The cult section of the literary world

Uncategorized

Show Me Your Shelves: Adam Cesare

Something I’ve learned after becoming part of the horror and bizarre communities is that very often the weirdest, darkest, goriest, nastiest, most horrific fiction comes from individuals who are incredibly nice. A perfect example of that is Adam Cesare. To be honest, Adam is so damn nice I sometimes want to punch him in the face to try to knock some sense into him. Anyway, besides being one of the good guys, Adam is also a hell of a writer. His novels are always great and, what’s more important, he seems to do the impossible and get better with each outing. Now his latest novel, Exponential, is out. Well, no better time than now to talk to him about books and get him to show me his shelves. Dig it.

GI: Who are you and what role do books play in your life?

AC: I’m Adam Cesare. I write books and I’ve been lucky enough to get them published. And then I have no idea how to sell them unless I’m yelling at perspective readers in a convention hall. Being obnoxious in person I’m pretty good at. Online self-promotion, not so much.

I also read books and (as you can see) hoard them. People come over and ask “Is that good?” and an embarrassing amount of the time I’ll say “I haven’t read it yet.” My physical books are the tip of the iceberg. These days I do 99% of my reading digitally, so when I feel the compulsion to pick up a paperback, I end up hamstringing that book’s chances to actually get into my eyeballs. I plan on getting to everything, though. Once I retire.

GI: You write horror but you’ve also somehow managed to become part of the bizarro scene. Have you bribed a lot of people? If so, where’s my moolah?

No grift. I don’t think.

That’s something I think about sometimes. I don’t know why I’m “in” with some of the bizarros, like whether it’s a chicken or the egg thing. It’s probably a lot of factors: first and foremost, I’m a reader of bizarro and a fan.

But my first professional connection to the scene came through John Skipp, who was the editor of Tribesmen. That was the second longer work (a novella) that I’d finished, but the first one to get published. Skipp’s a traditionally horror guy, but he’s dabbled in the weirder end of the literary pool and his Fungasm imprint has put out some fantastic bizarro. So I guess after or around the same time as I approached him I had started pestering some other bizarros online.

I met Cameron Pierce and Kirsten Alene Pierce at a reading they’d done in Boston and I hit it off with them. I’d known both their editorial work and writing before that, but they were cool people to talk to on top of the professional element. I’d interacted with them a little online before that, but when I shook hands with Cameron his eyes glazed when I introduced myself and I realized that he had no idea who I was and that I had been kind of presumptuous to think he’d know me. Then he had a flash of realization and went, “wait you’re Adam Cesare? We thought you were like forty years old.” So I guess I seem older online.

I moved to Philly about a year and a half ago and started hanging out with Scott Cole, even though I’d known him through twitter before that. He’s one of this year’s NBAS participants. Last year he was going to BizarroCon and I tagged along. Which was a good choice, because it was probably the best con I’ve ever been to.

So, I don’t know. I write horror, but I know a lot of people in the scene and on the periphery, through odd connections. I think it speaks more to the inclusiveness and approachability of the bizarros than it does any of my people skills. I’m happy that Tribesmen is out with Deadite, a subsidiary of Eraserhead, it feels like a weird kind of cosmic homecoming. I hope to do another with Skipp soon.

GI: For a young dude, you’ve done/published a lot. What’s the trick? (Please don’t say hard work.)

AC: Okay I won’t say hard work, but I will say anxiety is part of it. I’m a naturally anxious person, and SUPER impatient. I guess if you couple that with luck and a healthy work ethic, that’s my recipe.

If you’re the type of person that checks your email every six minutes, every thirty minutes while you’re trying to sleep, then writing commercial fiction just could be the fabulous career for you!

The thing is I never feel like I’ve done a lot. Most of my books are novellas and even my novels are on the shorter end of the spectrum. There are times that I feel like a goon who can’t write fast enough.

And then there are other times where I feel like I’m producing and releasing too much. Because there are writers out there who have similar release schedules to mine and (sorry to be blunt) but some of those authors are able to keep up with the workload because the books they release are hot garbage. I get really anxious that perspective readers take a look at the number of titles on my amazon page, see that the release dates are close together, and then don’t bother with me.

But whatever. There are people who like what I do and I like them for it. But I’m never really satisfied with my productivity, for one neurotic reason or another.

