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Reviews & Interviews:
Advance Praise for This Time, While We're Awake:
Heather Fowler's This Time, While We're Awake makes its way from one dystopia to another, climbs them like fences, and the problem is they're barbed wire, so it's torn cloth and shredded flesh the whole way. Hiders, breeders, and love drugs; practice babies and muse boxes: they all serve to showcase Fowler's finely honed sense of what is worth saving, what we can let fall, and how hard we must work to survive our worlds intact.
—Roy Kesey, author of Pacazo, All Over, Nothing in the World, and others
Where Carson McCullers meets Flannery O'Connor for modern times, Heather Fowler updates us with a "contemporary macabre" in such stories as "Practice Baby," placing us at the intersection of emotion-meets-Cyborgian-exercise in procreation, with an uncomfortable but compelling momentum, leaving us alert and contemplative of real-world effects for technology's ever-increasing integration with human behavior. "Dystopian" doesn't quite do justice to Fowler's work, as this label implies a pessimism her stories betray; much like the subjects in a Diane Arbus photograph, through peculiar twists and upsetting, even seedy circumstances, Fowler's protagonists poke and prod her readers to unseat any bias we might unknowingly harbor to build an empathy for those unlike ourselves, as in the turn from annoyance to sympathy for the closeted transgendered salesman hawking difficult objects in "Child Silencing Devices." In This Time, While We're Awake, the heart lays bare its own dark recesses—and the ways in which we've attempted to place our dark parts beyond ourselves ("The Muse Box"). Fowler's prose illustrates the refined sensibility of a poet; these stories move without overbearing, tempt without cliché, and ask us to dig deeper into a wired, very human world we call the "present" so that we can act on the future, now.
—Amy King, author of I Want to Make You Safe, Slaves to Do These Things, Antidotes for an Alibi, and others
Heather Fowler writes stories the way I want to them to be written: As part fairytales, part fables, part science fiction, part dreams, and part confessions, all bound together with prose that is simultaneously ornate, simple, and capable of anything.
—Grant Bailie, author of Cloud 8, Mortarville, New Hope for Small Men, and TomorrowLand
Heather Fowler has described herself, perhaps tongue in cheek, as a morbid Alice in Wonderland in the men's room of dystopia. The stories in her new collection, This Time, While We're Awake, are dark, creepy, disturbing, and quietly horrific. "Call It Shelter," describing the paranoid tension in a community tornado shelter, and "Child Silencing Devices," in which a traveling salesman attempts to hawk a new technology to an unimpressed customer, use prosaic details that evoke that master of modern horror, Shirley Jackson. Others employ a violence that is almost indirect, witnessed but not personally experienced, as in "The Hiders," where aliens come periodically to select and kill a single individual while their friends and families hide without watching—except when one decides to watch. These inventive tales sometimes have unexpected humor and often have female protagonists and a feminist tone, presenting entrapment and empowerment as two sides of the same coin. The reader will be surprised and engaged.
—Lyle Blake Smythers, author of Feasting With Panthers