Perverts for Wonderland and the Guy I Hate

kingIn completely surprising and unexpected news, King of the Perverts is on the final ballot of the Wonderland Book Awards for Best Novel. KotP was published in 2012 by Grindhouse Press, which also has a book in the category for Best Collection with Andersen Prunty’s Hi I’m a Social Disease. Team Grindhouse tearin’ it up, y’all.

The best thing about this nomination for me is the cohort alongside my little Pervert. With names like Nick Antosca, Kevin Donihe, Pat Wensink, and Carlton Mellick III, I’m definitely the one people will look at and say, “Who?” And that’s cool with me. Because, you know, it’s just an honor to be nominated, and all. Winners will be announced in November at BizarroCon in Portland, which I will be attending again this year.

NEWS ITEM

From the world of free books, there’s a giveaway on Goodreads right now for my latest, You Are Sloth! If you want to enter to win a free copy of the Sloth, this is the place to do it.

NEWS ITEM

Speaking of Sloth!, book reviewer Bob Milne shared his thoughts over on his blog. Here’s a cherry-picked line from said review: “His story is deliberately offensive in many ways, but as a caricature or over-the-top parody, never as a mean-spirited attack. There are some Bizarro titles I skim through for scenes that catch my eye, and others that I read cover-to-cover . . . Lowe is definitely one of the latter, and a gentleman I need to read more of.”

HUMAN INTEREST ITEM

I’ve recently tried to get in the habit of running in the mornings. I’m no workout freak, and in reality, I hate the act of running. It’s tiresome, and painful on my increasingly cranky knees and hips. Sometimes there’s a searing pain along the inside of my left foot. I think it’s inflammation of the tendon there, possibly the posterior tibialis. That’s what the Internet suggested to me, anyway. The only time I don’t mind running is if I’m legging out a stand-up triple after hitting a softball into the gap. Any other time, running is just working out, and the key word in the phrase is WORK. Screw that, I work enough already.

But still, I’m trying. I need to be healthier. Get in better shape. I’m 38 and if I’m ever going to learn healthy habits, I better start now. But it feels like my body is assaulting itself when I run. Like my immune system is kicking in to combat myself for trying to injure it. My physical being defending itself from the mind with underhanded tactics, like inflammation of the posterior tibialis. I can only imagine what I must look like when I run. Face contorted in equal parts pain and anger, with a little fear mixed in. My every instinct screaming at me to stop, oh dear God, stop, what the hell am I thinking? I go early in the morning, and fortunately it’s dark and there are few cars on the road, otherwise, I suspect people would be calling 911 because I look like I’m either running from a murderer, or from the scene of a murder.

I bring this up because there’s a guy I see running almost every day on my drive into work. He’s around 6-foot-5, can’t possibly have more than 0.5% body fat. Long legs that attack the pavement and seemed to bounce off it. Effortless. Two springs that propel him along, shirtless and chiseled and defined and toned. The guy looks like a machine. A flawless assembly of strength and health and precision. Unwavering in his dedication to honing his body into a perfect specimen, and that this little run he’s taking (which is no doubt many miles long) is nothing but easy. Probably fun to him, even.

Fuck that guy.

Holy Fuck, Another Damn List?

‘Tis the season for creating lists and such, and yes, I’m here to add another one, but I thought I would simply list the books of 2011 that I suspect I’ll still be talking about after this year is over. (How’s that for a lazy snappy lead-in?) I settled on four of them, with a few more honorable mentions. The first book listed here is technically from 2010, but I don’t care because it was published in December of ’10 and I say it’s close enough for rock and roll. And I didn’t read it until this year. So there.

1. By the Time We Leave Here, We’ll Be Friends, by J. David Osborne

This is the book voted mostly likely to send you swirling down the toilet bowl of depression. Yes, it’s that dark and that bleak. And it’s fucking cold, too. Set in a Communist Siberian gulag, you should consider throwing on a hoodie-footie before reading this, lest you catch your death of cold. But goddamn, is it beautifully written. Osborne’s style is as clipped, considered and no-nonsense hardass as the world he creates, and that’s why this works so damn well. If you want something original, compelling, smart, violent, and yet beautiful at the same time, I implore you to grab a copy of this one.

2. Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

And now for something completely different, Cline’s first-person love letter to all things 1980s. I was never the biggest gamer back in the day, and even less so now for that matter, but I was very familiar with the Atari and video arcade staples of my youth – Qbert, Pac-Man, Missle Defense, Galaga, etc., so there was enough here I could recognize. There are also several old school game references in this one that didn’t resonate with me, but enough ’80s movie minutiae to make me do a little pee-pee in my pants. I really dug the nostalgia and consider this to be a perfect read for an ’80s child like myself. Good times.

3. Nightjack, by Tom Piccirilli

Back to the darkness, this is a story of a guy with dissociative identity disorder who tries to solve his wife’s murder while juggling his multiple identities in his head, each of which is written as a separate character. In lesser hands, this would be a mess, but Piccirilli does a marvelous job of making each identity their own person, with an arc that fits into the puzzle of a plot. Great writing, great characters, and a tense, violent crime story that has me wondering why it took me this long to read something from ‘Pic’.

