Quick Questions with K. Chess

Famous Men Cover 060718.inddK. Chess is the author of Famous Men Who Never Lived, a fresh take on parallel worlds, refugees, and the power of art. Ian Mond at Locus called it a “nuanced, smart, and intimate” novel.

Come see K on August 1st at Trident Books! RSVP here.

Tell us about your latest release in five words or fewer, or in one image/gif.

What book do you wish more people knew about?

The Ear, the Eye and the Arm by Nancy Farmer, a middle grade Afrofuturist adventure story about siblings from a wealthy Harare family on the run across the city’s slums and suburbs. I read it in seventh grade — the first speculative book I’d ever encountered with a non-western setting that incorporated non-Judeo-Christian mythology — and I’ve never forgotten it.

What was the first story you ever wrote?

It was Buffy: the Vampire Slayer fanfiction. That’s all you’ll ever get out of me!

What appeals to you about the genre you work in? (or a genre you work in?)

At an event recently, I was sitting next to someone who was being really dismissive of the worth of any writing that wasn’t literary. I didn’t know what to say. I mean, my formal writing education focused on literary fiction, too, but my allegiance to sci fi feels deeper and older. I wish I’d told this person is that what I most value about speculative fiction is the immense freedom — a freedom of imagination, but not a freedom from logic or consequences or human truths. (Of course, I couldn’t come up with that at the time.)

What do you like to listen to when you write?

I listen to the same albums on repeat — if I already know the words, they don’t distract me. I wrote Famous Men Who Never Lived to Angel Olsen’s album Burn Your Fire for No Witness and edited to Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager.


K Chess is the author of FAMOUS MEN WHO NEVER LIVED (Tin House Books, 2019). Her writing has appeared in The Chicago Tribune’s Printer’s Row Journal, PANK, Salon, Tor.com and other outlets. Her short stories have been honored by the Nelson Algren Literary Award and the Pushcart Prize. K earned a BA from Vassar College and an MFA from Southern Illinois University. She was awarded a W.K. Rose Fellowship in the Creative Arts. She reads fiction for Quarterly West and teaches writing at GrubStreet in Boston and Rhode Island.

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