Caitlín R. Kiernan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Caitlín R. Kiernan
Kiernan in 2011
Kiernan in 2011
Born26 May 1964 (1964-05-26) (age 59)
Skerries, Ireland
Pen nameKathleen Tierney
OccupationWriter, paleontologist
GenreScience fiction, dark fantasy, weird fiction
Notable worksSilk; Threshold; Alabaster; The Red Tree; The Drowning Girl

Caitlín Rebekah Kiernan (born 26 May 1964)[1] is an Irish-born American paleontologist and writer of science fiction and dark fantasy works, including 10 novels, series of comic books, and more than 250 published short stories, novellas, and vignettes. Kiernan is a two-time recipient of both the World Fantasy and Bram Stoker awards.

Early life[edit]

Kiernan in 2001

Kiernan was born in 1964 in Skerries, County Dublin, Ireland. After the death of their father, Kiernan moved to the United States as a young child with their mother[2] Susan Ramey Cleveland and younger sister Mary Angela (Máire Aingeal). Much of their childhood was spent in the small town of Leeds, Alabama, and early interests included herpetology, paleontology, and fiction writing. As a teenager, Kiernan lived in Trussville, Alabama, and, in high school, began doing volunteer work at the Red Mountain Museum in Birmingham, Alabama and spending summers on their first archaeological and paleontological digs.

Kiernan attended college at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham–Southern College, and the University of Colorado at Boulder, studying geology and vertebrate paleontology,[2] and held both museum and teaching positions before finally turning to fiction writing in 1992.



In 1984, Kiernan co-founded the Birmingham Paleontological Society. In 1988, they co-authored a paper describing the new genus and species of mosasaur, Selmasaurus russelli.[3][4] More recent papers include one on the biostratigraphy of Alabama mosasaurs, published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (2002) and "First record of a velociraptorine theropod (Tetanurae, Dromaeosauridae) from the Eastern Gulf Coastal United States" (2004).

As of 2019, Kiernan is a research associate and fossil preparator at McWane Science Center in Birmingham, Alabama, again studying mosasaurs, as well as Cretaceous turtles. In 2020, they coauthored on a paper describing a new large fossil sea turtle, Asmodochelys parhami, from the Demopolis Chalk of Alabama.[5] In 2021, Kiernan also joined the staff of the University of Alabama Museum, Department of Research and Collections, as a Research Associate in Vertebrate Paleontology.[6] In 2022, they coauthored the description of a new giant freshwater turtle from the Late Cretaceous Mooreville Chalk of Alabama, Appalachemys ebersolei, a previously unknown macrobaenid with a shell more than 80 length.[7] In 2023, they were the senior author on a paper describing two new species of the rare mosasaur Ectenosaurus, E. tlemonectes and E. shannoni, from the Niobrara and Mooreville formations of Kansas and Alabama, respectively.[8]

Kiernan has been a member of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology since 1984 and is a member of the Paleontological Society and the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. At various times, they have been a member of the Alabama Academy of Science, Sigma Xi, the Society of Sedimentary Geology, and the Paleontological Research Institution.[9]

Novels, short fiction, and comics[edit]

Kiernan in 2018, Providence, Rhode Island

Kiernan's first novel, The Five of Cups, was written between June 1992 and early 1993, though it was not published until 2003. Their first published short story was "Persephone", a dark science fiction tale released in 1995. Their first published novel, Silk, was released in 1998.

Kiernan's short fiction was selected for Year's Best Fantasy and Horror series, The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, and The Year's Best Science Fiction, and their short stories have been collected in several volumes (see Bibliography). To date, Kiernan's work has been translated into German, Italian, Chinese, French, Turkish, Spanish, Portuguese, Finnish, Czech, Polish, Russian, Korean, and Japanese.

