Award-Winning Local Author Andy Duncan to Read in Frostburg to Celebrate New Book

Nov 27, 2018 10:00 AM

From a gallows in 16th-century England to a show in 1920s New York City, from the mythical Big Rock Candy Mountain to “Beluthahatchie” – the next railroad stop past Hell – award-winning author and Frostburg State University faculty member Andy Duncan takes readers on a dozen fantastical adventures to real and imagined settings in his new book, “An Agent of Utopia: New and Selected Stories.”

Duncan, an associate professor in FSU’s Department of English and Foreign Languages, will appear at Main Street Books in Frostburg on Thursday, Dec. 6, at 7:30 p.m. for a reading and signing in celebration of his first American book release in 18 years. The book is available now.

For his third collection, Duncan’s editor declined to gather his latest stories, opting to create something closer to a “greatest hits” collection. “An Agent of Utopia” features two new stories alongside 10 of the author’s favorite previously published tales from 1997 to 2012.

“When it says ‘selected stories,’ it really is a selection,” Duncan said.

While no two stories are alike in plot, setting or character, Duncan noted that all of the stories are united by a loose thread: things that bother him.

“John Kessel, one of my mentors, told me… ‘You can’t help it. You wind up always writing about things that bother you,’” Duncan said. “Race bothers me. Religion and faith bother me. And politics bother me. ... Who has power and who does not? The struggle between the haves and have-nots. Who’s in and who’s out? A lot of these stories are about people who are breaking boundaries… rattling cages.”

Many of the book’s fictional stories sprang from actual historical events, personalities or oddities that somehow got stuck in the back of Duncan’s mind.

“Something has to lurk in my head for months or years before I eventually realize what the story is, and it coalesces around it like the pearl around the grit of sand,” he explained. “We are hardwired for story. … One way I work off all of my concerns about the world is to just make something up and make it internally consistent in a way the world is not.”

The fantastical stories that coalesce in Duncan’s mind have delighted readers and critics around the world. His last book was released as a limited-edition hardback in Great Britain, and his stories have been translated into several European and Asian languages. Duncan’s stories have won three World Fantasy Awards, a Nebula Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award.

“An Agent of Utopia,” published by Small Beer Press, is available now from online and local booksellers in softcover and e-book formats.

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