CARLEIGH BAKER

Award-winning author of Bad Endings

From one of the country’s most celebrated new writers, a blistering collection of short fiction that is bracingly relevant, playfully irreverent, and absolutely unforgettable.

There’s a hole in the ozone layer. Are teenage girls to blame? 

Floods and wildfires, toxic culture, billionaires in outer space, or a purse-related disaster while on mushrooms—in today’s hellscape world, there’s no shortage of things to worry about. Last Woman, the new collection of short fiction by award-winning author Carleigh Baker, wants you to know that you’re not alone.

In these 13 brilliant new stories, Baker and her perfectly-drawn characters are here for you—in fact, they’re just as worried and weirded-out as everyone else.

A woman’s dream of poetic solitude turns out to be a recipe for loneliness. A retiree is convinced that his silence is the only thing that will prevent a deadly sinkhole. An emerging academic wakes up and chooses institutional violence. A young woman finds sisterhood in a strange fertility ritual, and an enigmatic empath is on a cleanse.

Baker’s characters are both wildly misguided and a product of the misguided times in which we live. Through them we see our world askew and skewered—and, perhaps, we can begin to see it anew.

Carleigh Baker’s signature style is irreverent, but her heart is true—these stories delve into fear for the future, intergenerational misunderstandings, and the complexities of belonging with sharp wit and boundless empathy. 

With equal parts compassion and critique, she brings her clear-eyed attention to bear on our world, and the results are hilarious, heartbreaking, and startling in their freshness.

Buy Your Copy Today

Advance Praise

Shashi Bhat, author of The Most Precious Substance on Earth

Carleigh Baker’s Last Woman is a satirical, energetic look at our messed-up world. The stories in this collection ask original, surprising what-if questions, exploring disasters small and large, personal and public, and the past, present, and future of this planet—and beyond. I’m so impressed with Baker’s ability to craft such a range of voices, by turns funny and vulnerable and exuberant and idiosyncratic. These stories are inventive, a little weird, and very, very cool.”

Kim Fu, author of Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century

“These stories are wickedly clever, effortlessly weird, and uproariously funny. Carleigh Baker’s vision of our current era is so dead-on and incisive that even her aliens and cultists feel like my neighbors. Last Woman is an utter delight.”

Michael Christie, author of Greenwood

Carleigh Baker’s Last Woman is a knockout. These fifteen stories are probing contemplations on technology, the climate crisis, childhood, adulthood, parenthood, dreams, identity, creativity, and those staggering moments when the uncanny burbles up through the cracks of everyday experience. I gulped these pages in one sitting, but their insights will linger for years to come.”

Anthologies

Carving Space: The Indigenous Voices Awards Anthology

Vancouver Noir, edited by Sam Wiebe

You might wonder what shadows could exist in Vancouver, rain-spattered jewel of the Pacific Northwest. Nestled between the US border and the Coast Mountains, the city’s postcard charms are familiar, even to those who’ve never been here, thanks to the films and TV shows shot in Hollywood North: The X-Files and Deadpool, Rumble in the Bronx and Jason Takes Manhattan. Vancouver is the so-called City of Glass. A nice place, in any case, and much too nice for noir.

Looked at from afar, Vancouver may seem idyllic. But living here is different—cold and baffling and occasionally hostile. While outsiders focus on high-test BC bud, locals see a heroin crisis: Vancouver is home to the first legalized safe-injection site in North America, now heavily taxed by overdoses resulting from street drugs cut with fentanyl. It’s ground zero for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, a nationwide catastrophe involving the deaths and disappearances of hundreds of marginalized women. Money and status trample culture and community . . . If Vancouver is a City of Glass, that glass is underneath our feet.

Watch Your Head: Writers and Artists Respond to the Climate Crisis

In Watch Your Head, poems, stories, essays, and artwork sound the alarm on the present and future consequences of the climate emergency. Ice caps are melting, wildfires are raging, and species extinction is accelerating. Dire predictions about the climate emergency from scientists, Indigenous land and water defenders, and striking school children have mostly been ignored by the very institutions – government, education, industry, and media – with the power to do something about it.