Kiernan was approached by writer Neil Gaiman and editors at Vertigo Comics to write for The Dreaming, a spin-off from Gaiman's The Sandman, and did so from 1996 until its conclusion in 2001, focusing on both pre-existing characters (the Corinthian, Cain and Abel, Lucien, Nuala, Morpheus, Thessaly, etc.) and creating new characters (Echo, Maddy, the white dream raven Tethys, etc.).[10] They wrote the novelization for the 2007 Beowulf film (scripted by Gaiman and Roger Avary). Kiernan later scripted Alabaster: Wolves (2012) for Dark Horse Comics, continuing with Alabaster: Grimmer Tales (2013) and Alabaster: The Good, the Bad, and the Bird (2014).

Film and screenwriting[edit]

Josh Boone's Mid-World Productions has optioned both The Red Tree and The Drowning Girl to develop into feature films. Kiernan is writing the screenplay for The Red Tree, and Boone will be writing The Drowning Girl. Kiernan stated, "A few people have asked questions about the films and preserving the queerness of the novels. This is something you do not have to worry about. Also, though no details can be released yet and nothing is certain, the hope is that we can cast a transgender actress as Abalyn Armitage."[11]

Style and genre[edit]

Kiernan's blog states:

I'm getting tired of telling people that I'm not a 'horror' writer. I'm getting tired of them not listening, or not believing. Most of them seem suspicious of my motives.[12]

I've never tried to fool anyone. I've said I don't write genre 'horror.' A million, billion times have I said that.[13]

It's not that there are not strong elements of horror present in a lot of my writing. It's that horror never predominates those works. You may as well call it psychological fiction or awe fiction. I don't think of horror as a genre. I think of it – to paraphrase Doug Winter – as an emotion, and no one emotion will ever characterize my fiction.[14]

Much of Kiernan's earlier work, such as Silk, is set among or alludes to the aesthetics of the goth and punk rock subcultures, elements which are generally absent in their later novels.

Kiernan has also stated, regarding the role of plot in creative writing: "anyone can come up with the artifice/conceit of a 'good story.' Story bores me. Which is why critics complain it's the weakest aspect of my work. Because that's essentially purposeful. I have no real interest in plot. Atmosphere, mood, language, character, theme, etc., that's the stuff that fascinates me. Ulysses should have freed writers from plot."[15]

In his review of The Red Tree, H. P. Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi writes: "Kiernan already ranks with the most distinctive stylists in our field – Edgar Allan Poe, Lord Dunsany, Thomas Ligotti. With Ligotti's regrettable retreat into fictional silence, hers is now the voice of weird fiction."[16] In their introduction to The Weird, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer write that Kiernan has "become perhaps the best weird writer of her generation."[17]


In 1996 and 1997, Kiernan fronted an Athens, Georgia-based "goth-folk-blues band", Death's Little Sister,[18] named for Neil Gaiman's character Delirium. They were the band's vocalist and lyricist, and the group enjoyed some success on local college radio and played shows in Athens and Atlanta. Other members included Barry Dillard (guitars), Michael Graves (bass), and Shelly Ross (keyboards). Kiernan left the band in February 1997 because of their increased responsibilities writing for DC Comics and because Silk had recently sold.[citation needed] They were briefly involved in Crimson Stain Mystery, a studio project, two years later, which produced one EP to accompany a special limited edition of Silk, illustrated by Clive Barker (Gauntlet Press, 2000).


In December 2005, Kiernan began publishing the monthly Sirenia Digest[19] (otherwise known as MerViSS) consisting of vignettes and short stories: "The MerViSS Project is a continuation of Kiernan's exploration of the fusion of erotic literature with elements of dark fantasy and science fiction, creating brief, dreamlike fictions." It is illustrated by Vince Locke. The digest includes the occasional collaboration with Sonya Taaffe.


