NBAS ’11: A Hollow Cube is a Lonely Space by S. D. Foster

Collecting stories of what I can honestly say are the epitome of all that is bizarre, A Hollow Cube is a Lonely Space is a trip through the mind of an author who is obviously comfortable with his burgeoning insanity. From the very first story, the reader is going to become painfully aware that not all is as it should be, and maybe you should treat your fruits the way they would like to be treated, and gobble them up before they feel neglected.

I’ll never look at a fruit bowl the same again…

From Amazon:

IT’S AESOP, AS IMAGINED BY JOHN WATERS

A collection of twenty-three bizarro fables in which you’ll meet Nobody, a performing primate who wants to chew your children’s lips off; pontificate with the Stork, philosopher and feces-eater; rejoice as Nordin “The Noggin” Nobel, noted socialite, is reconciled to his estranged head; share the existential despair of Slothra the suicidal kaiju; celebrate the love of Violet and her rotting lover; explore the meaning of life with Dr. Ebenezer A.T. Horkenheimer, sociopath, and the geography of heaven and hell with Ted the mangled toy. And so much more…

This collection came out of nowhere at me. My basic understanding of Bizarro fiction assumed that the entirety of the genre was comprised of novellas and short novels, and that I wouldn’t be coming across any short stories at all. I was wrong. Oh so very wrong. And while I do enjoy an anthology of shorts every once in a while, but spaced far apart, I’ve got to say that this novella-sized collection blew me away. I feel fortunate to have been able to read it, and would suggest this to anyone who has a penchant for quick, weird, and quirky stories that border on insane.

Foster starts of the collection with a story that will change the way you look at fruit forever. Giving voice to a lonely clementine is the last thing you would expect from a normal short story, but given that this genre focuses on the strange, it’s commonplace to find a theme like this. The Course of Clementine shows Foster exceling is in his use of emotion while dealing with the personified citrus in question. It’s a sad little tale that transposes our basic yearning to belong, but transposes it onto a piece of fruit. Interesting and compelling, this is a fantastic start to a very special batch of stories.

The titular piece is a very strange one that elicts some of the same feelings as …Clemetine, in that the supposition of man’s need to belong is linked closely to his need to create and provide. In this story, the case is made for our lust for companionship and the inevitable possibility of its loss leaving us better off than its gain. At least, that’s what I took away from it. While genuinely steeped in strangeness and over-the-top themes, this collection is truly for the thinking man, and approaches philosophical more often than not. A Hollow Cube… is a perfect example of one of those stories.

Sometimes Foster leaves the realm of the intimidating, and goes straight for the down to earth stylings of bizarro writers like Prunty, Donihe, and Pepper, but adds a little bit of his own signature style. Snowman is a wonderful example of Foster’s ability to create a hilarious story and coupled with the next story, The Lingering Death of Christmas, serves to remind us that nothing is sacred. Even Santa Clause and Frosty the Snowman. I’ve got to hand it to the author here, I don’t think making snowmen or eating the cookies left on Christmas eve are ever going to be the same again. Hell, between Foster and Donihe, I’m pretty sure my brain has been significantly warper to that holiday season. (For more examples of Donihe’s work, look at his book “The Traveling Dildo Salesman“, which will be reviewed here very soon)

Foster’s style is downright intimidating. The lyrical flow of his prose is wonderful, and the subjects he tackles are more than sufficient for several head-scratching moments of discomfort and beguilement. The (Not Quite) Corpse and the Stork, Class of ’00, and The World are prime examples of the more metaphorical side of Foster’s work, while The Sheltering of Rutherford and The Assorted Suicides of Grover Grayson show a more abrupt, in your face style of storytelling that basically call the reader out on their beliefs, questioning what is really real in our world.

Like I already said, Foster has a style I haven’t seen in modern genre fiction for a while. He swings from down-to-earth all the way over to philosophical without missing a beat, and never stumbling over himself in the process. This is a collection I’d re-read, for sure.