4. Rico Slade Will Fucking Kill You, by Bradley Sands

Another personality disorder type story wherein a popular action movie star can’t suppress his ultra-macho, throat-ripping asshole of a character, the eponymous Rico Slade. Funny, but with some surprising heart for what initially appears to be a simple Bizarro weirdfest. (Read my original review here)

Those are the four books from 2011 that I dug the most. Other releases from this year that I enjoyed, are worth mentioning, and definitely worth your time are: Flashback, by Dan Simmons; Hooray For Death, by Mykle Hansen;  Already Gone, by John Rector; Crab Town, by Carlton Mellick III; Embedded, by Dan Abnett

Book review: Crab Town, by Carlton Mellick III

Some writers, you can just tell, are brimming with ideas and creativity. Prolific bizarro veteran Carlton Mellick III is one of those writers, and his long short story Crab Town is evidence of this. After writing a couple 300+ page novels (veritable epics in the bizarro genre), he put out this 85-page novella earlier this year. It’s a short, entertaining ride through the weird world of Freedom City, and its adjoining slum, known as Crab Town.

This is the story of a bank heist gone bad, in a world where two nuclear wars have left the city in shambles and the economy in a mess. In Freedom City, if you lose your job and can’t pay your bills, your only choice is to move to Crab Town. Once you’re in Crab Town, you’re stuck, because no one will hire you again, no landlord will rent to you again, and you’re essentially a social pariah. It reminds me in a lot of ways of our national welfare system, where once you’re in, it’s difficult to get back out. Some denizens of Crab Town form the House of Cards, a group dedicated to improving life in Crab Town and getting a fair shake from the folks in charge of Freedom City. They don’t want a handout, they simply want equal opportunity for jobs and such – a little life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So, yeah, I like the message behind this story.

As Mellick writes in the book’s introduction, this story started with the cover image. Mellick liked it so much, he decided to write a story around the picture of the babe on the bomb, basically working backwards with the actual writing of the story being the last part of the process. In other words, he didn’t begin with a premise and a set of characters, he saw a picture, came up with a title and a cover blurb, then wrote the story from there. What results is almost too much for such a short story.

We’re introduced to no less than six different characters who all play a role in the heist. There are other peripheral characters as well, and over the course of the story, sandwiched between the events of one day, we learn a little bit about each character. We’re stilling learning about these main players in the heist, right up until and during the final act. This could have easily been filled out into another 300-page epic if he had the time and desire. So many ideas and so much creativity pack each page that there’s scarcely enough space to mention it all.

But such is the issue with the novella. Often times, they leave you wanting more, which I think is a good thing. And at $7.95, you get a good story with some very cool artwork. To be honest, I’ve been trying to decide for a long time which Mellick book I would read next, and the cover art from this one sold me from the beginning. Like Mellick, I was intrigued to learn about the babe on the bomb and what made her tick (yes, terrible pun, but I don’t care!). I came away wanting more of what was here, and not just a little bit jealous of how much creatvity this guy’s got bursting out of every story he writes.

Book review: The Baby Jesus Butt Plug by Carlton Mellick III

I’m going to qualify this review a bit: this is my first exposure to Carlton Mellick III, so I can’t compare this book to any of his other work. And I’m happy about that. I’ve read most of the reviews posted on Goodreads and Amazon for The Baby Jesus Butt Plug and there are several comments about CM3’s other work being better, or people didn’t like this one as much as (fill in the blank). For me, that means I’ve got a lot to look forward to, I guess, because I really like this one.


One other thing I looked for in those other reviews was mention of the Jesus/religious aspect of this story and its significance. I didn’t find much comment about it, though. My first question before I even bought this book was, why baby Jesus and butt plug? Is it purely for shock value? My conclusion: no, but that’s a big part of it. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more eye-catching (or controversial, or inflammatory) title than The Baby Jesus Butt Plug, but in its own weird way, it works in the end. Yes, there’s the shock value, but there’s also the things that Jesus, or more specifically, baby Jesus, represent: the creation of perfect life, the fulfilling of biblical prophesy, hope for humanity. I think each of those examples is present in this story, in one extremely weird fashion or another.

For me, this is a cautionary tale about vanity and self-absorbtion. The main characters, aptly named Mary and Joe, buy a pet baby jesus, which are born in litters like cats, to use as a sexual toy. Joe grows uncomfortable with the idea and the baby jesus begins to change into something monstrous. People in this world are cloned at copy stores and babies are no longer born, unless they’re in litters of famous people (Jesus, Elle Fitzgerald, John Lennon, etc.). Without delving too much into the nuts and bolts of the story, the odd happenings are not completely random, at least not all of them. There’s structure at work here, and it’s told in simple fairy tale-like prose, which in a way works to both disarm the reader and also provide more of a shock, like the slap of a wet blanket. On a base level, Mary and Joe desecrate something sacred and by the end, they must answer for their actions. And though they seem to be sincere in wanting to fix what they fouled up, it doesn’t appear that they will be able to. Sometimes you can’t fix what’s broke.

There’s more to this story as well, a commentary on corporate life and a great passage about how society wants to rush kids into adulthood. A character says, “In this day and age, there’s no room for babies. We’re born into this world as full grown adults. There’s no time to be children let alone raise children.” I can see examples of this notion in my daily life and that line really struck a chord with me.

I look forward to more Mellick, though this style and genre won’t be for everyone. If the title alone makes you cringe or makes you angry, you should probably keep on going. If you can attempt to read this story with a bit of an open mind, then go for it, you probably won’t be disappointed. I wasn’t.