What We Lost in the Fire & Other Stories

Even as they blur distinctions between fiction and memoir, the daring, challenging stories in What We Lost in the Fire stretch and expand notions of queer lives—and of queer fiction writing. The eclectic geographies of these stories—Hawai‘i, Rome, a Texas prison, southwestern Ohio, New York, Florida, and still other, hybrid landscapes—are reflected in the rich, idiomatic voices of Ricketts’ characters. San Francisco, in particular, is as much a living presence in many of these stories as it is a setting, and the novella-length title story captures the nearly indescribable zeitgeist of queer life in “the City” during the plague years—and of the weight of memory for the survivors who live on in the present.

Throughout these fictions runs a dark, occasionally lacerating humor, a well-honed sense of both existential absurdity and the harrowingly high stakes of everyday love and trouble. Ricketts’ characters are messy. They have faults. They’re nobody’s role models. This memorable, richly varied collection of tales of ennui, bitterness, and violence; of rambunctious satires and carefully-drawn realism; of love stories (and a few hate stories); of studies in working-class revenge and working-class solidarity honors the distance traveled and the scars earned along the way. These are not “feel good” stories; they’re “feel human.” stories. Welcome an important new voice in queer literary fiction.

by Wendell Ricketts

$17.99 | ISBN-13: 978-1734805093 | 5.5” x 8.5” | 363 pages

Also available — the title story as a stand-alone novella. “In chronicles of living through and then surviving the AIDS “plague years” of the 1980s and 1990s, New York figures heavily. What We Lost in the Fire: A Novella, instead, centers San Francisco as a setting—and as a living presence. A fiction and a memoir, What We Lost in the Fire: A Novella captures the nearly indescribable zeitgeist of queer life at the end of the last millennium—and of the weight of memory for the survivors who live on in the present.”

What We Lost in the Fire examines a wide array of characters living their lives without a lot of pomp and circumstance, often just getting by. Ricketts’ gift is to make each examination a poetic journey, as in “The Restless Are Native,” in which we are given direct access to the feelings, thoughts, and day-to-day struggles of a waitress named Charlene, who moves through the routines and worries of her life with an effortlessness that seems both self-denying and yet also somehow heroic. Ricketts finds territories where other writers only find interstices, and what results is a collection of stories that uncovers powerful meanings in the most mundane spaces and times. — Keith Banner, author of the short-story collections The Smallest People Alive and Next to Nothing; the novel The Life I Lead; and the anthology, This is True Love: Essays and Stories

What We Lost in the Fire is an eclectic gathering of stories about everyday people who discover that their lives are much bigger than the small spaces they have been expected to occupy. Through moments of humor, surprising plot twists, and quick-to-the-wit dialogue, Ricketts shows us that such clarity has consequences and isn’t always redemptive. Sexuality—as a topic that runs along the spine of many of the stories—is elevated deftly to a more sophisticated arena, away from familiar queer territory and toward poignancy. What impressive storytelling! — Rigoberto Gonzalez, recipient of the Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement and of the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry and author of What Drowns the Flowers in Your Mouth: A Memoir of Brotherhood; The Book of Ruin; and Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa

About the Author

Wendell Ricketts is a writer, editor, and translator. He was born on Wake Island, an atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and raised in various small towns on O‘ahu, Hawai‘i. He is the editor of Everything I Have Is Blue: Short Fiction by Working-Class Men about More-or-Less Gay Life and of Blue, Too: More Writing by (for or about) Working Class Queers and the translator of The Wrong Door: The Complete Plays of Natalia Ginzburg. His fiction and poetry have appeared in The Long Story, Blithe House Quarterly, James White Review, POZ, Salt Hill, Blue Mesa Review, Mississippi Review, modern words, Harrington Gay Men’s Fiction Quarterly, and various anthologies.

Save when you order directly from FourCatsPress

Copies of What We Lost in the Fire are always available from FCP for $15.00, a savings over retail if you order directly. (What We Lost in the Fire: A Novella is available for only $8.75.) Prices include domestic US shipping (contact us for rates abroad).

PayPal, Venmo, Zelle, and SquareUp all provide ways for you to include a memo or note with your order. Please use that to provide your shipping address, the name of the title you’re ordering, and the number of copies. We’ll confirm as quickly as possible.

We can accept payment via:

  • PayPal (editor@fourcatspress.com)
  • Zelle (sales@fourcatspress.com), and
  • SquareUp (email your name, phone number, and address to editor@fourcatspress.com; we’ll send an invoice that you can pay safely online with a credit card or bank transfer)
  • Purchase orders: We will ship books on the basis of purchase orders to bookstores and other retailers. Terms are net 30 days. Sorry, we can’t accept returns.
  • Personal checks: Please email us at editor@fourcatspress.com for our address & other details.

Don’t forget to tell us the name of the book, number of copies, and your shipping address. 

Our books are also available (at a higher price) from your local bookstore, from IndieBound, or from major online booksellers. Resellers/ bookstores: Please contact FCP regarding trade discounts.