In a turn of the FREAKING AWESOME, Foster has afforded us an exclusive reading of his short story The Marvelous Head, from this very collection. Listen to S.D. Foster read this in what he calls his “mutant US/UK accent, or stream the tale below. This is a phenomenal story. It’s something you don’t hear every day, and is a great taste of what I maintain is a very intimidating and sophisticated style of prose.

You can grab A Hollow Cube is a Lonely Space in Paperback and for your Kindle. You can visit S.D. Foster at his online home, Morbid Omelettes. Take a look Eraserhead Press for more Bizarro Fiction. If you’re interested in more Bizarro than you can shake a stick at, visit the online community known as Bizarro Central.

C.

NBAS ’11: Trashland A Go-Go by Constance Ann Fitzgerald

What do you get when you mix Alice in Wonderland with an incredibly strange acid trip at a nudie bar, followed by a late night screening of every weirdo b-grade cult movie you’ve ever seen? You get the phenomenal first effort of Constance Ann Fitzgerald, Trashland A Go-Go… and a huge case of envy.

From Amazon:

Coco takes off her clothes for a living, until some nasty little bitch kills her while she’s dancing. Thrown in the dumpster by her sleazebag boss, Coco awakens in a land of trash. With her new friend, Rudy (a dying fly), and her knight in garbage armor, the undead dancer tries to find her way home. But first she must escape from the evil Queen of this trashscape: a jealous and insane Ruler of Refuse who has an intense fear of flies. With hints of The Matrix and The Whiz, this heady trip will satisfy your cravings for twisted fairy tales, rotting garbage, and charming weirdos.

When I mentioned above that this book will cause envy, I gotta say it’s true. It will. You’ll wish you were the one who came up with this idea, and you’ll wish you could outshine it with your own work. But you didn’t, and you can’t. What Fitzgerald has achieved here is damned near perfect. If it weren’t for a few scenes laden with faces and/or meat-houses, I’m sure this would be a hit with everyone and their little (deranged) brother, even outside of the genre.

But, as it is what it is, I’m keeping it close to my heart and away from all of the people out there who might not appreciate this novel as much as they should. They’re fools, I tells ya!

Now, the whole Alice in Wonderland idea has been done to death in both YA fiction, and in some genre fare as well. It’s a fairly used vehicle to explain how a character might move from  their current reality to a strange world filled with weird creatures and a backward social caste, or even a dystopian universe replete with people who walk on their hands, and fish that trip the light fandango. But Fitzgerald has taken that idea and spun a web so wonderful, it’s hard to come up with a single story to compare it to fairly.

Trashland a Go Go‘s main character, Coco, isn’t your usual high-heel wearing stripper. No, she’s a heroine in disguise, and a full out woman in the prime of her life. Sure she gags and pukes at the though of being trapped in a room fashioned completely out of soiled diapers, but who wouldn’t? Sure she’s dead, but she still has emotions that are rational, and uses them in a normal way, even though she’s in a very weird place with talking flies and parasitically controlled knights in rubber armor. What I’m saying here is, Coco is a stellar character that, apart from her placement in a world completely unlike our own, is totally identifiable, and wholly sympathetic – even at the end when she flips the script on the whole ‘the good guys won, let freedom reign’ theme. Which is awesome, by the way.

Fitzgerald’s use of dialogue is incredible as well, making it the best part of the story and outshining even the most wonderful settings she offers up. One-liners and hilarious exchanges abound in this novel, making the read wicked fast and a blast to check out. Some of the story is absolutely cringe-worthy, though. You have been warned.

When the author sets about describing houses built entirely out of festering piles of rotting meat, you can bet you’re going to sit there and smell every nuance of it. And the aforementioned “diaper room”? Yeah. Gag-worthy. Extremely gross. But in a hilariously disgusting way. I really haven’t read anything that used such mundane yet possibly sickening things to such a degree, and she does it with flair. While others may be putting their heroines in danger of some human-borne illness or psychopathic murderer, Fitzgerald is covering hers in trash, rotting flesh, feces, and heaping loads of humiliation.

