Our 2021 Chapbook Open Winner, Love at the End of the World by Lindy Biller, selected by guest judge Matt Bell, is now available for purchase from Amazon and at Barnes & Noble! To celebrate, we’re sharing Matt Bell’s introduction to Biller’s prize-winning collection. Be sure to check out the early praise for the chapbook, and pick up your copy today!
Winner of the 2021 Chapbook Open
About the Author
LINDY BILLER is a writer based in Wisconsin. Her work has been selected as the winner of the 2021 Fractured Literary Flash Fiction Contest and nominated for Best Small Fictions, Best of the Net, and The Pushcart Prize. Her stories can be found in The Masters Review, Chestnut Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Cheap Pop, Longleaf Review, and Necessary Fiction, among others. Find her online at lindybiller.com.
Introduction by Matt Bell
The first thing I noticed about Lindy Biller’s stories was their confidence. Story after story, Biller launches into her tales with lines evocative enough to suggesting an entire scene at once: “It’s four in the morning, and the giraffes are fighting,” she writes in the opening of “This Was Never Ours,” one of my early favorites from this collection, and where else could I possibly want to be after that but there, finding out what happens next?
In “Extinction Event,” another favorite of mine, a mother of two finds herself suddenly facing the end of the world:
By now, people were talking about it on social media, which meant the news networks would catch up in a day or two. A weather anomaly. Maybe something to do with all the wildfires. Maybe related to the vanishing, the dying pollinators. Another plague. How could it be everywhere, all at once? What did it mean?
The end of the world is a setback, to say the least, but in this case it also gives this mother a possible out from her abusive marriage—when her husband is around, we learn, “the cupboard doors were always falling off,” because “he would yank them too hard, or slam them shut, or shatter her mother’s china against them.” We also learn that his movements are unpredictable: away as the extinction event nears, he’s “due home in a few days, or maybe a week, or it could even be this afternoon.”
The longer the husband stays away the better, the reader knows—and you sense the protagonist feeling it even as she won’t admit it, embracing the rescue of the extinction event, which her husband might not beat home. It’s a difficult, wry, and surprisingly hopeful story, and its ending was almost certainly the moment where I knew this was the chapbook to beat in this year’s Masters Review Chapbook Contest.
Lindy Biller’s Love at the End of the World, which I was thrilled to choose as this year’s winner, is a book full of clear invitations and provocations, surprises and thrills. Biller’s stories are frequently about motherhood and childhood and identity, about the ways our changing identities affect the way we see the world around us; Biller switches up form and voice and point of view with ease, showing off an enviable range throughout the collection. I hope you’ll find her excellent stories as thrillingly bittersweet as I did. I have no doubt that they will gift you all the wonder and joy you could want, as they did me on my first read and every read since.