A writer’s decade

Rarely can anyone point to a turning point in their life, but here’s mine. Ten years ago today, April 1, 2013, I was laid off my job. I was devastated, but it doesn’t sting anymore because I can mark that moment as the beginning of becoming…

Becoming myself.

The next day, I took a stalled story and started rewriting it from scratch, in a new way, with a style and confidence that had eluded me for years. The story was Waters of Versailles, and it felt right. It felt like me. I’d found the thing I’d been long searching for in my writing, that I could bring to new stories, over and over again. We call it voice, and though it’s a bit of a cliché, it’s a good metaphor for finding your own unique way of expressing yourself on the page.

Gain though pain. Oh god, can we just not?

Though I’ve told this story about my artistic breakthrough many times, I kind of hate it. It shouldn’t take a massive, life-upheaving event to make an artistic breakthrough. Often it doesn’t. Lots of people find their voices through simple consistent hard work, punctuated by nothing particularly terrible or dramatic.

So why am I going on and on about this?

This past decade has been big, and I want to commemorate it here.

Books by Kelly Robson: Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, Alias Space and other stories, High Times in the Low Parliament, and the lovely jewelbox illustrated hardcover version of Waters of Versailles

In the past ten years, I published two books (Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach and High Times in the Low Parliament), and a short fiction collection (Alias Space and Other Stories) in hardcover, no less.

I published 18 short stories, many of which were reprinted in Year’s Best anthologies, and translated internationally — including a gorgeous hardcover, illustrated version of Waters of Versailles in Spanish. I wrote several nonfiction pieces about writing and writers, mostly for Clarkesworld.

I consulted as a creative futurist for national and international organizations. Often, this took the form of listening to people’s ideas about the future and creating stories out of them, but I also made presentations about various technological advances and what they may mean for the future.

I attended conventions and literary events in Spain and China (twice!), and many conventions in Canada and the US. I was a been a guest of honor twice, at WindyCon and Canvention. I won a Nebula Award and three Aurora Awards, and have been a finalist for most of the major awards in our genres.

I won a Nebula Award?

Hard to believe, but here it is. It’s a beauty. As an SF fan since birth, this is lifelong dream come true.

Rectangular clear lucite with three round, orange stones representing planets, with a swirl of orange and brown sand above. Black lower portion is inscribed: 

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America
2017 Nebula Award for Novelette
"A Human Stain" 
Kelly Robson
Pittsburgh, PA - May 19th, 2018


What’s next, then?

High Times in the Low Parliament is the finalist for a Nebula, and I’m looking forward to going to the Nebula Conference this May — for the first time live and in-person since 2019.

I finished a High Times sequel called Down and Out at the Mighty Assembly, but not sure yet when or where it will appear. I’m working on a big sweeping Science Fiction novel, and am discovering, NOT to my surprise, that novels are difficult and all-consuming.

I want to write more stories — I have several in the works, and am looking forward to turning my attention to them, if I can only get the novel done and out of the way. It’d be great to have another year like 2015 and 2018, with four stories out in one year. That’s my idea of perfection.

Let’s see how it goes for the next decade, then?

Yes, in 2033, we’ll see how all of it has gone.

We need more comedies in SF and Fantasy

After I wrote this little post about being surprised that High Times in the Low Parliament is a Nebula finalist, I realized I didn’t say why I was surprised by it getting a Nebula nod. I was surprised because it’s a comedy, and comedies are a risk and a hard sell. Drama is universal. What’s dramatic to me is probably dramatic to lots of people. But what’s funny to me isn’t necessarily funny to you, or anyone.

Nothing fails harder than a failed comedy (except a failed musical — that fails worst of all). So why write comedies at all? Why take the risk? Because we need them. And because comedy can tell us truths tragedy can’t.

Truths like: Humans may be ridiculous, but we are not unsalvagable.

Truths like: The things we spend so much time and effort on may not matter at all, while the truly important things are overlooked.

Truths like: We can come together when we lower our boundaries, and it’s worth it.

Truths like: There is value in laughing with friends, in gormless goodwill.

Truths like: Life may be precarious, but we can still find moments to vibe with each other

Truths like: Despite overwhelming evidence, you can be happy and safe. Life can get better. But to do this, we need other people to be happy, safe, and better with.

This is not a pollyanna point of view. I have not lived a cushy life and aside from waves hands, the past couple years have been especially hard. The death of my mom from dementia, and my dear friend from ALS. The exposure of two other treasured elders as horrific moral failures. Yeah, that was fun. In the middle of all that, things were so dark I had to make my own light.

And that’s why we need comedies more than ever. All good comedies address how difficult it is to be alive, to age, to change. Comedies show us we can move away the places of caution and safety that are killing us, and the risk is worthwhile. Comedies prove that even when we’re buried in the tragedy of being alive, someday we will laugh again.

In conclusion, I would love to see more comedies in SFF. I think we need them. Here’s a great one: GLITTERATI by Oliver K. Langmead. I guess you’d call it social satire but no, it’s a freaking comedy — Zoolander in the future, if you will. I loved it. Maybe you will too.