One has to applaud the author for going the distance with this story and keeping it fresh all the way through. Even when she had a chance to go for the standard stroke of the man coming to the rescue and saving the day, Fitzgerald opens up the possibility that even the best laid plans might screw up every once in a while. Add in a satisfying ending that ties everything up nicely, and you’ve got the most bizarre, but best put together fairytale story you’re going to find in and around the genre.

I honestly can’t wait to see what Fitzgerald comes up with next. Regardless, you can bet it’s going to be a goddamned blast. I’d like to see her take on body-horror or YA fiction, that’s for sure.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to talk to all of the NBAS authors, but I did get a chance to sit down with Constance last night and talk about a few things in another Dreadful Tales exclusive. You can stream the audio of that conversation below, or download for your listening pleasure.

Trashland A Go-Go is available in Paperback, and for your Kindle. Check out Constance Ann Fitzgerald online at her blog, and take a look at Eraserhead Press for more Bizarro Fiction. If you’re interested in more Bizarro than you can shake a stick at, visit the online community known as Bizarro Central. That place is awesome.

C.

NBAS ’11: Gigantic Death Worm by Vince Kramer

Vince Kramer comes out of virtually nowhere with Gigantic Death Worm – a hilarious, brutal, violent, and important piece of genre fiction. Why is it important? Because it’s probably the first piece of fiction that features bears who shoot wolves out of their mouths like missiles; Mexican, sombrero-throwing ninjas in invisibility ponchos; a main character who can pull anything out of thin air; and giant fucking death worms.

Like the amazon synopsis says, this might just be the best book ever.

From Amazon:

HOLY SHIT! THIS IS THE BEST BOOK EVER!!!

It’s kind of like that awesome movie, Frozen, you know where there’s those people stuck on a ski-lift while surrounded by wolves. But imagine if instead of wolves they were bears. And the bears spit wolves! Like they’re fucking grenade launchers or something! It’s awesome!!!

And then there’s these gigantic death worms that come out of the ground and kill and eat everyone. And they’re HUGE. Big enough to eat breweries and shit. And it’s all because of 2012! I KNOW! But, don’t worry, there’s a bunch of Mexican Ninjas with invisibility ponchos and throwing-sombreros that are going to save the day. They are so badass. And the main character Dave does some stuff, too. He can pull things out of the air, like burgers and Armani suits. (If I could do that I’d be eating McDouble cheeseburgers constantly!) He and his friend Worm-Head Girl, along with the Mexican Ninjas, and a veterinarian named LeAnn must try to save Phoenix from total annihilation. But they better hurry up because these gigantic death worms are going to utterly fucking destroy everything in like two seconds!!

CHECK OUT THE MOST AWESOME BOOK YOU COULD EVER POSSIBLY IMAGINE!! IT’S THE BEST BOOK EVER!!!

Now, where a first-time author gets off piling so many outlandish things into one short novel, I’ll never know. Only in the bizarro genre can someone get away with this kind of brazen confidence and hilarious craziness. There were points in this novel where I was actually laughing out loud on the subway, and that’s just damned embarrassing. Furthermore, the fact that I couldn’t share any of this with my co-workers was terrifying, but throughly awesome. I finally found something that can be my very own. Will any old horror fan appreciate this novel? No. Will anyone with a sense of humour find this as awesome as I did? No. And why is that? Because they suck and this book is awesome. End of story.

Like I said above, Kramer covers this story in thoroughly entertaining characters, set pieces, and one liners. There really are bears that shoot wolves out of their mouths, and I have to say that it’s one of the most hilarious experiences I’ve ever read. Dave, the main characters and our hero, has brain parasites that actually have a lot to do with the resulting terror and destruction that ensues later one. He can also pull things out of thin air, which Kramer uses subtly and comfortably enough to slip right past the reader. The comedic timing in this novel is seriously brilliant.