The Caitlín R. Kiernan Papers at the John Hay Library at Brown University consist of twenty-three linear feet of manuscript materials, including correspondence, journals, manuscripts, and publications, circa 1970–2017, in print, electronic, and web-based formats, as well as their first computer and other artifacts of their career. Additions to the collection are regularly made by the author. In 2017, a formal reception was held at the Hay Library to announce the collection and to unveil "Caitlín R. Kiernan Papers @ Brown University Library", an exhibit based on them.[20]

Personal life[edit]

In their twenties, Kiernan identified as transgender and transitioned to female,[21] further identifying as lesbian.[22] In 2020, Kiernan stated, "I no longer consider myself transgender (or transsexual). I would say that I'm gender fluid, if I had to say anything", explaining that this was not a recognized option in the 1980s.[21] They added that male or female pronouns do not offend them, but prefer "they, them, and their".[21]

Kiernan identifies as an atheist.[23] Politically, they have described themself as a classical liberal.[24]

Kiernan lives in Birmingham, Alabama,[2] with photographer and doll maker Kathryn A. Pollnac.[25]



Nominated (partial list)[edit]

  • Bram Stoker Award 1995, Best Short Story ("Persephone")
  • Bram Stoker Award, Best First Novel 1998 (Silk)
  • British Fantasy Award, Best First Novel 1998 (Silk)
  • Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Award, Best Graphic Novel 1998 (The Girl Who Would Be Death)
  • International Horror Guild Award, Best Collection (Tales of Pain and Wonder)
  • Bram Stoker Award, Best Graphic Novel 2001 (The Dreaming No. 56, "The First Adventure of Miss Caterina Poe")
  • International Horror Guild Award, Best Graphic Novel 2001 (The Dreaming No. 56, "The First Adventure of Miss Caterina Poe")
  • International Horror Guild Award, Best Short Form 2002 ("The Road of Pins")
  • International Horror Guild Award, Best Collection 2005 (To Charles Fort, With Love)
  • World Fantasy Award 2006, Best Collection 2005 (To Charles Fort, With Love)
  • World Fantasy Award 2006, Best Short Fiction 2005 ("La Peau Verte")
  • International Horror Guild Award, Best Mid-Length Fiction 2006 ("Bainbridge")
  • Locus Award 2010 (40th Annual), Best Fantasy Novel (The Red Tree)
  • Locus Award 2010 (40th Annual), Best Collection (A is for Alien)
  • Shirley Jackson Award (3rd Annual, 2010), Best Novel (The Red Tree)
  • World Fantasy Award 2010, Best Novel (The Red Tree)
  • Shirley Jackson Award (4th Annual, 2011), Best Short Story ("As Red as Red")
  • World Fantasy Award 2011, Best Collection 2010 (The Ammonite Violin & Others)
  • Bram Stoker Award 2011, Best Collection (Two Worlds and in Between: The Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan, Volume 1)
  • Bram Stoker Award 2011, Best Long Fiction ("The Collier's Venus [1893]")
  • Locus Award 2012, Best Collection (Two Worlds and in Between: The Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan, Volume 1)
  • World Fantasy Award 2012, Best Collection (Two Worlds and in Between: The Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan, Volume 1)
  • Nebula Award 2012, Best Novel (The Drowning Girl: A Memoir)[27]
  • British Fantasy Award 2012, Best Fantasy Novel (The Drowning Girl: A Memoir)
  • World Fantasy Award 2012, Best Novel (The Drowning Girl: A Memoir)
  • Mythopoeic Award 2012, Adult Literature (The Drowning Girl: A Memoir)
  • Shirley Jackson Award 2012, Best Novel (The Drowning Girl: A Memoir)
  • Bram Stoker Award 2013, Fiction Collection (The Ape's Wife and Other Stories)
  • World Fantasy Award 2014, Best Novella (Black Helicopters)
  • World Fantasy Award 2014, Best Short Story ("The Prayer of Ninety Cats")
  • World Fantasy Award 2014, Best Collection (The Ape's Wife and Other Stories)
  • Bram Stoker Award 2017, Long Fiction (Agents of Dreamland)
  • Locus Award 2018, Best Novella (Agents of Dreamland)
  • Locus Award 2019, Best Collection (The Dinosaur Tourist)
  • Locus Award 2019, Best Novella (Black Helicopters)
  • Locus Award 2020, Best Collection (The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan)



