5,000 Words

Nebula Award Best Short Story Winner
WSFA Small Press Award for Short Fiction
Cóyotl Awards Best Short Story Winner
World Fantasy Award Best Short Story Nominee

Listen to the audio edition of Jackalope Wives via the Apex Magazine Podcast

The moon came up and the sun went down. The moonbeams went shattering down to the ground and the jackalope wives took off their skins and danced.

They danced like young deer pawing the ground, they danced like devils let out of hell for the evening. They swung their hips and pranced and drank their fill of cactus–fruit wine.

They were shy creatures, the jackalope wives, though there was nothing shy about the way they danced. You could go your whole life and see no more of them than the flash of a tail vanishing around the backside of a boulder. If you were lucky, you might catch a whole line of them outlined against the sky, on the top of a bluff, the shadow of horns rising off their brows.

And on the half–moon, when new and full were balanced across the saguaro’s thorns, they’d come down to the desert and dance.

The young men used to get together and whisper, saying they were gonna catch them a jackalope wife. They’d lay belly down at the edge of the bluff and look down on the fire and the dancing shapes — and they’d go away aching, for all the good it did them.

For the jackalope wives were shy of humans. Their lovers were jackrabbits and antelope bucks, not human men. You couldn’t even get too close or they’d take fright and run away. One minute you’d see them kicking their heels up and hear them laugh, then the music would freeze and they’d all look at you with their eyes wide and their ears upswept.

The next second, they’d snatch up their skins and there’d be nothing left but a dozen skinny she–rabbits running off in all directions, and a campfire left that wouldn’t burn out ’til morning.

It was uncanny, sure, but they never did anybody any harm. Grandma Harken, who lived down past the well, said that the jackalopes were the daughters of the rain and driving them off would bring on the drought. People said they didn’t believe a word of it, but when you live in a desert, you don’t take chances.

When the wild music came through town, a couple of notes skittering on the sand, then people knew the jackalope wives were out. They kept the dogs tied up and their brash sons occupied. The town got into the habit of having a dance that night, to keep the boys firmly fixed on human girls and to drown out the notes of the wild music.


Now, it happened there was a young man in town who had a touch of magic on him. It had come down to him on his mother’s side, as happens now and again, and it was worse than useless.

A little magic is worse than none, for it draws the wrong sort of attention. It gave this young man feverish eyes and made him sullen. His grandmother used to tell him that it was a miracle he hadn’t been drowned as a child, and for her he’d laugh, but not for anyone else.

He was tall and slim and had dark hair and young women found him fascinating.

This sort of thing happens often enough, even with boys as mortal as dirt. There’s always one who learned how to brood early and often, and always girls who think they can heal him.

Eventually the girls learn better. Either the hurts are petty little things and they get tired of whining or the hurt’s so deep and wide that they drown in it. The smart ones heave themselves back to shore and the slower ones wake up married with a husband who lies around and suffers in their direction. It’s part of a dance as old as the jackalopes themselves.

But in this town at this time, the girls hadn’t learned and the boy hadn’t yet worn out his interest. At the dances, he leaned on the wall with his hands in his pockets and his eyes glittering. Other young men eyed him with dislike. He would slip away early, before the dance was ended, and never marked the eyes that followed him and wished that he would stay.

He himself had one thought and one thought only — to catch a jackalope wife.

They were beautiful creatures, with their long brown legs and their bodies splashed orange by the firelight. They had faces like no mortal woman and they moved like quicksilver and they played music that got down into your bones and thrummed like a sickness.

And there was one — he’d seen her. She danced farther out from the others and her horns were short and sharp as sickles. She was the last one to put on her rabbit skin when the sun came up. Long after the music had stopped, she danced to the rhythm of her own long feet on the sand.

(And now you will ask me about the musicians that played for the jackalope wives. Well, if you can find a place where they’ve been dancing, you might see something like sidewinder tracks in the dust, and more than that I cannot tell you. The desert chews its secrets right down to the bone.)

So the young man with the touch of magic watched the jackalope wife dancing and you know as well as I do what young men dream about. We will be charitable. She danced a little apart from her fellows, as he walked a little apart from his.

Perhaps he thought she might understand him. Perhaps he found her as interesting as the girls found him.

Perhaps we shouldn’t always get what we think we want.

And the jackalope wife danced, out past the circle of the music and the firelight, in the light of the fierce desert stars.


Grandma Harken had settled in for the evening with a shawl on her shoulders and a cat on her lap when somebody started hammering on the door.

“Grandma! Grandma! Come quick — open the door — oh god, Grandma, you have to help me —”

She knew that voice just fine. It was her own grandson, her daughter Eva’s boy. Pretty and useless and charming when he set out to be.

She dumped the cat off her lap and stomped to the door. What trouble had the young fool gotten himself into?

“Sweet Saint Anthony,” she muttered, “let him not have gotten some fool girl in a family way. That’s just what we need.”

She flung the door open and there was Eva’s son and there was a girl and for a moment her worst fears were realized.

Then she saw what was huddled in the circle of her grandson’s arms, and her worst fears were stomped flat and replaced by far greater ones.

“Oh Mary,” she said. “Oh, Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Oh blessed Saint Anthony, you’ve caught a jackalope wife.”

Her first impulse was to slam the door and lock the sight away.

Her grandson caught the edge of the door and hauled it open. His knuckles were raw and blistered. “Let me in,” he said. He’d been crying and there was dust on his face, stuck to the tracks of tears. “Let me in, let me in, oh god, Grandma, you have to help me, it’s all gone wrong —”

Grandma took two steps back, while he half–dragged the jackalope into the house. He dropped her down in front of the hearth and grabbed for his grandmother’s hands. “Grandma —”

She ignored him and dropped to her knees. The thing across her hearth was hardly human. “What have you done?” she said. “What did you do to her?”

“Nothing!” he said, recoiling.

“Don’t look at that and tell me ‘Nothing!’ What in the name of our lord did you do to that girl?”

