The Ant King and Other Stories

Benjamin Rosenbaum  - published August 2008

Hardcover | trade paperback (9781931520539) | ebook (9781618730138)

A dazzling, postmodern debut collection of pulp and surreal fictions: 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.

“Give him some prizes, like, perhaps, “best first collection” for this book.”
Booklist (Starred review)

“Rosenbaum proves he’s capable of sustained fantasy with “Biographical Notes,” a steampunkish alternate history of aerial piracy, and “A Siege of Cranes,” a fantasy about a battle between a human insurgent and the White Witch that carries decidedly modern undercurrents…. Perhaps none of the tales is odder than “Orphans,” in which girl-meets-elephant, girl-loses-elephant.”
Kirkus Reviews

Table of Contents

The Ant King: A California Fairy Tale
The Valley of Giants
The Orange
Biographical Notes to ‘A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with Air-Planes’, by Benjamin Rosenbaum
Start the Clock
The Blow
On the Cliff by the River
The Book of Jashar
The House Beyond Your Sky
Red Leather Tassels
Other Cities
Sense and Sensibility
A Siege of Cranes


“But among our most interesting writers today one finds a growing number—Kelly Link, Elizabeth Hand, Aimee Bender, Jonathan Lethem, Benjamin Rosenbaum—working the boundary: “sometimes drawing the line,” as Hyde writes of Trickster, “sometimes crossing it, sometimes erasing or moving it, but always there,” in the borderlands among regions on the map of fiction.”
—Michael Chabon, Maps and Legends

“A terrific range of tales, showcasing an active, playful mind and a gleeful genre-blender.”
—Aimee Bender

“Imagine Borges and Dali hanging out at Pee Wee Herman’s playhouse, and you have a brief inkling of what Rosenbaum’s fiction is like. The Ant King and Other Stories is Rosenbaum’s debut collection of short fiction, which features pieces have been that have nominated for genre awards, and have appeared in a slew of venues, from Interzone, Realms of Fantasy, and McSweeney’s. The content ranges from postmodern fables, flash fiction, pulp fiction, all told in precise and distinctive, if not exactly poetic, prose. The imagery—which is what propels the stories as much as plot—is always startling and surrealistic. Rosenbaum mixes literary forms and narrative styles like a DJ.”
Fantasy Book Spot

“Ben Rosenbaum is one of the freshest and finest voices to appear in science fiction in many years. The stories collected in The Ant King demonstrate his astonishing versatility, his marvelous imagination, and his ready wit.”
—Jack Womack

Benjamin Rosenbaum grew up in Arlington, Virginia, and received degrees in computer science and religious studies from Brown University. His work has been published in Harper’s, Nature, McSweeney’s, F&SF, Asimov’s, Interzone, All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories, and Strange Horizons. Small Beer Press published his chapbook Other Cities and The Present Group published his collaboration,Anthroptic, with artist Ethan Ham. His stories have been translated into fourteen languages, listed in Best American Short Stories: 2006, and shortlisted for the Hugo and Nebula awards. Rosenbaum lives near Basel, Switzerland, with his wife and two small, rambunctious children. There are cows, steeples, double-decker trains, and traffic lights for bicycles in his neighborhood.

On Other Cities

“Rosenbaum’s fertile sense of invention and his sly humor (“Ponge, as its inhabitants will tell you, is a thoroughly unattractive city. ‘Well,’ they always say at the mention of any horrible news, ‘we do live in Ponge.'”) make these parables a real treat.”

“Throughout Other Cities, compressed insight and wonder are compressed into but a handful of words. This small book’s crisp design and illustrations mirror the elegance of the writing: recommended.”
Xerography Debt

“And though the stories are tiny, they do not disappoint as a result of their brevity. When you leave one fantastic destination behind, there is another city right around the corner.”

“A collection of fourteen gems, expertly cut and highly polished. Each contains, within its myriad facets, a metropolis, brimming with mystery, insight and wonder.”
— Jeffrey Ford (The Girl in the Glass)

On the web:

Publication history


Cover art © Brad Holland.
Photo credit: Photo by Jessica Wallach/