  • Silk, Penguin-Putnam, 1998, ISBN 978-0-451-45668-7 (1999, Gauntlet Press)
  • Threshold (2001, Penguin-Putnam) ISBN 9780451461247
  • The Five of Cups, Subterranean Press, 2003, ISBN 978-1-931081-80-1
  • Low Red Moon, Penguin-Putnam, 2003, ISBN 978-1-931081-84-9
  • Murder of Angels, Penguin-Putnam, 2004, ISBN 0-451-45996-2
  • Daughter of Hounds, Penguin-Putnam, 2007, ISBN 978-0-451-46157-5
  • Beowulf (2007; HarperCollins; novelisation of 2007 film) ISBN 9780061543388
  • The Red Tree (2009; Penguin-Putnam) ISBN 9780451463500
  • The Drowning Girl: A Memoir (March 2012; Penguin-Putnam) ISBN 9780451464163
  • Blood Oranges (writing as Kathleen Tierney; February 2013, Penguin-Putnam) ISBN 9780451465016
  • Red Delicious (writing as Kathleen Tierney; 2014, Penguin-Putnam) ISBN 9780451416537
  • Cherry Bomb (writing as Kathleen Tierney; 2015, Penguin-Putnam) ISBN 9780451416551
  • Agents of Dreamland (2017; Tor) ISBN 0765394324
  • Black Helicopters (2018; Tor) ISBN 1250191130
  • La Belle Fleur Sauvage (2020; Dark Regions Press) ISBN 9781626412873
  • The Tindalos Asset (2020; Tor) ISBN 9781250191151

Short fiction collections[edit]

  • Tales of Pain and Wonder (2000, Gauntlet Press; 2002, Meisha Merlin; 2008, Subterranean Press; 2016, PS Publishing)
  • Wrong Things (with Poppy Z. Brite; 2001; Subterranean Press)
  • From Weird and Distant Shores (2002 & 2022; Subterranean Press)
  • To Charles Fort, With Love (2005; Subterranean Press; 2018, PS Publishing)
  • Alabaster (2006; Subterranean Press; illustrated by Ted Naifeh; reissued by Dark Horse Comics, February 2014, as Alabaster: Pale Horse)
  • A is for Alien (2009; Subterranean Press; illustrated by Vince Locke; 2015, PS Publishing)
  • The Ammonite Violin & Others (2010; Subterranean Press; 2018, PS Publishing)
  • Two Worlds and in Between: The Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan (Volume One) (2011; Subterranean Press)
  • Confessions of a Five-Chambered Heart (2012; Subterranean Press)
  • The Ape's Wife and Other Stories (2013; Subterranean Press)
  • Beneath an Oil-Dark Sea: The Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan (Volume Two) (2015; Subterranean Press)
  • Dear Sweet Filthy World (2017; Subterranean Press)
  • Houses Under the Sea: Mythos Tales (2018; Centipede Press; reissued by Subterranean Press, September 2019)
  • The Dinosaur Tourist (2018; Subterranean Press)
  • The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan (2019; Tachyon Publications)
  • A Little Yellow Book of Fever Dreams (2019; Borderlands Press)
  • Comes a Pale Rider (2020; Subterranean Press)
  • Vile Affections (2021; Subterranean Press)
  • Cambrian Tales: Juvenilia (2021, Subterranean Press)
  • The Variegated Alphabet (2021; Subterranean Press)
  • Bradbury Weather (2024; Subterranean Press)
  • Bright Dead Star (2025; Subterranean Press, forthcoming)


