The Ant King and Other Stories
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by Benjamin Rosenbaum
Category: Fantasy Nebula Award(R) Nominee, Hugo Award Nominee
Description: A dazzling postmodern debut collection of pulp and surreal fictions spanning the weirdest corners of literature and science fiction. The skill and strangeness on display in The Ant King and Other Stories are comparable to the debuts of Ted Chiang, Kelly Link, and Jonathan Lethem. These are stories that explore family, loyalty, power, and memory: a writer of alternate histories defends his patron's zeppelin against assassins and pirates; a woman transforms into hundreds of gumballs; an emancipated children's collective goes house hunting.
eBook Publisher: Small Beer Press, 2008 2008
eBookwise Release Date: August 2008
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [294 KB]
Reading time: 178-250 min.
"Give him some prizes, like, perhaps, "best first collection" for this book."--Ray Olson, Booklist (Starred review)
"A terrific range of tales, showcasing an active, playful mind and a gleeful genre-blender."--Aimee Bender
"Urbane without being arch, sweet without being maudlin, mysterious without being cryptic."--Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
"Brimming with mystery, insight and wonder."--Jeffrey Ford (The Girl in the Glass)
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 the late 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.