I updated my Media page with text versions of some of my older stories. These are all things I wrote when I was a teenager:
|“The Trial of Thomas Jefferson”
A court in the future puts historical figures on trial.
|“Lest We Forget”
Two friends debate the ethics of erasing painful memories.
A teenage boy falls in love with a virtual girl he’s created.
|“The Sorcerer and the Charlatan”
A mighty lord hatches a plot to ensnare a wizard.
For newcomers to this blog, here’s a list of science fiction podcasts I’ve been involved with over the years:
|Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy is a talk show hosted by me and John Joseph Adams. We’ve interviewed authors such as George R. R. Martin, Orson Scott Card, and Robert Kirkman.|
|Lightspeed is an online science fiction magazine, and they also have a podcast on iTunes. My story “Cats in Victory” appeared in the debut issue.|
|StarShipSofa is a podcast magazine featuring stories and interviews. My story “Cats in Victory” appeared in Episode 141.|
|Escape Pod is a science fiction short story podcast. My stories “Save Me Plz” and “Blood of Virgins” appeared here.|
|Pseudopod is a horror short story podcast. My stories “The Skull-Faced Boy” and “The Disciple” appeared here.|
|MechMuse, a science fiction short story podcast, is now sadly defunct. My stories “Veil of Ignorance” and “The Second Rat” appeared in the debut issue.|
Find more science fiction podcasts over on Worlds Without End.
Put this together for my website. Here’s all (I think) of my fiction that’s currently online (not counting stuff I wrote in high school).
My short story “Cats in Victory” will be appearing later this year in the new online science fiction mag Lightspeed, edited by John Joseph Adams. For more on the origins of the story, read this post here. Basically the story is a response to some of the stuff that bugs me about the Saturday morning cartoons I grew up with.
And here’s a colorized version of Jandan’s fan art for the story. This is a prequel image, sort of her concept of what the character Lion might have looked like in his early “Anakin Skywalker” phase, before he turned into the person (er … cat person) we see in the story.
Here’s the cover for the zombie anthology The Living Dead 2, edited by John Joseph Adams, which will include my short story “The Skull-Faced City,” a sequel to my story “The Skull-Faced Boy” which appeared in The Living Dead. I love this cover. It matches the design of the first book, but the blue color scheme gives it a moody look all its own. Also check out the hi-res version.
Here’s a synopsis for “The Skull-Faced City”: The zombie army of Dustin the skull-faced boy has grown legion, and has constructed a grim necropolis for him to rule over alongside his reluctant bride, Ashley. His followers are urged to carve off their faces, and bounty hunters are sent out from the city to bring back living prisoners, for purposes unknown. Can anyone put an end to Dustin’s mad, paranoid reign?
Here’s an illustration I did for my short story “Family Tree.”
Temple Library Reviews is reviewing every story in the anthology The Living Dead, which contains my piece “The Skull-Faced Boy.” My story’s in the latter half of the book, and the reviews have been going up since December, so for a long time this review has been approaching … slowly … slowly but inexorably … like a hungry zombie. I was thinking what a drag it would be if after all that suspense they totally slagged the story, but fortunately the review is quite positive:
“The Skull-Faced Boy” by David Barr Kirtley: Another interesting story, which is emotional as well as a pure joy to read due to the world-building decisions. According to Kirtley, those newly deceased of natural causes and incidents come back as zombies who are intelligent but also with no hunger. This however is not the case with those dead for a longer period of time or already munched on. The main protagonists are Jack and Dustin, who die in a car crash on the night zombies decide to rise, and while Jack has an intact humanity and moral compass, Dustin raises an army of the dead and decides to conquer the living in America. Fun, huh? But not for Jack, who has to be an outsider and treated with hate by the living and feel out of place with the other intelligent dead. I can really connect with this story since it is largely about those people, the minorities, the misfits, who are usually looked down on and mistreated for being different.
Merlyn’s Pen has posted the full text of my short story “The Sorcerer & The Charlatan.” This piece, which I wrote when I was about fifteen, was the first story I ever wrote that got published.
Merlyn’s Pen was a long-running, high-quality magazine of writing by teenagers. Two of my stories appeared there, and I’m now listed as one its “success stories,” along with folks such as Curtis Sittenfeld (Prep), Amity Gaige (O My Darling), Dara Horn (In the Image), and Asma Hasan (Why I Am a Muslim). I guess this means I’m now officially a “success story.” Awesome. I can’t wait to tell my parole officer. He’ll be so proud. Anyway, my story “Pomegranate Heart,” which appeared in Merlyn’s Pen, is available on their site, if anyone wants to read something I wrote when I was in high school.
