Tim Pratt
SF and Fantasy Writer

Bio

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(Updated December 9, 2019)

Tim Pratt lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, Heather Shaw and their son River. His fiction and poetry have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, Strange Horizons, Realms of Fantasy, Asimov’s, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud WristletSubterranean, and Tor.com, among many other places (for complete details, see his bibliography). He writes a new story every month for patrons at Patreon: www.patreon.com/timpratt

His debut collection Little Gods was published in November of 2003. His second collection, Hart & Boot & Other Stories, appeared in January 2007, and was a World Fantasy Award finalist. Third collection Antiquities and Tangibles and Other Stories appeared in 2013.

First novel The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl was published in late 2005. It was nominated for the Mythopoeic Award, and won a Romantic Times Critic’s Choice Award for best Modern Fantasy, and an Emperor Norton Award (which has the coolest trophy ever: a bust of Joshua Norton).

Other standalone fantasy novels include Briarpatch (2011), Heirs of Grace (2014), and forthcoming short novel The Deep Woods (2015). His gonzo-historical novel, The Constantine Affliction, was published under pen name T. Aaron Payton in 2012. He co-wrote middle grade spy novel The Stormglass Protocol with Andy Deemer (2013).

In October 2007 he began publishing a series of urban fantasies featuring ass-kicking sorcerer Marla Mason. The first was Blood Engines, followed by Poison Sleep (April 2008), Dead Reign (November 2008), and Spell Games (April 2009). He serialized a prequel, Bone Shop, online in 2009. The fifth book, Broken Mirrors, appeared in 2010, followed by Grim Tides in 2012, Bride of Death in 2013, Lady of Misrule in 2015, Queen of Nothing in 2016, and final volume Closing Doors in 2017. He collected stories set in that world in Do Better (2018). Visit MarlaMason.net for details.

His most recent novels are the space opera Axiom trilogy: Philip K. Dick Award finalist The Wrong Stars (2017), The Dreaming Stars (2018), and The Forbidden Stars (2019).

He’s written several roleplaying game tie-in fantasy novels, including one for Forgotten Realms and five for Pathfinder Tales.

Some of his poems have been collected in If There Were Wolves, including “Soul Searching”, winner of a Rhysling Award for best long poem.

He has edited two anthologies: a reprint volume of stories about infernal creatures, Sympathy for the Devil (2010) and an anthology of original stories inspired by classic tales, Rags and Bones (2012, with Melissa Marr).

By day he works as senior editor at Locus magazine, where, among other things, he write the obituaries.

He won a Hugo Award (for “Impossible Dreams” in 2007), and has been nominated for a Nebula Award, Stoker Award, Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, a couple of Gaylactic Spectrum Awards, a Seiun Award, a Scribe Award, and two Ignotus Awards, among others. In 2004 he was a finalist for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

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Here’s the bio my wife Heather Shaw wrote for me when I was principal speaker at Philcon in 2019:

Tim Pratt was born in Goldsboro North Carolina to a hardworking single mother who was an avid reader, especially of horror. He spent summers with his great-grandmother, who kept a guest room full of bookshelves, all fantasy and science fiction. After reading his way through both houses, he began seeking out fantasy and science fiction and horror on his own. This started a lifelong love affair with the written language, and it wasn’t long before he was trying his hand at telling his own speculative stories; he started submitting stories to the big magazines (most notably F&SF, but also others) as a teenager.

Growing up in a trailer in rural North Carolina allowed for adventures in nearby woods, long walks down dusty roads to the bus stop, and navigating the complexities of sometimes difficult social systems in middle and high school. This freedom to dwell in his own imagination while facing real challenges gave birth to stories that were full of magic and joy without being twee, stories that thrummed with danger without losing their sense of optimism and wonder.

He attended Appalachia State University, graduating with honors and a degree in English. Along the way, he took a writing workshop with Orson Scott Card, where his budding talent did not go unnoticed. His stories started selling in his early 20s, and by 1999 he was accepted in the Clarion Writing Workshop, where he studied under such esteemed teachers as Michaela Roessner, Scott Edelman, Tim Powers, Karen Joy Fowler, and James Morrow, among others. There he honed his skills to professional levels and made lifelong friendships that continue to this day.

