SHATNERQUEST by Jeff Burk
After the apocalypse, three Star Trek fans and their morbidly obese cat embark on a quest to save their beloved idol, the one and only William Shatner, from the hostile world America has become.
But their journey will not be easy, for the wasteland is filled with cannibal cults, Klingon biker gangs, Zombie Borg, and all manner of mutant creatures. And once they arrive at their destination, they discover that William Shatner has been transformed into Shatzilla – a giant 100-story radioactive monster hell-bent on destroying all of Los Angeles.
Now instead of saving Shatner from this new apocalyptic world, these three fans must save the world from this new apocalyptic Shatner. If only there was another giant monster who could take him down…
From the author who brought you the cult hit Shatnerquake, comes another Shat-tastic sci-fi comedy that proves once and for all that there actually is something even bigger than William Shatner’s ego. And it is… William Shatner!
VILLAGE OF THE MERMAIDS by Carlton Mellick III
MERMAID [mur-meyd] noun — a rare species of fish evolved to resemble the appearance of a woman in order to attract male human prey.
Mermaids are protected by the government under the Endangered Species Act, which means you aren’t able to kill them even in self-defense. This is especially problematic if you happen to live in the isolated fishing village of Siren Cove, where there exists a healthy population of mermaids in the surrounding waters that view you as the main source of protein in their diet.
The only thing keeping these ravenous sea women at bay is the equally-dangerous supply of human livestock known as Food People. Normally, these “feeder humans” are enough to keep the mermaid population happy and well-fed. But in Siren Cove, the mermaids are avoiding the human livestock and have returned to hunting the frightened local fishermen. It is up to Doctor Black, an eccentric representative of the Food People Corporation, to investigate the matter and hopefully find a way to correct the mermaids’ new eating patterns before the remaining villagers end up as fish food. But the more he digs, the more he discovers there are far stranger and more dangerous things than mermaids hidden in this ancient village by the sea.
Like a Lovecraftian version of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, Village of the Mermaids is a dystopian mystery that proves once again how cult author Carlton Mellick III brings the weird to a whole new level.
AVAILABLE AT WWW.AMAZON.COM
SUMMER 2013 RELEASES:
(Coming in July)
“In Heaven Everything is Fine: Stories Inspired by the Films of David Lynch” ed. by Cameron Pierce
“Quicksand House” by Carlton Mellick III
“Japan Conquers the Galaxy” by Kirsten Alene
“You Are a Sloth” by Steve Lowe
A tale of marriage, child-rearing, and vaginas that eat people.
A man is arrested in the middle of the night. He doesn’t know why. He doesn’t remember committing any crime. The cops drop him off in a small community in the middle of the woods where a wedding is about to begin. It is his wedding. He doesn’t recognize the bride, but she’s allegedly pregnant with his children. All twelve of them. And by law, he must marry her or go to prison for the next two decades.
But who is this strange woman he is to spend the rest of his life with? She doesn’t seem quite human. Her expressions are cold and emotionless. Her movements are like that of a spider. She is Usagi, a creature who feeds on her human mate during pregnancy. Now this man has to find a way to terminate the marriage if he is to survive. But it’s not going to be easy. His friends, his family, and his country are all against him. They believe a father should be willing to give up anything for the sake of his family. Even his life.
Like Franz Kafka’s The Trial meets an erotic body horror version of The Blob, this darkly absurd tale is classic Mellick.
AVAILABLE AT AMAZON.COM
By S.T. Cartledge
It’s been a while since I’ve written a book review, so I figured I’d go right back to when I first started reading bizarro fiction. The book that started it all for me was Cameron Pierce’s “Lost in Cat Brain Land.”
It turns out that I actually wrote a review for this book way back then, and posted it to the book depository. So, to save me some time, I’ll copy and paste the review and then add my thoughts on the book now.
“This book is a quick read. At a glance it’s just a cluster of quirky short stories. The blurb on its own is just plain bizarre, however, what got me with this book, what really makes me adore it so, is how it works in its subtleties. Yes, it’s weird, but it takes a certain skill to build a connection between characters and reader, and I found numerous times that I actually cared about the little blue tea-thieving creature, or the thing that crawled up from the shower drain. It’s not weird for the sake of being weird. It’s weird pretending that everything is perfectly normal. And I guess that’s a strong metaphor in itself. Some of the short stories are better than others, but the overall quality is brilliant. As a first impression to Pierce’s work, and as a first impression to the bizarro genre, I’m thoroughly pleased with the book. If you like weird and if you like going somewhere entirely unexpected from one page to the next, and you don’t mind being disturbed (or in fact thrive on the awkward pleasure it brings) then I strongly recommend this book. I’ll probably order Pierce’s novel “Shark Hunting in Paradise Garden” very soon, as, quite simply, Lost in Cat Brain Land just wasn’t enough. I finished it and felt the need to read more of this guy.”
