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The Order of Oddfish

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Interviews and Articles


KMUW’s Marginalia podcast: “James Kennedy’s sci-fi asks, ‘Do you dare to know your death date?'” Host Beth Golay of NPR’s Wichita affliliate KMUW interviews me about Dare to Know. She’s a thoughtful interviewer and I loved talking with her! (9/7/22)

“What Makes Something Lynchian?” I write a guest post for the Quirk Books blog about the work of David Lynch and how it relates to Dare to Know. “I don’t want the mysteries of Lynch’s movies to be cleared up, I want to live in those mysteries and let them accompany me through my life.” Also, my gif game is strong here. (8/19/22)

Determinism in Science Fiction and Fantasy. I visit the Legendarium Podcast to talk about predestination in sci-fi and fantasy—which makes sense, since Dare to Know isn’t the only SFF story to play with ideas of fate, prophecy, predestination, etc. I float my theory that there are four distinct types of predestination in fiction: Durable, Fragile, Volitional, and Broken. A meaty interview! (8/15/22)

Worlds of Speculative Fiction with Gregory B. Sadler. Greg is a professor of philosophy with a philosophy YouTube channel, and he also reviews and discusses speculative fiction. Due to his background, we were able to go deeper than usual discussing Dare to Know! (7/17/22)

“Who Cares?” at 20×2 Chicago. I was invited to appear at the 20×2 Chicago live show, whose premise is: “What happens when you take 20 handpicked creatives and luminaries, give them each two minutes before a live audience and the same (fuzzy) question to unravel?” The question this time was “Who Cares?” and I tried as best I could to answer it in two minutes. Readers of Dare to Know will recognize a riff about the Beatles at the beginning of the video—this is because I had googled the phrase “Who Cares” and found that the first result to show up was a 2018 song by Paul McCartney with the name “Who Cares”! (6/12/22)

Jenny Chou interviews me for the Boswell Book Company blog. Read about how programming my Atari 800XL, Blade Runner, and selling door-to-door as a kid inspired Dare to Know, plus my soft spot for “unlikeable” characters. (6/1/22)

“A Little Too Quiet: The Ferndale Public Library Podcast.” The Ferndale Public Library is just a few miles from where I grew up in Troy, Michigan! In this I talk to charming host Jeff Milo about how the internet feels different than it used to, how M.T. Anderson’s Feed is the proper successor for Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and much more. (3/19/22)

Interview for Authority Magazine. They asked me about “How To Write Compelling Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories,” but I ended up saying things like “There is no benefit to reading science fiction. Or at least, I hope there isn’t” and “It costs nothing to write a novel. You can risk pleasing nobody!” (12/7/2021)

YouTube interview with Bob Lingle of “Off The Beaten Path” Bookstore. Bookseller Bob Lingle makes a great interlocutor, and this interview includes a weirdly specific embarrassing story that we improbably have in common! (11/17/22)

Authors On Tap: James Kennedy and Keir Graff. I am featured on Chicago’s Exile in Bookville bookstore’s “Authors on Tap” series, interviewed by fellow author and friend Keir Graff! This one has a great ominous surprise ending! (10/21/21)

“Largely The Truth” Podcast with Brennan Storr. Brennan has a broadcasting voice to die for, and he’s an insightful and astute interviewer. We talk not only about Dare to Know, but also videogame urban legends, the ancient civilization of Cahokia, modern loneliness, and much more! (9/30/21)

Speculative Thrillers That Blur The Line Between Physics and Philosophy. An article I wrote for Crimereads.com in which I talk about “metaphysical technology” in the works of Isaac Asimov, Cixin Liu, Tanizaki Junichiro, Kelly Link, Colson Whitehead, Thomas Ligotti, Angela Carter, Susannah Clarke, and even obscurities like T.L Sherred and text adventure writer Brian Moriarty (anyone else remember Infocom’s Trinity?) (9/27/21)