And Mexican Ninjas? YES PLEASE! These bad boys fly, wear invisibility ponchos, throw sombreros, and just generally kick ass. There’s nothing I can say that will make any of you completely ‘get’ hot killer these guys are. It’s a “you must read this” scenario, that’s for sure.

Kramer also has an uncanny ability to throw one-liners out there that are bordering on ridiculous, but brimming with hilarity. A few examples would be:

“Then the bear ate his face off, and he died from it.”

Which is a line that almost killed me, making me choke on my coffee and call every known person in the world to recite this to.

“Ramon threw a knife at the poor guy, which killed him in the head.”

Another example of me spitting my coffee every-fucking-where (Kramer, you owe me a new, clean iPhone)

I’ll give you this: Gigantic Death Worm is very much the most fun I’ve had in the past 6 or so months. If Kramer wants to continue writing incredible and insane stories like this, I’ll be first in line to buy.

You can take a look at the book I’m fawning over at Amazon in Paperback and for your Kindle. Also visit Vince Kramer online on Facebook, and check out Eraserhead Press for more Bizarro Fiction. If you’re interested in more Bizarro than you can shake a stick at, visit the online community known as Bizarro Central. That place is awesome.

C.

NBAS ’11: Placenta of Love by Spike Marlowe

Placenta of Love is a strange kind of Disneyland theme park adventure coupled with a savage Pirates of the Caribbean storyline that also relies heavily on a whacked-out monster theme… with a love story thrown in for good measure. Well… not for good measure. This is, for all intents and purposes, a very twisted love story, albeit a very strange one. Very strange.

Marlowe doesn’t just go for wicked weird, though. She goes for emotional, dark, violent, gory… hell, she goes for everything in this wild ride through crazy town and pulls it off brilliantly.

And in the interest of fulfilling a wish that the author has regarding this book, I’d like to publicly proclaim that this novel is Amazeballs… whatever that means.

From Amazon:

PLANET-SIZED AMUSEMENT PARKS, ROBO-PIRATES, AND A SENTIENT PLACENTA!

Step right up! Captain Carl the robo-pirate is one of the few Artificial Intelligences living on Venus-the amusement park planet. When Carl is given the spark of intelligence by his creator, he becomes a creator himself. No longer just an automaton from a pirate ride, Captain Carl creates the love of his life and searches for her perfect body. He thinks he’s found it in a big placenta. But programming is everything.

When the placenta’s desire to reproduce kicks in, the whole park is endangered as the organ grows to monster size, spreading placenta babies across the planet and eating all the rides (and the people riding them!). Captain Carl must band together with a cat, a creator, and the Pope of The Church of Transubstantial Birth Fear to stop his love from killing everyone and destroying the park.

YARRRRR!

Yarrrrr, indeed. Very Yarrrrr. All over the place. Yarrrrr to the extreme. And I only ‘Yarrrr’ so much because this book takes every damned car on the imagination train and flips it way the hell over, tumbling ass over tea-kettle with reckless abandon, but in a very fluid, very practiced way. Each executed plot point is wonderfully weird and hilariously off-the-wall.

In Placenta of Love, Marlowe has created an entire theme park on the planet Venus, and packed it full of interesting, intimidating, and curious rides. Of the many that she describes (each chapter is prefaced with the description of a different ride) I’ve got a few favourites that just kicked my ass. I would be first in line for a ton of these, but the following are the most hilariously intriguing, that’s for sure.

  1. The Felini Wheel – Formerly known as ‘The Fellatio Wheel’, this ride begins to slowly rotate while the automatons staffing the attraction pull down the riders’ pants and… well… you can guess when they do…
  2. The Tilt N’ Hurl – This ride spins its guests from side to side and head-over-heels, blasting them up through Venus’ atmosphere, and into lower orbit. It is preferred that guests do not throw up on this ride.
  3. The Tunnel Of Lust – A cave somewhat like the ‘It’s A Small World‘ ride at Disneyland, but is instead staffed by hundreds of little automatons representing different cultures and planets, copulating in the positions preferred by their cultures. Halfway through the ride, the coaches enter darkened caves featuring mood music for your loving pleasure. For an extra fee, the coach will begin to vibrate.

