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.


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