GI: Super unique question time! House is burning down. Weird angel comes down. He says “Fool, you have two minutes to run in there with this bag and save ten books. Go!” Which books end up in the bag? Do you punch the angel once you’re out or are you too fucking nice for that?

AC: Punch an angel? I wouldn’t do that, probably out of fear. But I’m an autograph collector, so I probably wouldn’t target books based on whether they’re my favorite book or not, but based on whether they’re signed or not. I love getting inscriptions, which is problematic because it means I usually leave cons needing an extra suitcase. I have a signed hardcover of Joe Lansdale’s By Bizarre Hands, so that would be saved. I have a copy of Charles Grant’s Nightmares that I found at a used bookstore in Boston. It’s signed, dated, and the date is a couple years before my birth. I met Gillian Flynn at my first HWA convention and she gave me a pretty funny inscription in Sharp Objects. I’ve got an ARC of The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones which is the coolest. I’ve got signed Tom Piccirilis, signed Sarah Langans. Almost every Jack Ketchum book I have is signed, because I stalked him throughout late high school and early college. Oh and Junot Diaz and Joyce Carol Oates were the last two readings/signings I went to in Boston, both at the Brookline Booksmith, so those are special.Am I at ten?

GI: What’s your next book about, where can we get it, and what’s so crucial about pre-orders?

My last full novel with Samhain, The Summer Job, was a hard sell for some readers who liked Video Night and Tribesmen. I mean, I don’t think it was slow or ponderous or anything, but there are less blood and guts in that one, nothing supernatural, so less people bought it. And the thing about The Summer Job was that, not only did I think it was far and away my best book, but it was WAY harder to write, was much denser. So I wanted to use Exponential to stretch muscles I hadn’t used in a little while.

It’s not like I write my books to be movies, they’re novels and “novelistic” in approach, but when I’m brainstorming I think in terms of movies. I can’t help it. It’s the way my brain works.

So I pitched Exponential to myself as: “What if, coming off of Raising Arizona the Coen brothers weren’t allowed to do Miller’s Crossing? What if instead they were brought on to do a pass on the script to Tremors and then ended up directing that instead?” I mean, that would be bad for history, but it was a good tonal barometer for me to use.

There’s a bit of Jaws in there, a bit of The Blob (both versions), a bit of Razorback. I love “big creature” stories, the size distinction between mogwai and kaiju.

A decent monster is only half the battle, so I focused on character and structure once I got my creature and its powers in place. I tried to make the characters likable and unique. A bunch of them have got a crime-feel to them, like Elmore Leonard took a sharp corner and all his characters fell into a Guy N. Smith novel by mistake.

It isn’t completely lacking it subtlety but it’s still a loud book. It’s the shortest of my three novels with Samhain, so it’s kind of like a punk song. Those things are never more than two minutes but they try to kick your ass in that span.

Ha! Don’t ask me sales questions. I have no idea if pre-orders help or not. With Video Night and Summer Job I was sharing the link in the months leading up to their release, figuring pre-orders were good. But I didn’t do that with this one, just in case a more concentrated stream during the week of release is the way to go.

I don’t care how people buy it: digital or print, Amazon, B&N or get their local indie store to order a copy. All I know is that if people do buy it they should know that I so goddamn appreciate it.


Bizarro Holiday Gift Guide Part 1: The NBAS

Seasons greetings to all. And a Happy Holidays. And….

Ha ha ha! Not this time, Kirk Cameron! You’ll have to get your holly jollies elsewhere, Seaver.

It seems the holidays are upon us. Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Black Friday, Hawkman’s birthday, Take Your Lion to Work Day….

The harder you push, the less I give, Cameron.

At any rate, the gift giving holidays are upon us. We in the Bizarro community know that this is the most important part of the season. Because what the fuck else is there? Family? Togetherness? Jesus. Fuck that noise. This is about choosing the swag that is swaggiest and therefore most worthy of the very conditional love of the people in your life whose presence is almost completely contingent on said swag. How are you going to make sure your lovers don’t find other lovers and your family does not replace you with someone younger, smarter and more successful? With gifts, that’s how. And we’re here to help you pick the right ones, the gifts that will make your lovers give Mr or Mrs. Right Now the heave ho and get your parents to return the replacement son or daughter to the Serbian baby farm they came from.

