Design Flaw

Books distributed by the Chicago Distribution Center

192 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2022

ISBN (pbk): 978-1-946724-55-7 

ISBN (ebook): 978-1-946724-56-4 

Published November 2022

Design Flaw


Hugh Sheehy

These are tales of seekers, often damaged, who find themselves caught up in skewed realities, facing lurking threats, violent deaths, strange entities, and alienating technologies. Confronted with unsettling circumstances that escalate, the disparate cast of characters—fathers, photographers, ex-cons, police detectives, executives—are driven toward self-revelation and perverse moments of poignancy.

A troubled high-schooler traps a peer in an underground storage space. A traumatized felon returns home to rob the man who molested him as a child. A videogame help-line operator suspects a regular caller, obsessed with a disturbing role-playing game, of real-life misdeeds. “Modern Wonders” presents a future in which ailing retirees exist virtually, and indefinitely, wired to a “life-extension network” while the world around them goes to hell. The question for the protagonist, who has drifted from human connection, is when to “log off.” In the title story, an unhappy couple with all the trappings of success and privilege adopts a “designer animal,” a genetic hybrid created to be the perfect pet, but the “grot” makes trouble in the neighborhood, becoming emblematic of a deeper problem. “Something is wrong with the world,” the narrator’s husband explains. “A design flaw. It’s so thoroughly corrupted, I’m not sure how to fix it.”

Inventive and unpredictable, these thirteen stories are wholly immersive, even as they explore complex psychologies and concepts. Design Flaw shows Sheehy at his captivating best.

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About the Author

Hugh Sheehy is the author of The Invisibles, winner of the 2014 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. His writing has appeared in Kenyon Review, Glimmer Train, Cincinnati Review, Antioch Review, Crazyhorse, The Rumpus, Los Angeles Review of Books, Rain Taxi, and Post Road. Sheehy teaches at Ramapo College of New Jersey and serves as a mentor in Miami University’s Low Residency MFA Program.

Hugh Sheehy
Photo Credit: Kathleen Mencke Sheehy

Praise for Design Flaw

“A dark and dazzling collection pocked with surface tension and an undercurrent of menace. . . . Sheehy’s curious tales never fail to enchant and entertain.”
Publishers Weekly (starred)

“Sheehy has assembled stories spotlighting complex characters as they struggle with events both real and imagined and what that tells us about human nature.”

“The stories in Design Flaw are masterful as both straight-up naturalism and the most arresting sort of speculative fiction. They present with both wit and compassion schlumpy and self-aware protagonists contending with their worlds turning ever-more apocalyptic in both emotional and literal terms. These characters’ lonely passivity seems to them heightened by their emotional acuity, and they’ve made their peace with all they’ve pretended they can’t see, while conceding that caring for people like them is an endurance test that others can’t pass. Yet they cherish those moments when, against all odds, they are there for one another.”
Jim Shepard, author of The Book of Aron

“Hugh Sheehy’s compelling new collection Design Flaw is, as the title suggests, an examination of what it means to be human, particularly what it means to be male, Sheehy’s lens moving between male violence and vulnerability. Prescient and compassionate, funny and frightening, Design Flaw is the work of a masterful storyteller who understands deeply the world we currently live in, which makes his view of the future all the more unsettling.”
Lori Ostlund, author of After the Parade and The Bigness of the World

Approaching moral quandaries with a scientific detachment, stirring in the mixed emotions of his characters, and employing techniques and tropes from various genres, the experiments Sheehy has conducted make Design Flaw a collection of short masterpieces.
Rain Taxi

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