Kelly has a new science fiction story up on Strange Horizons. Read or listen to it here: “The Game of Smash and Recovery.”
(Originally published in Granta‘s February email. Reprinted here in its entirety six months later.)
What is it? Vinegar-based soda. I love weird sodas (except for Moxie, which is disgusting). There’s a company in Vermont that carbonates and bottles maple sap. It’s delicious. Shrub (popular in colonial America; reintroduced, apparently, by time travellers) is a drink made by mixing soda water with whatever kind of vinegar/fruit syrup seems most delightful. You can make shrubs yourself by following the instructions, or you can buy vinegars in almost any flavour. I’ve tried lavender, tangerine and cranberry pear. Shrub tastes best in summer, when you want something a little wersht. But I like to drink it in winter and pretend that it’s miserably hot outside.
2. Echolalia, Winterpills
I’d recommend all of the Winterpills CDs. Their most recent, Echolalia, is an album of covers and thus has a twofold appeal: there’s the pleasure of Philip Price’s and Flora Reed’s harmonies and then there’s the pleasure of seeing what kind of music/material they are drawn towards and what they then do with those songs. I’ve been playing ‘One Day’ (Sharon Van Etten’s original version is also heart-piercingly good) on repeat off and on again for over two months now. ‘Museum of Flight’ (Damien Jurado) is another current favourite.
3. Franciscan Hospital for Children
On 23 February our daughter Ursula will turn six. She was born in 2009 at 24 weeks, weighing a pound and a half. We spent the next year and a bit in hospitals with her. First the NICU at Baystate in Springfield, Massachusetts, then Boston Children’s Hospital. Finally we ended up at Franciscan Hospital for Children, where the doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists slowly weaned her off of ventilator support, and where my husband and I learned a new set of temporary skills: among other things, changing Mic-Key buttons and trachs. Before we got to Franciscan, everyone warned us, ‘It’s not very fancy.’ It wasn’t fancy. It felt, instead, homey. Ursula had her own room, experienced nurses, matter-of-fact therapists. After seven months of crisis after crisis, complication after complication, it was reassuring to be somewhere that wasn’t fancy. It meant that things were looking up. And there were high-school-style cafeteria meals for parents and caretakers, and sandwiches that appeared, mysteriously, every night in the family room refrigerator. Strangest of all, it turned out that the Franciscan Hospital for Children was located literally next door to the white house (the only house on Warren Street, as a matter of fact) where my husband and I, years ago, had rented an apartment. Way back then, we’d never even noticed the hospital next door. We’re all back home now, and in good shape. Franciscan Hospital for Children will always remain dear to my heart.
4. The Vampire Diaries
All of last year I watched The Vampire Diaries with two friends, poets David Pritchard and A.B. Robinson. Is there anything better than hanging out with friends and watching a television show in which vampires make terrible decisions? This year our schedules don’t mesh, but sometimes we still get together for horror movie nights. Next I think we’re due to watch The Unknown (Lon Chaney and Joan Crawford in my favourite Tod Browning movie).
Anyway. I recommend The Vampire Diaries if you like doppelgängers, ludicrous but awesome plot twists, or Castle of Otranto-style gothic high jinks. Think Nashville, but less singing. And give it six episodes. The finale of the first season and the first episode of the second season are my two favourite hours of television. In a nutshell: I’d be perfectly content if, after my death, someone put on my tombstone – ‘She made a lot of people watch The Vampire Diaries.’
5. The Clarion Workshops
I went through the Clarion Workshop in 1995, immediately after finishing an MFA programme at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Clarion is a summer workshop, geared towards science fiction, fantasy and experimental work, in which participants workshop with six different instructors and, over the course of six weeks, write six stories. You don’t sleep much. You do spend a lot of time talking about your and other people’s stories. There’s almost always a lot of practical advice about the publishing industry from the instructors, and one of the best aspects of the workshop is, week to week, the disagreements between current and past instructors about what makes a story work and how writers should write. Ideally, participants come out a little punch-drunk, but with their own model in place for writing, as well as a sense of community. I loved my MFA programme. I loved Clarion too. I’m sure there are mediocre workshops out there. But I haven’t been in one so far.
