Caitlín R. Kiernan

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Caitlín R. Kiernan
Kiernan in 2011
Kiernan in 2011
Born26 May 1964 (1964-05-26) (age 55)
Dublin, Ireland
Pen nameKathleen Tierney
OccupationAuthor, paleontologist
GenreScience fiction, dark fantasy, weird fiction
Notable worksSilk; Threshold; Alabaster; The Red Tree; The Drowning Girl

Caitlín Rebekah Kiernan (born 26 May 1964)[1] is an Irish-born American author of science fiction and dark fantasy works, including ten novels, many comic books, and more than two hundred and fifty published short stories, novellas, and vignettes. She is also the author of scientific papers in the field of paleontology. Kiernan is a two-time recipient of both the World Fantasy and Bram Stoker awards.

Early life[edit]

Kiernan in 2001.

Born in Dublin, Ireland, Kiernan moved to the United States as a young child with her mother Susan Ramey Cleveland and younger sister Mary Angela (Máire Aingeal). Much of her childhood was spent in the small town of Leeds, Alabama, and her early interests included herpetology, paleontology, and fiction writing. As a teenager, she lived in Trussville, Alabama, and, in high school, began doing volunteer work at the Red Mountain Museum in Birmingham, Alabama and spending summers on her first archaeological and paleontological digs.

Kiernan attended college at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Colorado at Boulder, studying geology and vertebrate paleontology, and she held both museum and teaching positions before finally turning to fiction writing in 1992.


Paleontology, novels, short fiction, and comics[edit]

In 1984, Kiernan co-founded the Birmingham Paleontological Society. In 1988, she co-authored a paper describing the new genus and species of mosasaur, Selmasaurus russelli.[2] [3] Her first novel, The Five of Cups, was written between June 1992 and early 1993, though it was not published until 2003. In 1998 her first published novel, Silk, was released. Her first published short story was "Persephone", a dark science fiction tale, released in 1995. Her most recent scientific publications are a paper on the biostratigraphy of Alabama mosasaurs, published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (2002) and "First record of a velociraptorine theropod (Tetanurae, Dromaeosauridae) from the Eastern Gulf Coastal United States" (2004). As of 2019, Kiernan has returned to paleontology and is a research associate and fossil preparator at McWane Science Center in Birmingham, Alabama where she is once again working on mosasaurs.

Kiernan's short fiction was selected for Year's Best Fantasy and Horror series, The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, and The Year's Best Science Fiction, and her short stories have been collected in several volumes (see Bibliography). To date, her work has been translated into German, Italian, French, Turkish, Spanish, Portuguese, Finnish, Czech, Polish, Russian, Korean, and Japanese. In May 1996, Kiernan was approached by Neil Gaiman and editors at DC/Vertigo Comics to begin writing for The Dreaming, a spin-off from Gaiman's The Sandman. Kiernan wrote for the title from 1996 until its conclusion in 2001, working closely with Gaiman and focusing not only on pre-existing characters (The Corinthian, Cain and Abel, Lucien, Nuala, Morpheus, Thessaly, etc.), but also on new characters (Echo, Maddy, the white dream raven Tethys, etc.).[4] In 2012, Kiernan returned to comics, scripting Alabaster: Wolves (based on her character Dancy Flammarion) and continuing with Alabaster: Grimmer Tales (2013) and Alabaster: The Good, the Bad, and the Bird (2014). She wrote the novelisation for the Beowulf film (scripted by Gaiman and Roger Avary).

