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Brockmeier, Kevin

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1972-    ) US author, much of whose fiction has explored the contemporary world through quiet but revelatory stories and novels only inadequately describable as fantasy (or "litfant") or Slipstream SF or Fabulation or sf. As with the work of other writers roughly contemporary with him who have been associated with The New Yorker, including Karen Russell and George Saunders, they are, rather, exemplary demonstrations of the uses of Fantastika as a toolkit fit to explore the nature of twenty-first century reality. He began publishing work of genre interest with "These Hands" in the Georgia Review for Fall 1999, assembled with other early stories as Things That Fall from the Sky (coll 2002), which also includes the first appearance of "A Day in the Life of Half of Rumpelstiltskin", a Twice Told fabulation [for Twice Told see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] set in the future; later work has been assembled as The View from the Seventh Layer (coll 2008), which also contains The Human Soul as a Rube Goldberg Device: A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Story (2008 Words and Images; 2012 chap) (see Rube Goldberg), whose intricate, only seemingly randomized charting of the course of a human life climaxes with an sf Slingshot Ending. During the course of the tale which depicts the last hours before his death, the protagonist contemplates a shelf of sf novels, and it seems to him, fittingly in this context, "that all the classic science fiction writers – or at least the best and most stirring ones: Ray Bradbury, Theodore Sturgeon, Arthur C Clarke – practice literature as a form of nostalgia."

Brockmeier's first novels were for younger children, including City of Names (2002), in which a map discovered by young Howie turns out to enable a fantastical form of Matter Transmission anywhere within his home City; when played along the thread of his jeans, a phonograph needle sounds a cry for help in Grooves: A Kind of Mystery (2006), guiding the tale's young protagonist through a search for imprisoned Zombies. Of his adult novels, The Truth About Celia (2003) eschews the fantastic. The Brief History of the Dead (8 September 2003 The New Yorker; much exp 2006), which is divided into two intersecting narratives is, on the other hand, adventurously Equipoisal. One string describes the vast unnamed city, where all humans who have died await the moment when no live person remembers them, at which point they pass on to another realm; they know they are dead, they know they can only pass onward when the cup of Memory is emptied. The second string is set in a Near Future version of Earth suffering terminal depopulation through a Pandemic caused when a deadly Drug or virus is inserted into the sole remaining Coca Cola processing plant in Venezuela, home of the world's last supply of clean water. One Coca Cola employee in Antarctica, who has not drunk the product for months, survives for a while (see Last Man). When she dies the city of the dead itself ends. In The Illumination (2011), a sudden transformation of the rules of the world, given a skimpy sf explanation (photons escape Entropy and now illuminate us), causes all human pain to register visibly as glowing light. The potential metaphorical trammels of this event are avoided with insouciant deftness; and the story is freed to offer us, without impediment, a very wide range of implications. [JC]

Kevin Brockmeier

born Little Rock, Arkansas: 6 December 1972


collections and stories

works as editor


previous versions of this entry

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