Matt Tompkins - more than a dozen surreal stories exploring the intersections of human and animal, head and heart, science and fiction


Matt Tompkins, Studies in Hybrid Morphology, tNY.Press, 2016.




Studies in Hybrid Morphology is a story collection trapped in the body of a scientific journal. Presented as a series of faux-scholarly articles, this genre-bending mash-up offers an array of surreal stories and flash fictions exploring the beings we want to be, can be, should not be, and will never be. A man with lobster claws for hands. A woman who grows a blanket of feathers. A talking cow. A baby born from an egg. A hu-manatee. Modeled after a scientific journal, divided into articles and complete with abstracts and end-notes, Studies in Hybrid Morphology includes more than a dozen surreal stories exploring the intersections of human and animal, head and heart, science and fiction. The strange characters who populate these stories, human and non-human animals alike, seek something fundamental meaning, identity, self-worth, comfort, connection. In most cases, they come up short, or land wide of their targets. After all, how often is anything quite what we’d hoped or expected? Instead, in the space of these pages, the reader is invited to eschew expectation, revel in the joy of unforeseen discoveries, and entertain the question: what does it mean to be alive and self-aware?


Studies in Hybrid Morphology, a new e-book from tNY Press, is a story collection trapped in the body of a scientific journal. Presented as a series of faux-scholarly articles, this genre-bending mashup offers an array of surreal stories and flash fictions exploring the beings we want to be, can be, should not be, and will never be.
A man with lobster claws for hands. A woman who grows a blanket of feathers. A talking cow. A baby born from an egg. A hu-manatee. The characters who populate these stories, human and non-human alike, seek something fundamental: meaning, identity, self-worth, comfort, connection. In most cases, they come up short, or land wide of their targets. After all, how often is anything quite what we’d hoped or expected? Instead, in the space of these pages, the reader is invited to eschew expectation, revel in the joy of unforeseen discoveries, and entertain the question: what does it mean to be alive and self-aware?



SUBJECT C
Age: 29
Sex: F
Donor: Avian, unknown
Subject C, who suffered from severe hirsutism, arranged to have all of her considerable body hair removed by an experimental genome-altering technique. The physician-aesthetician who administered the treatment expected permanent results, and experience bore out her hypothesis. But in place of each extracted hair, a fledgling feather grew, blanketing C in soft, pillowy down. Seemingly unfazed, she gave away all of her bedcovers and most of her clothes. Now she carries herself more proudly than before. She walks with a constant bob of the head and a visible hint of a strut.
Final assessment: Success.

SUBJECT D
Age: 23
Sex: M
Donor: Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
Subject D aspired to become a Marine sharpshooter, but had suffered since boyhood from severe myopia. To pursue his dream, D elected to have his eyes replaced with those of a Red-Tailed Hawk. He was later disappointed when he learned that hawk eyes, though effective for spotting rodents in far-off fields, disqualify one from military service. D now makes a living as a hunting guide, but insists this is no emotional consolation. During interviews, he was dressed head-to-toe in camouflage-print clothing, and carried a handgun, which he claimed was ‘military-issued.’ He stated that his pastimes include military historical research, watching war films, performing historical reenactments, and playing paintball. As to the last of these, D says he is ‘an absolute crack shot’ and claims that he is a coveted team member in several competitive paintball leagues. In the context of competition, he goes by the nickname ‘Hawkeye’ which, so far as could be discerned, was not intended ironically.
Final assessment: Failure.

SUBJECT F
Age: 45
Sex: F
Donor: Avian, unclassified, genetic construct
Subject F wished to soar. But when she selected her wings, she neglected to account for the density of her solid human bones. As a result, the wings—though strikingly beautiful—are wholly ineffectual for the purpose of flight. With a false tone of levity (evidently intended to hide her otherwise apparent bitterness) F frequently tells questioners that the wings are “the most expensive accessories [she has] ever purchased.” She later admitted, during interview, that she often silently curses herself, and the selection consultant who assisted her, for making such a gross oversight. She further reported that she occasionally has graphic fantasies about cutting, or even tearing, the wings off at the graft zones, especially late at night, or after several glasses of wine.
Final assessment: Thinly veiled (and ultimately admitted) failure. - micahjoel.info/2016/02/hybrid-morphology/


There’s a PDF-formatted excerpt






Matt Tompkins has an e-book, Studies in Hybrid Morphologyout now from tNY Press. A print chapbook, Souvenirs and Other Stories, is forthcoming this summer from Conium Press. His stories have appeared in Little Patuxent Review, New Haven Review, Post Road, and other journals. Matt works in a library and lives in upstate New York with his wife (who kindly reads his first drafts), his daughter (who prefers picture books) and his cat (who is illiterate).

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