Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century

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Pub Date 01 Feb 2022 | Archive Date 31 Jan 2022

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A dazzling and daring story collection by PEN/Hemingway finalist, Kim Fu.

In the twelve unforgettable tales of Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century, the strange is made familiar and the familiar strange, such that a girl growing wings on her legs feels like an ordinary rite of passage, while a bug-infested house becomes an impossible, Kafkaesque nightmare. Each story builds a new world all its own: a group of children steal a haunted doll; a runaway bride encounters a sea monster; a vendor sells toy boxes that seemingly control the passage of time; an insomniac is seduced by the Sandman. These visions of modern life wrestle with themes of death and technological consequence, guilt and sexuality, and unmask the contradictions that exist within all of us.

Mesmerizing, electric, and wholly original, Kim Fu’s Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century blurs the boundaries of the real and fantastic, offering intricate and surprising insights into human nature.

About the Author: 

Kim Fu is the author of For Today I Am a Boy which won the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, as well as a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice. Her second novel, The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore, was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award and the OLA Evergreen Award. Fu's writing has appeared in Granta, the Atlantic, the New York Times, Hazlitt, and the TLS.

A dazzling and daring story collection by PEN/Hemingway finalist, Kim Fu.

In the twelve unforgettable tales of Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century, the strange is made familiar and the...

Advance Praise

"Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century is one of those rare collections that never suffers from which-one-was-that-again? syndrome. Every story here lights a flame in the memory, shining brighter as time goes by rather than dimming. Kim Fu writes with grace, wit, mischief, daring, and her own deep weird phosphorescent understanding." - Kevin Brockmeier, author of The Ghost Variations

"How I loved the cool wit of these speculative stories! Filled with wonder and wondering, they’re haunted too by loss and loneliness, their imaginative reach profoundly rooted in the human condition." - Peter Ho Davies, author of A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself

"When a collection is evocative of authors as disparate as Ray Bradbury and Stephanie Vaughn, the only possible unifier can be originality: and that’s what a reader finds in Kim Fu’s Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century. The strangest of concepts are tempered by grounded, funny dialogue in these stories, which churn with big ideas and craftily controlled antic energy." - Naben Ruthnum, author of Find You in the Dark

"Kim Fu's Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century crushes the coal-dark zeitgeist between its teeth and spits out diamonds, beautiful but razor-sharp. This will be one of the best short story collections of the year." - Indra Das, author of The Devourers

"Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century is one of those rare collections that never suffers from which-one-was-that-again? syndrome. Every story here lights a flame in the memory, shining brighter...

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ISBN 9781951142995
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Featured Reviews

Excellent collection of short stories! "Sandman" is outstanding, and I really love "Do You Remember Candy".

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Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century is an incredibly exciting debut collection from Kim Fu. Full of warm, enchanting stories, reflective of our rapidly-changing world.

One of the themes I picked up on was grief, in its many forms. In the first story, Pre-Simulation Consultation XF007867, an individual wishes to virtually connect with a lost relative, and finds unexpected compassion. The strange unfamiliarity young people feel on their first brush with death is captured in a fascinating way in The Doll.

Another theme is female liberation. In Liddy, First to Fly, a young girl struggles with a strange bodily development, which could be the key to her freedom. June Bugs is an imaginative take on domestic abuse, and how escape is possible. And a hesitant bride-to-be finds freedom in a very strange place in Bridezilla.

Fans of Black Mirror may enjoy the darkly comic Twenty Hours, where a 3D printer enables a couple to explore the limits of their commitment to each other.

This was a consistently beautiful and imaginative collection. These stories gave me a similar glow to the one I get when I read Sarah Pinsker and Kij Johnson. This is inclusive sci-fi and fantasy with real heart.

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Thank you to Tin House Books for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century by Kim Fu is a fun collection of short stories from an emerging voice who is making a name for herself. The stories run the gamut from the strange to the realistic, and I would classify some of the tales as magical realism in the tradition of Kelly Link or dystopian in the style of Black Mirror. One involves girls growing wings on their legs; another involves toys that can control time; another is about the romance between an insomniac and the Sandman.

Here is an excerpt from one of my favorite short stories, "Liddy, First to Fly":

"Liddy showed us her ankles during first recess. She lifted the cuffs of her blue corduroys, first one and then the other, as we sat by the broken picnic table in the patch of grass between the parking lot and the basketball court. Chloe and Liddy sat on the table, their feet on what remained of the bench. Mags and I sat in the grass, avoiding the jagged wood. Raised white bumps protruded from Liddy's skin, one on the outside of each ankle, each a few inches above the rounded knob of bone - perfectly symmetrical.