Maria, a high school English teacher, writes:
Someone on the Reading For the Future listserv recommended your Teen Resources webpage. I’d like to make a link to it from my class website, if that’s okay. I read your bio and am intrigued, so I am promising myself a break to read one of your stories after I grade some tests!
Hi Maria. Yes, please feel free to link to my teen writers page. (And that goes for anyone who might be reading this.) I hope you enjoy the fiction.
A short time later I received:
AAAAAAAAHHHHHH I just finished “Save Me Plz”! loved it!!! Curses, now I must hit the bookstore and part with my hard-earned in order to keep you writing!
During the coming days, I’ll be eating my lunches one-handed while continuing to browse your website (that’s how I read today’s material, with microwavable chicken pot pie). I’m looking forward to the media versions as well as the other online stories. Daily treats.
Wow! Thanks! I’m glad you liked the story.
Man, what a cool English teacher. By the way, I just went and checked out the website for Reading for the Future. It’s “a grassroots volunteer organization whose aim is to help young people develop a love of reading and intellectual adventure through the vehicle of science fiction, fantasy, and other speculative fiction.” Sounds good to me.
My first-ever anthology appearance was “The Disciple,” which was published in Dead But Dreaming, a book of Cthulhu Mythos fiction from DarkTales Publications. The book received a great response from readers. For example, Matthew T. Carpenter, who has reviewed 100+ Mythos books on Amazon.com, calls Dead But Dreaming “The absolute finest Lovecraftian collection of new fiction in more than a decade.” (He was also nice enough to mention my story as one of his favorites: “The best of these stories were excellent reads: ‘Bangkok Rules,’ in which a hitman finds he didn’t really want to know too much about his employer; ‘Why We Do It’ shows us life as a cultist; ‘The Disciple,’ about learning how to contact ancient evil entities in a university seminar setting; ‘Fire Breathing,’ about how callously victims are selected and how little anyone cares; ‘The Other Names,’ about learning to read by picking up the wrong book; and best of all is a vision of the end of the world in ‘Final Draft.’ It’s not that the rest of the stories were low quality. I just singled out the ones I liked best for special mention. I really do wish we could see more anthologies like this. A belated bravo to all who were involved.”)
Unfortunately, very few people ever got to actually see the anthology, because the publisher went out of business the same week that the book was released, and only 75 copies were printed. How hard is it to get a hold of one? Well, a few used copies are available on Amazon, but they’re a little pricey:
Fortunately, Dead But Dreaming is now being re-released by a new publisher, Miskatonic River Press, so hopefully the book will get a bit more exposure this time around. The book is apparently at the printer as we speak, and there’s a page up for the new edition at Amazon. And this time they even listed me as one of the authors:
That’s the first time I’ve been listed like that as an author at Amazon.com. It’s a small thing, but in the publishing world you have to take what you can get. I also like how they put that (Author) next to my name. So next time I wonder, “Am I really an author?” I can just go and check on Amazon.com. “Oh, yup. I am. Says so right there.”
For more on the anthology — including the complete table on contents — see my page for “The Disciple.” (That page also includes the illustration for my story that was done by Allen Koszowski for Weird Tales, and a link to the Pseudopod horror podcast audio production of the story.)
Spotted in the wild: My short story “The Skull-Faced Boy” in the zombie anthology The Living Dead, edited by John Joseph Adams. At Borders on University Avenue in downtown Palo Alto.
When I bought a copy, the cashier actually exclaimed “Awesome book!,” in a way that suggested to me that he recognized the book and had possibly even read it. Or maybe he just says that to every customer, to make them feel good about their purchase, who knows?
The Living Dead also just got a mention on the blog of geek icon Wil Wheaton. It’s weird and kind of cool to think that Wil Wheaton might possibly read my story.
I updated my website with the full text of my short story “Transformations.” This story originally appeared in the December 2007 issue of Realms of Fantasy.
Overall I think the feedback is pretty positive. Deflective writes: “This story is everything Pseudopod! A classic scenario with a twist. An action-driven plot with a hint of meaning. Just right for audio. Well-performed audio at that.” Sylvan calls the piece “a fascinating story that takes the zombie genre to new places,” and M. says it’s “some of the best listening I’ve done in a while.”
