Keith R.A. DeCandido writes novels, including media tie-ins with popular science fiction series, as well as work in universes of his own creation. He also writes comic books, short stories, vignettes, game modules, and nonfiction, including blogs for Tor.com. Writing isn’t his only interest, though. He also performs as a musician and voice actor, and teaches karate to kids.
In 2021, Icarus: The Longest Fall, a graphic novel DeCandido scripted, won the Silver Benjamin Franklin Award from the Independent Book Sellers Association. He also won the 2018 Scribe Award for Best Short Story from the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers for his story in the anthology Joe Ledger: Unstoppable, and the IAMTW also presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.
Daily Dragon (DD): Keith, why did you start writing, and what was your first publication?
Keith R.A. DeCandido (KRAD): I like to joke that I was raised by a pack of feral librarians, which is only a slight exaggeration. Reading and books were a part of my life pretty much from the time I was born, and I can never remember a time when I didn’t want to be one of the people who made the stories that I loved.
My first publications were in high school, writing for the school newspaper, which I continued to do into college. My first professional publications consisted of reviews and articles for both Library Journal and The Comics Journal in 1989 and 1990. My first professional fiction was a collaborative short story in 1994 for the anthology The Ultimate Spider-Man called “An Evening in the Bronx with Venom,” which I wrote with John Gregory Betancourt.
DD: You write a great many short stories. What draws you to the form?
KRAD: I like to write stories, and some stories don’t require a novel’s length. I’ve written stories of all kinds of lengths: drabbles, flash fiction, short stories, novelettes, novellas, and novels. But I don’t have any particular preference for length, I just go where the story takes me, as it were.
DD: In addition to writing for anthologies, you edit them from time to time. How did you get into editing?
KRAD: I actually started out professionally as an editor. In addition to writing for my college paper, I was also the arts editor, and later the executive editor. I knew I wouldn’t be able to make a living as a writer right out of the gate, so my day jobs out of college were as an editor, first for Library Journal, then for the late book packager Byron Preiss. My first anthology editing work was done for Byron, and I really enjoyed putting them together. I wound up doing it on my own outside of Byron’s aegis as well, first with OtherWere: Stories of Transformation, which I edited with Laura Anne Gilman in 1996, and moving on to anthologies in the worlds of Star Trek and Doctor Who. In particular, I’m proud to say that my 2004 Trek anthology Tales of the Dominion War is still selling well almost twenty years later.
Most recently, I co-edited two anthologies for 2023 release. One was for the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers called Double Trouble: An Anthology of Two-Fisted Team-Ups, which I co-edited with Jonathan Maberry, and which features team-ups of classic characters. The other is the inaugural publication of a new very small press that my wife Wrenn Simms and I started, WhysperWude; the anthology is called The Four ???? of the Apocalypse, and features alternate takes on the biblical horsemen.
DD You write a series of novels called the Precinct books. What’s the concept of this series, and what inspired it?
KRAD: It’s a mix of epic fantasy and police procedure. The setting is a classic sword-and-sorcery medieval high fantasy setting, with humans, elves, dwarves, gnomes, and wizards and such, but the plots are all about cops who solve crimes. It was inspired by my long-time love of both genres. I grew up reading Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Le Guin’s Earthsea trilogy and the like, and I also grew up watching [classic TV cop shows], and I’ve become quite the student of police procedure.
DD: You’ve also written graphic novels, and you have an essay in the recently released The Man Who Laughs: Exploring the Clown Prince of Crime, an anthology about the Joker. Did you grow up reading comic books?
KRAD: Oh yes. I started reading comics—mostly Marvel superheroes—in the early 1980s, which was a great time to get into superhero comics. That was the heyday of writers like Chris Claremont, J.M. DeMatteis, Roger Stern, Denny O’Neil, John Byrne, Frank Miller, Ann Nocenti, Louise Simonson, Walt Simonson, Marv Wolfman, and more.
DD: What inspired you to write about the Joker?
KRAD: When Lou Tambone and Rich Handley approached me about contributing to The Man Who Laughs, I immediately gravitated to the 2019 movie with Joaquin Phoenix. There was a large part of that movie that was very obviously inspired by the Bernhard Goetz subway shooting in New York in 1984, which was around when that movie took place, time-wise. I had wanted to do an in-depth examination of the movie’s use of that major event in New York history as a template, and was grateful to Lou and Rich for giving me a forum to do so.
DD: You’ve also written for roleplaying game modules. Do you play a lot, and if so, which games would you recommend for advanced players, or for beginners?