Film and screenwriting[edit]

Josh Boone's Mid-World Productions has optioned both The Red Tree and The Drowning Girl to develop into feature films. Kiernan is writing the screenplay for The Red Tree. Boone will be writing The Drowning Girl. Judy Cairo will be producing. In her blog Kiernan stated, "A few people have asked questions about the films and preserving the queerness of the novels. This is something you do not have to worry about. Also, though no details can be released yet and nothing is certain, the hope is that we can cast a transgender actress as Abalyn Armitage." [5]

Style and genre[edit]

In her blog she stated:

I'm getting tired of telling people that I'm not a 'horror' writer. I'm getting tired of them not listening, or not believing. Most of them seem suspicious of my motives.[6]

I've never tried to fool anyone. I've said I don't write genre 'horror.' A million, billion times have I said that.[7]

It's not that there are not strong elements of horror present in a lot of my writing. It's that horror never predominates those works. You may as well call it psychological fiction or awe fiction. I don't think of horror as a genre. I think of it – to paraphrase Doug Winter – as an emotion, and no one emotion will ever characterize my fiction.[8]

Additionally, much of her earlier work, such as Silk, is set among or alludes to the aesthetics of the goth and punk rock subcultures, elements which are generally absent in her later novels.

Kiernan has also stated, regarding the role of plot in creative writing: "anyone can come up with the artifice/conceit of a 'good story.' Story bores me. Which is why critics complain it's the weakest aspect of my work. Because that's essentially purposeful. I have no real interest in plot. Atmosphere, mood, language, character, theme, etc., that's the stuff that fascinates me. Ulysses should have freed writers from plot."[9]

In his review of her novel 2009 The Red Tree, H. P. Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi writes: "Kiernan already ranks with the most distinctive stylists in our field – Edgar Allan Poe, Lord Dunsany, Thomas Ligotti. With Ligotti's regrettable retreat into fictional silence, hers is now the voice of weird fiction."[10] In their introduction to The Weird, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer write that Kiernan has "become perhaps the best weird writer of her generation." [11]


Between 1996 and 1997, Kiernan also fronted an Athens, Georgia-based "goth-folk-blues band," Death's Little Sister,[12] named for Neil Gaiman's character, Delirium. She was the band's vocalist and lyricist, and the group enjoyed some success on local college radio and played shows in Athens and Atlanta. Other members included Barry Dillard (guitars), Michael Graves (bass), and Shelly Ross (keyboards). Kiernan has said in interviews that she left the band in February 1997 because of her increased responsibilities writing for DC Comics and because her novel Silk had recently sold. She was briefly involved in Crimson Stain Mystery, a studio project, two years later. CSM produced one EP to accompany a special limited edition of Silk, illustrated by Clive Barker (Gauntlet Press, 2000).


In December 2005, she began publishing the monthly Sirenia Digest[13] (otherwise known as MerViSS) consisting of vignettes and short stories: "The MerViSS Project is a continuation of Kiernan's exploration of the fusion of erotic literature with elements of dark fantasy and science fiction, creating brief, dreamlike fictions." It is currently illustrated by Vince Locke. The digest includes the occasional collaboration with Sonya Taaffe.


The Caitlín R. Kiernan Papers at the John Hay Library at Brown University span Kiernan's full career thus far and includes juvenilia, as well, consisting of twenty-three linear feet of manuscript materials, including correspondence, journals, manuscripts, and publications, circa 1970-2017, in print, electronic, and web-based formats. Additions to the collection are regularly made by the author. On August 16, 2017, a formal reception was held at the Hay Library to announce the collection and to unveil "Caitlín R. Kiernan Papers @ Brown University Library," an exhibit based on them.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Kiernan is transgender,[15] lesbian, and an atheist pagan.[16] She lives in Providence, Rhode Island, with her partner, photographer and doll maker Kathryn A. Pollnac.[17]



Nominated (partial list)[edit]

