Sunday 23 October 2022

Giselle Leeb, "Mammals, I Think We Are Called"


Giselle Leeb’s debut short story collection, Mammals, I Think We Are Called, is published by Salt (Oct 22). Her short stories have been widely published in journals, magazines, and anthologies, including Best British Short Stories 2017 (Salt), Ambit, Mslexia, The Lonely Crowd, Litro, Black Static, and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. She has been placed and shortlisted in competitions including the Ambit, Bridport and Mslexia prizes. She is an assistant editor at Reckoning Journal and a Word Factory Apprentice Award winner 2019. She grew up in South Africa and lives in Nottingham. Twitter: @GiselleKLeeb 

About Mammals, I Think We Are Called

Ambitious and playful, darkly humorous and imaginative, these strikingly original stories move effortlessly between the realistic and the fantastical, as their outsider characters explore what it’s like to be human in the twenty-first century. Whether about our relationship with the environment and animals, technology, social media, loneliness, or the enormity of time, they reflect the complexities of being alive. Beautifully written and compelling, you won’t read anything else like them.

You can read more about Mammals, I Think We Are Called on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read an excerpt from the collection. 

From Mammals, I Think We Are Called, by Giselle Leeb 

Everybody Knows This Place

At the entrance, he waits next to the big sign with the ancient photoshopped picture blending guest houses, motorhomes and tents. “Caravan and Camping Park,” it says. The national park opposite has been restored for maximum authenticity. Just don’t look too closely at the birds. 

He finds himself listlessly plugging and unplugging his left eye from its socket. He’s started to wonder about this habit, and he’s also secretly proud of it – a nervous tic, really, something more pure human than cyborg. People remove them deliberately for cleaning, but he does it spontaneously, and this feels good. He tries to stop the ‘why’ following, to try not to explain it. 

He unplugs the eye and points it at himself. He looks pretty much the same as everybody else, and that’s OK, that’s good, otherwise he might be made to feel inferior. Nobody does these days. It’s unnecessary, distressing even. Everyone gets along: no fear, no war. And emotions remain, though faint, like delicate imprints, a slight tang in an otherwise ordinary cup of tea, or ‘cuppa,’ as he’s taken to calling it. 

But the new theme park has generated faint hints of excitement in him, a recognition perhaps of the ongoing need to connect with fully human roots. Something unexpected, not factored in. They still don’t understand it, but they’ve finally admitted defeat and created the conditions to meet the need. 

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