And Other Stories
He likes to think he's considering his options for the afterlife.
Lucas Southworth's short stories incorporate elements of science fiction, fantasy, fairy tales, and horror to explore themes such as violence, trauma, silence, and the fragile nature of storytelling. His first book, Everyone Here Has a Gun, won first place in the Association of Writers and Writing Program’s Grace Paley Prize. It is out from University of Massachusetts Press.
He has published over 40 stories in magazines such asThe Southern Review, Conjunctions, AGNI, Alaska Quarterly Review, Willow Springs, Hayden’s Ferry Review, West Branch, and many others. In 2022, his story "The Crying Rooms" won a Pushcart Prize and was also named a notable story in Best American Short Stories. He has received Grants, fellowships, and residencies from The Maryland State Arts Council, The Truman Capote Trust, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Jentel Artist Residency Program, Monson Arts, and Arteles Creative Center in Hämeenkyrö, Finland.
He lives in Baltimore, where he teaches fiction and screenwriting at Loyola University Maryland.
In praise of the sandwich M. says has a face. In praise of M. who, at the bidding of the holy sandwich, found the strength to help us, cupped our fears in his left hand and covered them with his right and pulled his hands apart like a magician.
Everyone Here Has a Gun: Stories
In a tightrope act of darkness and humor, fantasy and reality, the twelve stories in this award-winning collection describe characters searching for comfort and stability in a world that is ultimately too vast, violent, and incomprehensible. As they revert to what they seems most simple and familiar--public transportation, television, museums, fairy tales--they discover only murder, displacement, fragmentation, and obsession.
In "The Running Legs and Other Stories," Mary Beth attempts to recall a traumatic experience from her childhood, filtering it through children's stories told by her "wicked" stepmother. In "Lincoln's Face: A Resurrection," an African American makeup artist struggles with concepts of history as she transforms a former lover into Abraham Lincoln. the young narrator in "Under the World" grieves for his parents by losing himself in a worldwide subway system. And in the title story, the speaker describes a small room were everyone armed with a single gun waits with dread and anticipation for the inevitable first shot.
Anton Chekhov famously noted that if a story introduces a gun in the first act, that gun must go off by the third. Yet while weapons are often present in Southworth's stories, they are rarely fired, existing instead as a constant reminder of the power people can have over each other and the violent potential of narrative itself.
Mentions and Reviews:
"Everyone Here Has a Gun took me on a roller coaster ride that I’d never been on before. It shares some of its headspace with the stories of Angela Carter and Robert Coover, a touch of David Foster Wallace’s Girl With Curious Hair and Kevin Brockmeier and Kelly Link—but ultimately these stories are sui generis. Every piece is strikingly different, and yet there’s also a cohesion to the collection that plunged me deeply into this writer’s alien yet weirdly familiar world, as if I’d been dreaming someone else’s dream. There are images and moments in each of these stories that have lodged into my brain like shrapnel. A truly unique and memorable reading experience.”
—Dan Chaon, Grace Paley Prize judge and author of Stay Awake and Await Your Reply
"Lucas Southworth in his deep-dish, deadpan debut collection, Everyone Here Has a Gun, turns us on to a spinning world where something is always off. Oh, it all seems normal enough and quite matter-of-fact at the start. But then the stories turn and turn—twisted, worsted—the matter, in fact, gone dark and all anti-. Watch it and watch out! Of course the characters are weaponized along with the shape-charged plotting and the brilliant tracing rounds of language, illuminating the negative capability of suddenly stunning up-armored porcelain prose."
—Michael Martone, author of Four for a Quarter and Michael Martone
Playlist for Everyone Here Has a Gun on Ploughshares' blog: "The stories are tense, gritty, and dark, full of sons raised to kill fathers and boys nailing chipmunks to walls. These characters hover at the edge of disaster. They exist in the unsettling shadows between innocence and violence."
Michael Czyzniejewski on the story "There Isn't Any Ghost" for his Story 366 Project: "What I’ll say is this: 'There Isn’t Any Ghost' switches from a ghost story to a very realistic horror story. I love that about it, and love the story overall. It’s fresh, surprising, and—reading this alone, in my home, at night—terrifying … Maybe every story in this book truly has a gun—it would be fitting—and as far as I can tell, Southworth is saying that a whole lot of good it’ll do these people, as trouble rarely comes in the form of something you can shoot, something you can be ready to shoot. Or maybe I’m just turning this post into a gun post after all. Either way, I loved and was creeped out by his ghost story, and can’t wait to see what this talented voice does next."