Interview for the Chicago Review of Books. Devi Bhaduri interviews me about our changing emotional relationship to technology, my “Elf Theory” of friendship, and how L. Ron Hubbard stole the girlfriend (and life savings) of one of the people who inspired Dare to Know. (9/17/2021)

Interview for Shelf Awareness. Paul Dinh-McCrillis reviews Dare To Know and interviews me. Find out which parts of the book are inspired by Del Close’s death-visions, a baffling cab ride I took with my wife, and why I dread December 19, 2046. (6/9/21)

Interview for the Japanese Consulate’s E-Japan Journal. Austin Gilkeson interviews me about my time in the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET) from 2004-2006. We discuss how living in Japan inspired me for The Order of Odd-Fish and Dare To Know, plus we talk about my experiences on the 88 Temples of Shikoku Pilgrimage and the time a Japanese schoolboy sang Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated” to me on the train. (6/1/21)

Daily Camera: “Youth filmmakers bringing award-winning books to life at 90-Second Newbery Film Fest.” Reporter Kalene McCort covers the 2019 Boulder screening of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. (5/10/19)

San Antonio Report: “Film Festival Of Kids’ Vids Tells Winning Tales In 90 Seconds Flat.” Reporter Nicholas Frank covers the 2019 San Antonio screeening of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. (2/10/19)

The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian: Science Fiction for Kids – Bonus Episode: The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival and James Kennedy. I banter with Jonathan Messinger, the mastermind behind the “Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian” podcast. We talk about the 90-Second Newbery, our longtime friendship (I’ve known him for like twenty years), and I make a bunch of insider Finn Caspian jokes that might only make sense if you’ve listened to the podcast. Which you should!

Fuse 8 n’ Kate Podcast: Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag, featuring James Kennedy. I am a guest on superlibrarian Betsy Bird’s podcast “Fuse 8 n’ Kate,” in which Betsy and her (non-librarian) sister Kate go through classic and not-so-classic children’s books to see if they hold up. The hook: Betsy knows almost everything about children’s literature, and Kate knows almost nothing. Since they’re sisters, they have a rapid-fire, push-and-pull, goofily humorous rapport. Come for the kidlit discussion, stay for the sisterly banter! I suggested we discuss the bizarre 1929 Newbery Honor Book Millions of Cats. No spoilers, but despite being an award-winning children’s book, Millions of Cats actually has the highest body count of any book of all time. Bonus: hear me do an a cappella version of their catchy theme song. And stick around for the post-credits extra! (10/16/17)

Publishers Weekly Shelf Talker: “90-Second Newbery Revisited.” Leslie Hawkins interviews Elliot Weiner in advance of the Asheville screening of the 2017 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. (1/9/17)

Oakland North: “Children’s author encourages youth to get creative in videos at 90-second film festival.” Reporter Katherine Wei covers the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival in the Bay Area. “Between his wardrobe choices and excited mannerisms, [Kennedy] had the familiar air of Professor Gilderoy Lockhart in the Harry Potter film adaptations . . . ” (2/16/2016)

Publishers Weekly: “90 Second Newbery: A Film Festival by and for Young Readers.” Natasha Gilmore covers the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. (3/10/15)

Publishers Weekly Shelf Talker: “Fabulous Film Festival: 90-Second Newbery.” I am interviewed by Elizabeth Bluemle about the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. (1/27/15)

School Library Journal: “90 Second Newbery Film Festival Breathes Life Back Into Forgotten Newbery Book Award Classics.” Rocco Staino covers the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival in New York. (4/2/14)

San Francisco Chronicle: “90-Second Newbery makes short work of award winners.” Reporter Mary Ellen Hunt covers the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival in the Bay Area. (2/5/14)

Chicago Magazine: “James Kennedy Makes a Book Reading Into Performance Art.” Jonathan Messinger covers my invented feuds with Neil Gaiman and Daniel Handler. “Kennedy’s idiosyncratic performances have attracted their own fame through their self-assured bombast and surreal fictional plotlines. He admits, he’s not sure why he started doing them.” (10/30/13)