Overall, Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century is an amazing collection of short stories. My two favorite short stories happen to the first two stories in the collection. The Simulation Consultation XF007867 is a sci-fi story about the future of technology that reminded me of Black Mirror. Just like Black Mirror, it uses the possibility of future tech, such as a dream or wish simulator, to comment on our current reality. My other favorite short story, "Liddy, First to Fly" is magical realism and uses the conceit - girls growing wings - to comment on coming of age, puberty, and the magic of childhood. If you're intrigued by the excerpt above, or if you're a fan of magical realism, you won't regret checking out this book when it comes out in February!

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This is one of those books that haunts you in a sense. I could not put it down, even when I should have! Each story with its own peculiarity that was never off-putting. I would recommend this collection to people that like magical realism with a side of darkness. I will be buying this collection and adding it to my bookshelf.

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𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐦 𝐨𝐟 𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐝 𝐡𝐚𝐝 𝐨𝐧𝐥𝐲 𝐣𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐜𝐥𝐨𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐢𝐭𝐬 𝐝𝐨𝐨𝐫𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐮𝐬, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐥𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐤𝐞𝐝 𝐚𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐞𝐝𝐠𝐞𝐬.

Kim Fu’s collection of stories takes turns of freakish oddity and yet is often an emotional touch. Tales of ordinary people dealing with abnormal situations, one in particular involving a bug infestation (which made my skin crawl) not as unlikely as we imagine. Moments that make people question things that are happening, all their peculiar patterns. Tales of loss and the intense grief that follows, memories and moments you can’t get back. Accidents, denial. The telling isn’t overly fantastical magical realism, but just on the edge of eerie, believable.

In the first tale the character wants to be with their deceased mother in a simulation, hungering for a small ordinary encounter, only to be disappointed by limitations. In the second, Liddy First To Fly, girls who are growing apart bond with the secret of their friend’s winged legs. Is she meant to fly away or can she be normal again? A woman chases “nourishing” sleep in Sandman, welcoming a monster to fill every hollow within. Twenty Hours is brutal, as a married couple adds excitement to their life with a special printer. It’s also a macabre play on how we hurt those we love and ourselves. How with each transgression we get closer to the ugliest side of ourselves. There was a catch in my throat when Connie, the wife, wakes up in the printer tray and her spouse thinks about the questions she isn’t asking. Despite the brutal endings they put each other through, again and again, there is tenderness. It also is about the great void that still exists between partners, places within’ the other we can never go. Our desire to return to one another at war with our need to be separate. It’s my favorite story. The Doll is creepy, yet it begins as a sad tragedy, one of those ‘thank god it didn’t happen to us, but it could have’ that neighbors are left to stew over. The neighborhood children are forced to confront the mean whims of fate and yet there is something exciting too about the house, daring each other to enter it, being scared. But can a doll be haunted? There is a touch of erotica in Scissors (an apt title), as women take to the stage for a show in a cabaret style theater. Dominance and surrender, the thrill of not knowing what will happen, the electric threat of danger, the ‘flinch’ of the audience. A question of trust.

Every tale is original, a reluctant bride and a sea monster, the loss of taste and how one woman finds a way to experience the sensation bodily… more than anything the tales are about how people cope after their lives have been upended by strange twists and turns. Loneliness, longing, grief, fear, love- quite an interesting collection.

Publication Date: February 1, 2022

Tin House

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5 imaginative stars

So this was pretty fantastic! A magical realism gem.

"The strange is made familiar and the familiar strange" says the blurb, and I can't think of a better way to describe magical realism!

Writing short stories that are satisfying and engaging is an art in my opinion and Kim fu is a VERY GOOD artist! This is the kind of book I would grab when I need to get out of a reading slump. Ten pages. The end. Story's over. Loved it. Ready for the next. PUFF. BYE READING SLUMP. MAGIC!

And the title is PERRRFECT! Because the topics of these stories are indeed the modern monsters that plague our nightmares: insomnia, social media induced loss of boundaries and empathy, sense of inadequacy. Relevant and Entertaining.

The other thing I loved is that all these stories felt like writing prompts executed by a VERY IMAGINATIVE mind.

Here... write an ingenious story about... hummmmm... I don't know.... less say... "a dog digging a hole"

PUFF! Here... fantastic story delivered!

I was also really impressed with all the wisdom and scientific knowledge weaved into the fantasy of these tales.

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