He stared down at his blistered hands. “Her skin,” he mumbled. “The rabbit skin. You know.”

“I do indeed,” she said grimly. “Oh yes, I do. What did you do, you damned young fool? Caught up her skin and hid it from her to keep her changing?”

The jackalope wife stirred on the hearth and made a sound between a whimper and a sob.

“She was waiting for me!” he said. “She knew I was there! I’d been — we’d — I watched her, and she knew I was out there, and she let me get up close — I thought we could talk —”

Grandma Harken clenched one hand into a fist and rested her forehead on it.

“I grabbed the skin — I mean — it was right there — she was watching — I thought she wanted me to have it —”

She turned and looked at him. He sank down in her chair, all his grace gone.

“You have to burn it,” mumbled her grandson. He slid down a little further in her chair. “You’re supposed to burn it. Everybody knows. To keep them changing.”

“Yes,” said Grandma Harken, curling her lip. “Yes, that’s the way of it, right enough.” She took the jackalope wife’s shoulders and turned her toward the lamp light.

She was a horror. Her hands were human enough, but she had a jackrabbit’s feet and a jackrabbit’s eyes. They were set too wide apart in a human face, with a cleft lip and long rabbit ears. Her horns were short, sharp spikes on her brow.

The jackalope wife let out another sob and tried to curl back into a ball. There were burnt patches on her arms and legs, a long red weal down her face. The fur across her breasts and belly was singed. She stank of urine and burning hair.

“What did you do?”

“I threw it in the fire,” he said. “You’re supposed to. But she screamed — she wasn’t supposed to scream — nobody said they screamed — and I thought she was dying, and I didn’t want to hurt her — I pulled it back out —”

He looked up at her with his feverish eyes, that useless, beautiful boy, and said “I didn’t want to hurt her. I thought I was supposed to — I gave her the skin back, she put it on, but then she fell down — it wasn’t supposed to work like that!”

Grandma Harken sat back. She exhaled very slowly. She was calm. She was going to be calm, because otherwise she was going to pick up the fire poker and club her own flesh and blood over the head with it.

And even that might not knock some sense into him. Oh, Eva, Eva, my dear, what a useless son you’ve raised. Who would have thought he had so much ambition in him, to catch a jackalope wife?

“You goddamn stupid fool,” she said. Every word slammed like a shutter in the wind. “Oh, you goddamn stupid fool. If you’re going to catch a jackalope wife, you burn the hide down to ashes and never mind how she screams.”

“But it sounded like it was hurting her!” he shot back. “You weren’t there! She screamed like a dying rabbit!”

“Of course it hurts her!” yelled Grandma. “You think you can have your skin and your freedom burned away in front of you and not scream? Sweet mother Mary, boy, think about what you’re doing! Be cruel or be kind, but don’t be both, because now you’ve made a mess you can’t clean up in a hurry.”

She stood up, breathing hard, and looked down at the wreck on her hearth. She could see it now, as clear as if she’d been standing there. The fool boy had been so shocked he’d yanked the burning skin back out. And the jackalope wife had one thought only and pulled on the burning hide —

Oh yes, she could see it clear.

Half gone, at least, if she was any judge. There couldn’t have been more than few scraps of fur left unburnt. He’d waited through at least one scream — or no, that was unkind.

More likely he’d dithered and looked for a stick and didn’t want to grab for it with his bare hands. Though by the look of his hands, he’d done just that in the end.

And the others were long gone by then and couldn’t stop her. There ought to have been one, at least, smart enough to know that you didn’t put on a half–burnt rabbit skin.

“Why does she look like that?” whispered her grandson, huddled into his chair.

“Because she’s trapped betwixt and between. You did that, with your goddamn pity. You should have let it burn. Or better yet, left her alone and never gone out in the desert at all.”

“She was beautiful,” he said. As if it were a reason.

As if it mattered.

As if it had ever mattered.

“Get out,” said Grandma wearily. “Tell your mother to make up a poultice for your hands. You did right at the end, bringing her here, even if you made a mess of the rest, from first to last.”

He scrambled to his feet and ran for the door.

On the threshold, he paused, and looked back. “You — you can fix her, right?”

Grandma let out a high bark, like a bitch–fox, barely a laugh at all. “No. No one can fix this, you stupid boy. This is broken past mending. All I can do is pick up the pieces.”

He ran. The door slammed shut, and left her alone with the wreckage of the jackalope wife.


She treated the burns and they healed. But there was nothing to be done for the shape of the jackalope’s face, or the too–wide eyes, or the horns shaped like a sickle moon.

At first, Grandma worried that the townspeople would see her, and lord knew what would happen then. But the jackalope wife was the color of dust and she still had a wild animal’s stillness. When somebody called, she lay flat in the garden, down among the beans, and nobody saw her at all.

The only person she didn’t hide from was Eva, Grandma’s daughter. There was no chance that she mistook them for each other — Eva was round and plump and comfortable, the way Grandma’s second husband, Eva’s father, had been round and plump and comfortable.

Maybe we smell alike, thought Grandma. It would make sense, I suppose.

Eva’s son didn’t come around at all.

“He thinks you’re mad at him,” said Eva mildly.

“He thinks correctly,” said Grandma.

She and Eva sat on the porch together, shelling beans, while the jackalope wife limped around the garden. The hairless places weren’t so obvious now, and the faint stripes across her legs might have been dust. If you didn’t look directly at her, she might almost have been human.

“She’s gotten good with the crutch,” said Eva. “I suppose she can’t walk?”

“Not well,” said Grandma. “Her feet weren’t made to stand up like that. She can do it, but it’s a terrible strain.”

“And talk?”

“No,” said Grandma shortly. The jackalope wife had tried, once, and the noises she’d made were so terrible that it had reduced them both to weeping. She hadn’t tried again. “She understands well enough, I suppose.”

The jackalope wife sat down, slowly, in the shadow of the scarlet runner beans. A hummingbird zipped inches from her head, dabbing its bill into the flowers, and the jackalope’s face turned, unsmiling, to follow it.