You can see where this is all going, right? Or can you…?

Marlowe may pepper loads of sexually charged content into this novel, but make no mistake that this is a story about love, and finding one’s self. Between the darkness that is very apparent in this story, and the author’s descriptions of her characters and their motives, Placenta of Love absolutely reeks of a story that is far too familiar to those of us who grew up in a sub-genre, or a group of people who were trying hard to find a place to fit in that was outside of the norm. Like Grimbol’s The Crud Masters, this novel owes a lot to The Outsiders, if only for its attitude and overall feeling of nihilism, no matter how small it is.

With her two main characters, the Romeo and the Juliet-esque Captain Carl and Helen, Marlowe bounces from wounded automaton/lonely placenta to confident and independent Pirate/giant, grotesquely ravenous placenta-monster, over the course of a story laden with heartache and pain. Captain Carl was once the leader of Venus’ pirate attraction, until his maker, in a perverted Pinocchio kind of way, gives him a fully functioning and reasoning AI, making him essentially a real being. In turn, Captain Carl steals a large, throbbing from someplace on the theme park grounds, gives it an AI like his own, and creates a monster. Where once he was in love with it (while still an AI on his ship), he soon comes to acknowledge that he must destroy the thing that he loves in order to save everyone else on the planet.

There’s so much more I want to say, but I really don’t want to spoil the treat for those of you who are interested in checking it out, which I strongly encourage. If you don’t, you’ll never find out just how Captain Carl and his monster placenta-lover actually manage to pro-create. It’s… interesting. *shudder*

Placenta of Love is covered in mystical, gothy, and wickedly dark bits of love and fun. The lengths that the author goes to in order to gross us out is brilliant, making for an epic and fast read that feels all too short.

And here’s a special treat for all of you folks who like to do a little sampling before you purchase. Here’s your chance to listen to the silken voice of Spike Marlowe as she reads the first two chapters of her book for you in a Dreadful Tales exclusive. If you’d like to stream it, see below.

Placenta of Love is available at Amazon in Paperback and for your Kindle. Visit Spike Marlowe online at her blog, and check out Eraserhead Press for more Bizarro Fiction. If you’re interested in more Bizarro than you can shake a stick at, visit the online community known as Bizarro Central. That place is awesome.

C.

NBAS ’11: The Crud Masters by Justin Grimbol

When Justin Grimbol asked me to take a look at his Bizarro novel, The Crud Masters, I really had no idea what to expect. My exposure to the genre was very limited, and consisted really of only having read Adam Pepper’s Super Fetus – a hilariously inappropriate book of massively entertaining proportions. I’d never read anything else like it, and was pretty hard pressed to gather my wits about me to check out another piece from this little known, but tight-knit group of strange authors.

Actually, in the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that I never really intended to read another piece of Bizarro Fiction again, what with the amount of insane horror fare being thrown at me from everyone else. I really didn’t want for anything.

But now I do.

I’m painfully happy that Grimbol brought his novel to my attention. Not only was it a blast to read, but it has opened my eyes to a whole new genre of fiction that I otherwise may not have had a chance to enjoy.

With a swagger that screams of confidence, a story full of imagination on an epic scale, and a winning-but-strange concept, Justin Grimbol may have just created one of the best coming of age novels of 2011, or all time… even though it’s weird as hell.

From Amazon:

THE OUTSIDERSWITH GIANT MONSTERS AND TRANSFORMING ROBOTS!