Why? Because we’re young, we’re hip, we’re weird and we don’t let certain sitcom stars from the 80s boss us around.

Except for the one guy.

Gordon Shumway, CEO of the Bizarro Trilateral Conspiracy, Buyin’ Low and Sellin’ High

As in our Vienna sausage eating contests, the newest Bizarros, the authors of the New Bizarro Author Series have to go first. Mostly just to make sure that no important Bizarros are mauled by gift hating Communist tigers. We know you’re out there.

Or not. Well, anyhow, here are Tom Lucas, author of Pax Titanus and Scott Cole, author of Superghost with some most excellent holiday gift suggestions, the things they themselves want for Christmas.

 

TOM LUCAS- Author of Pax Titanus 


1) The Art of Sean Brants: http://www.brantsart.com/about.html

I’ll take any one of his custom rock show posters. I mean, just look as these. Painted for those with a third eye for aesthetics. Hang one on the wall and decorate your personal oblivion with panache.

2) Armor from Prince Armory: http://www.princearmory.com/

Continuing with the idea that I’m not picky (please see my extensive list of ex-girlfriends), I will simply state that I would take ANYTHING made by Prince Armory. These custom armor kits and individual pieces are so fucking epic that even complete lameass normies can’t dispute their glory.

3) Codex Seraphinianus by Luigi Serafini: http://amzn.com/0847842134

I’m requesting this as a gift because it’s a wallet-buster at $125.00. However, I’ve seen a copy and it’s so beautiful it makes unborn babies cry. Why this didn’t replace the Gideon Bible in every hotel room is crime against art and the human race. Rather than diminish the work with my mediocre vocabulary, I’ll just give you the Amazon blurb:

An extraordinary and surreal art book, this edition has been redesigned by the author and includes new illustrations. Ever since the Codex Seraphinianus was first published in 1981, the book has been recognized as one of the strangest and most beautiful art books ever made. This visual encyclopedia of an unknown world written in an unknown language has fueled much debate over its meaning. Written for the information age and addressing the import of coding and decoding in genetics, literary criticism, and computer science, the Codex confused, fascinated, and enchanted a generation.

FUCK YEAH. I WANTS A COPY OF THIS.

4) Blast Knuckles: http://amzn.com/B008CH250Q

Whoever the guy was who said: “Man, I love these brass knuckles. I just wish they had a taser built in.” – he’s a muthafukin’ genius. These bad boys will make anyone a ghetto superhero. I think they should be sold in pairs for maximum asskicking.

5) The Holy Land Experience: http://www.holylandexperience.com/

You can keep your stupidface Mickey Mouse House. This is the amusement park you want to visit Orlando for. The Holy Land experience, where Jesus is crucified every day at 4pm. Grab a corndog and watch the show.

Seriously.

If you are religious, I have no idea why you would want to do this. Commodification of your sacred beliefs should offend you. I’m a staunch agnostic and this shit turns my stomach. These people have serious intentions. How in the world is this OK?

I’d never pay to go here but if someone gave me tickets, I’d get up bright and early. I’ll bring you back a t-shirt if you hook me up.

6) Eraserhead Press New Bizarro Author Series: http://eraserheadpress.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/eraserhead-press-celebrates-its-sixth-year-of-the-new-bizarro-author-series/

This six-year running series introduces new authors to the Bizarro community. Many of them go on to Bizarro greatness. You should read all of them, but please start with mine, Pax Titanus, because…

I AM A COMPLETE WHORE.

At least I own my shit. You should try it some time. Makes you a better person.-

Tom Lucas

 

It won’t just be Tom giving you recommendations this year. Scott Cole, who’s also great, has some ideas. He’s got some pretty choice swag here, particularly for those of you shopping for Scott Cole. I hear he’s a wandering polygamist with several families, so that’s probably a lot of you.
Scott Cole, author of Superghost

Comics are so much more than costumed crimefighters. Junji Ito’s manga masterpiece UZUMAKI is one of the best, creepiest comics around, and this hardcover edition collects the complete run of the series. Set in a fishing town where people are becoming obsessed with spiral patterns, Uzumaki is an imaginative tale with plenty of…ahem…twists.
http://www.amazon.com/Uzumaki-3—1-Deluxe-vols/dp/1421561328/Maybe you’re cooking a splattery meal, and you need to protect yourself with a human flesh apron. Or perhaps you need to accessorize your newest outfit with an eyeball and teeth necklace. Or you need a Save The Date in the form of a finger. IT CAME FROM UNDER MY BED may be your one stop shop.
http://www.etsy.com/shop/ItCameFromUnderMyBed