“He’s not a bad boy, you know,” said Eva, not looking at her mother. “He didn’t mean to do her harm.”

Grandma let out an explosive snort. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph! It doesn’t matter what he meant to do. He should have left well enough alone, and if he couldn’t do that, he should have finished what he started.” She scowled down at the beans. They were striped red and white and the pods came apart easily in her gnarled hands. “Better all the way human than this. Better he’d bashed her head in with a rock than this.”

“Better for her, or better for you?” asked Eva, who was only a fool about her son and knew her mother well.

Grandma snorted again. The hummingbird buzzed away. The jackalope wife lay still in the shadows, with only her thin ribs going up and down.

“You could have finished it, too,” said Eva softly. “I’ve seen you kill chickens. She’d probably lay her head on the chopping block if you asked.”

“She probably would,” said Grandma. She looked away from Eva’s weak, wise eyes. “But I’m a damn fool as well.”

Her daughter smiled. “Maybe it runs in families.”


Grandma Harken got up before dawn the next morning and went rummaging around the house.

“Well,” she said. She pulled a dead mouse out of a mousetrap and took a half–dozen cigarettes down from behind the clock. She filled three water bottles and strapped them around her waist. “Well. I suppose we’ve done as much as humans can do, and now it’s up to somebody else.”

She went out into the garden and found the jackalope wife asleep under the stairs. “Come on,” she said. “Wake up.”

The air was cool and gray. The jackalope wife looked at her with doe–dark eyes and didn’t move, and if she were a human, Grandma Harken would have itched to slap her.

Pay attention! Get mad! Do something!

But she wasn’t human and rabbits freeze when they’re scared past running. So Grandma gritted her teeth and reached down a hand and pulled the jackalope wife up into the pre–dawn dark.

They moved slow, the two of them. Grandma was old and carrying water for two, and the girl was on a crutch. The sun came up and the cicadas burnt the air with their wings.

A coyote watched them from up on the hillside. The jackalope wife looked up at him, recoiled, and Grandma laid a hand on her arm.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “I ain’t got the patience for coyotes. They’d maybe fix you up but we’d both be stuck in a tale past telling, and I’m too old for that. Come on.”

They went a little further on, past a wash and a watering hole. There were palo verde trees spreading thin green shade over the water. A javelina looked up at them from the edge and stamped her hooved feet. Her children scraped their tusks together and grunted.

Grandma slid and slithered down the slope to the far side of the water and refilled the water bottles. “Not them either,” she said to the jackalope wife. “They’ll talk the legs off a wooden sheep. We’d both be dead of old age before they’d figured out what time to start.”

The javelina dropped their heads and ignored them as they left the wash behind.

The sun was overhead and the sky turned turquoise, a color so hard you could bash your knuckles on it. A raven croaked overhead and another one snickered somewhere off to the east.

The jackalope wife paused, leaning on her crutch, and looked up at the wings with longing.

“Oh no,” said Grandma. “I’ve got no patience for riddle games, and in the end they always eat someone’s eyes. Relax, child. We’re nearly there.”

The last stretch was cruelly hard, up the side of a bluff. The sand was soft underfoot and miserably hard for a girl walking with a crutch. Grandma had to half–carry the jackalope wife at the end. She weighed no more than a child, but children are heavy and it took them both a long time.

At the top was a high fractured stone that cast a finger of shadow like the wedge of a sundial. Sand and sky and shadow and stone. Grandma Harken nodded, content.

“It’ll do,” she said. “It’ll do.” She laid the jackalope wife down in the shadow and laid her tools out on the stone. Cigarettes and dead mouse and a scrap of burnt fur from the jackalope’s breast. “It’ll do.”

Then she sat down in the shadow herself and arranged her skirts.

She waited.

The sun went overhead and the level in the water bottle went down. The sun started to sink and the wind hissed and the jackalope wife was asleep or dead.

The ravens croaked a conversation to each other, from the branches of a palo verde tree, and whatever one said made the other one laugh.

“Well,” said a voice behind Grandma’s right ear, “lookee what we have here.”

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph!”

“Don’t see them out here often,” he said. “Not the right sort of place.” He considered. “Your Saint Anthony, now… him I think I’ve seen. He understood about deserts.”

Grandma’s lips twisted. “Father of Rabbits,” she said sourly. “Wasn’t trying to call you up.”

“Oh, I know.” The Father of Rabbits grinned. “But you know I’ve always had a soft spot for you, Maggie Harken.”

He sat down beside her on his heels. He looked like an old Mexican man, wearing a button–down shirt without any buttons. His hair was silver gray as a rabbit’s fur. Grandma wasn’t fooled for a minute.

“Get lonely down there in your town, Maggie?” he asked. “Did you come out here for a little wild company?”

Grandma Harken leaned over to the jackalope wife and smoothed one long ear back from her face. She looked up at them both with wide, uncomprehending eyes.

“Shit,” said the Father of Rabbits. “Never seen that before.” He lit a cigarette and blew the smoke into the air. “What did you do to her, Maggie?”

“I didn’t do a damn thing, except not let her die when I should have.”

“There’s those would say that was more than enough.” He exhaled another lungful of smoke.

“She put on a half–burnt skin. Don’t suppose you can fix her up?” It cost Grandma a lot of pride to say that, and the Father of Rabbits tipped his chin in acknowledgment.

“Ha! No. If it was loose I could fix it up, maybe, but I couldn’t get it off her now with a knife.” He took another drag on the cigarette. “Now I see why you wanted one of the Patterned People.”

Grandma nodded stiffly.

The Father of Rabbits shook his head. “He might want a life, you know. Piddly little dead mouse might not be enough.”

“Then he can have mine.”

“Ah, Maggie, Maggie…You’d have made a fine rabbit, once. Too many stones in your belly now.” He shook his head regretfully. “Besides, it’s not your life he’s owed.”

“It’s my life he’d be getting. My kin did it, it’s up to me to put it right.” It occurred to her that she should have left Eva a note, telling her to send the fool boy back East, away from the desert.

