Upright Beasts

Stories by Lincoln Michel

Twenty-one genre-bending stories of bestial transformation, accidental murder, erotically-challenged dictatorship, and other tales of darkness, absurdity, and confusion.

October 2015
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 | 224 Pages
Trade Paper

Thanks to a 2013 ADA Access Improvement Grant administered by VSA Minnesota for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, this title is also formatted for screen readers which make text accessible to the blind and visually impaired.

To purchase this title for use with a screen reader please call (612) 338-0125 or email us at info@coffeehousepress.org.

ISBN: 978-1-56689-418-0.



Children go to school long after all the teachers have disappeared, a man manages an apartment complex of attempted suicides, and a couple navigates their relationship in the midst of a zombie attack. In these short stories, we are the upright beasts, doing battle with our darker, weirder impulses as the world collapses around us.


“The world presented in Michel’s admirable debut collection is similar to our own, yet twisted just enough to feel strange. . . . Michel frequently knocks his brief bursts of prose out of the park.” —Publishers Weekly

“Lincoln Michel is a master of where literary culture and the internet meet. His recent collection of funny, dark short stories, Upright Beasts, similarly blends worlds and bend rules.” Brooklyn Magazine

“Michel ably handles modes from lyrical to ironic, but he is most comfortable in a purposefully flat stye that reads something like translated Kafka.” New York Times Sunday Book Review

“Michel’s stories are often an uncanny combination of sinister and funny, tender and sad. Laura van den Berg calls them ‘mighty surrealist wonders, mordantly funny and fiercely intelligent,’ and many of them will soon be released together in Michel’s first story collection Upright Beasts.” The Millions

“[Upright Beasts creates] a world twisted just enough to feel strange, and defies easy categorization.” —Publishers Weekly

“Some of the stories are remarkable . . . . A strong debut.” Kirkus Reviews

“Sometimes hysterically funny and sometimes quietly disturbing, Michel’s visions will appeal to readers looking for a few hours of purposefully unorthodox but refreshingly creative entertainment.” Booklist

“The stories are full of monstrous surprises and eerie silences. But who is the real beast? Michel quietly, but unequivocally, leads readers to the answer as he navigates weird tragicomedy of daily life. With zombies.” —Vanity Fair

“The twenty-five stories in this vibrant, bold and often funny book are full of such confusions of time and place. Characters stumble around in the dark, seeking a sense of community, deciding to wrestle with or else secretly indulge their own most beastly instincts. There are stories within stories within stories, and grizzly bears swallowed by sharks that are then swallowed by sperm whales. Upright beasts don’t stay upright for long.” —Guernica

“Michel captures the strangeness of the suburban South, and the rural wilderness surrounding it, through its chorus of blunt voices. His stories are absurd enough to reel you in, and emotionally honest enough to keep you reading.” —Huffington Post

“Dark, surreal, and imaginative, Lincoln Michel’s short story collection Upright Beasts is full of surprises at every turn.” —BuzzFeed

“[Upright Beasts is] a praiseworthy debut collection. It will haunt you long after the beasts have returned to the shadows.” —KGB Bar Lit Magazine

“The book that reminded me of the absolute wonder great fiction creates.” —Roxane Gay

“Dark, surreal, and imaginative, Lincoln Michel’s short story collection Upright Beasts is full of surprises at every turn.” —BuzzFeed, “The 24 Best Fiction Books of 2015”

“It is rare, and refreshing, to see such range in a collection.” —Kenyon Review

“Lincoln Michel is a master of where literary culture and the internet meet. His recent collection of funny, dark short stories, Upright Beasts, similarly blends worlds and bends rules.” —Brooklyn

“There is a bold, unpremeditated feel to Upright Beasts, a debut whose great strength is a changeability that keeps the pages turning as it veers from lucidity to madness and back again.” —Colorado Review

“There was Lincoln Michel’s debut collection Upright Beats, which collected a variety of modes of dark fiction from the Aickmanesque to the Kafkaesque.” Weird Fiction Review, “End of Year Book List”

