Kelly Robson grew up in Hinton, Alberta, Canada and graduated with a degree in English from the University of Alberta. From 2008 to 2012, she wrote the wine and spirits column for Chatelaine, Canada’s largest women’s magazine. She and her wife, fellow SF writer A.M. Dellamonica, relocated from Vancouver to Toronto in 2013.
In 2015, Kelly’s first stories appeared in Clarkesworld, Tor.com, and Asimov’s, and in the anthologies New Canadian Noir, In the Shadow of the Towers, and License Expired. This year, her stories appear in five ‘‘Year’s Best’’ anthologies and she is a finalist for five awards: Nebula, Sturgeon, World Fantasy, Aurora, and Sunburst.
Tell us about your multiple-award-nominated story ‘‘Waters of Versailles’’ – what’s it about, and why did you write it?‘‘Waters of Versailles’’ was a huge breakthrough in craft. In 2013 my ego was utterly crushed when I was laid off from a job I loved. We took the opportunity to move from Vancouver to Toronto, and over the next six months I forced myself to work in a new way: slowly and deliberately, while paying strict attention to crafting scenes. When ‘‘Waters of Versailles’’ was done, I had finally learned to produce work I’m proud of.
The first story seed was the image of the Champagne fountain – a massive, wasteful Baroque extravagance, and I ended up exploring the idea that the act of nurturing a child changes you. In ‘‘Waters of Versailles’’, womanizer and social climber Sylvain is forced to nurture the magical creature his fortune depends on, while supplying the French nobility with the latest status symbol: the flush toilet.
I write about parenthood a lot, which is odd because we don’t have kids and never wanted them. Because the parental urge is completely alien to me, I can explore the subject without illusion or romanticism.
What one story of yours are you most fond of, that you’d like to point our readers toward?
My first published story ‘‘The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill’’ appeared in Clarkesworld, and it’s a finalist for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. The story is heavily influenced by one of my favorite James Tiptree, Jr. stories ‘‘The Only Neat Thing to Do’’, which is, like all of Tiptree, extremely dark.
Tiptree’s story creates a massive emotional impact, and I wanted to bring that kind of power to bear on the systemic failure of Canadian political and justice system to protect the most vulnerable members of our society – indigenous women.
What’s the particular appeal of SF/fantasy for you? Why write that instead of, say, mysteries or literary fiction?
Science fiction, fantasy, and horror are my blood. I can’t live without them. For many years, writing in the genres I love felt beyond my reach, so I started with historical fiction and the best I could hope for was to bring a speculative sensibility to that genre.
I believe science fiction, fantasy, and horror provide a writer with the brightest, truest, and widest spectrum of colors to illustrate the mysteries, contradictions, and untapped potential of human nature.
We hear you’re working on a longer piece – a time travel novella. Can you give us any details?
Drafting this story has been like birthing a watermelon. I have a lot of work to do on it, but after nearly a whole year of pushing, it’s finally drafted.
‘‘The Last Landing of the Lucky Peach’’ is set several hundred years in the future. The world has just begun to recover from a mass extinction event, but the invention of time travel by secretive think tank TERN has blocked the flow of funding for long-term ecological restoration projects. Minh, an elderly fluvial geomorphologist, is enraged at having her life’s work disrupted by the illusion of quick-fix solutions to the world’s problems, so when she’s given the opportunity to travel to 2000 BC Mesopotamia for a past-state ecological assessment of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, she jumps at the chance to uncover TERN’s secrets.
You’ve made a big splash in a short time with your stories. Any plans to write a novel?
Not in the foreseeable future. I’m having so much fun writing short fiction, and it’s incredibly rewarding. I have several concepts bubbling away, including two more Versailles novellas which, I hope, will form a satisfying story cycle.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or the work you do?
I’m ridiculously pleased with my story in the ChiZine anthology Licence Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond, edited by Madeline Ashby and David Nickle. Unfortunately, the anthology is only available in Canada, where Ian Fleming’s work is now in the public domain.
Writing in the Fleming universe was nothing I’d ever considered before, but it was an absolute hoot. All the contributors – including Alyx, Charles Stross, Jeffrey Ford, Karl Schroeder, and James Alan Gardner – have said they had huge fun with their stories. Mine, ‘‘The Gladiator Lie’’, is an alternate ending to From Russia with Love, where Bond is captured by Tatiana Romanova and brought to a Siberian collective fur farm. It’s unhinged and perverse. Writing it was a demented pleasure.
Ellen Datlow has recently acquired my Gothic Horror novelette ‘‘A Human Stain’’ which is forthcoming next January at Tor.com.