Well. Too late now. Either she’d raised a fool for a daughter or not, and likely she wouldn’t be around to tell.

“Suppose we’ll find out,” said the Father of Rabbits, and nodded.

A man came around the edge of the standing stone. He moved quick then slow and his eyes didn’t blink. He was naked and his skin was covered in painted diamonds.

Grandma Harken bowed to him, because the Patterned People can’t hear speech.

He looked at her and the Father of Rabbits and the jackalope wife. He looked down at the stone in front of him.

The cigarettes he ignored. The mouse he scooped up in two fingers and dropped into his mouth.

Then he crouched there, for a long time. He was so still that it made Grandma’s eyes water, and she had to look away.

“Suppose he does it,” said the Father of Rabbits. “Suppose he sheds that skin right off her. Then what? You’ve got a human left over, not a jackalope wife.”

Grandma stared down at her bony hands. “It’s not so bad, being a human,” she said. “You make do. And it’s got to be better than that.”

She jerked her chin in the direction of the jackalope wife.

“Still meddling, Maggie?” said the Father of Rabbits.

“And what do you call what you’re doing?”

He grinned.

The Patterned Man stood up and nodded to the jackalope wife.

She looked at Grandma, who met her too–wide eyes. “He’ll kill you,” the old woman said. “Or cure you. Or maybe both. You don’t have to do it. This is the bit where you get a choice. But when it’s over, you’ll be all the way something, even if it’s just all the way dead.”

The jackalope wife nodded.

She left the crutch lying on the stones and stood up. Rabbit legs weren’t meant for it, but she walked three steps and the Patterned Man opened his arms and caught her.

He bit her on the forearm, where the thick veins run, and sank his teeth in up to the gums. Grandma cursed.

“Easy now,” said the Father of Rabbits, putting a hand on her shoulder. “He’s one of the Patterned People, and they only know the one way.”

The jackalope wife’s eyes rolled back in her head, and she sagged down onto the stone.

He set her down gently and picked up one of the cigarettes.

Grandma Harken stepped forward. She rolled both her sleeves up to the elbow and offered him her wrists.

The Patterned Man stared at her, unblinking. The ravens laughed to themselves at the bottom of the wash. Then he dipped his head and bowed to Grandma Harken and a rattlesnake as long as a man slithered away into the evening.

She let out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding. “He didn’t ask for a life.”

The Father of Rabbits grinned. “Ah, you know. Maybe he wasn’t hungry. Maybe it was enough you made the offer.”

“Maybe I’m too old and stringy,” she said.

“Could be that, too.”

The jackalope wife was breathing. Her pulse went fast then slow. Grandma sat down beside her and held her wrist between her own callused palms.

“How long you going to wait?” asked the Father of Rabbits.

“As long as it takes,” she snapped back.

The sun went down while they were waiting. The coyotes sang up the moon. It was half–full, half–new, halfway between one thing and the other.

“She doesn’t have to stay human, you know,” said the Father of Rabbits. He picked up the cigarettes that the Patterned Man had left behind and offered one to Grandma.

“She doesn’t have a jackalope skin anymore.”

He grinned. She could just see his teeth flash white in the dark. “Give her yours.”

“I burned it,” said Grandma Harken, sitting up ramrod straight. “I found where he hid it after he died and I burned it myself. Because I had a new husband and a little bitty baby girl and all I could think about was leaving them both behind and go dance.”

The Father of Rabbits exhaled slowly in the dark.

“It was easier that way,” she said. “You get over what you can’t have faster that you get over what you could. And we shouldn’t always get what we think we want.”

They sat in silence at the top of the bluff. Between Grandma’s hands, the pulse beat steady and strong.

“I never did like your first husband much,” said the Father of Rabbits.

“Well,” she said. She lit her cigarette off his. “He taught me how to swear. And the second one was better.”

The jackalope wife stirred and stretched. Something flaked off her in long strands, like burnt scraps of paper, like a snake’s skin shedding away. The wind tugged at them and sent them spinning off the side of the bluff.

From down in the desert, they heard the first notes of a sudden wild music.

“It happens I might have a spare skin,” said the Father of Rabbits. He reached into his pack and pulled out a long gray roll of rabbit skin. The jackalope wife’s eyes went wide and her body shook with longing, but it was human longing and a human body shaking.

“Where’d you get that?” asked Grandma Harken, suspicious.

“Oh, well, you know.” He waved a hand. “Pulled it out of a fire once — must have been forty years ago now. Took some doing to fix it up again, but some people owed me favors. Suppose she might as well have it… Unless you want it?”

He held it out to Grandma Harken.

She took it in her hands and stroked it. It was as soft as it had been fifty years ago. The small sickle horns were hard weights in her hands.

“You were a hell of a dancer,” said the Father of Rabbits.

“Still am,” said Grandma Harken, and she flung the jackalope skin over the shoulders of the human jackalope wife.

It went on like it had been made for her, like it was her own. There was a jagged scar down one foreleg where the rattlesnake had bit her. She leapt up and darted away, circled back once and bumped Grandma’s hand with her nose — and then she was bounding down the path from the top of the bluff.

The Father of Rabbits let out a long sigh. “Still are,” he agreed.

“It’s different when you got a choice,” said Grandma Harken.

They shared another cigarette under the standing stone.

Down in the desert, the music played and the jackalope wives danced. And one scarred jackalope went leaping into the circle of firelight and danced like a demon, while the moon laid down across the saguaro’s thorns.

Also by Ursula Vernon:
“Pocosin” (Issue 68)
Apex interview with Ursula Vernon (Issue 68)

Ursula Vernon is the author and illustrator of the Hugo Award–winning graphic novel Digger as well as the author of the Dragonbreath series of children’s books. She blogs at Red Wombat Studio, and podcasts fiction at The Hidden Almanac. She lives in North Carolina and does weird things to plants.


