Ellen Kushner

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Ellen Kushner
Kushner in 2013
Kushner in 2013
BornOctober 6, 1955 (1955-10-06) (age 67)
Washington, DC, US
Alma materBarnard College
GenreSpeculative fiction, fantasy of manners
Notable awards1991 World Fantasy Award, 1991 Mythopoeic Award, and 2007 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel
SpouseDelia Sherman
Delia Sherman (l.) and Ellen Kushner.

Ellen Kushner (born October 6, 1955) is an American writer of fantasy novels. From 1996 until 2010, she was the host of the radio program Sound & Spirit, produced by WGBH in Boston and distributed by Public Radio International.[1]

Background and personal life[edit]

Kushner was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. She attended Bryn Mawr College and graduated from Barnard College. She lives in New York City with her wife and sometime collaborator, Delia Sherman. They held a wedding in 1996[2][3] and were legally married in Boston in 2004.[4] Kushner identifies as bisexual.[5]


Kushner's first books were five Choose Your Own Adventure gamebooks. During that period, she published her first novel, Swordspoint in 1987. A sequel set 18 years after Swordspoint, called The Privilege of the Sword, was published in July 2006, with a first hardcover edition published in late August 2006 by Small Beer Press. The Fall of the Kings (2002) (co-authored by Sherman) is set 40 years after Swordspoint. All three books are considered mannerpunk novels, and take place in a nameless imaginary capital city and its raffish district of Riverside, where swordsmen-for-hire ply their trade.

From 2011 to 2014 audiobook versions of all three novels were produced under the label of Neil Gaiman Presents.[6] The Swordspoint adaptation won the 2013 Audie Award for Best Audio Drama,[7] an Earphones Award from AudioFile,[8] and the 2013 Communicator Award: Gold Award of Excellence (Audio).[9] The adaptation of The Fall of the Kings won the 2014 Wilbur Award.[10]

Kushner's second novel, Thomas the Rhymer, won the World Fantasy Award[11] and the Mythopoeic Award[12] in 1991. She has also published short stories and poetry in various anthologies, including The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror and The Borderland Series of urban fantasy anthologies for teenage readers.

In 1987, Kushner relocated from New York to Boston, and began working as a presenter in radio. She worked with public radio station WBGH-FM, first hosting its all-night radio program "Night Air".[13][14] In 1989 she hosted the Nakamichi International Music Series for American Public Radio (now Public Radio International), and later produced three Jewish holiday specials with APR, Festival of Liberation: the Passover Story in World Music, The Door is Open: a Jewish High Holiday Meditation, and Beyond 1492.[14]

Beginning in 1996, Kushner wrote, programmed and hosted the series "Sound & Spirit", produced by WGBH/PRI.[15] "Sound & Spirit" was an hour-long weekly series "exploring the human spirit through music and ideas."[16] Episodes featured folk, classical, and world music, with a wide variety of special guests including Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, religious historian Elaine Pagels,[17] and writer Neil Gaiman.[18] "Sound & Spirit" remained on the air until 2010.[15]

In 2002, she released a CD of her story The Golden Dreydl: A Klezmer Nutcracker, which uses music from Pyotr Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker to tell a Hanukkah story. The music on the CD is performed by Shirim Klezmer Orchestra. The Golden Dreydl won a Gracie Award from American Women in Radio and Television.[19] A live theater version of The Golden Dreydl was performed in 2008 and 2009 at Vital Theater in New York City, written by Kushner (who played "Tante Miriam" in the 2008 production) and directed by Linda Ames Key.[20]

In 2007, Kushner, along with Elizabeth Schwartz and Yale Strom, scripted the musical audio drama The Witches of Lublin for public radio. Based on the history of Jewish women who were klezmer musicians in 18th Century Europe, The Witches of Lublin premiered on radio stations nationwide in April 2011 with performances by Tovah Feldshuh and Simon Jones.[21] It won the 2012 Wilbur Award for Best Single Program, Radio; the 2012 Grace Allen Award for Best Director, and the 2012 Gabriel Award: Arts, Local Release, Radio.[22]

In 2011 she co-edited (with Holly Black) Welcome to Bordertown, an anthology of new stories from Terri Windling's seminal shared-world series. In an audiobook adaptation Neil Gaiman read his own work, set to an original score by Boiled in Lead's Drew Miller.[23]

In 2015, Kushner created Tremontaine, a serialized prequel to Swordspoint, for the Serial Box platform.[24] The series ran for four seasons.[25]

With Sherman and others, she is actively involved in the interstitial art movement. She is the co-founder and past president of the Interstitial Arts Foundation.[26]

She is also a member of the Endicott Studio and has taught classes and seminars as part of Hollins University's MFA program; the Odyssey Writing Workshop; and the Clarion Writers' Workshop.

