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We Asked Fiction Writers To Capture Our Dark Times

Authors Manuel Gonzales, Diane Cook, Rachel Khong, and Maggie Shipstead present four visions for these strange days.

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Deadly hurricanes, threats of nuclear war, Blake Shelton as People’s Sexiest Man Alive — this past year has been full of truly surreal and scary moments. We asked some of the most exciting voices in fiction today to come up with stories that capture this current cultural moment in all its sinister absurdity. Each writer we chose — Manuel Gonzales, Maggie Shipstead, Diane Cook, and Rachel Khong — was able to depict the foreboding in the seemingly mundane, from a troubling family who moves in next door, to a woman who wakes up to find herself a sudden YouTube sensation. In dark times, fiction can be illuminating.

"Blondie"

A man and his wife are eager to welcome a new couple into the neighborhood, but fumble a bit in the process. How do you greet the first neo-Nazis on the block?

By Manuel Gonzales

"The Ringing Bell"

A pregnant woman becomes trapped in her apartment by her fear of whoever is ringing her front-door buzzer. As the buzzing continues, she runs out of sustenance options for herself — and her new baby.

By Diane Cook

"If a Tree Falls in a Forest"

After a woman blacks out in a bar she wakes up to discover she’s become a viral YouTube sensation. As she tries to piece together the events of the night, she ends up reconnecting with someone from her past.

By Rachel Khong

"Acknowledgements"

Don’t try to tell debut novelist Daniel Murphy (or, his nom de plume, D.M. Murphy) that he’s a joke; if he is, it’s because he chooses to be. It’s part of his genius — which according to him is sorely misunderstood.

By Maggie Shipstead

Karolina Waclawiak is the executive culture editor for BuzzFeed and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Karolina Waclawiak at karolina.waclawiak@buzzfeed.com.

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