NBAS ’11: Lepers and Mannequins by Eric Beeny

I was slightly confused when I started Lepers and Mannequins. The confusion was, I later realized, simple because I had recently come off of reading a spate of hilarious Bizarro novels that challenged me to stretch my imagination to the fullest, while bending me over in pain from laughter. My initial react to this novel wasn’t, at all, funny. I was concerned. I was concerned for the main character, for her lover, for her society and their natural enemies, and for the entire world they lived in.

And then I realized what was happening, and the brilliance that this novel is capable of.

Eric Beeny not only assailed my senses with some of the most off-the-wall characters and plot devices, but he also made me think long and hard about society and all of its nasty little ‘isms’. This is the Bizarro novel that almost made my damn self cry.

From Amazon:

It’s been three years since the last harvest, and the lepers are preparing once again to wage war on the mannequins for spare parts – prosthetic limbs they need to rebuild themselves.¬†Jaundice (a female mannequin) and Quall (a male leper) have fallen in love in the midst of this war, forcing them to confront and redefine the nature of loyalty and betrayal. An absurd and tragicomic allegory, Lepers and Mannequins explores how love, identity, class, religion and desire all divide people not only from each other, but from themselves. As the lepers struggle to maintain their humanity (striving at all costs to conquer both the mannequins and their disease), they could ultimately lose it. This is the mannequin metaphor, and warns of a startling fate for the lepers – if they can stay in one piece long enough to put themselves back together…

I usually don’t like stories that tell themselves from more than one perspective, but the way Beeny did it here is almost poetic in its subtlety. Not once does he let on that he knows he owns you, but he also actively encourages the reader to fully immerse themselves in the story through clever and strange positioning of key ingredients. The slop and squelch of the world that these two warring, yet intrinsically linked peoples live in is absolutely tangible. I loved the way that, no matter what was happening in the story, Beeny found a moment or two to explain what the terrain was like, and how the living conditions fared to the touch of these two ‘tribes’.

The entire novel could easily be set in anyone’s local forested area, making this one of the more accessible novels in the series. Yes, I understand the fact that Mannequins aren’t alive, and that Lepers are rarely in such a state of decomposition that they may feel a tinge of social unrest, thus planning an attack bent on harvesting the limbs of their neighbouring colonies… but that’s besides the point. The fact is, Beeny is very adept at slinging his words in a way that shows you he means business, but also sits early with those who don’t want to slog through weighty words that mean less than they appear to. The end result, thankfully, is a novel brimming with social commentary, copious amounts of face shredding insanity, an a generous amount of twisted Romeo and Juliet love that will melt the heart of the most hardened of genre readers.

There isn’t much more that I can say about this novel that will justify it, except for praising Beeny’s keen eye for dynamic characters. Jaundice is immediately identifiable as the quintessential female desire to be ‘perfect’ yet still different from those around her. Her lover, Quall, never hesitates to lay everything on the line for his love, calling to mind the selfless things that a man will do to profess his undying loyalty to the woman he desires. The rest of the Leper colony, and Jaundice’s Mannequin tribe act accordingly, eschewing their feelings for one another in favor of vilifying their painful, violent past. If it sounds a little Shakespearian, that’s because it is. This is, by and large, the best adaptation of a classic, though throughly original in its own right, that I have ever read.

Wild, violent, tear-jerking attraction is almost immediate in Lepers and Mannequins. Beeny has created something special here, and I’m pleasantly satisfied with the result.

You can grab a copy of this book in paperback and for your Kindle. Also make sure you check out Eric Beeny’s blog, Dead End on Progressive Avenue, and Eraserhead Press for more incredible Bizarro Fiction. If you’re looking for even more Bizarro information, visit Bizarro Central for all of your weird needs.


NBAS ’11: Seven Seagulls For a Single Nipple by Troy Chambers

Seven Seagulls for a Single Nipple is a strange tale. Not only does it start with a kind of “what the hell am I reading” vibe, but it quickly moves into a “why the hell haven’t I read something like this before” vibe.

Still with me? Good.

A walking, talking, nipple; a baby faced, serial rapist lobster, a psychotic lesbian nun, and a flock of godly seagulls walk into a bar… wait… no, it’s not a joke. It’s this novel. And oh WOW what a novel it is.

From Amazon:


Wilmorn is a nipple. A nipple in love. Living on a Voodoo priest, Wilmorn the sentient nipple crosses paths with a foul-mouthed lesbian nun shouting about wickedness in the streets of NYC and instantly falls in love. He summons the Seagull Gods in a bid to gain bodily freedom and pursue her, asking for his own human body. The Gulls grant his request. Sort of. They make him a big nipple with a gross little face and spindly limbs. And give him a lobster baby companion/guardian-a chain-smoking demon maniac with a lobster body and a baby face who tail-rapes people to death and picks on Wilmorn ceaselessly. Yes, tail-rapes. It’s his… thing.

Can Wilmorn convince the nun to love him so that he may be human? And what if he succeeds? Making deals with evil Seagull Gods from magical dimensions might not always work out as one would hope.

I’m sure that when Troy Chambers sat down to write this novel, he went about it with the same kind of vigour that I read it with. Only, Chambers is obviously a huge dreamer and a twisted man. Me, I was just the innocent bystander that happened to chance upon his descent into madness. And hell, I’d witness his madness over and over again if it was as entertaining as this. This novel is some hilarious stuff!

