At the Mouth of the River of Bees

Kij Johnson  - published September 2012

trade paperback: 9781931520805 · ebook: 9781931520812
September 11th, 2012
Second printing: November 2012
Third printing: October 2013
Fourth printing: November 2017

  • World Fantasy & Locus Award finalist
  • Best of the Year: Publishers Weekly, Guardian, Shelf Awareness, Omivoracious
  • Chosen for the One Campus, One Book program at the University of Alaska Southeast.  [video]
  • Interview: Locus

The wrenching and provocative debut collection from the author of The Fox Woman and Fudoki. Johnson’s stories have won the Sturgeon and World Fantasy awards and, for three years running, the Nebula Award.

Johnson’s stories range from historical Japan (Sturgeon award winner “Fox Magic”) to metafictional explorations of story structure (“Story Kit”). Nebula award winners “Spar” and “Ponies” are perhaps most shocking and captivating, but each of the seventeen stories here is a highlight selected from Johnson’s more than two decades of work.

These stories feature cats, bees, wolves, dogs, and even that most capricious of animals, humans, and have been reprinted in The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, and The Secret History of Fantasy.

At the Mouth of the River of Bees is one of the most anticipated debut science fiction short story collections in recent years.

“These stories are filled with new ideas, new structures, and new ways of looking at the world. Kij Johnson has a singular vision and I’m going to be borrowing (stealing) from her.”
—Sherman Alexie

Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2012
PW interview.

SlateDan Kois’ 15 Favorite Books of 2012
Wondrously strange and sinister stories of other worlds, future times, and everyday life gone haywire. Plus: A cat walks 100 miles through Heian-era Japan in the loveliest short story I read all year.”

The Guardian: Adam Roberts, Christmas gifts 2012: the best science fiction
“The best short-story collection I read this year was Kij Johnson’s At the Mouth of the River of Bees (Small Beer Press). She is a writer who is always fresh, always dazzling.”

Shelf Awareness: Reviewers Choice 2012 Favorites
“Three Nebula-winning stories anchor Kij Johnson’s collection of stories, where psychological realism and hallucinatory vision combine to masterful effect. Johnson shifts easily from domestic dramas to conflicts on alien worlds, touching on small emotional moments that will linger in your memory as vividly as her fantastic imagery.” —Ron Hogan, founder of

Omnivoracious: The Best Fantasy and Science Fiction Collections of 2012
“Ranging from the more traditional to tales that push buttons and boundaries, from fantasy to science fiction and beyond.”

“Ursula Le Guin comes immediately to mind when you turn the pages of Kij Johnson’s first book of short stories, her debut collection is that impressive. The title piece has that wonderful power we hope for in all fiction we read, the surprising imaginative leap that takes us to recognize the marvelous in the everyday.”
—Alan Cheuse, NPR

“For all the distances traveled and the mysteries solved, those strange, inexplicable things remain. This is Johnson’s fiction: the familiar combined with the inexplicable. The usual fantastic. The unknowable that undergirds the everyday.”
—Sessily Watt, Bookslut

“In her first collection of short fiction, Johnson (The Fox Woman) covers strange, beautiful, and occasionally disturbing territory without ever missing a beat. . . . Johnson’s language is beautiful, her descriptions of setting visceral, and her characters compellingly drawn. These 18 tales, most collected from Johnson’s magazine publications, are sometimes off-putting, sometimes funny, and always thought provoking.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“[The] stories are original, engaging, and hard to put down. . . . Johnson has a rare gift for pulling readers directly into the heart of a story and capturing their attention completely. Those who enjoy a touch of the other in their reading will love this collection.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“When she’s at her best, the small emotional moments are as likely to linger in your memory as the fantastic imagery. Johnson would fit quite comfortably on a shelf with Karen Russell, Erin Morgenstern and others who hover in the simultaneous state of being both “literary” and “fantasy” writers.”
Shelf Awareness

“The book overflows with stories that, sentence by sentence, scene by scene, can never be taken for granted; they change in your hands, turn and shift, take on new faces, new shapes. Their breathing grows heavy, soft, then heavy again. You lean in close.”—James Sallis, F&SF

“Kij Johnson has won short fiction Nebula awards in each of the last three years. All three winning stories are in this collection; when you read the book, you may wonder why all the others didn’t win awards as well. “Ponies”, to pick just one, is a shatteringly powerful fantasy about the least lovely aspects of human social behaviour… and also about small girls and their pet horses. Evocative, elegant, and alarmingly perceptive, Johnson reshapes your mental landscape with every story she writes.”
—David Larsen, New Zealand Herald

“The bizarre and persnickety tales, like bottled ships, in Kij Johnson’s At the Mouth of the River of Bees include old Asian fables (a fox woman seduces a human) and future planets (though of backward cultures), often testifying to the survival of women in the face of random violence. . . . Apparently, Johnson publishes in fantasy and SF mags because they’re the only ones who’d have her, though New Yorker should be so lucky.”

“Kij Johnson’s writing is sometimes elegant and graceful; sometimes deliberately raw. These stories range from the human to the frightening to the complicated to the self-referential to the moving, and some even manage to be all these things at the same time. At the Mouth of the River of Bees is an excellent reminder of what short fiction at its best can do.”
Things Mean a Lot

“‘Ponies’ . . . reads like the sort of thing that might have happened if Little Golden Books had inadvertently sent a contract to Chuck Palahniuk. . . . It’s not surprising that [“The Man Who Bridged the Mist”] won the Nebula Award and garnered Hugo, Sturgeon, and Locus nominations, since it’s a stunning example of what Johnson does best – using the materials of SF, fantasy, myth, and even romance not as genres to inhabit, but as tools for building or, you could say, as a kind of story kit. ”
Gary K. Wolfe, Locus

“A wonderful collection…. I was entranced.”
San Francisco Book Review

“Speculative fiction at its unnerving best, as well as an illuminating lens on the tradition of folklore and its power.”
The Ohio State University Journal

“It is in the stories of love and loss that Johnson writes her finest work.”
Nerds of a Feather

Radio and podcasts:

Kij Johnson on Writer’s Voice: Writer’s Voice Drew Adamek spoke with Johnson about her new collection, the challenges facing women in science fiction and what new writers should do to break into the business.