Brain Burps About Books podcast: “Odd-Fish and Other Oddities: An Interview with James Kennedy.” Author Katie Davis interviews me on her kidlit podcast. I talk about how dabbling can lead to creativity, the 90 Second Newbery, and how I impersonated Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife. (1/19/11)

Interview with Betsy Bird for the School Library Journal’s Fuse #8 blog. We discuss Zork, my life in the convent, and why The Jeffersons is superior to Catcher in the Rye. Many in the comments section deem this the “Best. Interview. Ever.” Dare you disagree? (5/20/09)

Interview with the Senfaye on A Maze Of Books. Read it if you’re curious as to why I chose to end the interview by saying “I hate you”—and why when Senfaye asked “What’s your favorite food?” I replied “Your skull.” It’s scandalous! (5/25/09)

Interview with Amy Alessio for the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). I talk about my experiences as a junior high school science teacher—in particular, of how the entire faculty was mysteriously menaced by a obscene note-writing student known only as “The Foggy Wiener.” I also talk about my participation in Japan’s violent “Naked Man” Festival, and how I discovered the President of the ALA is a whimsical hobo. (6/2/09)

Interview with someone who hated Odd-Fish. I am pressed to defend my artistic decisions by a high school girl who disliked the book. Probably the most fun yet substantial interview. I talk about the mythological roots of the All-Devouring Mother, the relationship between religion and fantasy, the difference between “shaggy” and “lean” stories, and more. (12/29/09)

Interview with Adam Callaway of The Weirdside. Includes my ideas about comedy, what makes for a good title, on accessing originality through being deliberately “wrong,” and more. (1/12/10)

Order of Odd-Fish Week on Paul Michael Murphy’s Murphblog! Part One, about my writing process and the rocky, crazy road to Odd-Fish’s publication; Part Two, in which we talk about handling Odd-Fish’s large cast and wild plot, David Lynch’s “Eye of the Duck” theory, and why there wasn’t an acknowledgments page — as well as videos of both me and Paul reading from Odd-Fish; Part Three, in which I reveal the thing I will always find funny; Part Four, in which I answer the “lightning-round” questions and we see Paul and his two-year-old daughter read from Odd-Fish; and Part Five, the Order of Odd-Fish contest, in which contestants create their own Odd-Fish specialties. (All entries are in the comments section. They’re hilarious!) And here I render my judgment and announce the winner of the contest. (April 26-30, 2009)

Interview with Dina Strasser of The Line blog. We talk about the relationship between religion and fantasy/sci-fi, surprising reader reactions to Odd-Fish, motivating young reluctant writers, and more.

Mary Houlihan of the Chicago Sun-Times writes about the Order of Odd-Fish art show. Learn about the art and the artists who contributed to the Odd-Fish gallery show on April 17, 2010. (April 2010)

Radio interview with Alison Cuddy of NPR’s “Eight Forty-Eight” in Chicago. This interview is about the Odd-Fish fan art gallery show and the book in general. (4/14/10)

Interview with Eve’s Fan Garden. I discuss my discovery that adults are often illiterate compared to young adults, I lay out my dream cast for an Odd-Fish movie, and I showcase my favorite books that you might not have heard of. (8/17/10)

Interview with the Carly Reads blog. In this interview in advance of my appearance at the Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival (May 2010), I reveal why Printz-winning YA novelist Terry Trueman still owes me $134.43, and what he did to poor Jon Scieszka’s shoes. (5/9/10)

Interview with Melissa at the Book Nut blog. I talk about the difficulties of getting The Order of Odd-Fish published, my high school friend who was the inspiration for Jo, the idea of an “urban Narnia,” and the origin of the All-Devouring Mother character. (6/1/09)

Interview with Librarian Beat, a flirty librarian-by-way-of-Sassy-magazine blog.. “Would you be willing to read me a bedtime story?” “Sure. I’ll even throw in another story the next morning.” Rowr! (1/27/09)

Profile by the Notre Dame Observer. It’s the student newspaper of my alma mater. Error in the first line, though: I’m from the class of 1995, not 2000!