Take Stalin, the aforementioned baby faced, serial rapist crab. Can you honestly think of anything you’ve read recently that is as outlandish as that? No. You can’t. Couple that with the fact that this crab is the living embodiment of James Brown, Mr. T, and Samuel L. Jackson’s attitudes mashed into one, on a bad day, without coffee, having an eternal nic fit… with a brutal hangover. That’s who Stalin is. And he’s brutally hilarious throughout the entire novel. Actually, I’d hazard to say that he completely steals the show from the main character, Wilmorn.

Speaking of Wilmorn, did I mention that he’s a massive giant nipple who struck a deal with the seagull gods in order to detach himself from his owner, look for his true love, and eventually go through a massive bodily change that leave him, well, different? Yes. This book is hilarious and amazing.

Chambers is obviously very comfortable with the world he has created in his head, and it translates to the page phenomenally. While this is one of the more extreme novels of the NBAS ’11 group (if only for the serial raping lobster) it’s also one of the most colourful and strangely cathartic as well. Watching Wilmorn go through his transformation, his journey to find his hate-filled lesbian nun/true love, and the overall theme of the book was a real eye opener for me. The author truly let his creativity flow with this novel, and it’s very refreshing to see in genre fiction.

The entire novel centres around Chambers’ ability to surround his cast and with some of the most outlandish situations imaginable, while still keeping things flowing smoothly and on a direct path to a clear ending. I seriously have to hand it to this man. Chambers is not only coming out of the gates with a brilliant novel in tow, but he’s coming out screaming bloody murder, with the intent to take the whole damned place hostage.

This, my friends, is a novel worth looking at.

Seven Seagulls for a Single Nipple is a love story gone terribly wrong… in a good way.

Grab this book at Amazon in Paperback and for your Kindle. Check out Chambers on Facebook, and make sure you take a look at the other fine Bizarro Fiction Eraserhead Press has to offer. If you’re looking for even more Bizarro information, visit Bizarro Central for all of your weird needs.


NBAS ’11: Party Wolves in My Skull by Michael Allen Rose

No writer should be able to pull off such a high-octane adventure as Rose has in his first outing. And further more, it’s completely absurd that something like this, something that reads at break-neck speed and refuses to quit, wasn’t shoved in my greedy little hands sooner. Now that I’ve been introduced to the work of Michael Allen Rose, I can honestly say that I want more-more-more! Party Wolves in My Skull is the adventure novel featuring renegade eyeballs, murderous walruses, penguin footed hotties, and a pack of attitude laden wolves jammed into some guy’s skull that I’ve always been looking for.

Yes… I demand a lot from my fiction.

From Amazon:

Norman Spooter awakens one morning to find that his eyeballs have fallen in love with each other. They proceed to tear themselves out of his head, steal his car keys, and take off for parts unknown. So he does what any of us would probably do in that situation… he goes back to bed, hoping it’ll all resolve itself. Unfortunately, in the middle of the night, a pack of WOLVES moves in. The worst thing is, they’re party wolves…

BUT they gave him a security deposit, so he decides he’s going out to get his eyeballs back.
He joins forces on his epic quest with a woman named Zoe, who has a mysterious secret almost as crazy as Norman’s Party Wolves. Besides, she needs him too. She’s on the run from her psychopathic ex-boyfriend, who happens to be a dangerous sociopath, a classic car enthusiast and, worst of all, a fully grown walrus.

The road trip/chase novel is flipped on its head with everyone chasing everyone… explosions, battles and madness are the drivers in this particular race, along with a few stops in such places as the Motel Sick and a cult town in North Dakota featuring some dangerous hooded guys who’ll pretty much marry anything to anything. With violence and insanity nipping at his heels and a race against the clock to get his body parts back, this could turn out very badly for Norman Spooter.

For any of those folks reading who have a soft spot for a Rebel Without a Cause style of attitude in their fiction, Party Wolves… is right up your alley. Featuring some of the greatest characters on this side of the genre, Rose has penned what will undoubtedly go down as one of the funniest, most creative renegade animal stories you’ll ever come across. Complete with a cast of characters so damned strange, this novel touches on everything from love and hate, all the way to justice and revenge. There’s not a damned thing wrong with this story except for its short length. I would have loved to see something far longer, and hold out hope that Rose may expand on this story at a later date.

The visuals are stunning and colorful, making it easy to see this as a graphic novel or even an animated series on The Cartoon Network, for sure. The emotional value present Rose’s dialogue is what makes this piece feel so damned full. Every corner of this writer’s canvas was painted inexplicit detail, eliticiting screams of laughter at the whimsy of these folks, and tears of sadness when any of the characters feel even the slightest bit of sorrow. This is a true gem in genre fiction, and will undoubtedly win many crowds over.

Now, Rose creates some of the most interesting characters in this story, and has no problems showing his ability to ‘play God’ with them. The author offers up a penguin-footed heroine, a murderous, love-scorned walrus, a man whose eyeballs have abandoned him in an act of political defiance, and a pack of wolves who like to party, and just so happen to become the tenants in the previously mentioned man’s skull. The fact that Rose went with a slapstick gag just prior to the introduction of the party wolves makes this pairing that much more hilarious.

I would get into more intricate detail about the wolves themselves, but I don’t want to spoil the fun for those of you who are going to check it out. Let’s just leave it with the fact that they play out a wicked example of a 50’s tough-guy gang, and use their secret abiblities (and their shame) to entertain and ravage readers with a very unique style. Rose really hit the proverbial nail on the head with this one.

You can grab a copy of Party Wolves in My Skull in paperback and also for your Kindle. Make sure to visit Rose’s website and check out Eraserhead Press for more awesome Bizarro Fiction. If you’re looking for even more Bizarro information, visit Bizarro Central for all of your weird needs.


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:


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.


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.