After the Apocalypse

The apocalypse was yesterday. These stories are today.

Publishers Weekly Top 10 Best Books of 2011
Shirley Jackson award winner
io9 Best SF&F Books of 2011
Tiptree Award Honor List
Philip K. Dick Award finalist
Story Prize Notable Book

In her new collection, Story Prize finalist Maureen F. McHugh delves into the dark heart of contemporary life and life five minutes from now and how easy it is to mix up one with the other. Her stories are post-bird flu, in the middle of medical trials, wondering if our computers are smarter than us, wondering when our jobs are going to be outsourced overseas, wondering if we are who we say we are, and not sure what we’d do to survive the coming zombie plague.

“Hugo-winner McHugh (Mothers & Other Monsters) puts a human face on global disaster in nine fierce, wry, stark, beautiful stories. . . . As McHugh’s entirely ordinary characters begin to understand how their lives have been transformed by events far beyond their control, some shrink in horror while others are “matter of fact as a heart attack,” but there is no suicidal drama, and the overall effect is optimistic: we may wreck our planet, our economies, and our bodies, but every apocalypse will have an “after” in which people find their own peculiar ways of getting by.”
Publishers Weekly (*starred review*)

“Like George Saunders (CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, 1996), McHugh displays an uncanny ability to hook into our prevailing end-of-the-world paranoia and feed it back to us in refreshingly original and frequently funny stories. In these nine apocalyptic tales, people facing catastrophes, from a zombie plague to a fatal illness contracted from eating chicken nuggets, do their best to cope. In “Useless Things,” perhaps the most affecting story in the collection, a resourceful sculptor, worried about drought and money in a time of high unemployment and increasing lawlessness, turns her exquisite crafstmanship to fashioning sex toys and selling them on the Internet with the hope of making enough money to pay her property taxes. In “Honeymoon,” a participant in a medical trial that goes horribly wrong watches in horror as six men are hospitalzed in critical condition; she uses her payment to take a vacation because, when all was said and done, she “wanted to dance. It didn’t seem like a bad choice.” That survival instinct is what makes McHugh’s collection a surprisingly sunny read in spite of the global disasters that threaten at every turn. An imaginative homage to the human ability to endure.”
Booklist (*starred review*)

“All our worst dystopian fears are realized in this grim collection.”
Kirkus Reviews

Interview: Publishers Weekly

Table of Contents

The Naturalist
Special Economics
Useless Things
The Lost Boy: A Reporter at Large
The Kingdom of the Blind
Going to France
The Effect of Centrifugal Forces
After the Apocalypse

“The stories in After the Apocalypse will catch many readers off-guard; they’re suspenseful, but they never quite go where you expect them to. The end of the world as we know it will never be the same again.”

“Superb. . . . Against backdrops of sheer terror, Ms. McHugh’s characters insist on investing themselves in flirtations, friendships and jobs. They keep their innocent curiosity for the world even as it falls to pieces.”
Wall Street Journal

Read a story: “The Naturalist” · “The Kingdom of the Blind” · “Useless Things” · “The Effect of Centrifugal Forces” · Read the title story on Storyville.

Interviews: WISB ·  Jessa Crispin, Kirkus Reviews · Apex Magazine · David Moles Maureen F. McHugh in conversation.

More: Maureen F. McHugh and the Earthquake Kit

“These nine stories take place in a world that has been ravaged by prion diseases and economic collapse, even as it enters a new age of artificial intelligence and green biotech. You won’t be able to forget the people you meet there.”

“One of the best short story collections I’ve read in the last decade.”
—Chris Moriarty, F&SF

“McHugh’s approach to the apocalypse is oblique, a concern with the personal, the individual or family unit, rather than the devastation that surrounds them…. [T]here are perhaps half a dozen stories that are as powerful as anything you are likely to read this year.”
Strange Horizons

“The best stories in this mesmerizing collection from the L.A. writer are the ones that elude categorization—the struggles of a troubled doll maker in “Useless Things,” the fantasies of an impulsive man in “Going to France.” It’s the ordinary and everyday that we should be afraid of, not the prospect of big explosions and world-ending catastrophes. This is a pro stretching a genre to its limits—subverting, inverting, perverting, disturbing.”
Los Angeles Magazine

“Almost four years ago I read Maureen McHugh’s story “Special Economics,” about the fortunes of a spunky young Chinese girl, and immediately considered it to be the ne plus ultra of hip, wired, globally aware, twenty-first-century SF. I had a chance to peruse it again, thanks to the publication of her new collection, After the Apocalypse, and found the tale just as au courant as ever. SF would not be deemed irrelevant if it were all as good as this. McHugh proves she can deliver zombie shocks (“The Naturalist”), surreal whimsy (“Going to France”), and beautiful mimesis (“Honeymoon”) as well. She’s at the top of her game in these pages.”

“Maureen F. McHugh’s collection of stories is an outstanding solo in the zeitgeist fiction chorus including Gods Without Men (Hari Kunzru) and The Truth and All Its Ugly (Kyle Minor) that at long last begins building the bridge between The Two Cultures invoked by C.P. Snow decades ago. In these stories, despite the title, destruction and despair are not the key motif: survival, even transcendence, is.”
SF Signal

“If you haven’t discovered McHugh yet, After the Apocalypse is a must-have.”
Charles Tan, Bibliophile Stalker

“You aren’t ready for tomorrow until you’ve seen it through McHugh’s observant gaze.”
io9 Best SF&F Books of 2011

“McHugh’s stories function as short films in the way things could go wrong soon, focusing in on a character long enough to make us care, then moving on to the next. By the end, the stories build on each other, creating one of those collections whose theme and execution, make it greater than the sum of its parts. The near future, After the Apocalypse tells us, may be calamitous in many ways, but in the end there will still be people who fear, laugh, cry, work, play, and live.”
SF Site

“Intriguing. . . . If the stories here are anything to go by, author Maureen McHugh thinks we should be very afraid of the future. What awaits us is desolation, meaninglessness, and an abnegation of all progressive values…. These stories are about the life that continues when everything is over.”
The Future Fire

Praise for Maureen F. McHugh:

“Gorgeously crafted stories.”—Nancy Pearl, NPR

“Hauntingly beautiful.”—Booklist

“Unpredictable and poetic work.”—The Plain Dealer

“Poignant and sometimes heartwrenching.”—Publishers Weekly

Maureen F. McHugh has lived in New York; Shijiazhuang, China; Ohio; Austin, Texas; and now lives in Los Angeles, California. She is the author of a Story Prize finalist collection, Mothers & Other Monsters, and four novels, including Tiptree Award-winner China Mountain Zhang and New York Times editor’s choice Nekropolis. McHugh has also worked on alternate reality games for Halo 2, The Watchmen, and Nine Inch Nails, among others.


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