Alex Kingsley is a writer, comedian, and game designer. They are a cofounder of the new media company Strong Branch Productions, and the creator of sci-fi comedy podcast The Stench of Adventure. They are the author of The Strange Garden and Other Weird Tales, and their fiction has appeared in Radon Journal, Translunar Travelers Lounge, The Storage Papers, and more.
I wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. When I was a little kid, I would spend every recess at school sitting on the swing set thinking up stories. The very day I got a word processor of my own, I started writing, and I’m pretty sure I’ve written every day since. I knew that I wanted to write sci-fi when I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at eleven years old and became fixated on it. I’ve branched out a lot since then, but sci-fi comedy will always be my first love. I wrote a lot of pieces that never saw the light of day – two seasons of a sci-fi comedy audio drama that were never recorded, three novels that I hope no one ever reads, a full-length play that only saw one production, etc.
I saw a lot of rejection for a long time before anything started to come together for me. My first published piece was a short horror-comedy story called “The Strange Garden,” which came out in Sci-Fi Lampoon in 2021. I was elated. Shortly after, my sci-fi one-act play “The Bearer of Bad News” was professionally produced by the Annenberg Foundation.
I mainly write in science fiction and fantasy, though I like to include elements of horror, comedy, and magical realism. The thing that draws me to science fiction is imagining new and hopeful futures for ourselves. The thing that draws me to fantasy is the ability to build a new reality from the ground up, and question our base assumptions about how life works. The thing that draws me to horror is the ability to explore and come to terms with my fears in a safe environment. And the thing that draws me to comedy is, I mean, who doesn’t like to laugh? You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t like comedy.
Everything! These days I mostly write novels (my debut novel will be released in Fall 2024!) but I’ve written a lot of short fiction. I write drama as well (I majored in theater) and I’ve had two plays produced. I also write audio drama! (my biggest hit is the sci-fi comedy podcast The Stench of Adventure) I even write tabletop games, which you can find on my Itch.io page, and book reviews with Ancillary Review of Books.
I am always on the lookout of seeds of inspiration. Whether it’s a snippet of an overheard conversation, a squirrel I saw fighting with a pigeon, or a weird dream I had, anything can be mined for story material. I ask myself, “what does this idea want to be? A novel? A stageplay? A podcast?” I take my best guess, and do some freewriting to feel it out. Does this result in tons and tons of unfinished pieces? Absolutely. But it also results in lots of interesting stuff that I never would have come up with if I just sat at my computer and thought “what should I write about today?”
The freedom. I can say, “hey, I wish there was a story where xy&z happened” and then I can turn around and create that story! It’s also a great form of personal entertainment, honestly. Long commute? I put on some music and play with my character like dolls in my head. I think I’ve developed some of my best moments that way. It’s just very cool to be able to create literally whatever you want. And seeing it animated is a really incredible experience – I’m like, hey, that came from my brain!
The voices in your head will tell you that you’re not a “real writer,” and that you’ll never make it. Don’t believe them! Everyone can be a writer if they put in the work. You can take your success into your own hands. Don’t rely on gatekeepers to tell you whether or not your work is “good enough.” Share it with friends. Get feedback. Self-publish. Get your work in front of other people’s eyes, and if you’re willing to learn from their feedback, you’ll improve, and the most important thing for a writer is that you keep growing and keep writing.
Write something that excites you. If you’re into it, then chances are, someone out there will be into it too.
In my experience, the main cause of writer’s block is fear of failure. Your brain is telling you, “I can’t write because hey, what if it sucks?” The solution to that is simple: give yourself permission to suck. Every first draft is gonna suck at least a little bit – or maybe a lot! But if you let that fear paralyze you, you won’t write anything, and writing something that sucks is ALWAYS better than not writing anything at all. Let yourself write a horrible first draft and know that you can come back later and make it better. Writing is an iterative process – you’re not going to strike gold on your first try.
As a theater maker, podcast creator, and game designer, I’m really interested in the expansive possibilities of new media. Storia is exciting to me because of the innovative way it combines multiple art forms. I believe that platforms like Storiaverse are the future of storytelling. The more media we create, the more ways we’ll find interesting and unique ways to combine mediums.
The most recent story I wrote for Storiaverse was “Vibrant Funeral.” I came up with the concept of this story when I read The Sign of the Labrys by Margret St. Clair, in which a toxic yeast infects and kills most of the population. I have always loved mushrooms, because they represent something fascinating to me: beauty (and whimsy!) in death. Fungus means rot and decay, but it also means life, and often colorful life full of different textures and flavors. This contradiction – as well as the sheer variety of mushrooms – is what spurred me to become an “amateur mycologist.” I wanted to write a story that encapsulated that juxtaposition: a future that is so utopian it seduces the protagonist, but with a morbid underbelly.
I love it when artists uplift each other. I am so thankful to have animators doing an incredible job bringing my stories to life – and I hope that those animators enjoyed working on my stories!
Super important. Consciously or not, what we see represented in media is often what we accept as the norm in real life. That means when audiences see media that is predominantly cishet and white, that is culturally established as the norm of human existence. We need to change that. There is infinite variety to the human experience, and that variety should be captured in the art that we consume. Every person in the world should have characters they can point to and say, “hey, they’re like me.”