Published works[edit]


  • Swordspoint (1987) – ISBN 978-0812543483
  • The Fall of the Kings (with Delia Sherman) (2002) – ISBN 978-0553381849
  • The Privilege of the Sword (2006) – ISBN 978-1931520201

Standalone novels[edit]

Choose Your Own Adventure books[edit]

Chapbook form[edit]

Short fiction[edit]

Anthologies edited[edit]


Major awards[edit]

Year (Authored) Year (Awarded) Nominee Society Award Category Result Ref
1990 1991 Thomas the Rhymer World Fantasy Convention World Fantasy Award World Fantasy Award—Novel Won (tie) [27]
1997 1998 “The Fall of the Kings” World Fantasy Convention World Fantasy Award World Fantasy Award—Novella Nominated [27]
1998 1999 “The Death of the Duke” World Fantasy Convention World Fantasy Award World Fantasy Award—Short Fiction Nominated [27]
2006 2007 The Privilege of the Sword Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Nebula Award Nebula Award—Novel Nominated [27]
World Fantasy Convention World Fantasy Award World Fantasy Award—Novel Nominated [27]
five-person committee including a token man James Tiptree Jr Memorial Award Honor List [27]

Locus awards (poll)[edit]

Year (Awarded) Nominee Category Result Ref
1981 Basilisk Locus Award—Anthology 13th [27]
1988 Swordspoint Locus Award—First Novel 10th [27]
1991 Thomas the Rhymer Locus Award—Fantasy Novel 5th [27]
1998 The Horns of Elfland Locus Award—Anthology 8th [27]
2003 The Fall of the Kings Locus Award—Fantasy Novel 9th [27]
2007 The Privilege of the Sword Locus Award—Fantasy Novel Won [27]
2010 “Dulce Domum” Locus Award—Short Story 25th [27]
"A Wild and a Wicked Youth" Locus Award—Novelette 16th [27]
2011 “The Man With the Knives” Locus Award—Short Story 12th [27]
“The Children of Cadmus” Locus Award—Short Story 27th [27]
2012 Welcome to Bordertown Locus Award—Anthology 2th [27]
2017 Tremontaine Locus Award—Anthology 8th [27]

Other awards[edit]


  1. ^ "PUGGY'S HILL – Final 'Sound & Spirit' broadcasts". archive.is. 29 November 2012. Archived from the original on 29 November 2012.
  2. ^ Bickelhaupt, Susan; Maureen Dezell (1996-10-25). "Will Klein Sign His Letters From Washington?". The Boston Globe.
  3. ^ Simon, Clea (2004-09-01). "It was love, but now it's gone". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
  4. ^ "NYRSF Readings' 'Family Night' Features Ellen Kushner & Delia Sherman Duo". SFScope. Retrieved 2015-02-08.
  5. ^ Kushner, Ellen (March 2016). "Are You Bisexual?". Ellen Kushner's Tumblr. Tumblr. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  6. ^ "'Neil Gaiman Presents' Launches on ACX". 25 October 2011.
  7. ^ "Audie Award Best Drama". Retrieved 2015-02-08.
  8. ^ "Swordspoint:A Melodrama of Manners". Retrieved 2015-02-08.
  9. ^ "19th annual Communicator Award of Excellence Winners". Retrieved 2015-02-08.
  10. ^ "Sue Media Productions – Awards". Retrieved 2015-02-08.
  11. ^ "1991 World Fantasy Award Winners and Nominees". Archived from the original on 2013-10-15. Retrieved 2009-04-29.
  12. ^ "Mythopoeic Awards – Winners". Archived from the original on 2014-10-06. Retrieved 2009-04-29.
  13. ^ Mathews, David. "The SF Site: An Interview With Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman". www.sfsite.com. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  14. ^ a b "Ellen Kushner & Delia Sherman – Brief Biographies". Archived from the original on April 6, 2005. Retrieved May 5, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  15. ^ a b Farrell, John. "Ellen Kushner: Taking Audiobooks To Another Level". Forbes. Retrieved 2020-05-05.
  16. ^ "Sound and Spirit; Drummers' Circle". openvault.wgbh.org. Retrieved 2020-05-05.
  17. ^ "Sound and Spirit; Devil's Trill, The". openvault.wgbh.org. Retrieved 2020-05-05.
  18. ^ "WGBH/PRI: Sound & Spirit: Neil Gaiman talking about Sandman – SFFaudio". Retrieved 2020-05-05.
  19. ^ "People and Publishing: Awards," Locus, May 2002, p. 14
  20. ^ "The Klezmer Nutcracker: Vital Theatre Company Announces Full Cast". New York Theatre Guide. Retrieved 2015-02-08.
  21. ^ "The Witches of Lublin: Complete Cast". Retrieved 2015-02-08.
  22. ^ "Music and Story for an Old Fashioned Passover". Hadassah Magazine. 30 March 2012. Retrieved 2015-02-08.
  23. ^ Doctorow, Cory (17 September 2013). "Expanded 'Welcome to Bordertown' audiobook, with Neil Gaiman, Steven Brust, Ellen Kushner and more". Boing Boing. Retrieved 2015-02-08.
  24. ^ "Spotlight on: Ellen Kushner, Tremontaine". Locus Online. 2017-01-22. Retrieved 2020-05-09.
  25. ^ "Tremontaine". www.serialbox.com. Retrieved 2020-05-09.
  26. ^ "Interstitial Arts Foundation: IAF Origins". Archived from the original on 2015-02-08. Retrieved 2015-02-08.
  27. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "sfadb : Ellen Kushner Awards". www.sfadb.com. Retrieved 2022-06-25.

External links[edit]