Synopses & Reviews
The eight stories of speculative fiction in There Is Only Us
explore themes of loneliness, connectedness, and selfhood. Each one is an act of intimacy — an altered world shown through the lens of a close relationship. Brothers, sisters, lovers, mothers, and daughters come together in myriad constellations, often so that one character can make a body-altering choice of extreme proportions. In a variety of forms — from a satirical retelling of Noah's Ark to a sister drama revolving around naked mole rats — There Is Only Us
presents a series of escalating scenarios, intimate and yet absurd, that ask, how much can you change and still be you?
Ballering's stories bring to speculative fiction a new lightness and absurdity and a commitment to contemporary experiences of loneliness, especially among Millennials: loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic, ecological loneliness (the sense that, by the end of our lives, the earth will be barren), and the unsolvable loneliness that so many experience despite carrying around a tiny device that claims it can connect them to any human anywhere on earth.
"Wholly original and wildly contemporary, Zoe Ballering's There Is Only Us moves from the COVID-19 pandemic's Before Times to the After Times, every story a meticulous and emotionally resonant examination of a rapidly shifting world. Reading it feels like reading the world as it is unfolding, an Ovidian rendering of the cataclysmic changes of our time, with all the accompanying strangeness, pain, and exultation." Polly Buckingham, author of The Expense of a View and series judge
"In There Is Only Us, strands of the strange and the familiar intertwine and coalesce around everyday heartbreak and existential speculations. The people in these stories confront questions of identity with profound hope by declaring, 'Here I am,' and in doing so remind us that we are not alone. A breathtaking and auspicious debut." Christopher Barzak, author of Wonders of the Invisible World
"The stories in There Is Only Us make me rethink everything I know about mothers and daughters, astronauts, Noah's Ark, dreams, and — yes — mole rats. With tenderness and honesty, Ballering draws out the most human of traits in the most wild of circumstances." Kristiana Kahakauwila, author of This Is Paradise: Stories
"There Is Only Us creates worlds that dazzle as they fall apart. These are stories that will stick with you for a long time, reminding you that not only are we connected by our losses, but so too are we bound by love." Kelly Magee, author of The Neighborhood
About the Author
Zoe Ballering's short fiction has appeared in Craft, Electric Lit, and Hobart, and her story "Double or Nothing" won the 2021 Rougarou Fabulism and Speculative Fiction Contest. Her writing is informed by her experiences working in many different worlds: as program manager for a historic tall ship, receptionist at a garbage dump, olive oil saleswoman, teacher, radio copywriter, and currently as communications coordinator for the Reed College Office of Admission. She lives in Portland, Oregon.