Kij Johnson, Jonathan Strahan, and Gary Wolfe on the Coode Street Podcast.
Kij Johnson returns to Jonathan Strahan and Gary Wolfe’s Coode Street Podcast.

Kij Johnson and Patrick Hester at SF Signal.


“Award-winning NCSU alum Kij Johnson returns to Triangle with new book”

Early Readers Responses

“The variety is tremendous, exhilarating. “26 Monkeys” is as different from “Chenting” as “Names for Water” is from “The Man Who Bridged the Mist,” and each one is differently excellent.”
—Ursula K. Le Guin

“This collection is a landmark. I can’t think of any other writer whose stories terrify me the way Johnson’s do. But they’re so intelligent and human and weirdly perfect, I can’t stay away.”
—Lev Grossman

“Kij Johnson’s first collection is a marvelous gift to the reader. Her stories are simultaneously playful and melancholic; expansive, but also finely detailed. They take us many places—to the past, to the future, to imaginary and exotic worlds. In each, Johnson shows us things we never dreamed of, but won’t now forget. A writer of range, originality, precision, and power. Enthusiastically recommended.”
—Karen Joy Fowler

“Nobody writes like Kij Johnson. Nobody. Nobody finds the interstices of a story the way she does. Nobody dives down into the deep pockets of a story, coming up with the change for the ending. Nobody.”
—Jane Yolen

“Not only has Kij Johnson mastered the tools of her craft but she has forged a few that the rest of us haven’t yet got. Read, for instance “Ponies” or “Story Kit” and ask yourself what other writer could have conceived them, much less carried them off. These wise, sometimes sad, always magical stories linger long after you turn the page. At the Mouth of the River of Bees is very possibly the most important collection of the year and Kij Johnson is a writer you need to know.”
—James Patrick Kelly

“Kij Johnson is one of the three or four best short fiction writers of the past quarter century. She is not, however, one of the most prolific, and she’d damned well better do something about that.”
—Mike Resnick

Table of Contents

At the Mouth of the River of Bees
26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss [read listen]
The Horse Raiders
Spar [read or listen]
Fox Magic
Names for Water [listen]
Schrodinger’s Cathouse
My Wife Reincarnated as a Solitaire
Chenting, in the Land of the Dead
The Bitey Cat
Dia Chjerman’s tale [read]
The Empress Jingu Fishes
Wolf Trapping
The Man Who Bridged the Mist [read or listen]
Ponies [read or listen]
The Cat Who Walked a Thousand Miles [read or listen]
The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change

About the Author

Kij Johnson’s stories have won the Sturgeon and World Fantasy awards. She has taught writing; worked at Tor, Dark Horse, Wizards of the Coast, and Microsoft; worked as a radio announcer; run bookstores; and waitressed in a strip bar.

Previous Events

9/14    DreamHaven Books, 2301 East 38th Street, Minneapolis MN 55406
9/18    7 p.m. The Raven, 6 East 7th St., Lawrence, KS, 66044
9/26    Writers Voice interview air date
9/29    7 p.m. Ad Astra Books & Coffee House, 141 N. Santa Fe, Salina, KS 67401
10/9    Quail Ridge Books, Ridgewood Shopping Center, 3522 Wade Avenue, Raleigh, NC
10/25  7 p.m. The Big Tent at The Raven, 6 East 7th St., Lawrence, KS, 66044
11/24  1 p.m. Uncle Hugo’s Books, 2864 Chicago Avenue South, Minneapolis MN 55407



5 Responses to “At the Mouth of the River of Bees”

  1. London: Street Cats and Short Dogs and Brushes. | Jackie Morris Artist on March 29th, 2012 6:05 pm

    […] the near horizon. Also, two covers with Small Beer Press put together very elegantly. The first is At the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson ( author of The Fox Woman). The second is Earth and Air by Peter […]

  2. Episode 106: Live with Gary K. Wolfe & Kij Johnson! | Notes from Coode Street on June 16th, 2012 1:40 am

    […] office at home via the magic of Skype to discuss her amazing new Small Beer short story collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees, transgressive fiction, gender, life and other […]

  3. Review of Kij Johnson’s “At the Mouth of the River of Bees” Published in OSU’s The Journal « Something to Read for the Train on August 3rd, 2012 1:34 pm

    […] which can be procured on the subscription page of The Journal‘s newly re-designed website. At the Mouth of the River of Bees will be available on August 14th from Small Beer […]

  4. Podcasts, Poems and P76 | city of tongues on October 25th, 2012 7:46 pm

    […] website) and the brilliant Kij Johnson (if you haven’t read her new collection, At the mouth of the river of the bees, you should do so immediately, although not before you’ve read the opening story, ’26 […]

  5. what are you reading? » Inkpunks on April 30th, 2013 4:20 pm

    […] Yant: Currently reading; A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE, by Peter S. Beagle, who is a genius. AT THE MOUTH OF RIVER AND BEES, Kij Johnson’s short story collection. THE POISONER’S HANDBOOK, by Deborah […]

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