Think you want to live forever? Think again. You may wake up as a zombie tourist, doomed to shamble the sights of Los Angeles. Or you could be a clone, body and memories intact but lacking something you can’t quite name. Your frozen head might linger for centuries in a museum while other souls gallivant about the universe. You might be reincarnated as a plastic lawn flamingo or seated Buddha or garden gnome. Or into an unbreakable cycle of servitude. Or you may just outlive the people and things that gave life its flavor.
Emily C. Skaftun’s debut collection brings you flippant wish-granting fish, flying tigers, foul-mouthed fairies, rogue robots, vengeful trees, medical dreams, interstellar squirrels, murderous teddy bears, magic-helmet-wearing rollergirls, rampaging aliens, a dash of eldritch horror, and a sprinkle of ghosts.
These 18 stories, spanning a decade, balance on the knife-edge between whimsical and poignant, exploring fates far weirder than death.
"Each of the 18 disquieting pieces in Skaftun’s debut collection twist reality into absurdity and are united in their exploration of death and the afterlife. Skaftun’s stories set up everyday objects and events, and spin them into the realm of the surreal . . . thoughtful explorations of wildly unusual concepts will keep fans of literary chills hooked. Eerie, unsettling, and occasionally zany, this philosophically minded collection offers a delightful diversion."
"One more proof that you can't judge a book by its title. Emily C. Skaftun's Living Forever & Other Terrible Ideas contains some pretty damn good ideas after all. Plus intriguing human characters, and some who are not so human—such as a pink plastic lawn flamingo and a metal Icelandic horse and a magic fish from Chicago—in stories that will make you smile and make you think and make you feel."
—John Kessel, author of Pride and Prometheus and The Moon and the Other
"Skaftun deals in the stuff of nightmares. As in real nightmares, the situations in her stories are often preposterous—animate toys and lawn decorations, jocular talking fish, invading aliens with wheels for feet who are captivated by the phenomenon of roller derby—but the earnestly striving humanity of her characters, even the non-human ones, forbids you to dismiss them with a laugh or an impatient shake of the head . . . You’ll come away from these stories with some odd new furniture in your subconscious—and you’ll find that it definitely livens up the décor."
—Tim Powers, author of Forced Perspectives
"A superb collection—full of wit and surprise and sparkle. Skaftun's superpower is to reliably conjure from a variety of familiar elements something unexpected and unsettling. There is magic in these stories. She might be a witch; she's most definitely a writer. Hugely enjoyable and highly recommended.
—Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club
"Who can resist murderous garden gnomes on a sacrilegious crusade, or zombie tourism in L.A., or the troubled life of a sentient message? Not me! Emily Skaftun's collection of stories is a delight, inspired zaniness with a knife hidden in the middle. Read it, and you will never view—as just one example—Teddy bears the same way again."
—Nancy Kress, author of The Eleventh Gate and Sea Change
"Surreal dreaming on the fly. Killer garden gnomes, roller-derby, frozen heads, sex in the snow. Fresh, sinister, fey, punk. In a note on one literary, feelings-based story, Skaftun remarks, 'It needed dinosaurs.' She brings on the dinos and more. The most fun you'll have this year."
—Rudy Rucker, author of The Ware Tetralogy
"These are lively, fun stories, full of vivid characters and brain-twisting ideas. Many of these pieces are very short, but they pack a punch bigger than their size. Skaftun is especially adept at combining genre tropes, as in the haunting last story, which translates a beloved folk tale into a dark cyberpunk future."
—Susan Palwick, Philip K. Dick Award Nominee of All Worlds Are Real
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Emily C. Skaftun’s tales of flying tigers, space squids, and evil garden gnomes have appeared in Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Asimov’s, Daily Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, and more. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing and attended the Clarion West Writers Workshop in 2009.
Emily lives just north of Seattle with a mad scientist and their Cat, Astrophe. She is the former editor of a Norwegian newspaper and practices bokmål by translating comic strips. She’s co-founded two online magazines, edited a tie-in anthology, and judged a Scandinavian haiku contest (haikuff-da!).
An avid traveler, Emily has cuddled a crocodile in Cuba, attended Elf School in Reykjavík, swum in a Yucatán cenote, and flown over an active volcano. She’s spent a summer backpacking Europe, six months living in London squats, and nine months exploring all but five U.S. States while living in a VW Jetta.
Emily doesn't want to live forever, but wouldn't object to being reincarnated on a sunny, wise planet.