Not long after Clarion, Tim followed a childhood friend to Santa Cruz, CA in 2000, settling in and enjoying the gentle cradle of that warm coastal town. That atmosphere – especially hours spent writing in the legendary local coffee shop, Pergolesi – was the source of much inspiration, and is the setting of his first novel, The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl.

By the time I met Tim, on March 17, 2001, at a brunch I was hosting on behalf of Strange Horizons for writer Nalo Hopkinson, he was publishing short fiction and poetry (and indeed, it was his publication in Strange Horizons that garnered his invitation to the brunch), and had written four novels, though he hadn’t yet published any. The first email he sent me was about Carol Emshwiller, engaging me on literature we both loved. The man gives very good email, and our missives grew longer and longer.

Our first real date was in the Oakland Rose Garden, reading our poetry to one another, which was so impossibly romantic I was swept off my feet. Really, everyone should be wooed by a writer as fine as Tim. We spent that first summer commuting back and forth between Oakland and Santa Cruz, and by August that first year he moved in with me in Oakland. In need of a job, he went up to the Locus Magazine headquarters where Charles N. Brown made the sound decision to hire him immediately.

The publishing world moves slowly, but he soon connected world-class agent, Ginger Clark, and the novel-publishing part of his career began. He used the advance from Rangergirl to pay for our wedding and honeymoon in 2005.

Tim was the first of our cohort of writer friends to be nominated for a major award, with his story “Little Gods” nominated for the Nebula in 2002. His weird western story “Hart & Boot” was chosen for inclusion in the 2005 volume of the Best American Short Stories, an honor few science fiction writers – or many writers at all, really – can boast of. His award success increased in 2007 when his short story “Impossible Dreams” was nominated and won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story that year, beating out the usually unbeatable Neil Gaiman in the category. That piece is well-loved, and has been made into a short film by Israeli filmmaker Shir Comay. His collection, Hart & Boot & Other Stories was a World Fantasy Award finalist in 2008.

His short fiction and poetry has been published in a wide variety of markets, including Asimov’s, Realms of Fantasy, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine show, and many, many Year’s Best anthologies. In 2007 he published his first of what would become his well-known Marla Mason series, with the first four coming out from Bantam Spectra. After the publishing crisis of 2009, Bantam dropped his editor as well as the Marla series. Not one to be daunted, Tim used the network of readers he’d gathered over the years to successfully self-publish the fifth volume, funded through donations, years before Kickstarter was even a big thing. The success of that fifth Marla book lead to almost yearly fundraising for each new volume, until he finally concluded the series with the eleventh book, Closing Doors, in 2017.

Of course, one series of eleven books is not enough for an author like Tim, and during that time published at least eight other novels, collections, and books of poetry. He’s also an adept editor, his most notable volume, Rags and Bones, co-edited with Melissa Marr and chock full of some of the big name writers he’s met over the years.

Living with a writer as prolific as Tim garnered me a lot of sympathy from our other writer friends, but I’ve somehow never been jealous of his success, probably because I see firsthand how hard he works, and how dedicated he is. He isn’t one that sits down to write every single day, but writing is so ingrained in his bones that if he goes without writing for too long he gets cranky, antsy, and distracted. And when he does sit down to write, his focus is strong and almost unbreakable – he’s the cook in our family, but I learned to fend for myself when he was writing! But he also has the gift of being able to explain his methods, making him an amazing teacher and first reader right there in my own home. I’ve always been grateful for his generosity and willingness to help me when I’m stuck on my own writing, not to mention his pep talks when I despair at my relative slowness in comparison to him.

After the birth of our son, River, in the fall of 2007, Tim sat down that evening and wrote “The River Boy” (later published in Clarkesworld) in the hospital room, to prove to himself that the trials of having a newborn would not deter him from his writing career. I’m not sure how many people can say they have had a story written in their honor within the first 24 hours of life!

Despite his dedication to writing, Tim remains a devoted father and fantastic life partner. His ability to get all the things done – his share of the housework, spending quality time with his family, day job, writing, etc. – has never ceased to amaze me. There is no dithering once Tim decides to do a thing – he will sit down and get the job done. Over the years, practice has made his first drafts as near to perfect as any I’ve ever seen (though he still revises). His reputation as an author who not only meets his deadlines, but can turn around a project in record time, has gotten him work-for-hire gigs with companies his childhood self would be agape over, like Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder. At this point, he often has to turn down gigs.