There’s a Clarion Workshop in San Diego and there’s one in Seattle. I’ve taught at both. They’re both excellent. The deadline for applications for Clarion at UCSD runs through 1 March. Applications for Clarion West in Seattle are also currently open.
Time lists 10 books for the best of the year so far and includes Get in Trouble.
“Many of the elements of Angela Carter’s stories have become commonplace in fiction and popular culture. Sexy vampires? Sure. The exploration of female desire? Yep. Fairy tales reworked in contemporary settings? An embarrassment of riches. What we don’t have, of course, is any more Angela Carter stories.
Carter died in 1992. She would have turned 75 this year, and how I yearn for more of her. What would she make of the stories we tell now? What new thing would she make?”
You can read “The Lady of the House of Love” from The Bloody Chamber — introduced by Kelly — on Electric Literature.
“Link’s haunting collection of short stories trades in both the familiar and the macabre, creating worlds in which ghosts are accepted, space travel is a given, and superheroes are all too real.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“But Link’s appeal isn’t really about verbal sleight-of-hand. It’s about creating mini-universes that operate according to their own rules, and compelling characters who do the same. Characters like a video-game-fanatic teenager who comes from a small town to New York City, where a convention of dentists and one of superheroes are being held in the same hotel. She’s planning to meet a man she’s encountered only in her online world … but if you think you know how that story turns out, let me assure you: you haven’t got a clue.
The cast of readers, including such stalwarts as Heyborne and Campbell along with others I’d never heard of, does an impeccable job of matching voice to narrative, helping to make this collection one of the best of any year.”
— Providence Journal
“Do you like magical realism? Stories that start out in normal places, with regular people, and then get impossible and weird? I don’t, either. It makes me feel as if the rug has been pulled out from underneath me, that I’ve been fooled, led somewhere I didn’t intend to go. . . . But then, I’d never read anything by Kelly Link before. . . . After a few stories, I was hooked. I trusted Link to take me places I wanted to go, even if I didn’t know where.”
— Katie Haegele, Philadelphia Inquirer
“Link deftly fuses science fiction, societal satire, and literature in this brilliantly strange short-story collection. With every tale she conjures a different universe, each more captivating than the last. At first glance these realms don’t seem too far from our own, but soon their wild, mysterious corners are illuminated. In one, rich teens who have implants that render them invisible to cameras hire body doubles to pose for them in public. In another, young girls collect “boyfriend” dolls that look and act more realistic than human boys. But just as you start to comprehend one world, its story ends. Luckily, this text is ripe for rereading—you’ll long to return the minute you leave.” A — Entertainment Weekly
“Kelly Link has a knack for snapping readers to attention with her opening lines. “When the sex tape happened and things went south with Fawn, the demon lover did what he always did,” she writes in “I Can See Right Through You,” one of nine stories in this wildly imaginative collection. She sustains interest with eccentric characters and peculiar elements: In “The Summer People,” the father of a flu-ridden girl hits the road for a prayer meeting, leaving her to manage a property inhabited by magical beings. In “Light,” a Florida woman born with two shadows notes that “it was almost impossible to distinguish a homemade or store-bought shadow from a real one.” (She works in a warehouse that stores sleeping people.) Ms. Link never fusses over the surreal twists in her stories, but they contain so much emotional truth that there’s no need to explain a thing.”
— Carmela Ciuraru, New York Times
“As compulsively readable as a trendy YA novel, but have the cultural richness of Angela Carter, the emotional complexity of Alice Munro, and a precise use of language all Link’s own.”
— Alison Broverman, National Post
“Features her signature dark humor in stories about such subjects as an aging movie star visiting a Florida swamp where his ex is making a reality show about ghosts.”
— Tampa Bay Times
“These mischievous, clever, playful narratives are replete with tongue-in-cheek pop-cultural references and ironic nods to fantasy and genre fiction themes but operate according to a dream logic that makes it possible for the author’s imagination to truly reign free. Link does not conform to genre but uses it to her own ends — she borrows, blends and pokes good-natured fun and ultimately bring us something fresh and artful.” — Halifax Times-News
“These tales marshall fantastical elements, but their focus is on the stuff of life.”