  1. Enjoyed.

  2. This is utterly fantastic and I love it to pieces.

  3. Yowsa!
    So vividly told!
    Thank you!

  4. Absolutely fabulous.

  5. That was – – – just plain awesome.

  6. Gorgeous. I don’t know anyone else other than perhaps Elizabeth Bear and Terry Pratchett who can handle the theme of the balancing of scales so deftly.

  7. This is wonderful and I love it.

  8. Beautiful.

  9. Whoo! This is 100% fine.

    I wonder about Spud meeting up with the Father of … of any people.

    That’s “Spud and Cochise”, by Oliver LaFarge. If you haven’t read it, you must.
    http://www.unz.org/Pub/Forum-1936jan – but the TOC is wrong: use
    http://www.unz.org/Pub/Forum-1936jan-00027 , then for the jump go to
    http://www.unz.org/Pub/Forum-1936jan-00054 , step ahead to p. 60, and read from there to the end. Nine pages in all.

    • *THANK YOU.* I have been trying to find that story again for *ages.* Bookmarked 🙂

  10. Glorious.

  11. Beautiful story, and very classic in its style. I loved it.

  12. Amazing and utterly fantastic.

  13. Lucky daughter to miss out on the extremes. Didn’t expect what we discovered about Grandma. Well done, as always. Linked @ favorite board. Must now go link at 2nd favorite board.

  14. Thank you.

  15. That was gorgeous.

    Thank you.

  16. My friends and I spent several minutes chatting on Skype swooning over this story. Thank you.

  17. Nobody makes you feel a mythology in your bones quite like Ursula Vernon.

  18. Oh my goodness, that was gorgeous!

  19. Great story. Grandma Harkness is one of the best characters I have come across in a long time.

  20. That is wonderful. Thank you.

  21. What an amazing story! Beautifully written.

  22. Loved it, especially the ending. 🙂

  23. Absolutely beautiful. I read it…then read it again. And when my internet was flickering out, I read it twice more.

    Ursula, you have quite the way with words.

  24. Oooh, this is fantastic and lovely.

  25. This reminds me of some of Ursula K. Le Guin’s stuff – “Buffalo Gals” in particular. You have a wonderful understanding of the dark side of fairy tales. I so much want to see a collection of your short stories.

  26. Good story: definitely one of the better ones I’ve read in ezines. At least this one has a real ending, not like some other published stories that I wouldn’t pay 5 cents to read.

  27. Damn, Ursula. You just get better and better.

  28. Grandma Harkness or Harken?

  29. P.S. Now I have finished reading, this is awesome!

  30. Gorgeous. What a deft hand.

  31. Sad, sweet, and beautiful. Thank you Ursula, as always.

  32. This story read like a poem. I will be haunted by the beautiful images you paint of the characters. Looking forward to reading more of your work.

  33. Lovely and a bit haunting in all the right ways

  34. Bravo. Beautifully crafted.

  35. Thank you for this story. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I will have to track down your other work now!

  36. Lovely writing and lovely story.

  37. Absolutely magnificent. Poetic, moving and utterly bizarre.

  38. Gorgeous story! I loved it!

  39. This is a great story. Well written, which is rare, and engaging. I’m glad to read a good American faerytale.

  40. I can’t believe this is the first thing I’ve read by you. But then it’s just the right thing and I’ll have to go read everything else.

    I love it. More than I can say.

  41. Beautiful in every way. Just one nitpick: Harkness vs. Harken.

    • Good catch, Lenora! I’ve made the correction.

  42. Deliciously mythopoetic. A vision from the desert of what it means to lust, lose, choose, and redeem. Halfway through the story you had me wishing for the ending I wanted, and was happier with the one I got. Brilliant!

  43. I followed your work for years (around the time you first posted Subconscious Chupacabra on yerf), and Digger has been one of my favorite comics. Saw this story recommended on io9 (I think), and mistook it for Ursula LeGuin at first, marking it to read later. Quite happily surprised to find it was Vernon, not LeGuin!

    Anyway, excellent story! Really well told in the fairy tale format, but with that extra grit in the characters of the desert.

  44. Well done indeed.

  45. The story is pretty good, but it was the writing that snagged me. I grew up Texan and that kind of yarn-spinning, out-west style is in my bones, I guess. I sometimes wonder if Yankees or easterners feel it the same.

    No offense. Just wonderin’.

  46. Wow.
    I look forward to purchasing this when it appears in e-print!

  47. Loved it. Out of curiosity, why didn’t you publish it as T. Kingfisher?

  48. found this story thanks to this year’s list of nebula nominees. wow. what a gem. best of luck to ms. vernon, this story deserves all the recognition it can get.

  49. Thank you for this. It’s a glorious tale.

  50. Really wonderful piece, lots of layers told with beautiful prose. Well done!

  51. Great piece of work. Reminded in some ways of SPUD AND COCHISE by Oliver LaFarge, long a favorite of mine. I look forward to reading Ms. Vernon’s other work!

  52. I really loved this story..
    Does anyone have the themes of this story? I really need the themes for my study. If you pleased.

  53. Very entertaining. Held my interest. Great images and description.

  54. This was amazing. I held to every word.

  55. Really enjoyed this!

  56. This was exquisite.

  57. Engrossing. Thank you,

  58. There is something so perfect about this story. It’s one of the only short stories I come back to and read again and again.


