The train to flavortown hits some speedbumps as an edgy Food Network host meets his match.
A postapocalyptic world, motherhood, and centaurs.
"The girls were born the day before the world ended. You had eighteen hours of bliss and then the satellites went out, and with them the systems that sent news around the world. An asteroid, you heard people say. Huddled in your darkened hospital bed, your daughter’s mouths so pink and empty. Like birds. One asteroid and then another, and another, and then so many more that no one could keep track. They pounded into the oceans and the hills. The shaking made the earthquakes come, and from them, the volcanoes. The oceans rose. The clouds that came in the wake of the asteroids were thick and hard, studded with cosmic ash."
A horrifying animal attack turns into an examination of rural life.
"Admit it. You want to jump to the part about Bubba tearing into Child, who still has no identifiable name. This story isn't about Child; it's about the town and its assumptions. But since I cannot narrate the story of the assuming town without touching on what it is they assumed upon, I will tell you the parts of the Bubba/Child story that will elucidate they and their assumings."
A strange correspondence between two men--hopes, fears, work, and garbage.
"Momentous. I received my permit. Now I am equipped, attached to my own industrial serial number, and there you have it. 90023-457-89-2. I’m not fooling around when I tell you this is big business dear Fred. I could convey any thing—spoiled fruit pulp, rusted play ground equipment, big hazardous syringes, worn out shoe horns, threadbare ear muffs, passé slot machines, unwound baseballs, and emptied paint cans. Pots and pans and kettles are no big deal what so ever. In dreams begin responsibilities Fred and what’s terrific is it’s not a dream any more. I am a licensed carrier on the make."
A man arrives in the US from Hong Kong in search of his mistress; family and medical complications arise.
"At sixty, Boss Yeung had completed what the ancients deemed a full span of life. Now the cycle would start over, and he’d be born again in time to guide his heir, who would conquer China and then the world. He had outlived his father, his grandfather, possibly every male in the long line of ancestors that had led to him. Against his protests, his eldest daughter, Viann, was planning a lavish celebration in Hong Kong, with longevity peach cakes gilded in twenty-four-carat gold flakes and fireworks over the harbor. He wasn’t eager to publicize his age, to give off the impression that he was close to retiring and no longer possessed the fire that had lit the ambitions of his youth."
A woman buys a life-like, anamatronic man named Simon.
"She found the little velvet bag, dropped two tokens into his neck, and went to the computer while he booted up. She searched the website, but there weren’t any programs for what she wanted. Apparently, there were rules, the first of which stated that a robot may not injure a human being. Not even a little. Not a butter-knife nick or a cigarette burn or an intentional pull of the hair. She bought the phrase “I hate you” and a package described as brooding that looked close enough to anger. She stuck the USB drive under his arm and waited for the green light."
Vampire movies, sex tapes, aging, and complicated relationships: new fiction from the great Kelly Link.
"It’s not much fun, telling a ghost story while you’re naked. Telling the parts of the ghost story that you’re supposed to tell. Not telling other parts. While the woman you love stands there with the person you used to be."
On the intersection of writing and daily life.
"There are the four AM’s where you let friends take you out against your better judgment and you find yourself grinding against the bodies of people you don’t know, and something you took is traveling like liquid fire through your veins, through the bird’s nest of neurons in your brain. There’s the four AM where you just met this girl and don’t want to stop talking, where even after you hang up you can’t get to sleep, everything is alive and awake, the universe is calling, the radio is playing the perfect song, you get your jacket and walk the streets and every other night walker knows you, knows that everything is connected to the novel you’re writing, and all of these people, all the cops, homeless people, partiers, drunks, loners, lovers, all of them are offering themselves to you, willing you to tell their story. There is joy in these late hours."
Infidelity and committment issues with a humanoid robot.
"'You know I love you, and that I have no prejudices against cutting-edge technology,' He taps his temple, at the faint bulge of a high-priced implant. A vanity item, more than anything else, meant to expedite long-distance communication in an utterly cost-ineffective way. “But, I just— I need you as a person. Not as a machine.'"
Scenes from an anger management facility.
"Mike began to curse his hands. Champion told him to calm down, that his hands were gentle, and that he was as likely brainwashed by this place as cured, something he would never admit sober. Champion suggested they try to escape; he was drunk enough, he thought, to just walk away."
Strange beasts reenact scenes and memories from a woman's childhood.
"In the kitchen, the beast was pushing onions around in a pan. It glanced up, not minding me at all. I could hear a rustling sound just around the corner, where our kitchen table used to be, like the sound of my sister doing her homework or cutting pictures out of magazines. There was a small beast doing exactly that, holding a pair of red plastic scissors, snipping out pictures of animals. She was arranging the cutouts on the table: a cow, a giraffe, two dogs, and a bear."
A series of instructions for a woman in a small town.
"Purport, coyly, that you are dating a tall pile of driftwood arranged in an aesthetically pleasing way, and let’s say this wooden statue’s name is Chad and that he is generally a little slow on the uptake. Say Chad is like a Nordic carving of a real person in that he is extremely beige, even his hair, and he can go for a long time without blinking or saying anything of substance. Say you might as well be dating a Hummel, except Chad is more durable."