cover image After the Apocalypse

After the Apocalypse

Maureen McHugh. Small Beer, $16 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-1-931520-29-4

Hugo-winner McHugh (Mothers and Other Monsters) puts a human face on global disaster in nine fierce, wry, stark, beautiful stories. An impoverished artist in drought-stricken Arizona is reduced to sculpting sex toys in "Useless Things." In a near-future China ravaged by bird flu and capitalism, two young women escape wage slavery with the help of a na%C3%AFve activist in "Special Economics." A teenage girl trapped in American suburbia grimly watches one of her mothers succumb to a brain-destroying disease carried by processed chicken nuggets in "The Effect of Centrifugal Forces." 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. (Oct.)