  1. ^ greygirlbeast (26 May 2018). "23". Postcards from the Red Room. Archived from the original on 28 October 2020. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Guillermo del Toro, ed. (2013). American Supernatural Tales. New York: Penguin USA. p. 354. ISBN 9781101662755.
  3. ^ "Caitlin R. Kiernan". Encyclopedia of Alabama. 21 September 2016. Archived from the original on 16 May 2019. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  4. ^ "Caitlin R. Kiernan's researcher profile". ResearchGate. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  5. ^ Gentry, Andrew D.; Ebersole, Jun A.; Kiernan, Caitlin R. (2019). "Asmodochelys parhami, a new fossil marine turtle from the Campanian Demopolis Chalk and the stratigraphic congruence of competing marine turtle phylogenies". Royal Society Open Science. 6 (12): 191950. Bibcode:2019RSOS....691950G. doi:10.1098/rsos.191950. PMC 6936288. PMID 31903219.
  6. ^ "Staff Directory – Research & Collections". Archived from the original on 30 March 2023. Retrieved 11 March 2023.
  7. ^ Gentry, Andrew D.; Kiernan, Caitlín R.; Parham, James F. (19 August 2022). "A large non-marine turtle from the Upper Cretaceous of Alabama and a review of North American "Macrobaenids"". The Anatomical Record. 306 (6): 1411–1430. doi:10.1002/ar.25054. PMID 37158131. S2CID 251698645. Archived from the original on 19 August 2022. Retrieved 19 August 2022.
  8. ^ Kiernan, Caitlin R.; Ebersole, Jun A. (2023). "Two new plioplatecarpine mosasaurs (Mosasauridae; Plioplatecarpinae) of the genus Ectenosaurus from the Upper Cretaceous of North America". Paleobios. 40 (13). doi:10.5070/P9401362375. S2CID 264473243. Archived from the original on 28 October 2023. Retrieved 24 October 2023.
  9. ^ ".Paleontology and I". 6 January 2013. Archived from the original on 31 October 2020. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  10. ^ Irvine, Alex (2008). "The Dreaming". In Dougall, Alastair (ed.). The Vertigo Encyclopedia. New York: Dorling Kindersley. pp. 64–65. ISBN 978-0-7566-4122-1. OCLC 213309015.
  11. ^ greygirlbeast (25 July 2015). " the late night double-feature picture show". Archived from the original on 1 August 2015.
  12. ^ Kiernan, Caitlín R. (3 February 2002). "Chapter Two proceeds apace". Low Red Moon journal. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 18 May 2007.
  13. ^ Kiernan, Caitlín R. (24 July 2013). "It's a death trap. It's a suicide rap". Dear Sweet Filthy World. Archived from the original on 7 May 2015. Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  14. ^ VanderMeer, Jeff (12 March 2012). "Interview: Caitlín R. Kiernan on Weird Fiction". Deep time is critical... Weird Fiction Review. Archived from the original on 2 November 2022. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
  15. ^ greygirlbeast (30 November 2013). "Howard Hughes and the End of November". Archived from the original on 7 May 2015.
  16. ^ Dead Reckonings (No. 6, Volume 2009, pp. 28–30)
  17. ^ The Weird (Atlantic Books Ltd., 2011, p. xix)
  18. ^ "Musical projects". Archived from the original on 28 March 2006. Retrieved 22 March 2006.
  19. ^ Kiernan, Caitlín R. "sirenia". Archived from the original on 15 May 2007. Retrieved 18 May 2007.
  20. ^ "H.P. Lovecraft on the Road & Caitlín R. Kiernan Papers", official blog, Brown University Library, 11 August 2017, archived from the original on 30 August 2017, retrieved 29 August 2017
  21. ^ a b c greygirlbeast (30 April 2020). "sentient globs of plesiomorphies". Dear Sweet Filthy World. Archived from the original on 23 October 2020. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
  22. ^ greygirlbeast (21 May 2012). "And barefoot in the shallow creek, I grabbed some stones from underneath". Archived from the original on 7 May 2015.
  23. ^ ""When this world has failed me, give me strength and heal my soul..." (62)". October 2022. Archived from the original on 2 October 2022. Retrieved 2 October 2022.
  24. ^ "They Can't All Be Winners (193)". 9 February 2023. Archived from the original on 11 February 2023. Retrieved 11 March 2023.
  25. ^ Caitlín R. Kiernan's MySpace page Archived 11 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine accessed 29 March 2007.
  26. ^ "The 2013 Bram Stoker Awards Winners". Archived from the original on 19 April 2016. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  27. ^ 2012 Nebula Awards Nominees Announced, SFWA, 20 February 2013, archived from the original on 4 July 2017, retrieved 14 March 2013

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Gregory Norman Bossert
World Fantasy Award—Short Fiction winner
Succeeded by