“Percy skillfully mines the psychic wildernesses of his characters.” —Publishers Weekly
“Benjamin Percy moves instinctively toward the molten center of contemporary writing, the place where genre fiction, in this case horror, overflows its boundaries and becomes something dark and grand and percipient.” —Peter Straub
“Benjamin Percy is the best new writer to step into the spotlight in years.” —Brady Udall
Benjamin Percy is the author of three novels, Red Moon (Grand Central/Hachette, 2013), an IndieNext pick and Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, The Wilding (Graywolf Press, 2010), winner of the Society of Midland Authors Award for Fiction, and The Dead Lands, a post-apocalyptic reimagining of the Lewis and Clark saga, forthcoming in April 2015 from Grand Central. He is also the author of two books of stories, Refresh, Refresh (Graywolf, 2007) and The Language of Elk (Grand Central, 2013/Carnegie Mellon, 2006). Percy is currently adapting Red Moon as a series for FOX TV with Oscar-winner Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind, I am Legend, Winter’s Tale) and The Wilding as a film with director Tanya Wexler (Hysteria). He also has a craft book, Thrill Me, due out by Graywolf Press in 2016.
His fiction and nonfiction have been read on National Public Radio; performed at Symphony Space; and published by Esquire, where he is a contributing editor, as well as GQ, Time, Men’s Journal, Outside, The Paris Review, Tin House, Chicago Tribune, Orion, The Wall Street Journal, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, and many other magazines and journals. His honors include a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Whiting Award, the Plimpton Prize, two Pushcart Prizes, and inclusion in Best American Short Stories and Best American Comics. He writes for DC Comics, and his story “Refresh, Refresh” was adapted into a screenplay by filmmaker James Ponsoldt and a graphic novel (First Second Books, 2009) by Eisner-nominated artist Danica Novgorodoff. Percy is currently working on a crime drama for Starz called Black Gold, set in North Dakota and focusing on oiling drilling and fracking.
Percy has taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is the writer in residence at St. Olaf College and a faculty member in the low-residency MFA program at Pacific University.
Benjamin Percy is the author of three novels, The Wilding, winner of the Society of Midland Authors Award for Fiction, and the psychological thriller Red Moon, and The Dead Lands, a post-apocalyptic reimagining of the Lewis and Clark saga, forthcoming in April 2015 from Grand Central. He is also the author of two books of stories, Refresh, Refresh and The Language of Elk. His fiction and nonfiction have been published in Esquire, GQ, Time, Men’s Journal, Outside, the Paris Review, Tin House, Chicago Tribune, Orion, The Wall Street Journal, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, and many other magazines and journals. His honors include a National Endowment for the Arts, a Whiting Award, the Plimpton Prize, a Pushcart Prize, and inclusion in Best American Short Stories.
THE DEAD LANDS (Novel, 2015)
“Benjamin Percy’s The Dead Lands is a case of wonderful writing and compulsive reading. You will not come across a finer work of sustained imagination this year. Good God, what a tale. Don’t miss it.” —Stephen King
In Benjamin Percy’s new thriller, a post-apocalyptic reimagining of the Lewis and Clark saga, a super flu and nuclear fallout have made a husk of the world we know. A few humans carry on, living in outposts such as the Sanctuary—the remains of St. Louis—a shielded community that owes its survival to its militant defense and fear-mongering leaders. Then a rider comes from the wasteland beyond its walls. She reports on the outside world: west of the Cascades, rain falls, crops grow, civilization thrives. But there is danger too: the rising power of an army that pillages and enslaves every community they happen upon. Against the wishes of the Sanctuary, a small group sets out in secrecy. Led by Lewis Meriwether and Mina Clark, they hope to expand their infant nation, and to reunite the States. But the Sanctuary will not allow them to escape without a fight.
RED MOON (Novel, 2013)
Listed as one of 2013’s most anticipated books, Publishers Weekly writes of Red Moon, “Exploring one of the oldest themes in weird fiction—the werewolf—Percy delivers a stunning alternate history epic that transcends its genre trappings to read as a provocative reflection on the contemporary zeitgeist. At a point where many other writers would flinch, Percy follows through on the direst possibilities of his premise, building to a shocking denouement and even more shock climax in the final pages.”
