Portable Childhoods

Introduction by Neil Gaiman
Tachyon Publications, San Francisco, 2007.

Emerging from a unique and powerful voice, this innovative collection offers a tantalizing glimpse of what lies hidden just beyond the ordinary, skirting the border between childhood and adulthood. Mysticism, heroism, cruelty, and compassion thread through these multifaceted tales — which range from the origins of the Manhattan Project to a culinary object-lesson, from 1950s corruption to a slight glitch in Creation. Collected here for the first time and including an excerpt from her breakout first novel The Green Glass Sea, and an introduction from Neil Gaiman, these stories are timeless and delightful, chilling and beautiful.

Awards & Achievements

  • Finalist, William Crawford Award
  • Finalist, World Fantasy Award


Klages demonstrates both superior writing skill and a wide range in an impressive short story collection that defies easy categorization. The 16 selections, three of which are original to the volume, include moving mainstream tales of human relationships, as well as fantasy and science fiction. The author is equally adept at short, twisty narratives that make the most of premises that could be gimmicks in lesser hands. This collection will linger in the memory long after reading.

Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

Klages’ stories contain marvels–small, strange things lurking on the edges of normal life. She creates wonder-filled and beautiful worlds in her short stories, making this a tremendously satisfying collection.


Ellen Klages is the kind of sf writer that comes along about once a decade and her stories make an impression when you read them, infused with Bradbury-like nostalgia. Her recurring young girl characters are clearly some version of her own childhood, studious and funny, a little introverted and enchanted with the world.

These stories are mostly very short — half the stories in the book run just a few pages — and the very short ones have the feel of the best of the golden age of science fiction, But the real treasures are the handful of longer stories, some so sweet and perfect that I want to read them again and again.

—Cory Doctorow, on Boing Boing

Ellen Klages is a simply wonderful writer. Her prose has been polished until it glimmers, with a genuine warmth that adds tension to the darkness that often lies beneath. I find it odd that she is considered a genre writer. There are fantasy and SF elements in many of these stories, but as many are simply great *stories*. People outside of F & SF need to know about Ellen Klages; she’s the genuine article.

—Steven Boyett