Book review: Cursed by Jeremy C. Shipp

The back cover of Jeremy C. Shipp’s novel ‘Cursed’ tells the reader it’s horror. ‘Cursed’ was even a finalist this year for the HWA’s Bram Stoker Award for best novel. But ‘Cursed’ is more than horror. Or just barely horror, in my opinion. The premise could easily spiral into horror, but Shipp injects this story with an odd, original, refreshingly creative vibe that trancends typical genre fare, especially when it comes to horror.

In case I’m not being clear enough here, let me say this: ‘Cursed’ is fantastic and I loved it.

Every day, the main character, Nick, is slapped in the face. His friend, Cicely, must hold a tennis ball in her hand. If she lets it go, the world will end. Abby’s family is gone, wiped from reality. All of these occurences are being manipulated by someone, a shadowy figure who remains as much a mystery by the end as he/she/it is in the beginning, and those three must find out who is behind their curses as well as how to reverse them. Along the way, we’re treated to a host of unique, quirky characters with depth and emotions (though sometimes too much emotion … there’s a lot of crying and weeping going on is this story) who we come to care about and root for. This book is more about personal redemption and finding one’s true self at its core, with some horrific happenings that will keep the reader in suspense through the dizzying final act. Refreshing, immensely enjoyable, and just a little bit bizarre at times, ‘Cursed’ is a must-read.

2-Minute Drill: Jeremy C. Shipp

Today’s guest on the Drill will examine the morals of Ronald Regan’s 1980s America and the loss of conservatism in today’s world. Just kidding. Actually, today’s guest is an award-nominated author who will talk about clowns, Spam and Stokers, not in that order. Strap in, folks, it’s time to to take a spin through Bizarro land…

The 2-Minute Drill is 5 quick questions and 5 quick answers from someone you probably haven’t heard of, but should hear from. This isn’t some rambling, long-winded author interview here. We dispense with the pleasantries and get down to brass tacks. We ask the tough questions and get the tough answers that you need to know.

We are very pleased to welcome Jeremy C. Shipp, whose most recent novel CURSED was just nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for superior achievement in a novel. That’s quite an honor for a guy who obssesses over lawn gnomes and the evil clowns living in his attic. We really should get to it before he goes charging back up his attic stairs with a shotgun again.

2-MD: One tradition we have here on the Drill is we like to reveal the initials in authors’ names, but instead of embarrassing you, we figured we’ll just let you do it yourself. What does the ‘C.’ stand for in Jeremy C. Shipp? And just a word of caution – don’t lie, because we’ll find out and then expose your secret to the world.

JCS: One of these is correct: Carriwitchet, Cookie Monster, Callipygian, Care Bear, Cockyolly, Coconut Monkey, Codology, Christopher, Cruciverbalism, Cocoa Puffs. (2-MD: Our money was on Canker Sore. You just cost us $50. Thanks, pal.)

2-MD: OK, an actual, serious question here: When someone asks for an explanation of bizarro fiction, is it proper and/or accurate to pinch their cheeks and tell them what a cute little baby they are, then slap their hands and run in tight circles while making ambulance siren noises? ‘Cause that’s what we’ve been doing lately.

JCS: The short answer is: yes. The longer is: yes, that is quite appropriate. What you described is actually the super secret Bizarro handshake, which is passed down from generation to generation, in an Albertsons reusable shopping bag.

2-MD: If we decided to invite you over for dinner (and don’t get all excited yet, we said if), would you prefer the Welsh rarebit, or the Cocoa Pebbles? Or are you one of those ‘order-off-the-menu’ types?

Spam - it's what's for dinner.

JCS: I never eat rarebit without Cocoa Pebbles sprinkled on top. Oh, and I’d love a side of spambled eggs, if that’s not too much to ask. (2-MD: You’re in luck! Leftovers from last Wednesday’s breakfast are still in the fridge!)

2-MD: We understand each book you’ve written was its own separate journey, but some stories write themselves and some tend to be more laborious and difficult. Of these stories, (check out his website, there’s a bunch to read) is there one that you want to flip the middle finger to every time you see it because of the anguish and stress you experienced during its creation?

JCS: My story “Camp” kicked my spleen, the way summer camp kicked my spleen when I was a kid. With “Camp,” I had to be extra careful with my reveals.

2-MD: So, the Stoker, huh? Were you surprised by the nomination for CURSED? Did you maybe make a little pee-pee in your pants when you first found out? It’s OK, you can be honest. No one will read this.

JCS: I was surprised and honored and thrilled by the nomination. When I heard the news, I peed, pooped, and vomited, all at the same time. It was a disgusting, wonderful moment for me. (2-MD: Good tip here – if you’re ever under consideration for a major award, keep some Oops I Crapped My Pants on hand just in case…)

What? That’s five already? Damn, that was more fun than we thought it would be. Maybe we’ll break the rules just this once and throw in one more question for extra credit: Beer snob or wine snob, and what’s your most bestest favoritest vintage?