THE WILDING (Novel, 2010)
“There are a hundred ways to feel frightened and lost in a forest, and the excellent, savvy Benjamin Percy can evoke them all. The Wilding, a brilliant literary novel that feels at times almost like Geoffrey Household’s classic Rogue Male, seems to have been written on his vibrating nerve-endings. This book is filled with dread, sadness, tension and a tireless vision of mankind’s thoughtless devastation of an ancient and more authentic way of life. It is almost impossible to put down. James Dickey must have been whispering to Ben Percy in his sleep.” —Peter Straub
Percy’s excellent debut novel digs into the ambiguous American attitude toward nature as it oscillates between Thoreau’s romantic appreciation and sheer gothic horror. The plot concerns a hunting trip taken by Justin Caves and his sixth-grade son, Graham, with Justin’s bullying father, Paul, a passionate outdoorsman in failing health who’s determined to spend one last weekend in the Echo Canyon before real estate developer Bobby Fremont turns the sublime pocket of wilderness into a golfing resort. Justin, a high school English teacher, has hit an almost terminally rough patch in his marriage to Karen, who, while the boys camp, contemplates an affair with Bobby, though she may have bigger problems with wounded Iraq war vet Brian, a case study in creepy stalker. The men, meanwhile, are being tracked by a beast and must contend with a vengeful roughneck roaming the woods. A taut plot and cast of deeply flawed characters—Justin is a masterwork of pitiable wretchedness—will keep readers rapt as peril descends and split-second decisions come to have lifelong repercussions. It’s as close as you can get to a contemporary Deliverance (PW, Starred Review). Pam Houston writes that The Wilding is “[n]ot your father’s eco-novel. In compelling, image-driven prose, Benjamin Percy confounds the old polarities about wilderness and development by sending three generations of men into a doomed canyon, and letting so much hell break loose we can’t tell the heroes from the villains—which feels exactly right. This is a dark, sly, honest, pleasing, slip-under-your-skin-and-stay-there kind of a book.
REFRESH, REFRESH: STORIES (Stories, 2007)
Percy’s second collection (following The Language of Elk) traces lives led in rural Oregon’s fractured, mostly poor communities. The title story (selected for The Best American Short Stories 2006), presents Josh, a young man from small-town Tumalo who watches as men who signed up as Marine reservists for beer pay leave to fight in the Iraq War, including Josh’s father. As Josh’s unreliable first person details a deer hunt, the escapades of the town recruitment officer and the less-and-less frequent emails from his father, tension slowly builds. Set during a blackout, “The Caves in Oregon” follows geology teacher Becca and her husband, Kevin, as they explore a network of caves beneath their home, grappling to understand each other in the wake of a miscarriage. “Meltdown” imagines a nuclear disaster in November 2009, while the menacing Whisper opens with the accidental late-life death of Jacob, leaving his brother, Gerald, to care for Jacob’s stroke-impaired wife. Percy’s talent for putting surprising characters in difficult contemporary settings makes this a memorable collection. —Publishers Weekly
THE WILDING (chapter excerpt)
Justin has not spoken to his father for three months. Not since he returned home from the hospital and began weight lifting in the living room, shirtless, his chest cloven by a zipper-shaped scar. “Got to get back into it,” he said. When Justin scolded him for this, his father told him to fuck off, mind his business.
Paul has always been like bad weather—relentless, expansive, irritating—but since the heart attack he has grown even wilder and more unreasonable, as if, having cheated death, the laws of life no longer apply to him.
The long silence is not unusual. Over the years, their conversations often begin on a normal note—how’s work, how’s the fishing. Then their voices rise in argument, though usually they can’t remember what about after a few weeks pass. Such is the natural rhythm between them—every season for them like the emotional course of a year for most fathers and sons, where the small pangs of affection felt during the holidays are inevitably followed by arguments followed by long silences followed by making peace.
Which is why, when November nears and his father calls and invites Justin to join him camping and hunting in Echo Canyon, he only hesitates a moment before saying yes.
“You’re sure?” his father says.
“Sure I’m sure.” And suddenly he is.
REFRESH, REFRESH (story excerpt)
When school let out the two of us went to my backyard to fight. We were trying to make each other tougher. So in the grass, in the shade of the pines and junipers, Gordon and I slung off our backpacks and laid down a pale green garden hose, tip to tip, making a ring. Then we stripped off our shirts and put on our gold-colored boxing gloves, and fought.
Every round went two minutes. If you stepped out of the ring, you lost. If you cried, you lost. If you got knocked out, or if you yelled, “Stop!” you lost. Afterwards we drank Coca-Colas and smoked Marlboros, our chests heaving, our faces all shades of blacks and reds and yellows.
We began fighting after Seth Johnson—a no-neck line backer with teeth like corn kernels and hands like T-bone steaks—beat Gordon until his face swelled and split open and purpled around the edges. Eventually he healed, the rough husks of scabs peeling away to reveal a different face from the one I remembered, older, squarer, fiercer, his left eyebrow separated by a gummy white scar. It was his idea, fighting each other. He wanted to be ready. He wanted to hurt back those who hurt him. And if he went down, he would go down swinging, as his father would have wanted. This was what we all wanted, to please our fathers, to make them proud, even though they had left us.
—from “Refresh, Refresh”