“I was delighted, and still am, at the fact that Michel is so aware of expectations and rules that he is able to break them with such aplomb, and without apology. Upright Beasts is a lovely, finally genreless, collection, and one that is sure to continue finding an eager audience.” The Collagist

“Many writers can show us the known aches in the known ways. I favor those who present new weirdness. Michel does a little of both in this collection. It may be read as the record of a talented writer learning the old procedures before bending them to new purposes.” Green Mountains Review

The Strand, “Our Favorite Indie Books of 2015”

Entropy, “Best of 2015: Best Fiction Books”

Vol. 1 Brooklyn, “A Year of Favorites: Jason Diamond”

Huffington Post , “2015 Recommendations for Every Type of Pop Culture Fan”

“Dark comedic turns + supernatural phenomena + recession-era fabling = a highly enjoyable collection of short stories.” —Huffington Post

“[To] write a killer short story . . . is a total miracle. But if you’re some kind deranged monster like Lincoln Michel, you can churn these puppies out in your sleep.” —Tor

“Like a Russell Edson prose poem or Joe Frank monologue, the stories are compelling and the resolutions often left me bewildered but strangely satisfied.” —Critical Angst

“There was Lincoln Michel’s debut collection Upright Beasts, which collected a variety of modes of dark fiction from the Aickmanesque to the Kafkaesque.” —Weird Fiction Review

“Michel, one of the country’s most respected literary journalists, is also well known for his short stories that defy easy classification. This volume collects 21 of his offbeat tales, dealing with zombies, the apocalypse, and other bizarre, darkly surreal themes.” —Men’s Journal

“[Upright Beasts is] a dark, dreamy spiral into a world mostly like ours, but a few degrees off, and this distance is more than compelling.” —The Rumpus

“Lincoln Michel’s debut collection, Upright Beasts, contains an element of unreality that delights even as it unsettles.” —The Rumpus

“Lincoln Michel’s short story collection Upright Beasts enthralls with its tales of the surreal and the absurd.” —Largehearted Boy

“The imaginative Lincoln Michel presents his bestiary of strange and captivating stories.” —Largehearted Boy

“Deadpan and life affirming, the stories in this genre-bending debut veer from an apartment complex for the suicidal to a ghostly artists’ colony to the innards of wild things.” O Magazine

“I’ve been waiting for the release of his debut collection of short stories with all the anticipation of a kid standing outside the locked doors of a candy store just before it opens.” —The Quivering Pen

“Lincoln Michel has brought off a worthy debut in Upright Beasts, a rowdy klatch of stories with a number of winners.” —The Brooklyn Rail

Upright Beasts is an immersive and original book, and Michel’s stories often have a ‘one more bite’ quality. They’re swift, fun to read, and urge readers to compulsively turn the page.” —Full Stop

Upright Beasts, the debut collection from Lincoln Michel, offers numerous windows into the surreal and menacing. . . . It’s impressive, hypnotic work.” —Vol. 1 Brooklyn

“Lincoln Michel’s fiction defies genre in often-inventive ways. His first collection involves alien presences, mysterious schools, humans devoured by animals, and much more. If you like your short stories with a heady dose of the surreal and unpredictable, look no further.” —Vol. 1 Brooklyn

“Peculiar deaths, zombie attacks, and apocalyptic events abound in 21 stories that showcase the absurdities of both ordinary and extraordinary human experience. Written with plentiful humor and heart, Michel’s collection is a wry exploration of all the ways in which we—humans—are upright beasts.” —Buzzfeed

“Lincoln Michel . . . stakes out his place in the contemporary fiction landscape. . . . Lovely, penetrating writing.” —Star Tribune

“Sly, obscure, and beyond terrific.” —Fiction Advocate

“Though each story was published previously as a standalone piece, the nuance with which they’ve been organized in the book warps and enhances the reading experience. Some stories lean in the general direction of something resembling reality; others tack strongly toward the surreal.” —C-ville