  1. Very nearly a sandstone golem | Fill your heart with music - […] After reading Ursula Vernon’s “Jackalope Wives.” […]
  2. » Free SF, Fantasy and Horror Fiction Newsletter #21: December 14, 2013 – Jan 13, 2014 - The OutRamp - […] “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon [Fantasy] […]
  3. This and that - […] As a reader, I was sucked so thoroughly into the story, I could feel the baking heat and dryness…
  4. Jackalope Wives | Brewing Tea & Books - […] Title: Jackalope Wives Author: Ursula Vernon Published: Apex Magazine, 2014 Genre: Fable, fantasy, myth Length: 4951 words, short story Format: Online free fiction […]
  5. Perhaps we shouldn’t always get what we think we want. - […] title courtesy of Jackalope Wives, a short story by Ursula Vernon. Read it at the […]
  6. Suggestion Saturday: January 18, 2014 | On The Other Hand - […] From Jackalope Wives: […]
  7. Sunday at the Links : 1-26-14 | Big Papa Geek - […] Read this story. It’s super mythic. Mythic is the new […]
  8. 7 Quick Takes (1/31/14) - […] to make something beautiful doesn’t go all that well.  Ursula Vernon has a story titled “Jackalope Wives” in Apex Magazine,…
  9. February Reading Review | Vironevaeh - […] “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon in Apex Magazine (Jan 7, 2014): a southwestern fable backdrop that opens with Jackalopes dancing…
  10. Hummingbird | Subtle Gluttony - […] a hummingbird this […]
  11. Jackalope Wives | Susan Hated Literature - […] I’m terrible at reading magazines I have discovered. I have a subscription to Apex and I don’t think I’ve…
  12. Wicked Links | Long Time After Midnight - […] fiction: Jackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon. Excellent. Go read […]
  13. The Art of Darkness » Blog Archive » Jackalope Wives - […] and the Dragonbreath series of children’s books. She’s got a lovely short story up at Apex: Jackalope Wives plays…
  14. 100 Short Stories in 2014 | Brewing Tea & Books - […] “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon - My review […]
  15. Superlative Speculatives: Ibong Tikling’s Top Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Stories of 2014 | Ibong Tikling - […] Jackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon (January 2014, Apex Magazine) […]
  16. A Dozen Short Stories Worth Your Time | Annie Neugebauer - […] “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon  […]
  17. 2014 Recommended Reading, Retrospectives, and Notes | Michael Matheson | A Dark and Terrible Beauty - […] Vernon – Jackalope Wives […]
  18. Anunciados los nominados a los Nebula 2015 | Fantástica – Ficción - […] “Jackalope Wives,” Ursula Vernon (Apex 1/7/14) […]
  19. Los Premios Nebula 2014 ya tienen candidatos | Fantífica - […] Vernon: Jackalope Wives (Apex Magazine, julio […]
  20. Nominalizările la premiile Nebula 2014 » Cititor SF - […] “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon (Apex 1/7/14) […]
  21. Fleen: Try Our Thick, Creamy Shakes » Wow. Just Wow. - […] the Nebula Award nominations are out and Ursula Vernon recognized the Short Story category for Jackalope Wives, a cracker…
  22. Nomineringarna klara till Nebula Awards 2014 | bearbooks - […] “Jackalope Wives,” Ursula Vernon (Apex 1/7/14) […]
  23. SFWA Announces Nebula Award Nominees | Relentless Reading (And Writing About It!) - […] “Jackalope Wives,” Ursula Vernon (Apex 1/7/14) […]
  24. Read the 2014 Nebula Award-nominated “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon | Apex Magazine - […] You can read Ursula’s fantastic story for free in Apex Magazine here: http://www.apex-magazine.com/jackalope-wives/ […]
  25. 2014 Nebula Award Nominees (with links) | D. Thomas Minton - […] Highway Two Lanes Wide” by Sarah Pinsker (F&SF) “—–” • “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon (Apex)    “—–” • “The…
  26. Swamped with short stories | Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Kittens - […] “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon […]
  27. 2014 Hugo Nominations » Death Is Bad - […] Jackalope Wives, by Ursula Vernon I’m not sure what exactly to say here. The stories of shape-shifter-animal brides… what would they…
  28. Your Emergency Holographic 2015 Hugo Short Fiction Reading List | File 770 - […] Wives,” Ursula Vernon (Apex Magazine 1/7/14) ( * […]
  29. Los relatos cortos de los Premios Nebula 2014 | Fantífica - […] Jackalope Wives de Ursula Vernon volvemos a Estados Unidos, pero en esta ocasión para hablarnos un poco sobre su…
  30. Nebula Short Fiction Links | Procrastimancy - […] Jackalope Wives – Read at Apex. […]
  31. 2014 Nebula Nominees, Short Fiction | The Geekiary - […] “Jackalope Wives,” Ursula Vernon (Apex 1/7/14) […]
  32. Nebula Nominee Review: “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon | Imagined Worlds | L.A. Barnitz - […] of desert magic, “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon is a story about wishes, choices and sacrifice. I read it…
  33. March 2015 | occasional fish - […] “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon (Apex) […]
  34. From the world pool: April 10, 2015 | - […] a lovely story to take the taste of the Sad Puppies away: Ursula Vernon, Jackalope Wives.  (via Ursula Vernon […]
  35. Women in SF&F Month: Cecily from Manic Pixie Dream Worlds | Fantasy Cafe | Reviews of Fantasy and Science Fiction Books - […] childhood journey that’s surprisingly optimistic. And Grandma Harken of Ursula Vernon’s “Jackalope Wives” is a feisty fairy tale figure…
  36. Premiile Nebula 2015 | Galileo Online - […] Povestire: “Jackalope Wives”, de Ursula Vernon (Apex 1/7/14) • povestirea poate fi citită aici. […]
  37. 2015 Nebula Awards | SF Bluestocking - […] Best Short Story – “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon […]
  38. Ganadores de los premios Nebula 2014 | Fantífica - […] Vernon: Jackalope Wives (Apex Magazine, julio […]
  39. Congratulations Nebula Winners | Relentless Reading (And Writing About It!) - […] “Jackalope Wives,” Ursula Vernon (Apex 1/7/14) […]