  • Bram Stoker Award 1995, Best Short Story ("Persephone")
  • Bram Stoker Award, Best First Novel 1998 (Silk)
  • British Fantasy Award, Best First Novel 1998 (Silk)
  • Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Award, Best Graphic Novel 1998 (The Girl Who Would Be Death)
  • International Horror Guild Award, Best Collection (Tales of Pain and Wonder)
  • Bram Stoker Award, Best Graphic Novel 2001 (The Dreaming No. 56, "The First Adventure of Miss Caterina Poe")
  • International Horror Guild Award, Best Graphic Novel 2001 (The Dreaming No. 56, "The First Adventure of Miss Caterina Poe")
  • International Horror Guild Award, Best Short Form 2002 ("The Road of Pins")
  • International Horror Guild Award, Best Collection 2005 (To Charles Fort, With Love)
  • World Fantasy Award 2006, Best Collection 2005 (To Charles Fort, With Love)
  • World Fantasy Award 2006, Best Short Fiction 2005 ("La Peau Verte")
  • International Horror Guild Award, Best Mid-Length Fiction 2006 ("Bainbridge")
  • Locus Award 2010 (40th Annual), Best Fantasy Novel (The Red Tree)
  • Locus Award 2010 (40th Annual), Best Collection (A is for Alien)
  • Shirley Jackson Award (3rd Annual, 2010), Best Novel (The Red Tree)
  • World Fantasy Award 2010, Best Novel (The Red Tree)
  • Shirley Jackson Award (4th Annual, 2011), Best Short Story ("As Red as Red")
  • World Fantasy Award 2011, Best Collection 2010 (The Ammonite Violin & Others)
  • Bram Stoker Award 2011, Best Collection (Two Worlds and in Between: The Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan, Volume 1)
  • Bram Stoker Award 2011, Best Long Fiction ("The Collier's Venus [1893]")
  • Locus Award 2012, Best Collection (Two Worlds and in Between: The Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan, Volume 1)
  • World Fantasy Award 2012, Best Collection (Two Worlds and in Between: The Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan, Volume 1)
  • Nebula Award 2012, Best Novel (The Drowning Girl: A Memoir)[19]
  • British Fantasy Award 2012, Best Fantasy Novel (The Drowning Girl: A Memoir)
  • World Fantasy Award 2012, Best Novel (The Drowning Girl: A Memoir)
  • Mythopoeic Award 2012, Adult Literature (The Drowning Girl: A Memoir)
  • Shirley Jackson Award 2012, Best Novel (The Drowning Girl: A Memoir)
  • Bram Stoker Award 2013, Fiction Collection (The Ape's Wife and Other Stories)
  • World Fantasy Award 2014, Best Novella (Black Helicopters)
  • World Fantasy Award 2014, Best Short Story ("The Prayer of Ninety Cats")
  • World Fantasy Award 2014, Best Collection (The Ape's Wife and Other Stories)
  • Bram Stoker Award 2017, Long Fiction (Agents of Dreamland)
  • Locus Award 2018, Best Novella (Agents of Dreamland)
  • Locus Award 2019, Best Collection (The Dinosaur Tourist)
  • Locus Award 2019, Best Novella (Black Helicopters)



  • Silk, Penguin-Putnam, 1998, ISBN 978-0-451-45668-7 (1999, Gauntlet Press)
  • Threshold (2001, Penguin-Putnam) ISBN 9780451461247
  • The Five of Cups, Subterranean Press, 2003, ISBN 978-1-931081-80-1
  • Low Red Moon, Penguin-Putnam, 2003, ISBN 978-1-931081-84-9
  • Murder of Angels, Penguin-Putnam, 2004, ISBN 0-451-45996-2
  • Daughter of Hounds, Penguin-Putnam, 2007, ISBN 978-0-451-46157-5
  • Beowulf (2007; HarperCollins; novelisation of 2007 film) ISBN 9780061543388
  • The Red Tree (2009; Penguin-Putnam) ISBN 9780451463500
  • The Drowning Girl: A Memoir (March 2012; Penguin-Putnam) ISBN 9780451464163
  • Blood Oranges (writing as Kathleen Tierney; February 2013, Penguin-Putnam) ISBN 9780451465016
  • Red Delicious (writing as Kathleen Tierney; 2014, Penguin-Putnam) ISBN 9780451416537
  • Cherry Bomb (writing as Kathleen Tierney; 2015, Penguin-Putnam) ISBN 9780451416551
  • Agents of Dreamland (2017; Tor) ISBN 0765394324
  • Black Helicopters (2018; Tor) ISBN 1250191130
  • The Tindalos Asset (2020; Tor; forthcoming)

