& Other Terrible Ideas

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 balance on the knife-edge between whimsical and poignant, exploring fates far weirder than death.

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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

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.

Publishers Weekly

The title says it all: the pieces in this collection have a common theme of depicting fates literally worse than death. … Some are undisputed science fiction; others fall more on the fantasy or even horror side of the line. Some are more avant-garde, others fairly conventional. All, however, are essentially idea stories, drawing their punch from the unusual concepts behind them rather than exceptional characterization or intricate plotting, for example. For Analog readers it’s a familiar type; you’ll probably feel at home with even the most fantasy-based tale. And oh, those unusual concepts!

—Don Sakers, Analog Magazine

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, from the book’s introduction

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

Surreal dreaming on the fly. Killer garden gnomes, roller-derby, frozen heads, sex in the snow. Fresh, sinister, fey, punk.

—Rudy Rucker

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.

—John Kessel, author of Pride and Prometheus and The Moon and the Other

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. 

 —Susan Palwick, Philip K. Dick Award Nominee of All Worlds Are Real