Nick Antosca’s latest book, The Girlfriend Game, is—simply put—one of the best short story collections I’ve read in a long time. I read the book in about three hours, finishing one story, eager to move on to the next. Or maybe it was like the stories were pulling me along through them, à la conveyor-belt-of-words, and there was nothing I could do to stop reading.
The stories in this book vary in subject matter, tone, and genre, from the eerie-but-funny “Rat Beast,” to the realist titular “The Girlfriend Game,” to the straight-up sci-fi of “Soon You Will Be Gone and Possibly Eaten.” And there’s horror, and murder, and lots and lots of sex. The book is diverse, and, well, just plain fun.
I wasn’t surprised by this, having read my first Nick Antosca book back in 2006 or 07. That was his first novel, Fires, originally published by the now-defunct Impetus Press. I daresay it was my introduction to the world of “indy lit,” or “alt lit,” or whatever you want to call it. Since then, Antosca’s published another novel, Midnight Picnic (for which he won the 2009 Shirley Jackson Award), the novella The Obese, and he’s forayed into writing for television on shows such as MTV’s Teen Wolf and ABC’s Last Resort.
So, the guy’s prolific. But he’s also really really good. And that’s the thing that strikes me more than anything. He’s capable of putting all these words together, into all these books and programs, and he does it all with sentences that read the way a great chef’s pastry melts in your mouth. I mean, listen to these gems: from “Predator Bait,” “She sat on a folding chair as the makeup guy made her look younger”; from “The Girlfriend Game,” “She enters the dark bedroom and the dress whispers as it comes off”; and from “Mammals,” “Ben has even stopped having nightmares where he pisses blood.”
And here’s why I’ll argue that Nick Antosca might just be the most important fiction writer in America right now: there are few writers lurking about literary and genre fiction. Brian Evenson comes to mind, as a literary horror writer. But I’m having trouble thinking of someone who writes literary sci-fi who’s actually worth the read. But even these literary and genre considerations aren’t as important as Nick Antosca’s mere readability. He champions narrative, storytelling, entertaining his audience. If a guy can write fiction this good, who knows? He might even save television, or at least draw some TV watchers over to the dark side of the written word.
Nick was kind enough to grant Atticus Review an opportunity to feature him this month of November—not quite, but almost, the darkest month of the year. I chatted with Nick for a bit about his writing, and you can read all about that in our interview. But more importantly, find here Nick’s stories, “Ghostfish”, “Rat Beast”, and “Soon You Will Be Gone and Possibly Eaten”, all of which originally appeared in The Girlfriend Game. Hopefully this taste will convince you to do like me and get yourself a copy of this wonderful collection. And make sure you read it this fall, preferably in the dark.