— Editor’s Choice, New York Times Book Review
“Link’s stories are never fully realist, but they are always beautifully written. “The Summer People” begins with the exquisite line “Fran’s daddy woke her up wielding a mister.” In this and many other places the experience of reading Link is a lot more like reading Raymond Carver than it should be, given that her characters do things like throw parties on spaceships and get off with literal toy boys. Then again, now that we are far enough into the 21st century that celebrities have their names down for space trips, and most people have a phone capable of reminding them to pick up their dry cleaning when they leave the house, maybe it’s just as normal for a Kelly Link story to contain a pocket universe or a tent that has a cottage on the inside as it was for Carver to describe a broken fridge or a cathedral.”
— Scarlett Thomas, New York Times Book Review
“Kelly Link is best known for her outstanding young adult fiction (Pretty Monsters, for instance), but in Get in Trouble: Stories, her first book for adults in a decade, she brings the fantastical and odd into clear focus. Oh, hell, she just plain brings it. There’s a convention of superheroes where a runaway from Iowa plans to meet a guy from online; a pair of drunks at an abandoned theme park that provides a decaying Oz backdrop, yellow brick road and all; and a woman married to an alien, though her real problem is sleeping sickness. Not all the stories have supernatural connections, but there’s a certain fascination with the unusual that hits close to the original meaning of the word “awesome,” in that the oddness — or even the normalcy — of the situation is secondary to the emotional and psychological reality of life. Certainly one of the best books of the winter, Get in Trouble will make short work of long nights.
— Colorado Springs Independent
“The nine pieces in Link’s new collection feel distinct from any set standard or storytelling tradition. These stories are odd and discomfiting, full of jagged edges and blind corners.”
— The Globe and Mail
“In Get in Trouble, it’s pretty incredible to find such an accessible passageway to fairy world, where interstellar hauntings are as frightening and eldritch as otherworldly magpies who reign over dappled mountains. Kelly Link is a master guide who is only too willing to scare, thrill, and intrigue with a well-turned walk in those woods.”
— Portland Mercury
“Still, only the marvelous contents of these books can demonstrate Link’s mastery and self-confidence as an author: She believes in her stories, no matter how off the wall they might seem, and she makes her readers believe in them, too.”
— Michael Dirda, Washington Post
— Paul Di Filippo, B&N Review
“Ghosts and superheroes flit through these stories, occasionally alighting; haunting us, after they’ve moved on.”
— Seattle Times
This week at The Week Kelly has a list of 6 Favorite Books That Warp Reality.
You can also listen to Kelly read an excerpt from “Light” at Poets & Writers.
“As a writer, Link knows there’s nothing she’s “supposed” to do; her imaginative freedom is unmitigated by a need to counterbalance the weirdness with explanation. “Don’t explain,” Billie Holiday used to sing, and Kelly Link concurs.”
— Meg Wolitzer, NPR
“Link is a master of the contemporary short story, and her zeitgeist is oddness.”
— Cate Fricke, Bookslut
“That’s Kelly Link in a nutshell: inordinately brainy, always concise, darkly whimsical, and entertaining as heck.”
— Eugenia Williamson, Boston Globe
“With a delicately balanced mix of the utterly mundane and the bewitchingly fantastical, each of the nine stories offers something at once relatable and slightly off-kilter to chew on.”
— Alexis Burling, The Oregonian
“Link’s writing is characterized by both a high literary value and a deep human sentiment…. At the same time, no matter how far-ranging her imagination, how beautiful her language, Link keeps the characters firmly at the focal point of these stories, tales of change and understanding, of loss and growth, of fundamental human truths that will resonate with familiarity for every reader, no matter how weird things get.”
— Robert J Wiersema, The Toronto Star
“There were times, reading this book, that I audibly went “Mmmm.” How can you not, when confronted with rhythmic, lulling writing, traces of supernatural energy, and dark, writhing plot points? Link’s first book in 10 years requires a sense of adventure and, at times, a strong stomach—but the weirder it gets, the more satisfying it feels.
— Megan Angelo, Glamour
“The best of her stories linger after they end, casting shadows and opening doors to strange new worlds.”
— Margaret Quamme, Columbus Dispatch
“Link tiptoes up behind these characters and gives them a push; get in trouble, she seems to say, show us what you can do.” — Shelf Awareness
“The stories in Kelly Link’s Get in Trouble soar and zing like LSD-tipped arrows shot into the farthest reaches of the imagination.”
— Elissa Schappel, Vanity Fair