Steve Heisler interviews me for “Defend Your Taste” in the Onion’s A.V. Club Decider. I get feisty in this brief interview, in which “Chicago’s cultural curators go to bat for the art they love.” (4/28/09)

A long, in-depth interview with Marcus Gilmer of Chicagoist. I reveal the origin of the Belgian Prankster, I get snotty about the literary conventions of realism, and I ramble on about G. K. Chesterton and my theories about the Comedian from Watchmen. We were drinking Japanese beers at a sushi restaurant during this interview, and I got a bit garrulous. (4/27/09)

Veronica Bond interviews me for the Gapers Block Book Club. We talk about other authors I admire, how I came to write Odd-Fish, and how one must write up to children, never down to them. (1/21/09)

“A Giant Peach: James Kennedy’s 400-page fantasy is the sort of young adult fiction that adults of all ages can get lost in.” Ed Koziarski writes in the Chicago Reader about The Order of Odd-Fish and my band at the time (Brilliant Pebbles). “James Kennedy’s onstage at the Hideout, wearing a pink jumpsuit and a feather-collared, transparent lab coat. His shock of blond hair flops around as he bounces up and down . . . ” (10/30/08)

“Odd Job: A debut novel puts a new twist on fantasy.” Jonathan Messinger of Time Out Chicago reviews The Order of Odd-Fish. “A work of mischievous imagination and outrageous invention . . . Though certainly a fantastical coming-of-age story, Odd-Fish recalls the more rigorous world-building of J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis.” (7/31/08)

The Order of Odd-Fish mixtape on Largehearted Boy. The music blog Largehearted Boy has a series called “Book Notes” in which authors create and discuss a music playlist that is in some way relevant to their recently published books. Click here to listen to the soundtrack I chose for The Order of Odd-Fish and read my commentary for the songs I picked. (1/6/09)

“ODD-FISH ALUM: A talk with James Kennedy.” An interview with Gina Anderson at Jetwit.com
(11/15/08)

I judge a haiku contest on Jetwit.com. The only rule: the poets had to use a word of my choice. I chose “fewmets,” a medieval English word that means the droppings of an animal by which the hunter identifies the prey. (I learned “fewmets” from Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wind In The Door, where it is defined as dragon droppings.) (12/12/08)

Collaborations and Spectacles: How I Promoted The Order of Odd-Fish, Even When All Hope Was Lost. An article I wrote for the Prairie Wind, an online for the Illinois chapter of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). (1/1/11)

“Buy My Book, Please” by Sean Callahan in Notre Dame Magazine. I am profiled by Notre Dame magazine, along with some other authors. (Autumn 2010)

“The Most Dangerous Beard In Town.” The Chicago Reader published this short story of mine in their 2008 fiction issue.

“The Lam of Hal Hamburger.” The Chicago Reader published this short story of mine in their 2004 fiction issue.

A video interview with some members of the Teen Advisory Board of the Evanston Public Library.

My Book Reviews


“A Wrinkle in Her Story.” I review Listening For Madeleine: A Portrait of Madeleine L’Engle in Many Voices by Leonard Marcus for the Wall Street Journal (1/12/2013).

“Adventures in Invention.” I review Frank Reade: Adventures in the Age of Invention by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett for the Wall Street Journal (2/18/2012).

“Instinct With Hellish Life.” I review Zone One by Colson Whitehead and Zombies! Zombies! Zombies!, edited by Otto Penzler, for the Wall Street Journal (10/15/2011).

“Mario’s Many Fathers.” I review Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America by Jeff Ryan for the Wall Street Journal (8/20/2011).

“A Far-Seeing Family.” I review Discoverers of the Universe: William and Caroline Herschel by Michael Hoskin for the Wall Street Journal (3/26/2011).

“The Man Who Made a Planet Vanish.” I review How I Killed Pluto and Why it Had it Coming by Mike Brown for the Wall Street Journal (11/26/2010).