Justin C Key’s “The World Wasn’t Ready For You”

Black horror that cuts with a surgical scalpel.

Cory Doctorow
4 min readSep 19


The cover of the Harpercollins edition of Justin C Key’s ‘The World Wasn’t Ready For You.’

On September 22, I’m (virtually) presenting at the DIG Festival in Modena, Italy. That night, I’ll be in person at LA’s Book Soup for the launch of Justin C Key’s The World Wasn’t Ready for You. On September 27, I’ll be at Chevalier’s Books in Los Angeles with Brian Merchant for a joint launch for my new book The Internet Con and his new book, Blood in the Machine.

The World Wasn’t Ready For You is Justin C Key’s first book. It’s a short story collection, from a major publisher. This is basically unheard of. Big publishers rarely publish collections, and when they do, it’s almost always after a string of extremely successful novels:


Yes, there are exceptions. Ted Chiang. Kelly Link.

And now, Justin C Key. To be in such company is, as they say, a big fucking deal.

I can’t say I’m surprised. Key was my student at the Clarion West writing workshop — a year full of standout writers among whom Key was still a standout. I was immensely impressed with his work then, and when I found out that he was also an MD and a father, a young man juggling an unimaginably intense work and family schedule and still producing this polished, scary, precise work, I knew he could have great things ahead of him.

But to be honest, I wasn’t sure he would write. Key was so obviously brilliant and competent, and had such an important dayjob, that I could easily have imagined him deciding that making up stories was fun, but that it was not nearly so rewarding as his other vocations.

I was wrong — and right. In the years since Clarion, Key’s work has acquired a kind of medical precision. When Key stabs you, the knife slides right between your ribs and goes straight into the big arteries of your heart, slicing you so quickly that you hardly notice until you are slain.

These are all horror stories, though some of them are science fiction too, and more to the point, they’r Black horror stories. In his afterword, Key writes about his early fascination with horror, the catharsis he felt in…



Cory Doctorow

Writer, blogger, activist. Blog: https://pluralistic.net; Mailing list: https://pluralistic.net/plura-list; Mastodon: @pluralistic@mamot.fr