Hallelujah! Another podcast is neigh. And to everyone’s delight here at the Small Beer Studios, it’s another piece of fiction.
Kij Johnson’s debut collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees, came out in mid-2012. And people were excited. Kij can rock climb. She can teach. She knows both Old Norse and Latin. But most of all she knows how to tell horrific and wondrous stories in the most beautiful of language.
As well as all that, Kij is a research demon. Science and ancient Japan and near-future teen culture all collide between the pages of this collection.
Kij has won the World Fantasy Award, the Sturgeon Award and the Nebula award (multiple times). Reading “The Empress Jingu Fishes” was a truly lovely experience. Kij Johnson does more than just tell a compelling story. She knows how to put her words together.
Episode 16: In which Julie Day reads Kij Johnson’s “The Empress Jingu Fishes” from At the Mouth of the River of Bees.
Subscribe to the Small Beer podcast using iTunes or the service of your choice:
by Kij Johnson5 Comments
September 11th, 2012 · Second printing: November 2012 · Third printing: October 2013 · trade paperback: 9781931520805 · ebook: 9781931520812
“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.”
- World Fantasy Award finalist
- Chosen for the One Campus, One Book program at the University of Alaska Southeast
— Watch the video!
- Best of 2012: Publishers Weekly, Guardian, Shelf Awareness, Omivoracious
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 the last 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.
Slate: Dan 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 Beatrice.com
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.”
“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
Locus, October 2012
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 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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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]
Names for Water [listen]
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
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
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.
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