Now that I’ve read “Shark Hunting“, as well as a couple of his other books; “Pickled Apocalypse of Pancake Island“, and “Abortion Arcade“, I can quite safely say that my confidences in Cameron Pierce were well placed. I’ve even grown to respect him as an editor, putting out some fantastic books under the Eraserhead Press imprint, Lazy Fascist. Since writing that review, I’ve read a lot of bizarro in general, and I’ve come to the conclusion that my summary of the book is probably oversimplifying things a bit much. It’s not just weird pretending to be normal, it’s often of a different world altogether. No pretending. It has its own warped logic to live by. I still believe that the strength of this book, and some of Pierce’s other books, comes from his ability to make his strange foreign worlds feel close to home. We become attached to the characters. I would say his best work that I’ve read has been either “Pickled Apocalypse” or “Abortion Arcade” (and in particular from Arcade, the novella “No Children”). I have his latest book “Cthulhu Comes to the Vampire Kingdom” on order and I can’t wait. It seems he gets better with each book. Ever since I read this book, the one that introduced me to the bizarro genre, I haven’t looked back.
This year, one of my greatest pleasures as an editor has been working with bestselling author Piers Anthony on a novel for Fantastic Planet, the cult science fiction/fantasy imprint of Eraserhead Press. The Sopaths, which was deemed too extreme and controversial for Anthony’s commercial publishers, is a vast departure from his usual light fantasy fare. After nearly three decades of compiling notes for this novel, he finally started writing it in 2009, when his daughter died of melanoma. It’s a powerful, troubling work, and the most disturbing novel I’ve encountered in my time as an editor. The following article by Piers, included in The Sopaths as an author’s note, offers a lot of insight into his life, creative process, and the writing of this novel.
ON WRITING THE SOPATHS
by Piers Anthony
I have been trying to tie up loose ends as I get older, so as not to leave any projects unfinished. I am 75 at this writing, and while there is as yet no clear indication of my termination, chances are it will occur in the next decade or three. The Sopaths is the last one of any magnitude. Another reason I scheduled it for this time is that the death of my elder daughter from cancer—melanoma—in 2009 put me in the depressed mood for horror, which is not normally to my taste. That seems to have been effective.
The project dates way back. My earliest penciled note is dated 9-11-80: “Notion: when the souls run out. World population burgeons so much that the supply of new souls is exhausted, and so babies start being born without souls. This could be a horror story.” The underlying assumption being that the soul is the source of empathy, conscience, remorse, and emotional appreciation for the arts, which I see as deriving from empathy. In science, these things may derive from mirror neurons, which echo our feelings as events happen, enabling us to relive the associated feelings and to relate them to others, feeling their feelings. Empathy may be the foundation of what makes us human. Perhaps, for this novel, we could assume that it is the soul that activates the mirror neurons.
I started collecting newspaper clippings relating to man’s inhumanity to man, to serve as inspiration and relevance, and the earliest ones date from that time on. In the course of a decade there were so many I just had to stop. Here’s a random sample: in 1979 a Milwaukee waitress and her boyfriend picked up a pair of hitchhikers, who then killed him and beat and raped her and left her for dead. Her skull was fractured with a tire iron, but she survived and identified them. At the trial they showed no emotion, being blank and staring. They smirked and giggled to themselves, as if it were a big joke. The legal maneuvers dragged on for years, with the brothers constantly escaping and being caught, showing no remorse. They were essentially sopaths, creatures without conscience. That was just one of hundreds of similarly sickening items.
I made more pencil notes in 1981, the project now titled Angst. Somewhere in the world a woman owed two men money, so she denounced them as guerrillas, and the police killed them. There were two more men at the bus stop, so the woman denounced them too, and the police killed them. All the men were innocent. I saw how that could apply to my story: denounce people as sopaths and get them killed. There were items of mass starvation in Africa, where resources went instead to making further war. That could be considered a sopath government. There was a TV program on mercenary soldiers: ideal employment for sopaths who don’t care whom they hurt as long as they get theirs. Penciled note in 1985 about prison rape and public indifference to it. Sopaths in and out of prison, no? I made a note: “A girl could attack a man sexually, and blame him for attacking her. Sopaths can cause innocent people to be condemned by others.”
In 1986 I retitled the project The Sopaths, but it remained too ugly to write. The news items continued. In 1991 was one about a twelve-year-old boy raping a four-year-old girl. There was reference to eight- and nine-year-old boys sexually abusing a nine-year-old girl at a playground. I realized that sexual abuse isn’t limited to adults. Also that the sopath problem would manifest long before the soulless children reached adulthood, and would have to be dealt with then. So most of my huge collection of horrors became irrelevant. My last clippings are dated 1998; that aspect seemed pointless to continue.
Still I did not write the novel. It was simply too horrible for my taste. The project languished.
