Benjamin Percy

Acclaimed Novelist & Story Writer
Author of The Dead Lands

Readings & Lecture Topics

  • Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic Fiction
  • Horror in Film and Literature
  • History of the American West in Literature, Culture & Geography 
  • Writing the Environment & Outdoor Adventure
  • Suspense, Momentum & the “Art” of Violence
  • From Fiction to Graphic Novel or Screenplay
  • Literature of War
  • Writing for Comics

“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 four novels, The Dark Net (forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2017); The Dead Lands, a post-apocalyptic reimagining of the Lewis and Clark saga (Grand Central/Hachette, 2015), about which Stephen King declared, “You will not come across a finer work of sustained imagination this year. Good God, what a tale. Don’t miss it.”; Red Moon (Grand Central/Hachette, 2013), an IndieNext pick and Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection; and The Wilding (Graywolf Press, 2010), winner of the Society of Midland Authors Award for Fiction. 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). His craft book—Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction—was published by Graywolf Press in the fall of 2016.

Percy works for DC Comics. He writes the Green Arrow and Teen Titans series and has written for Batman in the past. He also writes James Bond for Dynamite Comics.

He is a member of the WGA screenwriters’ guild and has sold scripts to FOX and Starz. He has several film and TV projects in development, including RED MOON (produced by 20th Century Fox and Temple Hill), which will air on FOX in the fall of 2017.

His fiction and nonfiction have been read on National Public Radio; performed at Symphony Space; and published by Esquire, GQ, Time, Men’s Journal, Outside, The Paris Review, Tin House, Orion, The Wall Street Journal, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, McSweeney’s 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. His story “Refresh, Refresh” was one of forty selections included in 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories.

Percy has taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference.

Benjamin Percy’s website

Benjamin Percy is the author of four novels: The Dark Net (forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2017), The Dead Lands, Red Moon and The Wilding. He is also the author of two collections of stories, Refresh, Refresh and The Language of Elk, and a craft book, Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction. His fiction and nonfiction have been published in Esquire, GQ, Time, Men’s Journal, Outside, the Paris Review, Tin House, Orion, The Wall Street Journal, Ploughshares, McSweeney’s, Glimmer Train, and many other magazines and journals. His honors include a National Endowment for the Arts, a Whiting Award, the Plimpton Prize, two Pushcart Prizes, and inclusion in Best American Short Stories. He writes the Green Arrow and Teen Titans series for DC Comics and the James Bond series for Dynamite Comics.

THE DARK NET (Novel, 2017)
Description to Come

THRILL ME (Essays, 2016)
Anyone familiar with the meteoric rise of Benjamin Percy’s career will surely have noticed a certain shift: After writing two short-story collections and a literary novel, he delivered the werewolf thriller Red Moon and the postapocalyptic epic The Dead Lands. Now, in his first book of nonfiction, Percy challenges the notion that literary and genre fiction are somehow mutually exclusive. The title essay is an ode to the kinds of books that make many readers fall in love with fiction: science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, horror, from J.R.R. Tolkien to Anne Rice, Ursula K. Le Guin to Stephen King. Percy’s own academic experience banished many of these writers in the name of what is “literary” and what is “genre.” Then he discovered Michael Chabon, Aimee Bender, Cormac McCarthy, Margaret Atwood, and others who employ techniques of genre fiction while remaining literary writers. In fifteen essays on the craft of fiction, Percy looks to disparate sources such as Jaws, Blood Meridian, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to discover how contemporary writers engage issues of plot, suspense, momentum, and the speculative, as well as character, setting, and dialogue. An urgent and entertaining missive on craft, Thrill Me brims with Percy’s distinctive blend of anecdotes, advice, and close reading, all in the service of one dictum: Thrill the reader.

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.

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 

RED MOON (chapter excerpt)

He cannot sleep. All night, even with his eyes closed, Patrick Gamble can see the red numbers of the clock as they click forward: 2:00, 3:30, 4:10, now 4:30, but he is up before the alarm can blare. He snaps on the light and pulls on the blue jeans and black T-shirt folded in a pile, ready for him, ready for this moment, the one he has been dreading for the past two months. His suitcase yawns open on the floor. He tosses his toiletry kit into it after staggering down the hall to the bathroom and rubbing his armpits with a deodorant stick and brushing his teeth, foaming his mouth full of mint toothpaste.

He stands over the suitcase, waiting, as if hoping hard enough would make his hopes come true, waiting until his raised hopes fall, waiting until he senses his father in the bedroom doorway, turning to look at him when he says, “It’s time.”

He will not cry. His father has taught him that, not to cry, and if he has to, he has to hide it. He zips the suitcase shut and drags it upright and stares at himself in the closet mirror— his jaw stubbled with a few days’ worth of whiskers, his eyes so purple with sleeplessness they look like flowers that have wilted in on themselves—before heading down the hall to the living room, where his father is waiting for him.

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”