The Ant King: and Other Stories

The Ant King: and Other Stories

by Benjamin Rosenbaum


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781931520539
Publisher: Small Beer Press
Publication date: 08/01/2008
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Benjamin Rosenbaum ( 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.

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, 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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The Ant King and Other Stories 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Sean191 on LibraryThing 7 months ago
I took this book out of the library when it came out - a few months ago. Since it was new, I only had a week or two to get to it and I didn't get through other books fast enough to do so- I only got through the first story (The Ant King) before I had to return it. I enjoyed the story and definitely planned to get the book back out. I was looking forward to reading the other stories.Well, the stories were a mix - some good, some I felt were really boring. The thing is, there are some writers where you're reading about some things that make you question the writer's sanity (I'd say Burroughs and the Good Doctor would be reasonable examples) and then there are some writers who (to me) try too hard to seem crazy - and Rosenbaum fits into that category. Not to say that crazy is a good thing, but when you're trying to interact as writer to audience as much as Rosenbaum does and you're writing about topics of questionable sanity...I feel like it needs to be more believable that your sanity is questionable. I want to feel a little uncomfortable as I'm reading that type of story rather than feeling like I'm sitting in a smoky college dorm room discussing the meaning of everything, with everyone involved believing they've said something deeply profound.
bragan on LibraryThing 7 months ago
A collection of short stories, some of which sit firmly in the realm of science fiction or fantasy, and some of which are simply uncategorizably strange. Rosenbaum reminds me of Italo Calvino in many respects: the use of dreamlike or fairy-tale logic, the playfulness, the fascination with meta-narratives. One of the pieces in this collection even seems to be a deliberate homage to Calvino's Invisible Cities. But Rosenbaum isn't just some sort of Calvino imitator; he also shares Calvino's inventiveness. There's an incredible feeling of originality about these stories. Even when Rosenbaum is using familiar SF elements or riffing off of well-known works of fiction, he gives the sense of looking at whatever it is through absolutely fresh eyes and inviting the reader to do the same. Some of these stories did more for me than others, but I came away from the book with the overall impression of having just experienced something marvelous, in every sense of the word.
snarkhunt on LibraryThing 7 months ago
All high notes. Nothing fails.Includes a set of "Other Cities" that strongly echo Italo Calvino's "Invisible cities" and then extend it.This is the book that I have been bringing up to people more than anything else I've read this year. It's a perfect set of gems.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an interesting surrealistic speculative fiction anthology that readers who enjoy something different will appreciate. There are several excellent entries, which by contrast make the remaining good short stories seem lacking yet none are of poor quality Readers will relish finding the ¿The Book of Jashar¿ in which a new Old Testament tome has been discovered also superb is 'Start the Clock' as preadolescents are stuck forever as the heirs to the current generation a sensitive retelling of Austen¿s ¿Sense and Sensibility¿ also is quite provoking. Perhaps the two strongest tales are ¿The Ant King¿ in which a giant roach abducted a woman (where is She-Hulk when you need her) and 'A Siege of Cranes' starring a lone survivor of a village seeking vengeance on what destroyed his family and neighbors. This is an engaging collection that takes readers into a realm where anything especially the absurd rule.------ Harriet Klausner