The Washington Post
The Ant King: and Other Storiesby Benjamin Rosenbaum
A debut spanning the weirdest corners of literature and science fiction, exploring family, loyalty, and memory.See more details below
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A debut spanning the weirdest corners of literature and science fiction, exploring family, loyalty, and memory.
The Washington Post
"Plausible-fabulist" Rosenbaum's debut collection of 17 short stories is inconsistent, but it includes some speculative gems. The thought-provoking "Start the Clock" takes place in a near future where a virus has stopped the human aging process, forcing millions of people to live forever as preadolescents. The title story is an absurdist masterwork about a man in search of a woman who has been turned into yellow gumballs, abducted and hidden away in a lair guarded by a giant roach. Most notable is World Fantasy Award-finalist "A Siege of Cranes," which blends elements of horror, epic fantasy and religious mythology in the tale of a desperate man seeking a nightmarish enemy that has destroyed his village and killed his wife and child. Featuring outlandish and striking imagery throughout-a woman in love with an elephant, an orange that ruled the world-this collection is a surrealistic wonderland. (Aug.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Meet the Author
Benjamin Rosenbaum (benjaminrosenbaum.com) grew up in Arlington, Virginia, and received degrees in computer science and religious studies from Brown University. His work has been published in Harper's, Nature, McSweeney's, F&SF, Asimov's, Interzone, All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories, and Strange Horizons. Small Beer Press published his chapbook Other Cities. He and his family live in Switzerland.
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Read an Excerpt
The Ant King: A California Fairy Tale
Sheila split open and the air was filled with gumballs. Yellow gumballs. This was awful for Stan, just awful. He had loved Sheila for a long time, fought for her heart, believed in their love until finally she had come around. They were about to kiss for the first time and then this: yellow gumballs.
Stan went to a group to try to accept that Sheila was gone. It was a group for people whose unrequited love had ended in some kind of surrealist moment. There is a group for everything in California.
After several months of hard work on himself with the group, Stan was ready to open a shop and sell the thousands of yellow gumballs. He did this because he believed in capitalism, he loved capitalism. He loved the dynamic surge and crash of Amazon's stock price, he loved the great concrete malls spreading across America like blood staining through a handkerchief, he loved how everything could be tracked and mirrored in numbers. When he closed the store each night he would count the gumballs sold, and he would determine his gross revenue, his operating expenses, his operating margin; he would adjust his balance sheet and learn his debt-to-equity ratio; and after this exercise each night, Stan felt he understood himself and was at peace, and he could go home to his apartment and drink tea and sleep, without shooting himself or thinking about Sheila.
On the night before the IPO of gumballs.com, Sheila came to Stan in a dream. She was standing in a kiddie pool; Stan and his brothers and sisters were running around splashing and screaming; she had managed to insert herself into a Super 8 home movie of Stan's family, shot in thelate seventies. She looked terribly sad.
"Sheila, where are you?" Stan said. "Why did you leave me, why did you become gumballs?"
"The Ant King has me," Sheila said. "You must rescue me."
Stan woke up, he shaved, he put on his Armani suit, and drove his Lexus to his appointment with his venture capitalists and investment bankers. But the dream would not leave him. "Ant King?" he asked himself. "What's this about a goddamn Ant King?"
On the highway, near the swamp, he pulled his Lexus over to the shoulder. The American highway is a self-contained system, Stan thought. Its rest stops have video games, bathrooms, restaurants, and gas stations. There's no reason ever to leave the interstate highway system, its deadness and perfection and freedom. When you do reach your exit, you always have a slight sense of loss, as when awakening from a dream.
Stan took off his shiny black shoes and argyle socks, cuffed his Armani suit pants above the knees, and waded through the squidgy mud and tall reeds of the swamp. He saw a heron rise, flutter, and soar into the midmorning sky. Ant King, Ant King, he thought.
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