At the Mouth of the River of Bees

A sparkling debut collection from one of the hottest writers in science fiction: Johnson’s stories have received the Nebula Award the last three years running and all of those stories, including this year’s winner (and Hugo Award winner), “The Man Who Bridged the Mist,” are included here.

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.

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

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 and Patrick Hester at SF Signal.


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

“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

“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

“‘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

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

  1. toast says:

    Is the title story new to this collection?

  2. Thaddeus602 says:

    Any idea when this will be available….when I pre-ordered it the delivery date was 8/1/12….on amazon it is not available until 9/11/12….

  3. Janice in GA says:

    I keep seeing folks saying that this is a “debut” collection from Kij Johnson. However, I have a copy of the ebook “Tales for the Long Rains” from 2001 that I bought from Fictionwise. It was published by Scorpius Digital Publishing. It contains 4 of the stories that are in this collection, as well as introductions by the author.

    I certainly don’t think it’s bad to have a new collection of stories from Kij, who is one of my favorite authors these days. I’m just confused as to why this is billed as a debut collection.

    • Gavin says:

      Hi Janice, it was billed as a debut as shorthand for debut print collection which is a bit of a mouthful but would be more accurate. (I think Tales for the Long Rains is now only available on Fictionwise.) Perhaps slightly of interest: Kij has rewritten every story in the book, some extensively, some less so so that it might take a line by line comparison to see it but it has been fascinating to work with her and see the stories change.

  4. Janice in GA says:

    Ah, thanks for the clarification!

    I intend to buy the new book anyway, because I’m a big Kij Johnson fan. :)

  5. sohkamyung says:

    Gary K Wolfe reviewed Kij Johnson’s “At the Mouth of the River of Bees” [ ]. Since you carry both titles (Locus magazine and the book), there may be some merit in adding a link to the review from the book.

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is in use.
Please feel free to use this form to contact us directly, and we'll reply by email. Thank you!

 | Subscribe to comments via RSS