So Which One is Kessel? Which One is Kelly?


by James Patrick Kelly

It's a nuisance, actually. It's not as if we were separated at birth or anything. Sure, we're both joggers, both ex-Catholic boys, both 40, both divorced once, both sports fans and both Democrats. But why should that mean eyewitnesses can never tell us apart in police lineups? Maybe our writing styles are somewhat similar, but we certainly have different strengths and weaknesses. I think people may get confused because we rarely make public appearances unless we're together. Anyway, in case you were wondering, here's a guide for the perplexed.

He's the tall, thin, dark one. He's a stylish dresser, looks great in black. He wears a lot of interesting buttons and has a penchant for cool, skinny ties. I'm shorter and a lot more pale. I wear pastels.

He was the first one to write stories about dead writers and he does it about as well as anyone ever has. He won a Nebula for "Another Orphan," a brilliant recasting of Moby Dick. He wrote the funniest Marx Brothers' movie never made, a romp called "Faustfeathers," and a sly detective story called "The Big Dream" in which Raymond Chandler's wife hires Phillip Marlow to tail her dallying husband. His most recent story, "Buffalo," which was in the January 1991 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction, is the story of a mythical meeting between John's father and H. G. Wells. It's being touted by those in the know as the early favorite in next year's awards races.

He's married, I'm engaged.

In basketball, he's the graceful center who shoots from the perimeter. I'm the ugly power forward with no shot who rebounds by climbing up other players' backs. The last time we played I just about killed him -- and he's my best friend.

His favorite writer is Herman Melville. Mine is F. Scott Fitzgerald. He's a political animal. He marches and goes to rallies and gets involved in teach-ins and volunteers for campaigns. I read the papers and groan.

He has a B. A. in English and Physics from the University of Rochester and an M.A. and Ph.D in English from the University of Kansas. I had a great time in high school.

He was a science fiction fan. He went to conventions and wrote a fanzine when he was in college at the University of Rochester. I just read the stuff when I was a kid, never even knew fandom existed.

He organized Sycamore Hill, the most famous and successful science fiction writers' workshop of the 80's. I went to it.

He lives and dies with the Kansas City Royals, and is a true baseball fan. I like baseball okay, but I'd rather be watching the Celtics.

His first novel GOOD NEWS FROM OUTER SPACE was one of the best received books of 1989. (Actually GOOD NEWS was his first solo novel. He and I collaborated on FREEDOM BEACH in 1985.) A black comedy, it tells the story of the last days of this century. It combines dazzling extrapolation, mystery, wild adventure, satire and menace in a road book that is well on its way to becoming a cult classic, the first and perhaps the best of the millennial novels. I wish I had written GOOD NEWS.

See, it's easy to tell us apart! So when you come across us here at the convention, don't be afraid of committing a faux pas. Walk right up and say hello. Just remember: he's clean shaven and I'm the one with the mustache that looks like a caterpillar.