to get work done. But I also need to do other things besides sit at a desk and write. If I weren't involved in various editing projects, I would have to find something else to do. You need other kinds of work, and you also need significant periods of stillness in order to have time to think. Boredom allows time for thinking. Even in writing, boredom serves a useful function -- if I'm boring myself when I write, it means I need to stretch myself, try something I haven't done before. I can only keep at one kind of work for so long and then I need a change. For the past couple of years it's been kind of nice to have months in which I am writing, then to move from that to editing the books, thinking about design, print runs, fonts, et cetera.”


“I have no intention of giving up short stories for novels. Though I don't put my finger on any particular reason I won't be able to go back to short fiction and do it again, it requires rigor -- rigor, and slightly more boredom! What I want most is to write short stories that are three to six thousand words long. I hadn't even considered the possibility that when you begin to write novels you forget how to write short stories. Sometimes I worry I'm losing the basic short story skills (compression, leaving things out) -- now, instead, I mostly see ways to expand the story. I'm not as excited about this as I should be.”

© 2007 by Locus Publications. All rights reserved.