JCS: I only drink water, fruit juice, and clown juice - preferably squeezed from the corpse of a clown who died in 1922. (2-MD: 1922 was a good year for clowns.)

Jeremy was very excited over his Stoker nomination. A little too excited.

2-Minute Drill: Kaolin Fire

The 2-Minute Drill is about information and truth, and today, we reveal the truth about one Kaolin Imago Fire, the man behind GUD Magazine. We know, totally made up name, but you don’t know the half of it. We are proud to present a 2-MD exclusive that will set the Internet afire with controversy.

The 2-Minute Drill is 5 quick questions and 5 quick answers from someone you probably haven’t heard of, but should hear from. This isn’t some rambling, long-winded author interview here. We dispense with the pleasantries and get down to brass tacks. We ask the tough questions and get the tough answers that you need to know.

Meet Kaolin Fire. We searched and searched for the most embarassing picture we could find of him. We’re pretty happy with the results.

Besides his editorial position with GUD, “Kaolin” does some sort of web design, or image creation, or something. It’s cool, whatever it is, but we’re really not up on the technical mumbo, just go look at his website. Let’s just say, he’s all arty and stuff. Poerty, short stories, his own magazine – you get the picture. Let’s see how he holds up under the intense spotlight that is The Drill:

2-MD: Alright, enough with this charade. We are on to you Mr. “Kaolin Imago Fire”, or should we call you by your real name – Cleveland Gary Messerschmitt!?!?!?!?

"Samantha" Fire?

KF (aka CGM): I’ve never really been good with charades anyway. I’m better with plain word games, or, well, cryptanalysis. I’m afraid you’ll have to dig several levels deeper than my Cleveland persona. Once you find Samantha, you might be on to something. She wasn’t a blood doll, but–no, now I’m giving away too many hints.

2-MD: Evading the question, eh? Perhaps we’ve been too standoffish to start, let’s clean the palate here. How about a softball: Unicorns or yard gnomes, which is more precious?

KF: Have you seen my yard gnomes? Seriously? They’re down the right side of Jeremy Shipp’s site. The last unicorn I met outside of a book (and that was a sad book, wasn’t it?) was in Texas Would you believe there’s photo evidence? And not elephants-swimming-in-the-lake or toy-submarine sort of evidence! Softball, on the other hand–that’s precious. Twee, even. Don’t give me none of that! (2-MD: Did he just call us twee? Man, if he did, this is so gonna end in a slap fight.)

No, I’ve got to let my twee side show and go with Unicorns. Yard gnomes rock and all, but Unicorns know how to roll. (2-MD: So true. That horn of theirs was like a big middle finger to Noah. “F-you, Popeye the Sailor Man! We ain’t gettin’ on no boat with them lions and such!”)

2-MD: Your Pay what you want scheme for GUD is, um, interesting, though some might call it the desparate flailings of a foundering ship in a churning literary sea. We personally propose beating people who said that last part into a messy pulp, but we’d like to get your opinion on the matter.

KF: I’m not adverse to messy pulp–we like to use “natural” paper for printing. It’s easier on the eyes than that sterilized, glossy-bleached stuff.

But is it right to call movements of the many-tentacled chthonic marketing beast GUD employs… flailing? Would you say that to its beak? I, for one, would not. They might end up a messy pulp through none of my doing; and coming out the other end of that beast isn’t fit for print. (2-MD: Heh, poop joke. Awesome.)

Those “some” that might call it desparate really ought to learn how to spell before flinging stones about. Spells can be right powerful if done right…and perhaps, just perhaps, they might then be able to defend themselves. (2-MD: Our editorial staff has assured us that this post is free of spelling errors [now... after the fourth damn time through it!], so blaaaaa.)

On a somewhat more serious note, I was supposed to take that sale down after a week, but things got a little away from me; and now I’m waiting for an ad for it to go out still this month, and have to leave it up just a little longer. But it really is a limited time offer, so GET IT NOW.

2-MD: We lie. A lot. I mean a really, really lot. Are we going to hell for it, and if so, can you recommend a good hand basket?

KF: I’m afraid you are destined for Los Angeles–but then, Los Angeles deserves whatever it gets. But hand baskets are so…puritan. If you want to enter in style, pick up a good book or two. Or, yanno, a magazine. No surer way to the big city than that. There’s actually an interesting non-fic piece F&SF published a few years ago about paving one of LA’s roads. Someone with a touch fewer projects than me should go look that up. ;) A quick search just finds me talking about it at SFReader.

2-MD: In two words or less, tell us about your greatest achievement in life.

KF: Poem Ranker

Ooo, sorry. We’re out of time. And to be honest, we really weren’t all that interested in your greatest achievement anyway. But you have been a cunning and formidable adversary and we begrudgingly rule this a stalemate. Everyone, show Mr. Messerschmitt, er, Mr. Fire how appreciative we are for running the Drill with us. Read this story and then go support Haiti relief efforts! :)

(2-MD: Hey! Who snuck those goddamn emoticons in there? Curse you, Fire! Curse you!)