These days he’s a senior editor at Locus, writing much of the news you read there and generally being a reliable source of clean copy no matter how frantic deadline is. He continues to write and sell novels and, thanks to his Patreon, has been writing at least one short story a month for the past four-plus years. He continues to be a source of fantastic fiction for his fans, an idol for his son, and an inspiration for me and the rest of the field of science fiction. And, given how fast this man writes, I’m sure there will be plenty to come for many years in the future. Don’t blink or you’ll miss one!

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And now, for archival purposes, my bio from damn near 20 years ago, as written by my old friend Scott Seagroves. [With some updates by me in brackets.]

Bio by Scott Seagroves, December 2000

I remember not being sure if I was hallucinating, or dreaming, or wide awake inside a David Lynch film. There were… shall we say…”mitigating circumstances” that caused the reality of our experiences to come into question. But whatever the ontological status of these stimuli, it certainly appeared that Tim was pumping his SuperSoaker full of air. My God, if he didn’t stop soon the damn thing would pop like bubble-wrap under cleats … and just then he pointed the gun at me. He pulled the trigger — cold, compressed, stale air shot in my eyes. I wish you could’ve heard him as he cackled and squeaked, “Yeah — you don’t like that, do you? That’s REAL!!!!!!”

Tim Pratt was born on 12 December 1976. His mother cooperated with the prosecution during that whole scandal a while back (you know the one) and so is now Cindy Anderson. [She later became Cindy Simpson, and is now back to her own name.] In time for Tim’s formative elementary school years, he and his mother settled near Dudley, NC, where she married Wayne. Soon Tim had a brother, “little” Wayne, and a sister, Jodi.

Tim excelled in elementary school (what the hell did we do in elementary school, anyway, and what does it mean to “excel” at it?). This got him labeled “gifted” — which kids take as an adult word for “weird” — and started him on the fast-track through the meager accelerated programs in the public schools of Wayne County.

We’d known each other since Brogden Primary School, and eventually became very close around age 13. We escaped the morass that was Brogden Junior High, and entered Southern Wayne High School. While the violence there had potentially more devastating consequences, the environment certainly felt less suffocating. Sometime around this transition, it seems that people finally noticed that smart guys weren’t necessarily freaks. So, quickly Tim became the kind of guy who made good grades, had a hot girlfriend, and hung out with a sizeable cadre of friends.

He graduated among the top in his class, fairly certain that writing was to be some part of his future. He moved on to study English at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC.

The stories had, of course, already begun. He had written them in his spare time, or with only a vague notion that what he was doing could legitimately compete with more explicit obligations. But early in his college career he made a conscious commitment to writing as vocation, not avocation. He attended a writing workshop in DC with Orson Scott Card; this intense experience set the stage for serious study of the craft. By the time he graduated (BA, English, 1999) he’d rubbed elbows with several authors of great repute. He paid attention to the business, to the network, to the practical concerns of his future career of choice. After graduating, he attended the prestigious Clarion writers’ workshop.

In college Tim had paid the bills as an assistant in the Dean’s office. After getting his degree, he worked for a while at an antique store. Then he worked in the marketing department at the corporate headquarters of a large hardware-store chain; although he was very good at this, I don’t think he liked advertising very much.

By this time, I’d moved to Santa Cruz, CA, to go to graduate school. Tim felt a bit of wanderlust, and didn’t much care where he went. He just needed to fuel the writer with new experiences. So what the hell, if I’m already out here, why not? In the summer of 2000, Tim moved to Santa Cruz. He took a job doing office work and technical writing with a small local firm.

His record is improving. He no longer submits to the webzines that don’t pay for stories — lately he’s had increasing success with the pro markets. He’s serious about this, folks.

But, despite his commitment to his work, you can still run into us drinking coffee at Pergolesi, or catching a matinee, or thumbing through the used books at Logos, or flirting with the wait staff at, well, just about any Santa Cruz establishment. We have to flirt a lot, to dispel the notion that we’re a couple.

[In 2001 I left Santa Cruz to live in Oakland, where I began working at Locus and moved in with Heather Shaw. We married in 2005, and our son was born in 2007. We relocated a few miles north to Berkeley in spring 2010 so we could give our toddler a yard to play in. And there we stand.]