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Fiction Short Stories (single Author)

Music from a Strange Planet

by (author) Barbara Black

Caitlin Press
Initial publish date
May 2022
Short Stories (single author), Magical Realism
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 2021
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    May 2022
    List Price

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Off-beat, provocative, philosophical, Music from a Strange Planet traces the fault lines of identity and emotional attachment. Grief, tenderness, and longing soak the pages, admitting the reader into the intimate places of the heart: An awkward child envisions herself as a darkling beetle; an unemployed business analyst prefers water-walking over “rebranding” himself; after being kidnapped, a psychologist rejects the idea of marrying herself; and in the squatters’ district, a biogenetically-altered couple visits an attic to observe a large cocoon. From the ruins of a dystopian city to the inner self-created landscapes of a coma victim, this unique story collection places characters at the core of their vulnerabilities. With a masterfully crafted tone and a register that ranges from contemplative to comic, the subversive, immersive stories in this collection brim with humanity. Expect your planet to tilt a little to the strange after reading this engaging, vivid and incisive collection of stories.

About the author

Barbara Black writes short and flash fiction, poetry and libretti. Black’s writing appears in The Cincinnati Review, Geist, The Hong Kong Review, Prairie Fire, and CV2, and in anthologies, including Bath Flash Fiction Award 2021, and Hologram: Homage to P.K. Page. Achievements include: Fiction Finalist, 2020 National Magazine Awards; Nominated for the 2019 Writers’ Trust/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize; Winner, 2017 Writers’ Union of Canada Short Prose Competition; Winner, Federation of BC Writers Contests (Prose Poem) 2018 and (Flash Fiction) 2021/2022; and Shortlisted for the 2023 Edinburgh Flash Fiction Award. She recently won First Prize in The Plaza Prizes Microfiction Contest 2023 and also placed Second in the Flash Fiction Category. She is the author of Music from a Strange Planet (Caitlin Press, 2021), which was the winner of the 2023 Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society Award for Fiction, and a finalist for the 2023 International Book Awards, the 2023 Canadian Book Club Award and the 2021 Miramichi Reader's Very Best Book Awards. She lives in Victoria, BC, where she gardens and rides her trusty Triumph motorcycle.

Barbara Black's profile page


  • Winner, The Wishing Shelf Book Award for Adult Fiction
  • Short-listed, Canadian Book Club Award
  • Winner, IndieReader Discovery Award for Short Stories/Fict
  • Short-listed, International Book Awards
  • Winner, Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society Awards,
  • Long-listed, The Miramichi Reader's Very Best Book Awards

Editorial Reviews

“These exhilarating stories, quick and sharp and tender, breach the barrier that separates civilized and wild, human and non. Senses fuse, flesh is transfigured; characters come to themselves at moments of metamorphosis, modulating to new forms of life. Barbara Black’s magic is the kind that illuminates.”

—John Gould, author of The End of Me

“Innovative stories, told and written well. … For a depth of engagement and content disproportionate to each tale’s length, Music from a Strange Planet delivers a fascinating, thought-provoking playlist.”

—Bill Arnott, author of Gone Viking

“Be prepared. Be very prepared and preferably with your inner antennae on high alert as you enter into this translucent, transcendent, Kafkaesque world of illusions. Black goes beyond spider-like weaving as she spins her tales. Unusual, unorthodox, but always unique, they will stick to you.”

—Cathleen With, author of Having Faith in the Polar Girls’ Prison

“Barbara Black’s debut collection, Music from a Strange Planet, offers tales of obsession and transformation in which the melding of character with the phenomenal world is nothing less than astounding. With a surgeon’s exacting skill, she lays bare the often-strange music of the human heart.”

—M.A.C. Farrant, author of One Good Thing: A Living Memoir