KRAD: I used to game a lot, throughout high school, college, and my early twenties. Alas, I have not had the time to do so lately, as I just don’t have the free time to devote to it. I miss it. I don’t have any specific recommendations, mostly because the game you play is significantly less relevant than the quality of your Game Master. If you have a good GM, then it’ll be a good experience regardless of what game you’re playing. And if your GM sucks, then it doesn’t matter what game you’re playing, either….
DD: Your Wikipedia page says you coproduced and cohosted a public-access cable TV science fiction program, The Chronic Rift, some years back. Does that experience carry over into your present creative activities?
KRAD: To some extent, mostly insofar as a lot of the early contacts I made in the science fiction and comics business were made when I was part of the staff of the Rift. Indeed, I owe my job at Byron Preiss to working on the Rift, as the editor who hired me—the aforementioned John Betancourt—first met me as a guest on our show.
DD: You’ve contributed to three different Sherlock Holmes anthologies, with more to come. What draws you to Holmes?
KRAD: I love writing mysteries—it’s not a coincidence that so much of my fiction has involved detectives of some form or other, whether members of police forces or more private detective types. And Holmes is the original great detective, and I also really enjoy writing people who are very good at their jobs and revel in their competence, as it were. Holmes’s ability to cut through the nonsense and burn away irrelevancies until the truth is revealed makes him a very compelling character, both to read and to write.
DD: You scripted Icarus: The Longest Fall, but Gregory A. Wilson is credited as the writer, with you as scripter. For those of us who don’t know how such an arrangement works, will you explain?
KRAD: Icarus was originally a novel that Greg wrote. He decided to have it adapted into a graphic novel, but Greg had never written any comics before, and so I was tapped to turn the prose work into a comics script.
DD: Please tell us what you do for Tor.com and how you came to participate in their site.
KRAD: It all started back in 2011 when they had finished a Star Trek rewatch, and the authors involved—Dayton Ward and David Mack—didn’t have the time to devote to the much greater commitment of doing the same for the follow-up show, which had many more episodes to cover. They recommended me.
In the dozen years since, I’ve become a prolific contributor to the site, writing primarily about Star Trek, but also writing a great deal about screen adaptations of superhero comics, and also other bits of pop-culture prognostications here and there. My main gigs for them are rewatches of the classic shows, and since 2017, I’ve been reviewing the new shows as new episodes are released for the site. I’ve also done a comprehensive rewatch of every live-action movie based on a superhero comic, which I update periodically as new movies are released.
DD: When did you first begin writing and performing music?
KRAD: I’ve written very little music—just a couple of songs here and there—but I first started playing in college. Every Wednesday night at Fordham University in one of the dorm lounges there was a Musician’s Coffeehouse, which consisted of a bunch of musicians just jamming. I originally went as a spectator, but one of the participants was a percussionist named Sean O’Heir. He started lending me some of his percussion, and I really took to it. Eventually, I bought some percussion bits of my own—I even accompanied the band at my first wedding on a few songs—and later on helped form a band. The Don’t Quit Your Day Job Players grew out of a few of us who did jam sessions at room parties at conventions in the 1990s, and we released two CDs and did a ton of concerts at clubs, conventions, and county fairs until we broke up in 2000. Since 2006, I’ve been part of a parody band called Boogie Knights.
DD: You’re teaching a practical self-defense workshop at Dragon Con this year, and your bio says you’re a fourth-degree black belt. How long have you been studying martial arts, and why did you decide to offer this workshop?
KRAD: I’ve been studying martial arts for almost two decades now. Since I got my first-degree black belt in 2009, I’ve also done a lot of teaching, both in our dojo and elsewhere. In 2014, I started teaching an afterschool program here in New York, which I’ve done since (though there was a COVID-induced hiatus between February 2020 and September 2021). I first proposed the notion of a practical self-defense workshop to Dragon Con in 2013, and I’ve done it every year since (excepting 2016, when I had to skip the convention due to an unplanned move, and 2020, when there was no in-person convention). It’s just showing some basic techniques that anybody can do to defend oneself against a physical assault. It’s not a common occurrence, but the number of such is greater than zero, and it’s better for folks to be prepared, just in case.
DD: What would be a good starting point for someone interested in exploring your work?
KRAD: Well, for my media tie-in work, it would be whichever one of them you’re a fan of. For my original work, I’d recommend Dragon Precinct for the time being, as that’s the start of a long-running series, though I’m hoping to have news of a new publishing deal that will be a great place to start reading me…
DD: Thanks for your time.
KRAD: You’re very welcome! Dragon Con is one of my favorite conventions, and I’ve been attending it on and off for 25 years now (1998 was my first), and it’s a true pleasure to talk to the Daily Dragon.
For more information about Keith and his work, visit:
Web site: http://www.DeCandido.net
Facebook: http://facebook.com/kradec (personal), http://facebook.com/KeithRADeCandido (fan page)