Fiction Fix: The Copy Family by Blake Butler

The Fiction Fix is your weekly dose of short story. If that’s not your drug of choice, too bad: consider it medicine. Every week, we’ll scour the literary magazines you don’t have time to read, online and in print, and let you know where to find one story worth reading.

When HarperPerennial’s Fifty-Two Stories blog updated this week, and the title and first line or so appeared in our RSS feed, we were pretty certain we had a strong Fiction Fix candidate on our hands. We were pleasantly surprised to click through and discover that the author is Blake Butler, who we’ve previously encountered online as one of the brains behind HTML Giant, “the internet literature magazine blog of the future.”

His story, “The Copy Family,” is about a family that moves into a new and lovely home and finds exact copies of themselves already there, speechless, unblinking, with mouths filled with mold. In spite of the sci-fi chord that set-up might strike, the copies serve as an impetus for the family to consider its own dynamics in a realistic and relatable way – particularly the mother as caretaker and protector.

“This child here had the same blonde bowl-cut hair like the son, hair the mother could barely bring herself to snip, every inch of him her precious — such nights she’d dreamed of his insides, swimming deep inside his cells. This child, this boy—he was made of her, and she was made of him.”

According to Butler’s blog, the story is an excerpt from a novel he wrote in 10 days. Damn, Gina, give that boy a multiple book contract!