Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone

Publication Date: May 2016


“You should be here; he’s simply magnificent.” These are the final words a biologist hears before his Margaret Mead-like wife dies at the hands of Godzilla. The words haunt him as he studies the Kaiju (Japan’s giant monsters) on an island reserve, attempting to understand the beauty his wife saw.

“The Return to Monsterland” opens Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone, a collection of twelve fabulist and genre-bending stories inspired by Japanese folklore, historical events, and pop culture. In “Rokurokubi”, a man who has the demonic ability to stretch his neck to incredible lengths tries to save a marriage built on secrets. The recently dead find their footing in “The Inn of the Dead’s Orientation for Being a Japanese Ghost”. In “Girl Zero”, a couple navigates the complexities of reviving their deceased daughter via the help of a shapeshifter. And, in the title story, a woman instigates a months-long dancing frenzy in a Tokyo where people don’t die but are simply reborn without their memories.

Every story in the collection turns to the fantastic, the mysticism of the past, and the absurdities of the future to illuminate the spaces we occupy when we, as individuals and as a society, are at our most vulnerable.


“A combination of the mystical, magical, and marvelous, Sequoia Nagamatsu weaves a collection of bold, hysterical, and moving tales into an unforgettable debut. From shape-shifters, to star-makers, to babies made of snow, the characters in Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone form a community of longing, of the surreal, of wonder. What a joy it is to read each and every story.”

-Michael Czyzniejewski, author of I Will Love You for the Rest of My Life: Breakup Stories

Sequoia Nagamatsu’s universe is one in which modern Japan and its ancient folklore play in the same delightful puddle. Creepy, unnerving, and full of heart, these tales of love and demons, death and Godzilla, loss and possibility, will creep into your dreams and enchant your imagination.”

-Kelly Luce, author of Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail

In the perfectly stirring stories of Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone,Sequoia Nagamatsu constructs a cartography of eye-stinging wonder with his fleet of wobbly wabi-sabi GPS syntax-spinning satellites. These fictions plot asymmetrically the raw terrain of the wasabi slathered human heart, leaving us lost in all our findings, the stunned state of boketto, empty yet teeming with that taste of awful awe.”

– Michael Martone, author of Michael Martone and Winesburg, Indiana

The stories in Where We Go When All We Are is Gone make up a rich tangle of the familiar and beautifully new. These are bright inventions but they will also satisfy our longing for the stories we have always loved.”

– Ramona Ausubel, author of No One is Here Except All of Us and A Guide to Being Born

These stories deftly breathe new life into the myths and pop culture of an older Japan, bringing them into the modern world and directing them in unexpected ways. It’s hard to tell if Nagamatsu holds nothing sacred, or if he holds everything to be. In either case, the effect is the same: these are deft atmospheric romps that a hell of a lot of fun but also worm their way under your skin before you know it. An addictive and compelling debut.”

-Brian Evenson, author of Lords of Salem (as BK Evenson w/ Rob Zombie) and A Collapse of Horses

If, as I did, you grew up on the likes of Ultraman, Zatoichi, and Godzilla, you’ll feel right at home with, but also challenged by, the stories in Where We Go When All We Were is Gone. It’s an exhilarating debut that serves up every guilty-pleasure pop-culture satisfaction one could hope for while simultaneously reframing and refashioning those familiar low-art joys into something singular, unanticipated, and entirely original.”

-Pinckney Benedict, author of Town Smokes and Miracle Boy

Ghosts, Gozilla, shape shifters, sea creatures, snow babies; Sequoia Nagamatsu’s fantastical characters are nonetheless grounded in modern-day conflicts, creating a fascinating and haunting mix of science and myth, past and present. These are stories of gods and monsters walking among us, told with wit, longing, and wisdom.”

-Timothy Schaffert, author of The Swan Gondola, an Oprah.com Book of the Week

About the Author

© Cole Bucciaglia

Sequoia Nagamatsu

Sequoia Nagamatsu is the author of the Japanese folklore and pop culture inspired story collection, Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone (Black Lawrence Press, 2016). Originally from Hawaii and the San Francisco Bay Area, he was educated at Grinnell College and Southern Illinois University. He is the managing editor of Psychopomp Magazine, and his work has appeared in publications such as Conjunctions, ZYZZYVA, The Bellevue Literary Review, Tin House's Open Bar, The Fairy Tale Review, and Black Warrior Review among others. For the moment, he resides in Boise with his fiancee where he teaches at The College of Idaho, and will be joining the faculty of St. Olaf College in Minnesota in the Fall of 2016.

Visit Author Page