Winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction, and boasting a 2020 Pushcart-winning story, Big Bad serves up real-world predicaments in unremarkable places (motels, dormitories, tiki bars), all with Collins's flavor of magical realism. A young woman must give birth to future iterations of herself; a widower kills a horse en route to his grandson's circumcision; a conflicted summer camper is haunted by a glass eye and motorcycle crash. Collins's cast of characters must repeatedly choose to fight or flee the 'big bad' that dwells within us all.
... Whitney Collins constructs Big Bad, a deliciously dark world in which anything is possible and the most horrifying is probable ... Big Bad [...] lives in a realm between reality and surreality. Characters are forced to face their own inner darkness and acknowledge the sides of themselves that they’d rather not see ... I would go so far as to say that these stories have an agenda ... These pieces are unapologetic when it comes to the issues that are generally swept under the rug. This bold approach is truly refreshing. This collection is easy to read while also being hard to swallow. The juxtaposition between what is right and what is easy is the common thread that links the reading experience with the content. Overall, I would say this isn’t a read for the faint of heart ... Whitney certainly toes the line. She makes you wonder what your definition of ‘too far’ is and forces you to think about just how far you would be willing to go in your darkest hour. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is entirely up to you.
Whitney Collins’s layered short story collection Big Bad concerns the dark impulses that lurk within ... Hints of sexual frustration, prolonged heartache, and repressed emotion run throughout ... Playful titles that are imbued with double meanings are followed by startling openings that prompt questions from the audience. These lay the groundwork for clever metaphors, which in turn foster deeper insights. Elements of magical realism result in refreshing and hilarious angles on human foibles. Precise details help to convey the stories’ amusing, lingering themes ... Not a word is wasted in Big Bad, an unusual and masterful collection of short stories.
Magical realism and realism that’s not quite realistic mingle in this debut collection of 13 stories ... when Collins flirts with magic, rather than fully embraces it, she captures the myriad ways the real world is mysterious—filled with both wonder and terror ... Beautifully written, wildly imaginative stories.