James Van Pelt

James Van Pelt is a full-time writer in western Colorado. His work has appeared in many science fiction and fantasy magazines and anthologies.  He’s been a finalist for a Nebula Award and been reprinted in several year’s best collections. His first Young Adult novel, Pandora’s Gun, was released from Fairwood Press in August of 2015.  His latest collection, The Experience Arcade and Other Stories was released at the World Fantasy Convention in 2017.  His next book, The Best of James Van Pelt will come out in November and is available for preorder at www.fairwoodpress.com  .  James blogs at http://www.jamesvanpelt.com, and he can be found on Facebook.

Get to know James...


When did you start writing?
I actually submitted a poem for publication to Scientific American when I was in 4th grade. I had no idea what I was doing. I’m sure I didn’t include a SASE or format it correctly, but a couple months later a patient editor there wrote me back to explain that Scientific American didn’t publish poetry. I pretty much considered myself a writer from that point forward. I remember in elementary school going into the science fiction section to see which authors my book would be shelved between (Jack Vance and A.E. Van Vogt). I didn’t get serious about writing and trying to publish until my late 20s.

When and what and where did you first get published?
I sold my first story in 1989 while I was working on a masters degree in creative writing at U.C. Davis to a small magazine called AFTER HOURS. I was 34. The editor phoned me, but didn’t introduce himself or say why he was calling. He launched into what sounded like a critique of the story. I thought he was one of my professors or another student. Eventually, though, I figured out he was an editor who wanted to buy the story. The problem was that AFTER HOURS had a narrow editorial requirement that some part of every story took place at night. My story had no night scene in it. I changed one sentence and he bought it.

Why do you write?
I write because there are stories I can’t find that I would like to read. I write because I enjoy the challenge of turning a blank page into a space filled with people who don’t exist, in a setting that I made up, doing actions that have never occurred, and that produce an emotional/intellectual response in a reader. I spoke to a third-grade class about being a writer once. A kid asked me what I did, specifically, and I explained about writing fiction. He wrinkled his brow and said, “So, you just make shit up?” Yeah, well, yes.

Why do you write Science Fiction and/or Fantasy?

I was a major-league science fiction fan pretty much from the time I could read. My dad was a big fan of science fiction movies too, so those are what he took me to see. I have a tendency to see the world in science fictional or fantastical possibilities. They’re fun worlds to live in imaginatively.

Who is your favorite author? Your favorite story?

I have lots of favorite authors, but the first one was Ray Bradbury. I loved science fiction when I was young, but the idea of writing a novel seemed completely unrealistic. I was one of those kids who freaked out about having to do a two-page book report over a weekend! But after I read THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, which I found to be an utterly captivating book, I thought that although I could never write a novel, maybe if I stretched myself I could manage one of those little things that Ray Bradbury did in THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES. Heck, the first story in that book, “Rocket Summer,” is less than a page long. So, if I stick with Bradbury, my favorite story might be, “There Came Soft Rains,” or “All of Summer in a Day,” or “The Veldt.” For a novel, probably my favorite would be Robert Holdstock’s MYTHAGO WOOD. That’s if I don’t count LORD OF THE RINGS, or THE SHINING (they’re so long they get their own category).

What are you trying to say with your fiction?

Although I think my fiction does say stuff (I’m an old high school English teacher—eventually the question of a piece’s theme comes up), I don’t think I have a consistent point. Sometimes when I write horror, the message is “Something awful is going to get you.” That’s a bleak thing to say all the time, so I’ll also write pieces that say, “There are reasons for hope.” My stories say a lot of things in between those two extremes.

If you could write your own epitaph, what would it say?
I’ve had the epitaph planned for my gravestone for a long time: “I consider myself prey.” The food chain is all encompassing, wouldn’t you say? What I’m worried about is that the universe will take me literally and a mountain lion will get me when I’m on a jog on a western Colorado trail.

Do you blog?

Im mostly active on FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/james.vanpelt.14  but I also have a real web site at www.jamesvanpelt.com 

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