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John Kessel papers

Call Number: MS 358


John Kessel is a Nebula Award-winning science fiction and fantasy writer based in North Carolina. His papers span his writing career and include materials relating to his publications in a variety of formats, as well as correspondence with other prominent science fiction and fantasy writers.


  • Creation: 1969 - 2019


Language of Materials

Predominately English, small amount of material in Czech

Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Copyright remains with the donor.

Biography of John Kessel

John Kessel was born in Buffalo, New York on September 24, 1950 into a Polish-Italian family. He attended the University of Rochester, receiving his BA in Physics and English in 1972. He then attended the University of Kansas (KU), receiving both his MA and PhD in English/Creative Writing in 1974 and 1981, respectively. He began writing short science fiction stories toward the end of his undergraduate degree, publishing his first short story, "Home", in late 1974.

Kessel began teaching during his master's degree at KU and took up a position in the English teaching faculty of North Carolina State University (NC State) following the completion of his PhD in 1981. At NC State, Kessel was instrumental in the establishment of the university's MFA program in creative writing and served as the program's first director. He retired from the university in 2019, but continues to write and reside in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Kessel's works have received countless award nominations and numerous awards in the science fiction community, including two Nebula Awards for his novellas "Another Orphan" (1982) and "Pride and Prometheus" (2008). "Pride and Prometheus" also earned Kessel the Shirley Jackson Award in the same year. He received the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award and the Locus Award for his short story "Buffalo" (1992) and the James Tiptree, Jr. Memorial Award (now known as the Otherwise Award) for his short story "Stories for Men" in 2003.

Kessel's two plays, "A Clean Escape" and "Faustfeathers," both received considerable critical attention. "A Clean Escape" (1986) was adapted into a play by Kessel from his short story of the same name, and was then later adapted into a television episode for ABC's Masters of Science Fiction series in 2007. "Faustfeathers" (1994) won the Paul Green Playwrights' Prize.

Kessel is the author of five novels: Freedom Beach (with James Patrick Kelly, 1985), Good News From Outer Space (1989), Corrupting Dr. Nice (1997), The Moon and the Other (2017), and Pride and Prometheus (2018). He has also published several short story collections, including Meeting in Infinity (1992), The Pure Product (1997), The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories (2008), and The Collected Kessel (published as an ebook, 2012).

Kessel has edited, in collaboration with others, the following contemporary short fiction anthologies: Intersections: The Sycamore Hill Anthology (1996), Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology (2006), Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology (2007), The Secret History of Science Fiction (2009), Kafkaesque: Stories Inspired by Franz Kafka (2011), Nebula Awards Showcase 2012 (2012), and Digital Rapture: The Singularity Anthology (2012).

In addition to these publications, Kessel has published many short stories and novellas in science fiction and fantasy magazines and journals, as well as magazine articles about science fiction and critical reviews of science fiction and fantasy works.

[Information retrieved from materials in collection.]


11 Linear Feet (11 boxes + 2 oversize boxes, 8 CDs, 2 DVDs, 1 audio cassette tape, 1 VHS tape)

Scope and Contents

This collection comprises the papers of John Kessel's writing career, beginning with his first forays into science fiction composition as an undergraduate student at the University of Rochester. Kessel's papers include correspondence with a number of prominent figures in science fiction, both authors and editors; essays and assignments from his time as a student at the University of Rochester and the University of Kansas; materials relating to his published works, encompassing novels, novellas, short stories, collections, poetry, theater scripts, anthologies, journal and magazine articles, speeches, and interviews; and audiovisual materials, including CDs, DVDs, audio cassette tapes, and VHS tapes of readings and performances of Kessel's works.

SF is a common acronym meaning "science fiction" or sometimes the broader term "speculative fiction" (which includes fantasy). SF is used throughout Kessel's papers and throughout this finding aid.

Physical Location

MS 358

Physical Location

MS Q88

Physical Location

MS Qa31

Physical Location

SC AV 25

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts, John Kessel, 2019.


Further accruals expected.

Separated Materials

Published volumes and commercially produced audiovisual materials have been removed from the collection to be cataloged individually. They can be located by searching "John Kessel" in the KU Libraries online catalog.

Guide to the John Kessel Collection
John Kessel papers
Finding aid prepared by vej, 2019. Finding aid encoded by vej, 2019. Revised by vej, 2020.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
John Kessel papers, MS 358, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States