Chivalrybean writes: “The whole smart zombie aspect was brilliant. Not done before as far as the extent that my zombie experiences reach. Commanzomdos [commando zombies]. How cool is that?”
Many listeners seem to think that the story could or should be longer, either because they think some aspect of it is underdeveloped (boo) or because they think the setup is just really neat (yay). For example, Clinton Trucks notes, “This is the first Pseudopod offering that I thought could be expanded to novel length without suffering a dilution of its central idea.”
One thing I’ve noticed in writing workshops is that people will often say of a short story “This should be a novel” or “I wanted to see more of x,” and I almost always disagree. (Not just about my own stories, but with stories in general.) Part of it I’m sure is just taste. I know that I tend more than most people to prefer stories that are short and to the point and that always feel like they’re going somewhere. I also think it’s natural if you basically enjoy a story to feel that you want more of it … but that doesn’t necessarily mean that if you actually got more of it you’d be happier. I think there’s a lot to be said for leaving the reader wanting more. It certainly seems to me that it’s preferable to err in that direction than to err on the side of boring the reader. (There are also practical limits to how long you can make a piece that you’re hoping to sell to a magazine.) Still, given the number of listeners so far who seem to want more, more, more, it’s certainly something I’ll be thinking about vis-a-vis future stories.
Finally, I also came across a nice mention of “The Skull-Faced Boy” on this amusing blog post about zombies:
My short story “The Skull-Faced Boy” is now available as a free podcast from Pseudopod. As with the last story I had up there, “The Disciple,” they did a really nice job on the production, with Ralph Walters of the Frequency of Fear podcast performing the story. And remember to keep an eye out for “The Skull-Faced Boy” later this year in the Night Shade Books anthology The Living Dead (which will also feature stories by Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, George R. R. Martin, and many other well-known writers).
My parents are living in Germany right now, and my mom just stumbled across a copy of the New Line 6 English textbook that contains my story “Lest We Forget.” Here’s a photo she just sent me of the book in its natural habitat:
“Lest We Forget” won the Dell Magazines Award for undergraduate science fiction, and subsequently appeared on the Asimov’s magazine website, where a German textbook publishing company saw it. They emailed me and said, “We’d like to reprint this story in our textbook. How much do we need to pay you for that?” I was a teenager and had absolutely no clue what the going rate might be for a textbook reprint, let alone a textbook reprint in Germany. After much rumination, I decided to ask for $1000, which I thought was probably way too much, but I really had no idea, and I figured we could always negotiate. I was a little afraid though that they would come back and say, “$1000! Sind Sie verruckt? We were thinking more like $50. Whoa, just forget the whole thing.” But actually they said okay and sent me $1000 and a few copies of the textbook. So that was all well and good, though I did sometimes wonder over the succeeding years why they’d been willing to pay so much for a short story reprint. Just how many copies of this textbook were they printing anyway?
When I set up statcounter to track visitors to my website, almost immediately I had a visitor from Germany who’d found my site by googling “lest we forget david kirtley.” I thought, “Hey, neat. Someone from Germany actually came across the story I published in that textbook all those years ago. What are the odds?” Well, apparently the odds weren’t all that astronomical, because in the next 24 hours I had two more visitors from Germany who’d found my site in the exact same way. And this has continued ever since, with three or four visitors to my website from Germany every day. My story is just a few pages in the middle of the book, so geez, there must be a hell of a lot of copies of that thing floating around Germany to account for all the internet traffic. The book is even common enough for my parents to randomly stumble across it. So I guess maybe $1000 wasn’t so out of line after all. Now I sort of wonder what would’ve happened if I’d asked for $5,000? Oh well, as long as tons of German students are reading my story I’m happy.
Here’s a really nice note I received recently from a reader about my story “Save Me Plz”:
The ending is so incredibly sad it makes me want to cry and save Meg; the story as a whole is miraculously awesome! You’re an extremely talented writer. I’d love to see a sequel with a ‘happily every after’ ending, but I know that those can be cheesy :]
Thanks! I will almost certainly never write a sequel story in which Meg is rescued from her predicament and in which everything is resolved happily and tied up neatly at the end, but it occurred to me that if I did, I could call the story, “K Thnx Bai.”
Or maybe not.