Beset with environmental disaster, animal-like children, and the failure of traditional roles, the twenty-six fathers of Cataclysm Baby raise their desperate voices to reveal the strange stations of frustrated parenthood to proclaim familial thrashings against the fading light of our exhausted planet, its glory grown wild again.

As the known world disappears, these beleaguered and all-too-breakable men cling ever tighter to the duties of an unrecoverable past, even as their children rush ahead, evolve away. Unflinching in the face of apocalypse and unblinking before the complicated gaze of parental love, Matt Bell’s Cataclysm Baby is a powerful chronicle of our last days, and of the tentative graces that might fill the hours of our dusk.



"In extraordinary language, with deep feeling, Matt Bell has crafted a baby name book for the apocalypse, a gorgeous, brilliant, often darkly hilarious and always moving novella. Written with an ingenuity and joy that call to mind Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, each chapter is a treasure: Here are beast of burden children, larval girls, subterranean daughters and choirs of sirens, combustible baby boys. I loved this book and want to recommend it to every human parent and child I know; if trees, rocks, and stars were literate, I would recommend it to them, too. 'Where do babies come from?' children ask their parents, and Cataclysm Baby has an alphabet of answers as beautiful and mysterious as that ancient question, while always posing its haunting corollary: 'Where do they go?'" —Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!

"You can read Matt Bell’s apocalyptic abecedarium as a grotesque allegory of the devastations of parenthood, or as a grim realist extrapolation evoked by our crumbling world order. But these lovely, harrowing pieces do not float off into the Ideasphere; they remain tethered to the dusty, arid earth by their palpable nouns:  baby, hair, teeth, womb, seed, porridge, hut, crib, bone, mouth, hatchet, shovel, flesh. Like The Red Cavalry Stories or The Age of Wire and StringCataclysm Baby is both surreal and vividly concrete, as much a Feeling Experiment as a Thought Experiment. The trope of end time is always about revelation, and what is revealed here, among other things, is Bell’s brutal compassion." —Chris Bachelder, author of Abbott Awaits

"The baby born as fur ball, the one who chews up its sibling in the womb, the amputated limbs, the child sacrifices, the girl untethered into the sky, the skewed biblical cadences and the mythic tropes, the continuous horror begot by parenthood and authority—Matt Bell’s collection of condensed narraticules, Cataclysm Baby, is Avant-Gothic at its most remarkable, unsettling, potent." —Lance Olsen, author of Calendar of Regrets

"Here is the alphabet of the pulsing apocalypse that is fatherhood, a book in love with what words, like parents, create: beauty, terror, awe." Lucy Corin, author of The Entire Predicament

"How much sacrifice is required of a parent? When is it admissible to love yourself more than your child, or in another way, to fear your own death more than the death of your child? Bell doesn’t propose answers, but instead begs us to consider that a real question exists here… Ultimately, this lovely, intense book accomplished what many other non-traditional novels—and truthfully many traditional novels—fail to do: it moved me." —Jena Salon, BOMB

"Cataclysm Baby is a varicolored, multi-faceted novella which transcends the tropes of ecological collapse and apocalypse, turning global catastrophe into claustrophobes of human crisis. The power of each piece alone is that it draws into itself the themes, familial forces, pathology and conflicts of the preceding chapters, then the successive story carries—like the pros and cons of all hereditary hand-me-downs—the social bacteria a step further… These are the last ditch attempts to rebuild what’s lost, mythologize what’s irredeemable and finally just survive what’s coming." —Chris Vaughn, The Rumpus

"The images in Cataclysm Baby linger long after the last page—a quiet, respectful haunting of things that aren’t quiet. And while aspects of these images, people, and places can be bewildering, Bell establishes an authority that encourages the reader to hang on for the wild ride." —S. Hope Mills, ForeWord Reviews

"The richness of Bell’s novella lies in its versatility—each individual fiction can be read as a fantastical story or an allegory for parenthood. What do you do when your children must destroy you in order to self-actualize? How do you live with the guilt of infidelity knowing that your daughters see everything and will punish you? How do you let go of your children, knowing that losing them is the only way to save them?" —Johannes Lichtman, Oxford American

"The fierceness of Bell’s language is matched only by his worlds’ inhabitants, by the soot and murk of their existence. These tales of post-apocalyptic sacrifice—populated by uncertain suns and crematorium chimneys—ring of visceral urgency. Fathers risk losing what few connections they have left: daughters, sons, wives. But even these last vestiges of human connection often appear as dystopian figures: daughters with flippers and oily fur, enormous, plow-driving sons. The novella is madly imaginative in a bold and dark way that typically belies the term; the bleak worlds Bell creates deliver a sense of imagination without softness." —Peter Kispert, The Colorado Review

