J.P. Sullivan

Author & Editor

New Story Published!

I’m pleased to announce the debut of my fantasy novelette “The God Down the River” in this month’s issue of Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show.  You won’t want to miss this tale of growing up alongside trains, ghosts, and ancient gods!

Get it here:


And if you like it, you might want to read a brief article I wrote on “the story behind the story” for the magazine as well:


Look forward to more fiction later this year!

SF’s Most Forbidding Classic: The Night Land

The Night Land has developed a notorious reputation over the years as one of the most forbidding and inaccessible works of classic science fiction.  Even H.P. Lovecraft, no stranger to purple prose himself, struggled to make his way through it.  “I’m a couple of hundred pages into ‘The Night Land,’” he wrote to a friend in 1934, “but it’s damn hard going. God, what a verbose mess.”

Clocking in at a hefty two hundred thousand words, the Night Land is already dated by the contemporary standards of its 1912 publication date, but rendered still more obscure by its intentionally archaic, faux-Elizabethan prose.  Even back in the early twentieth century, this was baroque stuff, rife with artificially mannered and semicolon-laden paragraphs.  The author himself knew that the work was a tough slog: When William Hope Hodgson failed to find an American publisher for the original British work, he redacted it to a novella of perhaps a tenth its original size.  Nor was the this the last attempt to tame The Night Land.  Author John Stoddard put forward a complete rewrite of the work as The Night Land, A Story Retold in 2011.

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Fantasy Retrospective: Lord Dunsany and “The King of Elfland’s Daughter”

A handful of influential writers cast long shadows over the fantasy genre.  The core fantasy reader has always been fond of the familiar trope, eager to revisit comfortable archetypes. The influences of Lovecraft and Tolkein loom especially large in that landscape. Both writers can claim that unique privilege afforded to literary greats–their names have been turned into adjectives. Yet the themes of what define the “Lovecraftian” and the “Tolkeinesque” could not be more different; the despairing cosmic nihilism of the Cthulu mythos is the antithesis of the heroics of Middle-Earth.

Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany

But both authors are united in one thing. They acknowledged the tremendous influence of one writer on their style: Lord Dunsany.

Lord Dunsany is almost unknown today, but in the early decades of the twentieth century he was among the world’s most popular writers. He published at least eighty books in his life, plus eight collections of poetry. At one time he had five different plays running simultaneously on the New York stage. His appeal transcended the modern constraints of genre, and his contemporaries and associates included names like Rudyard Kipling and William Butler Yeats. Yeats was in fact to edit some of Dunsany’s work, and personally solicited plays for the Abbey theater.  Dunsany, said Yeats, “transfigured with beauty the common sights of the world.”

Dunsany was born to the Anglo-Irish nobility. The ‘Lord’ was not an affectation but a fact; he held the second-oldest peerage in all Ireland. More rightly named Edward Plunkett, he elected to publish his work under his more poetic-sounding title. His first book’s printing was financed out of his own pocket. Such was its success that he would never again need to foot his own bill.

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New Story: “We Have Discerned a Potential Deal”

My original science fiction story, “We Have Discerned a Potential Deal,” recently debuted as the first-ever piece of short fiction published online by Mysterion.  I’m pleased to be given the opportunity to appear in their debut issue–and I hope you’ll read the story, a lighthearted tale wherein aliens try to blackmail the Vatican.

You can read it here, on Mysterion’s website.

If you’re interested in my thoughts on the making of the story–which are a bit spoilery–you can find them after the jump, below.

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The Campbell Awards (And My 2017 Lineup)

2017 was an exciting year for me as a writer–after attending the Clarion Writers’ Workshop at UCSD the previous summer, I scored my first three professional sales. With the new year rolling around, I was caught unaware when someone pointed out to me that being a new writer means I’m eligible for the Campbell Award.

For those who are unfamiliar, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer is a long-standing and highly prestigious nod given to new voices in science fiction and fantasy literature. Anybody whose work has appeared in a professional venue for the first time in the last two years is eligible for consideration.

Possibly the most famous winner in recent memory was Andy Weir, who wrote The Martian. The circumstances leading to his victory were kind of a perfect storm–the book was self-published in 2011, but didn’t become eligible for award consideration until 2014 when it got a professional publication by Crown Books. Even that might not have pushed him over the top, but the 2015 movie starring Mat Damon, appearing within the 2016 awards eligibility window, was surely what clinched the prize. There’s no better advertisement for a book than a Big Hollywood Production, as George RR Martin surely knows.

(The fact that the Martian is really good probably helped, too.)

I’m afraid my characters won’t be appearing on screens silver or otherwise just yet, but even to be considered is good fun. So without further ado, here are the stories of my debut year:

The Blue Widow
Grand Prize Winner of the Baen 2017 Fantasy Adventure Contest
If you read any of my stories from last year, make it this one! Inspired by Slavic folklore and classic adventure fantasy of the Zelazny style, this story follows a sophisticated, hard-bitten monster hunter as she tracks down the source of a curse… A curse troubling her old hometown, a place where not everyone is happy to see her return. Baen advertised it as steampunk (there’s a train in it), but I think there’s a lot to like for fans of any subgenre, especially those who enjoy their swashbuckling leavened with dry humor and emotional punch.

The Resurrectionist
Appearing in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, August 2017
This story follows a man who has the power to bring the dead back to life–a power that not everybody is entirely pleased with. Resurrection, as it turns out, is a dreadfully more complicated business than it would initially appear. I’d kicked the idea for this one around for ages, but I really need to tip my hat to author Ted Chiang, who taught at Clarion 2016; his advice was instrumental in getting this into publishable shape. This one’s a bit darker than my usual fare, and OSC’S Intergalactic surprised me by making it their featured full-color illustration story in August.

Tenure Track
Appearing in Galaxy’s Edge magazine, July 2017
A humorous flash piece, this story follows the tribulations of the sole human studies professor in an alien university’s human studies department. They’re really worried that he’s just not quite human enough. This was another Clarion piece, written while Victor LaValle was teaching. You might know him for his Lovecraft-inspired novella, The Ballad of Black Tom, published by Tor.com, but I think the story of his that you should really check out is The Changeling, a genre-defying horror/thriller tale set in modern New York.

Here’s to an even bigger slate of stories in 2018!

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