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.


Dreadful Tales Gets Weird

Over the past 3 weeks, I’ve read no less than 12 of the most insanely off-the-wall books I’ve ever seen. That’s a lot to digest in such a short amount of time – approximately something like 1200 (or more) pages of the weirdest shit you’ve ever laid your eyes on. And that’s also on top of the books I’ve checked out in the mean-time, and the 100 years of Horror articles.

And sleeping.

And eating.

Not books… eating food.

Though… I could eat books…

Never mind. Eating books is a bad idea right now.

Especially after the announcement I’m about to make, and mostly cause I’m nervous about this.

What’s the announcement? Well, I’m sure you can see that the site has taken on a bit of a… different… look today.

That’s because we’re trying something different with our design (which will be ongoing for a little while) and celebrating Bizarro Fiction for the next 9 days here on Dreadful Tales! (January 23rd to the 31st)

Now, one might ask what exactly Bizarro Fiction is:

According to the most informative website on the genre, Bizarro Central‘s ‘About Bizarro’ page:

What Is Bizarro?

  1. Bizarro, simply put, is the genre of the weird.
  2. Bizarro is literature’s equivalent to the cult section at the video store.
  3. Like cult movies, Bizarro is sometimes surreal, sometimes avant-garde, sometimes goofy, sometimes bloody, sometimes borderline pornographic, and almost always completely out there.
  4. Bizarro strives not only to be strange, but fascinating, thought-provoking, and, above all, fun to read.
  5. Bizarro often contains a certain cartoon logic that, when applied to the real world, creates an unstable universe where the bizarre becomes the norm and absurdities are made flesh.
  6. Bizarro was created by a group of small press publishers in response to the increasing demand for (good) weird fiction and the increasing number of authors who specialize in it.
  7. Bizarro is like:
    • Franz Kafka meets John Waters
    • Dr. Suess of the post-apocalypse
    • Takashi Miike meets William S. Burroughs
    • Alice in Wonderland for adults
    • Japanese animation directed by David Lynch

Even though the Bizarros are underground cult outsiders they still have gained an incredible amount of respect in the publishing industry, having been praised by the likes of Chuck Palahniuk, Christopher Moore, William Gibson, Jonathan Lethem, Piers Anthony, Cory Doctorow, Poppy Z. Brite, Michael Moorcock, and Charles de Lint, to name a few, as well as the publications Asimov’s Science-fiction, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science-fiction, Fangoria, Cemetery Dance, Publishers Weekly, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Details Magazine, Gothic Magazine, and The Face, among many others. They have also been finalists for the Philip K Dick Award, the Bram Stoker Award, the Rhysling Award, the Wonderland Book Award, and the Pushcart Prize.

Bizarro isn’t just weird fiction, it is DAMN GOOD weird fiction. And it grows exponentially every single day, so, love it or hate it, you’ll be seeing a lot more of it in the years to come.

We’re excited to bring you a look at 8 new bizarro novels from Eraserhead Press, and specifically from the minds of the New Bizarro Authors Series folks who fill the 2011 lineup (henceforth known as the NBAS ’11). For those of you who don’t know, this is a series Eraserhead Press has started in order to bring some fresh blood to the genre.

Here’s the idea behind the NBAS:

You hold in your hands now a book from the New Bizarro Author Series. Normally, Eraserhead Press publishes twelve books a year. Of those, only one or two are by new writers. The NBAS alters this dynamic, thus giving more authors of weird fiction a chance at publication. For every book published in this series, the following will be true: This is the author’s first published book. We’re testing the waters to see if this author can find a readership, and whether or not you see more Eraserhead Press titles from this author is up to you. The success of this author is in your hands. If enough copies of this book aren’t sold within a year, there will be no future books from the author published by Eraserhead Press. So, if you enjoy this author’s work and want to see more in print, we encourage you to help him out by writing reviews of his book and telling your friends. In any event, hope you enjoy…

Given the guidelines there, and the fact that I was contacted to review one of the books, I wanted to lend a little more than a helping hand. I’m a huge fan of bizarre tales and upstart authors, and it’s no sweat off my back to read a few hundred pages and talk about it. So for the next bunch of days you’re going to be checking out the weirdest that the genre has to offer (with other stuff peppered in), and reading about some of the fresh blood bursting onto the scene.

With that, let’s welcome Justin Grimbol, Vince Kramer, Constance Ann Fitzgerald, Troy Chambers, Spike Marlowe, Michael Allen Rose, Eric Beeny, and S.D. Foster to the fold. This week is gonna be weird