  40. What I Patreon | Jeff Xilon - Looking for a Rabbit Hole - […] published have been nominated for Nebula awards and 2 have won, including Ursula Vernon’s “Jackalope Wives” which *just* won…
  41. КрОленів посеред пустелі | vaenn - […] лише переможицю з найкращим оповіданням. Зате легально, сухо й комфортно – дякувати Всесвіту за існування […]
  42. КрОлені посеред пустелі | vaenn - […] лише переможицю з найкращим оповіданням. Зате легально, сухо й комфортно – дякувати Всесвіту за існування […]
  43. Let’s Celebrate! | Puffbird Studio - […] Ursula Vernon’s Castle Hangnail is out — and she just won a Nebula for her short story, Jackalope Wives!…
  44. The 5 Funniest Nick Offerman Quotes from the Nebula Awards | Feed Your Need To Read - […] Story: “Jackalope Wives,” by Ursula Vernon (Apex […]
  45. EarlyWord: The Publisher | Librarian Connection » Blog Archive VanderMeer Wins Nebula - EarlyWord: The Publisher | Librarian Connection - […] Nancy Kress won the novella category for Yesterday’s Kin (Tachyon Publications; OverDrive Sample) while Ursula Vernon won best short…
  46. Kiosztották a Nebula-díjakat - Galaktika.hu - […] legjobb elbeszélés pedig a Jackalope Wives volt Ursula Vernontól. Története egy, a sivatagban élő bőrváltó fajról és a rájuk…
  47. Nebula Award winners 2015 » The Frumious Consortium - […] Story “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon (Apex […]
  48. Hugo Ballot | Camestros Felapton - […] works: Jackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon http://www.apex-magazine.com/jackalope-wives/, Soft Casualty by Michael Z […]
  49. Cóyotl Awards reminder and links to nominees | Furry Writers' Guild - […] Jackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon (free to read online) http://www.apex-magazine.com/jackalope-wives/ […]
  50. July newsletter: Paul Tremblay, Clay and Susan Griffith, John Scalzi, Michael Swanwick, the Oak City Comic Show, Kim Harrison, Christopher Moore, and the latest NC books and news | Bull Spec - […] Vernon, already a Hugo Award winner for her graphic novel work, won this year’s Nebula Award for her short…
  51. Short fiction | A Lack of Theology and Geometry - […] Jackalope Wives – shapeshifters in the SouthWest (USA, not Cornwall, though that could be fun too). […]
  52. There Hugo Again, an After-Action Report « Unqualified Offerings - […] personally. Skunkworks kept both “The Litany of Earth” by Ruthanna Emrys and “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon off the…
  53. Alternate Timeline Hugo Awards — Pretty Terrible - […] “The Jackalope Wives”, Ursula Vernon […]
  54. This Is What The 2015 Hugo Ballot Should Have Been - FunaGram - […] Jackalope Wives, Ursula Vernon[8] […]
  55. This Is What The 2015 Hugo Ballot Should Have Been - Press Today - […] Jackalope Wives, Ursula Vernon […]
  56. This Surprisingly Empowering Retelling of Sleeping Beauty Stars a Hamster Princess - FunaGram - […] has wowed us with short stories like the graceful “Jackalope Wives,”[1] comics like Digger[2], an offbeat fantasy epic starring…
  57. How The Sad Puppies Won — By Losing - […] in a Puppy-free year. They include strong Short Story candidates like Ursula Vernon’s “Jackalope Wives” and Amal El-Mohtar’s “The…
  58. How The Sad Puppies Won — By Losing | Pog Goblin - […] in a Puppy-free year. They include strong Short Story candidates like Ursula Vernon’s “Jackalope Wives” and Amal El-Mohtar’s “The…
  59. Enriching Your Puppy Vocabulary 8/26 | File 770 - […] in a Puppy-free year. They include strong Short Story candidates like Ursula Vernon’s “Jackalope Wives” and Amal El-Mohtar’s “The…
  60. The Other Hugo Ballot - […] “Jackalope Wives“, Ursula Vernon […]
  61. Do the Hugo Awards have a short fiction problem? | Futures Less Travelled - […] #3 Jackalope Wives, Ursula Vernon […]
  62. Short Stories and the Seven-Point System | Sarah Parke - […] #1: “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon (~5,000 words), Nebula Award […]
  63. Ursula Vernon wins the WSFA Small Press Award for Short Fiction | Apex Magazine - […] You can read “Jackalope Wives” here: http://www.apex-magazine.com/jackalope-wives/ […]
  64. Unforgettable | Whiskey! Tango! Foxtrot! - […] http://www.apex-magazine.com/jackalope-wives/ […]
  65. Great Gift Idea: Apex Magazine (and a give away!) | the Little Red Reviewer - […] new year with fiction from Samuel Marzioli, Ursula Vernon (have you read  her award winning story Jackalope Wives?), Allison…
  66. Week 45 Reviews - S. Qiouyi Lu - […] Jackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon (Apex Magazine) […]
  67. Want to read my latest short story? Subscribe to Apex Magazine! | Carrie Cuinn - […] $5,000 – A new novelette by Ursula Vernon, set in the same universe as her Nebula award winning story…
  68. জ্যাকালপ বউয়েরা – উরসুলা ভার্নন | মুরাদুল ইসলামের ব্লগ - […] This one is the Bengali translation of Ursula Vernon’s story “Jackalope Wives”. You can read the main English story…
  69. Apex Magazine Subscription Drive Hits Goal | File 770 - […] Apex Magazine reached the $5,000 level by the deadline, therefore the January 2016 issue will include the promised novelette by…
  70. 2014 Hugo Best Short Story Longlist Discussion Thread | File 770 - […] “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon […]
  71. Favorite short fiction of 2015 | occasional fish - […] “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon (Apex) […]
  72. A Few of My Favorite Things, 2015 Edition | The Wily Filipino - […] Vernon, “Jackalope Wives” (Apex […]
  73. Are Jackalopes Real? | Lisa Godfrees - […] Wives by Ursula Vernon won the 2014 Nebula Award for best Short Story. You can read it for free…
  74. 2014 Hugos Versus 2015 Sad Puppies: What Could Have Been, Part 1 - Women Write About Comics - […] “Jackalope Wives,” by Ursula Vernon […]
  75. Pixel Scroll 5/3/16 The Seven Pixel Scrollution | File 770 - […] “Jackalope Wives,” by Ursula Vernon […]
  76. 10 Subversive Princess Stories That Are The Perfect Antidote To Disney | Gizmodo Australia - […] Record Straight” by Ursula Vernon: Vernon, who just won a Nebula award for her short story “Jackalope Wives,” absolutely…
