James Van Pelt

An interviewer asked the author if he wanted to be the next Stephen King: he said, "No, I want to be the first James Van Pelt."

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James Van Pelt fell in love with Zenna Henderson, Ray Bradbury, Ursula le Guin, Robert Heinlein, Anne McCaffrey and a host of others when he started reading. In elementary school, he told his mom he wanted to grow up to be a Ray Bradbury, like Bradbury was a job instead of a person. His work has appeared in Asimov's, Analog, Clarkesworld and many other venues. Stories have been reprinted in Year's Best anthologies and gathered in five of his collections. He has been a finalist for the Nebula, the Sturgeon Award, and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. He recently retired from teaching high school English (37 years), to write full time.

Stories · Posts

Everything's Unlikely

Jan 11, 2019 · 1,516 words (6 minutes) · 1 like

Fantasy Literary Fiction Love Strange

Chance rules our lives. It's true! But it's also true that luck favors the prepared. I found that this is a fun story to read out loud. More people relate to the odd mechanism of suspense in the story than I would have thought. Maybe one of the reasons the story works out loud is that I am gray-haired, have a moustache and gold-rimmed glasses. You'll see why that is relevant if you read the story. JVP

traffic light at yellow
Parallel Highways

Jan 5, 2019 · 5,503 words (21 minutes)

Fantasy Horror

I'm a small-town Colorado kid, so when I went to the LA WorldCon in 1996, the Los Angeles traffic startled me. On the second day, while trying to find my way to Anaheim and the convention, I started thinking about The Flying Dutchman and his poor, cursed crew. "Parallel Highways" rose out of that juxtaposition of traffic and legend. JVP

cars passing through north and south
Eight Words

Dec 28, 2018 · 2,721 words (10 minutes)

Fantasy Horror Literary Fiction Love

Because I’ve written ghost stories, I'm often asked during panels at conventions if I've ever seen a ghost. At first I said that I didn't believe, but inevitably that meant that someone would wait in the hall to earnestly tell me of their encounters with ghosts. Now, I say I don't believe in flying saucers, but I want to see one. To see a flying saucer, an alien spaceship, would open the universe to possibilities that don't seem to exist. Seeing a ghost would do the same thing. JVP

silhouette photo of person standing on door frame

Dec 20, 2018 · 888 words (4 minutes)

Fantasy Horror Literary Fiction Strange

I worried that this story would bother my more Christian friends. No one said anything, but I get the occasional suspicious look. Someone told me once that the way to write a science fiction or fantasy story is to look at who the science fictional or fantastical change impacts the most. What bigger change has occurred in the world that could rival the Christmas story? JVP

moon phot
O Tannenbaum

Dec 16, 2018 · 1,981 words (8 minutes)

Fantasy Love Strange

As a part of my writing group's Christmas celebration, we each wrote a seasonal story for the last meeting of the year. We'd read them aloud while sipping punch and eating cookies. Weird Tales published it in 1998. The math on people's ages in the story isn't accurate for 2018, but in 1998, this story was just possible. It is my favorite of the Christmas stories I wrote. JVP

green Christmas tree hanging decor hang on Christmas tree
Ark Ascension

Dec 8, 2018 · 2,504 words (10 minutes)

Science Fiction

An orbiting habitat fights to keep alive all that made Earth a wonderful place to live before a devastating mutagen darkened its hopes. But life is more than just surviving as this Christmas story shows. JVP

selective focus photography of gray wolf