Short fiction collections[edit]

  • Tales of Pain and Wonder (2000, Gauntlet Press; 2002, Meisha Merlin; 2008, Subterranean Press; 2016, PS Publishing)
  • Wrong Things (with Poppy Z. Brite; 2001; Subterranean Press)
  • From Weird and Distant Shores (2002; Subterranean Press)
  • To Charles Fort, With Love (2005; Subterranean Press; 2018, PS Publishing)
  • Alabaster (2006; Subterranean Press; illustrated by Ted Naifeh; reissued by Dark Horse Comics, February 2014, as Alabaster: Pale Horse)
  • A is for Alien (2009; Subterranean Press; illustrated by Vince Locke; 2015, PS Publishing)
  • The Ammonite Violin & Others (2010; Subterranean Press; 2018, PS Publishing)
  • Two Worlds and in Between: The Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan (Volume One) (2011; Subterranean Press)
  • Confessions of a Five-Chambered Heart (2012; Subterranean Press)
  • The Ape's Wife and Other Stories (2013; Subterranean Press)
  • Beneath an Oil-Dark Sea: The Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan (Volume Two) (2015; Subterranean Press)
  • Dear Sweet Filthy World (2017; Subterranean Press)
  • Houses Under the Sea: Mythos Tales (2018; Centipede Press; reissued by Subterranean Press, September 2019)
  • The Dinosaur Tourist (2018; Subterranean Press)
  • The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan (2019; Tachyon Publications)
  • A Little Yellow Book of Fever Dreams (2019; Borderlands Press)
  • Comes a Pale Rider (forthcoming from Subterranean Press)


  1. ^ greygirlbeast (26 May 2018). "23". Postcards from the Red Room. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  2. ^ "Caitlin R. Kiernan". Encyclopedia of Alabama. 21 September 2016. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  3. ^ "Caitlin R. Kiernan's researcher profile". ResearchGate. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  4. ^ Irvine, Alex (2008). "The Dreaming". In Dougall, Alastair (ed.). The Vertigo Encyclopedia. New York: Dorling Kindersley. pp. 64–65. ISBN 978-0-7566-4122-1. OCLC 213309015.
  5. ^ greygirlbeast (25 July 2015). " the late night double-feature picture show". Archived from the original on 1 August 2015.
  6. ^ Kiernan, Caitlín R. (3 February 2002). "Chapter Two proceeds apace". Low Red Moon journal. Retrieved 18 May 2007.
  7. ^ Kiernan, Caitlín R. (24 July 2013). "It's a death trap. It's a suicide rap". Dear Sweet Filthy World. Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  8. ^ VanderMeer, Jeff (12 March 2012). "Interview: Caitlín R. Kiernan on Weird Fiction". Deep time is critical... Weird Fiction Review. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
  9. ^ greygirlbeast (30 November 2013). "Howard Hughes and the End of November". Archived from the original on 7 May 2015.
  10. ^ Dead Reckonings (No. 6, Volume 2009, pp. 28–30)
  11. ^ The Weird (Atlantic Books Ltd., 2011, p. xix)
  12. ^ "Musical projects".
  13. ^ Kiernan, Caitlín R. "sirenia". Retrieved 18 May 2007.
  14. ^ "H.P. Lovecraft on the Road & Caitlín R. Kiernan Papers", official blog, Brown University Library, 11 August 2017
  15. ^ "Locus Online: Caitlín R. Kiernan interview excerpts".
  16. ^ greygirlbeast (21 May 2012). "And barefoot in the shallow creek, I grabbed some stones from underneath". Archived from the original on 7 May 2015.
  17. ^ Caitlín R. Kiernan's MySpace page accessed 29 March 2007.
  18. ^ "The 2013 Bram Stoker Awards Winners". Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  19. ^ 2012 Nebula Awards Nominees Announced, SFWA, 20 February 2013

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Gregory Norman Bossert
World Fantasy Award—Short Fiction winner
Succeeded by
Scott Nicolay