Bearded Women

Welcome to the contemporary Freak Show. A woman trying to have a child has a parasitic twin, an extra lower torso, and set of legs named Bianca—should she have “Bianca’s Body” removed to improve her chances at conception? A bearded lady considers coming out of the closet about her hirsute nature, while carrying on a battle of wills with an overeating patron in “Mr. Chicken.” A woman with four ears gets a chance to make extra money as the mascot of a tattoo parlour, and encounters a middle-aged, cookie-baking stalker who believes she is a sign that the end of the world is nigh. Meet the “freaks”—they’re mothers, wives, and lovers: all of them trying negotiate a world that is quicker to stare than sympathize.

Monstrous Affections

This collection of short stories won the Black Quill Award, Best Dark Genre Collection (2010).

A young bride and her future mother-in-law risk everything to escape it.
A repentant father summons help from a pot of tar to ensure it.
A starving woman learns from howling winds and a whispering host, just how fulfilling it can finally be.

Can it be love?


Playing Solitaire and Other Stories

Three outstanding pieces of short fiction from award-winning science fiction and fantasy author Mark Shainblum, collected for the first time!

Playing Solitaire
Rachel Steinberg was just a nice Jewish girl from suburban Montreal. She was never really Solitaire. She never asked for superhuman powers, nor the relentless, grinding cycle of violence and alienation that came with them. Rachel allowed herself a glimmer of hope when Carl said he loved her, when he swore up and down that her secrets didn’t scare him. But that was before he saw her glowing like the north star, before he ran in terror just like everyone before him.

Probably not the ideal moment for an omnipotent, 3000-year-old evil slumbering under the Island of Montreal to awaken and wonder what it should do first.

The Art of Solitude®
Mary-Ann became desperate when her history-player boyfriend took up bartending. Nobody with a scintilla of self-respect drank alcohol anymore, it was just so… so… industrial. Not only was Quent turning their dogs into alcoholics and their apartment into a seedy dive, he was getting in the way of her art. Something had to give, and in this case, it was the laws of physics. Mary-Ann purchased a top-of-the-line Solitude® fold-heart, and retreated to her own private universe to paint in peace. What could possibly disturb her there?

The Break Inspector
Missouri dirt-farmer John Gray had never regretted a kind act in his life, although truth be told, he would have had little enough to regret in any one of his fifty-five years. But oh how he wished the milk of human kindness had been completely drained from him that terrible, cursed night. With every fiber of his being, with every drop of blood in his body, John Gray wished he had never found the mysterious stranger on his prairie.

The Break Inspector is an unofficial sequel to Mark Twain’s “A Murder, a Mystery and a Marriage,” and a top-ten finalist in the International Mark Twain Writing Competition, 2001.

Someday This Will Be Funny

The stories in Some Day This Will Be Funny marry memory to moment in a union of narrative form as immaculate and imperfect as the characters damned to act them out on page. Lynne Tillman, author of American Genius, presides over the ceremony; Clarence Thomas, Marvin Gaye, and Madame Realism mingle at the reception. Narrators—by turn infamous and nameless—shift within their own skin, struggling to unknot reminiscence from reality while scenes rush into warm focus, then cool, twist, and snap in the breeze of shifting thought. Epistle, quotation, and haiku bounce between lyrical passages of lucid beauty, echoing the scattered, cycling arpeggio of Tillman’s preferred subject: the unsettled mind. Collectively, these stories own a conscience shaped by oaths made and broken; by the skeleton silence and secrets of family; by love’s shifting chartreuse. They traffic in the quiet images of personal history, each one a flickering sacrament in danger of being swallowed up by the lust and desperation of their possessor: a fistful of parking tickets shoved in the glove compartment, a little black book hidden from a wife in a safe-deposit box, a planter stuffed with flowers to keep out the cooing mourning doves. They are stories fashioned with candor and animated by fits of wordplay and invention—stories that affirm Tillman’s unshakable talent for wedding the patterns and rituals of thought with the blushing immediacy of existence, defying genre and defining experimental short fiction.

Cover background image by Charles Orr