Writers and artists confront colonization, racism, and the social inequalities that are endemic to the climate crisis. Here the imagination amplifies and humanizes the science. These works are impassioned, desperate, hopeful, healing, transformative, and radical.

Mentorship and Residencies

Flying Books School of Reading and Writing

Doris and Jack Shadbolt Fellow in the Humanities, Writer-in-Residence in 2019-2020

The Jack and Doris Shadbolt Fellowship in the Humanities Program exists to promote the practices of, and approaches to, the humanities and arts—broadly conceived—as important sites of creative and critical engagement with the major concerns of our times.

Jack and Doris Shadbolt Fellows in the Humanities will be engaged academic scholars, artists, knowledge keepers, practitioners or writers in the humanities and arts. Fellows will  help us imagine how we can make the world we live in better through acts of world-making in the creative arts and/or publicly engaged scholarship in the humanities, in alignment with the fundamental values of advancing reconciliation and equity, diversity and inclusion, communication, coordination, and collaboration.

Writer-in-Residence, The Berton House, Dawson City, Yukon. Winter 2019

Berton House is a cozy cottage situated on the edge of the historic northern town of Dawson City. With special roots as Pierre Berton’s childhood home, the residency has hosted 84 writers since it was launched in 1996 and has played an influential role in the publication of dozens upon dozens of manuscripts.

Poets, fiction writers, creative nonfiction writers, playwrights, and writers of children’s literature are invited to apply. Housing and travel costs to and from Dawson City are covered. Residents also receive a $9,000 honorarium, part of which may be covered by the Canada Council for the Arts’ Research and Creation grant program. Writers are required to deliver two public readings and encouraged to interact with the community during their stay.  

Bad Endings, Anvil Press, 2017

  • Winner of the City of Vancouver Book Award

  • Finalist for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize

  • Finalist for the Bill Duthie Booksellers Choice Award, BC and Yukon Book Prizes

  • Finalist for the Emerging Indigenous Voices Award for Fiction

Carleigh Baker likes to make light in the dark. Whether plumbing family ties, the end of a marriage, or death itself, she never lets go of the witty, the ironic, and perhaps most notably, the awkward.

Despite the title, the resolution in these stories isn’t always tragic, but it’s often uncomfortable, unexpected, or just plain strange.

Character digressions, bad decisions, and misconceptions abound.

While steadfastly local in her choice of setting, Baker’s deep appreciation for nature takes a lot of these stories out of Vancouver and into the wild.

Salmon and bees play reoccurring roles in these tales, as do rivers.

Occasionally, characters blend with their animal counterparts, adding a touch of magic realism.

Nature is a place of escape and attempted convalescence for characters suffering from urban burnout.

Even if things get weird along the way, as Hunter S. Thompson said, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

In Bad Endings, Baker takes troubled characters to a moment of realization or self-revelation, but the results aren’t always pretty.

Buy Your Copy Today

Citations and Reviews

2017 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize Jury - Michael Christie, Christy Ann Conlin, and Tracey Lindberg

2017 Vancouver Book Award Jury Citation

Stumbling through the fogs of loneliness, Carleigh Baker’s finely drawn characters find respite in the particular intimacy afforded by ephemeral relationships.

A renewal of connection with the more-than-human world offers the characters sustenance amidst the demands of an ever-accelerating city.

Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer in the Hamilton Review of Books

The online magazine Joyland — who have published two of Baker’s stories if you want a preview — say they are “pretty sure she’s the new master of relationship tragicomedy,” but I would argue that she may be master of endings, too.

The ending to “Grey Water” is sublime. It twists you up in the best possible way, and shows you just how captured you are by the web Baker’s narrator has spun, how “of a piece” in the ecosystem of her story.

Then, there is the noxious ending to “The Honey House,” in which we see the full, delicious fury of Ember, hanging by her arms from the rafters of the waxworks, while she fucks the poor, dumb hired hand, Joe.

If “the bees are getting in” only to die from the heat, and if their carcasses now litter the romance, it’s the hum of their attempt, their primal attraction to the heat of things, that signifies.