I once met a literature scholar who specialized in Canadian animal stories. “How cool,” I thought, and I’ve wanted to put together a bestiary ever since. It was just a matter of putting out the call. Not surprisingly, the Lackington’s inbox was overwhelmed by submissions, which ran the gamut from traditional fable to absurdist paean. Ironically, Issue 12 is a rare issue that doesn’t feature at least one Canadian author, so these are animal stories, full stop, and I can live with that—especially given the geographical breadth of perspectives contained herein, which is the best consolation prize.
Such an influx of submissions suggests writers remain fascinated with the animal kingdom. But what does it say about your editor when the tales she selected for this collection are imbued with threat and suffused with shadow? These are twisted animal stories that pulse and creep at the dimmer margins of fiction, and the featured creatures are ones I would prefer to avoid along a forest path. If you’re apt to be disturbed by sadistic lizards, vigilante equines, war- hungry hares, cruel foxes, ravenous insects, vengeful hounds, and amorphous animal heads that encase the heads of people, have faith that the collection ends on an optimistic note with the one old-fashioned animal tale I purchased for Issue 12: Gwynne Garfinkle’s charming piece about hedgehogs obsessed with story and companionship. I hope you find a sense of both in this collection.