"Bell’s apocalypse is discontinuous; each tale evokes its own paradigm, its own idiom of grief. He’s less interested in the invention and world-building that marks so much of sci-fi and fantasy than he is in tapping into the mythological undercurrents of end-of-the-world narratives. The short pieces in Cataclysm Baby unfold (or burst, or twist) like strange, dark fairy tales, each proposing another vision of collapse… These motifs—the end of social order, the species-transformation of new children, the utter collapse of ecological norms—run throughout Cataclysm Baby, telegraphed in Bell’s precise, concrete style." —Edwin Turner, Biblioklept

As he did so superbly in How They Were Found, author Matt Bell takes us straight to the deepest, most difficult emotions of fatherhood and beyond: fear, grief, disappointment, letting go, betrayal, desperation… The stories of Cataclysm Baby are birth and blood, skin and fur, earth and plow, killing and death, love and sacrifice. With their terrifying premises and visceral language, these tales will not be for everyone, but those who read them cannot fail to be moved in some way." —Jennifer Messner, Books, Personally

"These stories are not for the faint of heart. But that is certainly a good word to dwell on for a moment—heart. Each of these stories tells a tale—a fantastic, magical story of horror, struggle and perseverance. But it shows us these moments with a love, and a passion that must be counted on in dark times like these. It shows us how family comes together to survive, and it shows us our undoing, how fragile we really are. There are lessons to be learned, images that will never be erased, justice dispensed, and parents left clinging to each other as they search for the strength to do better—to survive and evolve." —Richard Thomas, The Nervous Breakdown

"Bell’s utterly compelling writing creates a strong urgency to read and read and read… His sentences are pristine, enjoyable for the sheer mastery they show, and it’s impossible to read one and not want another." —Debrah Lechner, Hayden’s Ferry Review

"Cataclysm Baby is a brilliant, remarkable product of imagination. What praises could be sung about this book that haven’t already been sung? I imagine a lot of what I feel about the book has been expressed by countless others. It’s a book that defies categorization and generic pigeonholing. It does not want to be constrained by card catalogs or Dewey’s decimals. It’s a chimera of rich and bold sentences, expertly woven together to create incredible stories." —Joseph Michael Owens, PANK

"Cataclysm Baby—bearing some resemblance to a catalog of baby names—is nothing short of a creative success… As an allegory that focuses on the fear of parenthood and how it can be painful and destructive but also necessary for the growth of an individual as well as that of a society, Cataclysm Baby is powerful, original, and wholly mesmerizing." —Mel Bosworth, Outsider Writers Collective

"Bell’s strange, allegorical narratives take an incredibly potent, disruptive and rather terrifying look at humanity in all its beauty and weirdness, managing to be totally insane and deeply essential all at once." —Emily Temple, Flavorwire

"An apocalyptic abecedarium that is one part baby name registry, one part S. Thompson’s Index of Folk-Motifs, one part Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. It might also be effective birth control, if Uncle Sam has taken away all your other options." —Kyle Minor, Treehouse

"Bell’s book gives name to the terrible potentials of parenthood set against a world that has fallen apart. While the waters and the temperatures are indeed rising, the real dread in Cataclysm Baby is the persistent idea that we’ll never get it right; that doomed and determined, humankind will forge ahead into whatever unknown future, bound to make the same mistakes over and over again. Permeating this bleak forecast is Bell’s sharp imagery and resonant language, which lashes us to the page and leaves us looking out beyond the end, wondering what on earth could possibly come next." —Nicole Treska, The Coffin Factory

"Call it the What to Expect When You’re Expecting for the apocalypse. But in its own strange and mythical way, Cataclysm Baby attempts to answer the question many an expectant parent has asked: “How do we bring children into such a world as this?” … From deep inside the mythic trappings, a redemption arc appears, leaf by leaf. A future emerges out of a wrecked world." —Erin Keane, WPFL

"One can hardly call these “vignettes” when the language is so rich, when alliteration (“this waste of weather and wild”), rhythm (“upon a lightning-split husk, I stencil the twins that follow”), and other sonic patterns are so continually surprising, so vivid. Cataclysm Baby obsesses over our dependence on ephemeral and treacherous flesh, and yet the book frequently hints at stranger, more eerie reaches, beyond these terrors of pregnancy and birth… With its children of air, earth, soot, and teeth, Cataclysm Baby recalls Italo Calvino’s masterpiece, Invisible Cities, another miniature encyclopedia of the unreal." —Daniel Wallace, Los Angeles Review