“He reminds us the cages protecting us are an illusion and the beast snarls within, ready to devour until we’re all unrecognizable, upright or not.” —Entropy

“Weird, whimsical, horrific, romantic—very short stories can make room for some of the strangest, most wonderful things.” —Catapult

“[A] diverse, wonderful collection.” —Airborne Aspidistra

Upright Beasts is Lincoln Michel’s much anticipated debut story collection, out from the fabulous Coffee House Press.” —The Masters Review

“While humble about his talent, it was obvious to everyone in the room that writing is what Michel is meant to do.” Cavalier Daily

“Michel’s writing is both approachable and inspiring. You read [these stories], and you want to write them.” —Lawnchair Boys

“I was struck by both the consistency and diversity of [Michel's] vision. To read Upright Beasts is to enter a disconcertingly familiar world—one where isolated schoolchildren enact grand tragedies of violence, alienation and thwarted intimacy; where beleaguered Joe-Schmo’s double-down on troubled notions of masculinity; and where solipsistic twentysomething’s come into confrontation with hideous beings from provinces beyond human knowing.” —Believer Logger

“Lincoln Michel asserts himself as a singular voice in the landscape of contemporary surrealist fiction.” —Fields Magazine

“Lincoln Michel’s stories are strange, haunting and often very funny beasts. His prose is rich and also spare. He can kill you in two pages or take you for a long, dangerous, kooky ride—and then kill you. And by kill you, I mean thrill you. Savor this book and welcome Mr. Michel.” —Sam Lipsyte

“In Upright Beasts, Lincoln Michel uses the unreal and the surreal in ways that allow his readers to understand something about the human condition. Who are we when someone allows us to see ourselves more clearly? We are pitiful, ridiculous, beautiful, sometimes brave and sometimes cowards, but always—in these stories—illuminated.” —Kelly Link

“Many first books carry the suggestion of promise, of wonderful things to come, but it is most unusual to encounter a debut as agile and assured and utterly dazzling as Upright Beasts. These stories are mighty surrealist wonders, mordantly funny and fiercely intelligent, and Lincoln Michel is a writer that will leave you in awe.” —Laura van den Berg

“Lincoln Michel has created a sinister landscape that feels at once uncomfortably familiar and yet truly strange. This is the post-pastoral as creeping horror story—a kind of secret, alternate history of a forgotten America, a country of half-dead towns and empty streets. There are welcome echoes of Barthelme and others in here, but Michel’s voice carries through, darkly intelligent and unmistakably original. A tremendous debut.” —Charles Yu

“Put on your seat belt, it’s a ride towards Lovecraftian country houses and Long Island-like suburbia, to places we know and love and places we dare not think of. . . . Some of these stories will ignite your imagination, while others will force you to retreat from the real world temporarily. . . . For all of the elements in this collection that make this fiction, there is an absolutely stunning image of what it’s like to be human, to live life and allow it to slip away, as Michel says: ‘Death, in all its myriad incarnations, was, as always, right around the corner.’ . . .  It’s not just about how frighteningly close a writer can bring us to our imagination, it’s how close he can bring us to our reality.” Heavy Feather Review

“The stories in Upright Beasts, much like their author, roam free across the literary plains, paying little heed to the fences others have seen fit to construct between style or genre.” Strange Horizons

“Upright Beasts heralds a fresh, uncompromising voice in literature.” The Man Behind Winkie’s

Praise for Lincoln Michel

“One of the funniest men on the Internet.” —The Rumpus

“Lincoln Michel is one of contemporary literary culture’s greatest natural resources. He writes fiction and essays (sometimes for VICE), draws comics, co-edits the literary magazine Gigantic (which has lately expanded into book publishing, with a literary sci-fi anthology called Gigantic Worlds due out in 2014), and—perhaps most impressively—has a genuinely funny internet presence that never makes you want to kill him or yourself.” —Justin Taylor, VICE