Robert Glick for the Pleiades Book Review: Lucas Southworth’s excellent short story collection, Everyone Here Has a Gun, winner of the 2012 Grade Paley Prize in Short Fiction, appeals to a dialectic of dismemberment and recombination to explore the possibility of displacing and defusing acts of violence."
The Mid-American Review: "Southworth’s choice to utilize a variety of narrative styles, including fairy tale, folk tale, episodic, and traditional linear forms, is brilliant. It heightens the tension while at times serves as an escape valve. Everyone Here Has a Gun aims directly at the reader with precision and beauty, and embeds itself into the brain, where it lingers long after the book is closed."
The Colorado Review, (The Center of Literary Publishing): "Southworth creates surprising characters and unique narrative structures that stimulate intense thought and emotion. Everyone Here Has a Gun is a short story collection crafted in a new way, with at least one story for every different kind of reader."
"I once took pistol lessons with the author Joy Williams, and our instructor told us that each person on earth has an individual attacker. Lucas Southworth is one I've been waiting for all these years—like that of your attacker, his brutal vision is aimed right at you in these phenomenal tales."
—Kate Bernheimer, author of Horse, Flower, Bird
Winter Crush #30: Origami Zoo Press: "Southworth's fiction seems to have absorbed all the tropes we find in pop culture, particularly in film, particularly in horror movies, chewed them up and spit them back out in new, compelling forms—it takes all our anxieties about living in the contemporary world and makes them into ghost stories and fairy tales."
"Lucas Southworth's impressive debut collection is at once haunting and funny. There is a tender creature at work here who produces in these stories a feeling of menace impossible to locate or shake. Southworth offers no comforting haven, no buy-out, no lie. He renders sensation with indelible precision and keeps his people bravely alive to the world -- its dark pleasures and vivifying dangers."
—Noy Holland, author of Swim for the Little One First
This is what you never understood: to travel along the speech ropes is friction: to rub up against the undisguised networks is death, is death.
A Complete List of Work Found Online:
"A Blade Over the Meadow": The Rupture
"We Are All Breakable, Ready to Break": Conjunctions
"It's All Science Fiction": Juked
"Something Human": Conjunctions
"Two Lies and Another Lie": Fixional
"The Witch's Daughter": Fixional
"Hunger": SmokeLong Quarterly
"Ghost Hunters": Baltimore's City Paper
"The Pond": DIAGRAM
"Copycats": Willow Springs
"A Murder in Four Shorts": TriQuarterly
"Her Last Friday": Rappahannock Review
"Blood": Black Warrior Review
"James Gatrell's Journals and Letters": Conjunctions
"The First Sign of Holes" and "Romance": Wigleaf (also a postcard).
"All This in a World Without Dragons": West Branch Wired
"Crossing our Communication Networks": Wigleaf
"The Hundredth Confession": Cutbank
An interview with Jake Zawlacki from The Southern Review about my story "Quantum Physics"
Five from the Smokelong Quarterly archive, Food in Flash.
Five from the Smokelong Quarterly archive, Repetition in Flash.
On my story "There Isn't Any Ghost" for the Hayden's Ferry Review blog.
On Flatness in Fairy Tales for Volta (Make sure to read the whole feature--it's fabulous)
On "The Safest Place You've Ever Been" which was published in Willow Springs: Write up by Dan Wickett.
On my story "A Glass Coffin": The Collagist, interview by Liana Iman
A recording of me reading "The Safest Place You've Ever Been" and Hemingway's "In Another Country" for the Knox Writer's House.
The saddest song I know: Wigleaf
His son wouldn't turn twenty for another fifteen years, and by then he'd be almost as big as the father, his hands almost as strong. And the father would have taught him to wait until dark.
For media inquiries, thoughts, confusions, complaints, praise, limericks, laments, and/or to share needlessly elaborate jokes please contact Lucas Southworth at Loyola: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also follow him on facebook.