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Sacraments for the Unfit

by Sarah Tolmie

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The isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic brought out the ritualist in many of us. In this collection of contemporary weird short fiction, a variety of different persons and beings try to fill up their days in varying states of isolation and mystery, real or imaginary. An angel outlives the Apparat that used to employ him; a deity complains about no longer feeling seen; a museum curator living alone begins to inexplicably alter; a medievalist suffering from vision loss gets into a strange relationship with the ghost of the codicologist M. R. James; enigmatic objects begin to work themselves out of the ground by the grave of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, prompting scholarly speculation. Sacraments For the Unfit is a series of vignettes about the transformations that can happen while staying in place.

Advance Praise

“These stories could be the mad progeny of Umberto Eco and Ursula K. LeGuin: fiendishly cunning thought-twisters that shimmer with compassion and charisma.”
 —Helen Marshall, author of The Migration

Reviews

   "Sarah Tolmie’s new collection, Sacraments for the Unfit, takes on isolation, alienation, and the problem of connection in a gorgeously contemporary take on the weird. The stories address the last several years directly, imagining reconfigurations of modern life alongside the fantastical and bizarre. They highlight new forms and relations of divinity, contemporary technological experiences, and the vagaries of academic life with deftly distant style and elegant estrangement. Each story takes full advantage of its central speculative premise, imagining the world through the eyes of the impossible....
  "The collection’s individual stories are strong, making deft use of their style and voice to take on a wide range of topics and concerns in contemporary life. But it is the mind behind them, behind their style and voice, that holds the whole work together. Philosophical rigor of a distinctly weird-fiction bent is the defining characteristic of these stories. They all bridge the gap between the allegorical and the literal, using the philosophical investigation of the impossible—the transformations of “Honey Business,” Wittgenstein communicating from the grave, a horrific resurrection, and other subjects of the stories—to speak to our present by means of what is shared, not what these fantastical moments might stand in for. Sacraments for the Unfit asks us to think along with it, delivering on the promise of its second epigraph (from Wittgenstein): “A good and serious philosophical work could be written entirely of jokes.” Though the collection is not entirely of jokes, the humor and delight of the stories leavens and strengthens the rich philosophical perspective which begins to see a path to meaning through what it depicts as our consideration of, and connection to, the very things that seem to endanger sense—which give us, the unfit who do not deserve it, the grace to continue on."  (Read the whole review)
  —Strange Horizons, Tristan Beiter, July 2023

ISBN: 978-1-61976-240-4 (13 digit)
Publication Date: Jul 2023
paperback 146 pages