Finally I realized that I didn’t have to have the story as ugly as the clippings showed. I could lighten up on the detail and address the underlying problem: overpopulation and the exhaustion of the supply of souls. In fact, at times during the writing I discovered that it wasn’t horrible enough, as I moved the ugliness off-stage, and I had to restore some of it to maintain a proper balance.
That made it viable, and on February 7, 2001 I typed formal notes for the story. It was to be in three stages: first the babies born without souls and the horror one family experiences, and the reconstitution of a family of survivors. Second realization by society of the sopath menace and the need to kill sopaths. Third, the horror of the discovery that it didn’t matter if some souled people were killed, because their souls would be returned to the pool and be reborn. Thus there could be wholesale slaughter, in the name of saving the world. Still plenty ugly.
I used it as a trial project to test the word processor Word Perfect in the Linux operating system, which I was then switching to. I wrote the first chapter, but the word processor was difficult and balky. My note for February 14, 2001 says, “WordPerfect locked up, costing me my last 60 words of notes, but not any text, I think.” By the end of the month I was satisfied that I did not want that word processor, and that repulsion spread to the novel I had been using it on, and I set it aside.
In February 2010 I returned to it, this time trying out the Ubuntu Linux distribution with a word processor I liked and had been using for years, OpenOffice. Heavy reading piled in—I don’t read so much for pleasure as for business—soaking up my working time, and then my wife tripped, fell, and fractured her left elbow and right knee. She was in the emergency room, in the hospital, then at a rehabilitation center, and it was most of a month before I got her back. When she returned she was still in recovery, restricted to the house, using wheelchair and walker. I ran the house, making meals, doing laundry, shopping and so on, and managed to keep it on an even keel, but my working time was only a fraction what it had been. Thus it took four months to write the 65,000 word novel, when in prior times I had written 60,000 words a month. Fortunately I had no other projects at that time, and could take the time I needed. I am well into retirement age, but I will never retire alive. I will always be writing something, and speed is not of the essence. My next project will be another funny fantasy Xanth novel, a considerable contrast to The Sopaths.
I have written more than 140 books in my career so far, and each has its separate cast of characters. I try to avoid repeating names, but having used thousands, I find it an increasing challenge to come up with new ones. I have books of first names, and turn the pages looking for ones I haven’t used before. I don’t think I have used Abner before; it reminds me of the famous comic strip Li’l Abner. Similarly Clark; I have known people with that name but never used it. Similarly Dreda, once common, now out of fashion, the name reminding me of the spinning toy dreidel. And Bunty. When I was a baby my parents were doing relief work in Spain during the Spanish Civil War of 1937-40 and left my sister and me with our maternal grandparents in England, who hired a nanny, who I believe was a teenaged Scottish girl named Bunty. It was I think only for a couple of years, but my earliest memories are of being cared for by Bunty, who seemed like my mother. In fact I was severely disappointed when my real mother took us back and we traveled to Spain and then to America, barely escaping World War Two in Europe. That emotional disruption may account for my later emergence as a fiction writer; that sort of thing is typical of the breed, who it seems need to be jolted out of their comfortable tracks and thrown into limbo for a period to evoke their imaginative creativity. It was not a pleasant experience, and for a time I felt I would have been better off never to have existed. I never saw Bunty again, and don’t know what became of her, but the experience remains as my memory of happiness before the darkness claimed me. That name seemed fitting for the role in this novel, a woman who became an effective mother to two unrelated children in need.
This was conceived as a horror novel, and it is that, but I found that it has also an environmental and perhaps a theological theme of a sort. In this case it’s not the viability of air, earth, and sea that mankind’s overpopulation is despoiling, but the supply of souls. I am agnostic and have no belief in the supernatural, and I regard souls as fantasy. But I should think those who do believe should have a care not to exhaust this resource too. So far they don’t seem to care, though the world is horribly hostage to the consequence. As Nefer asks in the novel: is religion really serving God or Satan? I think that’s a damn good question. If the intention is to serve God and preserve and protect the world God gave us, this business about procreation at any price has to go. Since sex can’t be abolished, or people’s desire for it—after all, God made these things too—there needs to be effective contraception. If not—then maybe we do know which side is being served.
I suspect this may be a traditionally unpublishable novel, not because of its occasional gore or the horror of its thesis, but because it recognizes the sexuality of children, which would be unleashed by those without conscience, as they are in real life. The horror and erotic markets are girt about by as many taboos as are other genres, and certain aspects of reality are avoided. So be it. I showed the sopaths the way I believe they really would be. Though I write fantasy, without believing in it, I do believe that the concept of souls being the key to conscience and human empathy is a useful way to address the problem that mankind’s unfettered exploitation of the planet is causing. We need to clean up our act soon, or we will all suffer a horrendous crash. Desperation and hunger will make people become indistinguishable from sopaths, their mischief magnified because they won’t be children.
Hereafter, the serious material covered, I will return to writing light fantasy. I enjoy that, and it is easy to do, as this present novel was not.