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[GUEST POST] Ellen Datlow Offers a Peek Behind the Curtain at the KGB Reading Series

Ellen Datlow is an award-winning editor who, along with writer/publisher/editor Matthew Kressel, organizes the monthly KGB Reading series in New York City.

Behind the Scenes at the KGB Reading Series

Matthew Kressel and I co-host the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series and are raising money on Kickstarter to fund the next two years. We use the money to pay each reader a small stipend, tip the bartenders, and buy dinner for the readers and their spouses or partners. If we make more money, that will ensure a longer period between fundraisers.

Fantastic Fiction at KGB is a monthly reading series held on the third Wednesday of every month at the KGB Bar, 85 East Fourth Street in New York City. Terry Bisson and Alice K. Turner started the reading series in the late 1990s, attempting to bring together mainstream writers with writers of speculative fiction in order to show, in Alice’s words, “that at a certain level they were plowing exactly the same field.” As Fiction Editor of Playboy Magazine, Alice had the contacts to do this.

In the spring of 2000 I took over for Alice and in August 2002 Gavin J. Grant, publisher of Small Beer Press, stepped in for Terry when he moved to California. Gavin has co-hosted the series with me for six years, until the commute from Massachusetts (when he started he was living in Brooklyn) became too much.

Matthew Kressel, writer and award-winning editor and publisher of the ‘zine Sybil’s Garage and Paper Cities Press, joined me as co-host in 2008. We confer about scheduling the readers (as far out as we can), sending out word, and organizing the event, and with two people in charge there’s less pressure on any one of us. I usually take the photos, posting post them on my flickr pages. All the readings are recorded by Jim Freund or Gordon Linzner for the Hour of the Wolf radio archives.

The bar itself was founded in 1993 by Denis Woychuk, who explains that “the Ukrainian Labor Home was a social club for Ukrainian socialists. They had a little building at 85 East 4th Street, an obscure red brick tenement (to call it a townhouse would be pushing it), with a single large room on the first floor known as the great hall where they held their banquets, dances, and parties; and above that, hidden away on the second floor, their own private speakeasy” – this became what we now know as the KGB Bar. For the entire history you can go here.

Fantastic Fiction at KGB is only one of the only regular reading series at the bar. Almost every night of the week, other literary events are held: launch parties, readings of nonfiction, poetry, literary magazines. Our main bartender is Dan Christian-he’s congenial, responsive, and efficient (and turns off the music when it’s time for the readings).

A core audience of New Yorkers regularly attend the readings. Usually for specific readers friends, acquaintances, and fans show up. And occasionally we get some tourists. There is no entrance fee and there is no minimum. Everyone’s welcome, so if you happen to be in New York the third Wednesday of the month, 7-9pm come on by and join us.

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.
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