You know that book about the poor kids and the rich assholes who mess with them all the time? The one where the main poor kid (C. Thomas Howell) and his best friend save those kids from a fire, and then the best friend (Ralph Macchio) dies and croaks out, “Stay gold, Pony Boy.” And there’s that rich girl, Cherry, who totally leads Pony Boy on the whole time? This is that! But with giant monsters and robots fighting in the rumbles. And its in The Hamptons. In a dystopian future. Its crazy!

Giant monster fights, touching love with sexbots and stinky women, extreme body modification, and Boogers, the guy who’s sorta like Pony Boy, but gross and perverted-its all right here.

STAY GOLD.

The Crud Masters is equal parts The Outsiders and some strange amalgamation of a Russ Meyer and Roger Corman film. The imagery is, like Grimbol’s choice of descriptive words, vivid as hell, causing the characters to leap off the page in a delightfully weird interpretive dance, landing straight in the reader’s face with a slimy splat. Some of the concepts and themes in this book might be shocking to those who are unfamiliar with the bizarro genre, but it should be noted that these stories are written to emphasize maximum entertainment and WTF factors. Having said that, it’s Grimbol’s characters and monsters that steal the show here.

Leading the story on its journey is Boogers, the appropriately named member of The Crud Masters, in that he has a sinus problem that makes it seem like he has a perpetual cold. Boogers’ sarcasm and wit are backed up by his obviously genuine caring for his crew and the things he holds dear. He’s joined by Snuggles, a portly and kind loser; Soda Can, a hyperactive, outdated Sexbot who torments people by shooting fake semen out of his boot penis… to hilarious results; The Bart, the resident ‘tough guy’ who has a penchant for brutality, yet has surprisingly deep feelings; The Bart’s girlfriend, Clitty, who is, by all accounts, a devoted woman; and Pussy Bear. Now, in a strange turn, Pussy BEar is actually a human female, but she’s had so many body modifications that she actually looks like a gigantic bear… well… apart from the face and the large, floppy breasts hanging off her chest. Fulfilling a twisted West Side Story kind of plot, we have the NOLA kids as the Crud Masters’ enemies. They’re obnoxious, they’re rich, and they’re the Prog Rock to the Crud’s punk rock.

And yes… all of these characters are active and alive in the story. I told you this was gonna get weird.

Rest assured, Grimbol plays the entire thing straight, never once going more over-the-top that the story allows him. Sure there’s a gigantic monster/Transformer battle at the end, but that’s what this bastard child of a legion of insane people calls for. And while we’re on that subject, let’s talk about the monsters. Grimbol lays some seriously screwed up visions on the reader here. We’re looking at everything from crab claws to massive teeth, blasting acidic spit and other deadly bodily fluids. Fun stuff! There’s a massive monster battle about 5 or so chapters into the novel that is perfect. I read it twice. The author writes so fluidly in these situations, making every punch thrown count and every bite harder than it could possibly be elsewhere. Grimbol’s got a killer sense of action, folks.

I could imagine all of these monsters as demented puppets or stuffed animals for deranged kids. But that’s just my inane imagination getting ahold of this. Let’s move on… (note to self – ask Grimbol about making puppets for demented children…)

I’ve got to say, after Grimbol sets up the entire story in the first four chapters, it’s almost like he gave himself a huge playground to go nuts with. It’s apparent that he had a ton of fun authoring this piece of insanity. There’s really a lot more that can be said about this novel. With Grimbol cutting his teeth on such a hugely ambitious novel, I can bet we’re going to see some amazing things out of him in the future. The Crud Masters is almost always go-go-go action, but when it’s not running at full speed, it’s setting the tone of weirdness that any bizarro fan is going to love.

And the hugely insane Monster-Transformer battle at the end of the novel is more than worth the price alone.

Go catch this blisteringly fast-paced novel at Amazon in Paperback and for your Kindle. Visit Justin Grimbol online at his blog, His Cock Is Money, and check out Eraserhead Press for more Bizarro Fiction. If you’re interested in more Bizarro than you can shake a stick at, visit the online community known as Bizarro Central. That place is awesome.

C.