"Reeling For the Empire" is the second story in Karen Russell's collection of short stories, Vampires in the Lemon Grove". In my 75 Q and A sessions with Irish writers I asked everyone who some of their favorite contemporary short story writers were. Many named Karen Russell, some said she was among the very best. Based on the three stories I have read so far, I fully agree.
I loved and was really amazed by how creative "Reeling For the Empire" was. It is set in late 19th century Japan. It is about human silk worms. It seems there
is a special tea that turns women into silk producers. Families lease their daughters to the factory.
I don't want to tell more of the plot of this story. It is, strange as this may sound, a perfect Frank O'Connor story about human loneliness among people with no one to speak for them.
Both this story and "Vampires in the Lemon Grove" are about people transformed into monsters. There are six more stories in the collection. I am looking forward very much to reading them.