  77. Exciting News! I’m a Published Poet! | We Dance the Danse Macabre - […] favorite short story bar the works of Kelly Link, George Saunders, and Flannery O’Connor, Jackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon.  It’s…
  78. September Short Stories | The Illustrated Page - […] “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon.  […]
  79. Horror Meets Narnia In Ursula Vernon's New Novel, And She's Serialising It Online | Gizmodo Australia - […] Digger, children’s books like the Hamster Princess series, and haunting short stories like “Jackalope Wives” and “The Sea Witch…
  80. Strange Horizons - Marginalia: Skin Readings - […] in both the above work very differently from, for example, Ursula Vernon’s “Jackalope Wives.” Grandma Harken’s own days of…
  81. Albie Awards 2015: Short Stories – Broad Horizons - […] “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon […]
  82. September's Short Fiction Reviews | Strangely Charmless - […] (read) […]
  83. Review: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin | tarus.io - […] on the left with Neil Gaiman on the right. She has since won a Nebula for her short story…
  84. Review of The Seventh Bride by T. Kingfisher | The Illustrated Page - […] picked up The Seventh Bride because I’d enjoyed many of the author’s shorter works. “The Jackalope Wives,” which she wrote under…
  85. The New Voices of Fantasy by Peter S. Beagle & Jacob Weisman – meltotheany - […] made me a new fan of the authors. The Tallest Doll in New York City by Maria Dahvana Headley,…
  86. Hugo 2017: noveletes, no novveletees, um novelltes, damn novelettes surely, novelletes (that can’t be right) | Camestros Felapton - […] Vernon (Apex Magazine, January 2016). Grandma Harken is back and somebody is stealing her tomatoes. The Jackalope Wives was…
  87. 2017 Hugo Reviews: Novelettes - Women Write About Comics - […] “The Tomato Thief,” Ursula Vernon returns to the world of her earlier story “Jackalope Wives,” a near-finalist for the…
  88. Hugo Awards 2017 – Best Novelette – Alpaca Reads - […] who was stealing her tomatoes, and the descriptions of the strange desert she inhabits. I plan to read the…
  89. Review of The New Voices of Fantasy Edited by Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman – The Illustrated Page - […] fiction online. It’s a story about marriage and fatherhood, but centered around a vampire. In “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula…
  90. Recommendations: Short Stories – Acquadimore Books - […] Jackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon I talked about this one in my The New Voices of Fantasy review. It’s…
  91. The Seventh Bride: Ok, I’m officially a big fan of Ursula Vernon (A Review) – Book Wyrm - […] Seventh Bride isn’t the first Ursula Vernon story that I’ve read. That would be Jackalope Wives. I discovered it…
  92. Snow, Glasgow, Dungeons & Dragons & Doggies - EmmaMaree.com - […] An Accident of Stars, the novella The Jewel and Her Lapidary, and my favourites of the month: ‘Jackalope Wives’…
  93. A Sip of Fantasy: Reviewing the 2011-2017 Nebula-Winning Short Stories – The Coffee Archives - […] Read for free or listen for free. […]
  94. Stealing from the T. Kingfisher – The Overprepared GM - […] than the standard Tolkien/Medieval European fantasy tradition.  You want to start by reading Jackalope Wives and then The Tomato…
  95. Pixel Scroll 4/25/18 Why Is A Pixel Like A Writing Desk? | File 770 - […] than the standard Tolkien/Medieval European fantasy tradition.  You want to start by reading Jackalope Wives and then The Tomato…
  96. The New Voices of Fantasy (2017) Ed. by Peter S. Beagle & Jacob Weisman | Who's Dreaming Who? - […] “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon This is another terrific story which features skin-changers called “jackalopes” and a young man…
  97. The Tomato Thief | Apex Magazine | EggBlog - […] Jackalope Wives […]
  98. Taking inspiration from Continuum 14 – E. H. Mann - […] conquered and tamed by the husband: capturing a selkie or other monstrous wife (the brilliant story Jackalope Wives comes…
  99. 10 Favourite Diverse SFF Short-stories (online) – Silver Dragon's Book Hoard - […] a dragon. It won 2017 Hugo Award Winner for Best Novelette and is a sequel to Vernon’s “Jackalope Wives,”…
  100. This and that – Grace Draven Blog - […] As a reader, I was sucked so thoroughly into the story, I could feel the baking heat and dryness…
  101. Writing a compelling, character-driven climax – E. H. Mann - […] a true mermaid. Grandma Harken, the protagonist of Ursula Vernon’s Nebula Award-winning Jackalope Wives, must also decide between humanity…
  102. Some stories that I liked in 2014 – Ada Hoffmann - […] Seth Dickinson, “Morrigan in the Sunglare” Barry King, “Something In Our Minds Will Always Stay” Yoon Ha Lee, “The…
  103. 15 Free Fantasy Short Stories – The Illustrated Page - […] “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon […]
  104. Best of Apex Magazine | S.B. Howell - […] “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon – a Southwestern fantasy story with a little bit of body horror […]
  105. Jackalope Wives | Brinens and Things - […] Title link: https://www.apex-magazine.com/jackalope-wives/ […]
  106. Fleen: The Awkward Christmas Dinner Of Our Obligation To Existence » The Best Panel I Saw During SDCC - […] won a Hugo. The story features Grandma Harken, who also featured in the Nebula-winning short story Jackalope Wives. I…
  107. Magazine Monday: Nebula-Nominated Short Stories, 2014 | Fantasy Literature: Fantasy and Science Fiction Book and Audiobook Reviews - […] “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon is a lovely tale about a race of shapeshifters and their interaction with humans. Grandma Harken…
  108. Episode 137 – Diagnosis and Process – Productivity Alchemy - […] Jackalope Wives […]

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