"The reader who enjoys flash fiction and wants to explore how a themed collection can accrue meaning will want to read Cataclysm Baby. A reader who wants a glimpse into an amazing imagination at work will want to read it. This reader wanted and got both, and more." —Peg Alford Pursell, Prick of the Spindle

"I can’t say enough about the language. First, almost every “story” pulls itself forward in a sort of list form. Paragraphs start with phrases like “Know how” or “And then,” which creates a fascinating rhythm without tiring itself out. The descriptions are both grotesque and astoundingly beautiful at the same time.  As the “stories” progress… the language changes slightly, sounding more and more like they were written in the 19th century, and the fathers, none of them the same, become more and more desperate. This is what pulls the book forward." —C.J. Opperthauser, Mud Schematic

"I literally, without exaggeration, love this book… this book impressed me on a sentence-language level, paragraph-flow level, larger-scope concept level, and more. The tales inside Cataclysm Baby are dark, yet tender at the same time." —David S. Atkinson, InDigest

"What separates Bell’s writing from other apocalypse tales is the deeply-considered metaphor, which is at once obvious but never belabored. The focus is never on the world-shattering pyrotechnics, but stays on the more prosaic concerns of family conflicts and what, if anything, it means to be a father… What truly makes Cataclysm Baby special, however, is the style Bell has adopted, a restrained prose with something of the biblical about its sparseness, the distance between the narrators and others, the anonymity of the actors." —Jason Cook, Small Doggies

"I’m among the many who think Matt Bell can do no wrong. In this “book of names,” [his] tales offer an unforgettable meditation on humanness as the characters lust, consume, rage, hope, breed, betray, love, and reflect our own im/perfect impending doom." —Vanessa Ramos

While it seems natural to read these tales as allegories of parenthood… nevertheless I can’t help but give them a literal gloss. The horror of these tales is that, in some places within our wretched world, parentsdogive up their children for the hope of a chance of a better life. And with recent revisions to climate change forecasts, we may be well on our way to a world from Bell’s pages." —David Barker,

"Nearly every story dog-eared, so difficult to choose my favorites, each one shining the darkness, in how brilliantly Bell handles these sick,  twisted, broken children; these flailing, failing, heartbroken parents; and this world, post-apocalyptic, rolling for the edge, getting mushier and more dreadful, me both shocked at the doom portrayed and relieved for the moment to escape, momentarily at least, the cracked worlds living on." —Tyler Gobble, Vouched

"I am still shivering from Bell’s chilling profundity… Few books in print have the reach and depth these pages achieve." —Andrea Kinnear, Tossed in My Lap

"Cataclysm Baby is a compelling, quick, and complex read that will drop you into twenty-six lives and test your concept of what is humanly (or not-so-humanly) possible." —Jason Behrends, What to Wear During an Orange Alert?

"The twenty-six stories in here culminate in a bleak, frightening vision of what happens when the parental structure falls apart."—Ryan Bradford

"Matt Bell’s been making a name for himself through his formally inventive fiction, and this collection certainly adds to that. Mud Luscious Press has, likewise, been making a name for itself by publishing groundbreaking work for a few years now, and they’ve outdone themselves again." —CL Bledsoe, Mourning Goats

"Bell is known as a fabulist, but his novella’s beauty is its subtlety. As kindling warms the cold future, as the rising waters bring one narrator to some hopeful place, as Cataclysm Baby’s penultimate chapter carries us via man-made labyrinth into the sky—and then, finally, through the vastness of time and space—the author gives only enough shape to his spirited vision to awaken us into the possibility that things are not as they seem, that they might surprise us on the upside." —T.C. Porter, The Speculative Edge

"To advise you to go out and buy this book, to sit down and read it right away, let the words overflow you, the environment within consume you, isn’t enough. Readers will take pleasure in this book, writers will be secretly jealous." —Patrick Trotti, jmww

"Alongside the brilliantly gruesome plots and development, even the basic prose of this book is perfected down to the choice of every word, the inflection and connotation behind every sentence." —Isaac Dwyer, Parallax Online

"Bell’s writing style is lyrical—not quite poetry, but more than prose. His descriptions are vividly simple and left me wishing he’d illustrated the darn thing. I would love to see some of these children brought to life." —Brianna Soloski, Girl Seeks Place

"And the end. You will talk about the ending, the last chapter." —Jason Cook, The Lit Pub