North American Lake Monsters from Small Beer Press

This week on, we’re featuring the work of Nathan Ballingrud, a supremely talented writer whose first book finally came into print this year: North American Lake Monsters, courtesy of Small Beer Press. The stories published in this collection range across the better part of a decade, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it from reading this collection. These stories feel like they were meant to be published together like this.

lake monsters coverWhat’s striking about North American Lake Monsters, besides their uniformly excellent quality, is their unrelenting darkness, and a special kind of darkness at that. These stories often involve people who are hard on their luck, trapped and unsure of the directions their lives have taken, constrained by their own decisions or the simply the bleakness of their environments. More often than not, though, the characters are overcome or possessed by obsessions they cannot seem to help. The protagonist of “Wild Acre” may be driven to hunt some kind of werewolf after it wreaks havoc on his life and those of his friends, but grappling with that monster only brings out something just as harmful and wild in him. Meanwhile, in “The Monsters of Heaven,” a deserved recipient of a Shirley Jackson Award, the arrival of a weird, possibly heavenly being is sharply contrasted with the violent, brutal urges and fantasies of a man who cannot cope with the loss of his son. The darkness in these stories comes from the characters themselves, and as we read them, we can’t help but be sucked into their darkness as well, perhaps out of sympathy, but also perhaps out of a recognition of empathy we can only acknowledge through reading.

The story we’ve reprinted on this site, the title story from Ballingrud’s collection, is a great story in and of itself and also an appropriate primer for those interested in reading the rest of the book. We also have an interview with the author, discussing how he came to write his stories the way he did, as well as the influence of horror and other forms of literature on his creative process, among other things.

One reply to “North American Lake Monsters from Small Beer Press

  1. I’m impressed by the story reproduced here. Any chance of this collection finding a UK publisher, does anyone know?