Not all zombie movies can claim to feature vehicles made from human body parts, chainsaw swords, and zombified baby projectiles. But HELLDRIVER can. If that zombie fan in your life is getting a little bored with zombies, give them the gift of truly bizarre Japanese cinema.
http://www.amazon.com/Helldriver-Blu-ray-Minoru-Torihada/dp/B005HG8VEY/

Do you need a candle in the form of the titular character from The Incredible Melting Man? A USB thumb drive in the form of a cockroach? Handmade toys inspired by movies like From Beyond, Basket Case, or Motel Hell? Visit NOVELTIES BY STEXE on Etsy.
http://www.etsy.com/shop/stexe

Al Columbia is, in my opinion, one of the most tragically underappreciated comics creators around. Actually, that’s not completely true; For the most part, those who know his work love it. It’s just that not enough people seem to know it. It’s weird and dark and twisted, fusing horror, discomfort, and a 1930s cartoon aesthetic into a delightfully disturbing package. PIM & FRANCIE: THE GOLDEN BEAR DAYS collects a bunch of Columbia’s art (but don’t be afraid to dig deeper and track down some of his old contributions to comics anthologies like Zero Zero and Blab!, or both issues of The Biologic Show if you can find them on eBay).
http://www.amazon.com/Pim-Francie-Golden-Bear-Days/dp/1606993046/

Do you wish your fingers had fingers? Try FINGER HANDS! But why stop there? Archee McPhee has tons of cheap weirdness, from Krampus Christmas tree ornaments to literary action figures.
http://mcphee.com/shop/finger-hands.html-

Scott Cole
Brian Auspice, author of Deep Blue, seems to in fact have been eaten by gift hating Communists tigers. Buy his book to honor his memory.
Well, that’s all for this segment of the Bizarro holiday gift guide. The holidays are long and tedious and full of despair, self loathing and bizarre sexual intrigues that often lead to regicide. But we’re here to help. Unless everyone just gets high and wanders off. Which is not altogether unlikely.

Flash Fiction Friday: Dotting the Is

by Cornell R. Nichols

I’m not quite sure how it happened but, at the age of thirty, I found myself stuck in a dead-end job, with virtually no prospects for my dead-end life.

I guess my ideas were to blame. I have foolishly dared to dream of becoming a journalist, and so I went to college and started to get accustomed to writing daily. I would roll a sheet of paper onto the platen, push the buttons of my typewriter, slide the carriage return with a satisfying ding and then, orthpen in hand, correct my own paragraphs with zero tolerance. I repeated this ritual tirelessly, producing article after article on the most mundane topics:

Mischievous Laundry Escapes Yard!
Neighbor’s Zombie Breaks Off Leash, Eats Mailbox
or
Snail Farmers Complain: Economy Is Slug-Slow.

Write, revise, correct, write, revise, correct…

In the end, the corrector’s mind was all that I was left with while journeying to Job Land. I was hired by the local printing company at the lowest position possible.

The Boss said to me from the very start: “Mr. Pointe, this company is all about cost-cutting. At this point, we regularly print pamphlets, political manifestos for the Order of the Grammar Neo-Nazis, several books of ill-circulation; but nothing that would bring us humongous heaps of hay. Am I making myself clear?”

I took a look at his nose prosthesis, very crude, just a snowman-style carrot, and I realized that he wasn’t lying. At least his nose didn’t grow or anything.

“Got it, Boss.”

“And because of this financial predicament our main printing press has been bought at, shall we say, a bargain price. It is a tad retarded and forgets to dot. Your job, Mr. Pointe, will be to place said dots, or tittles if you like, wherever they are missing from the text. Here’s your desk, sit down and tittle away!”

And so I became the company tittler. The pay was irrational, and as such could be represented by the irrational number pi—$3.14 an hour. But I didn’t complain. I did not dare to. After all, it isn’t easy finding a job after college. I was glad I was getting any pay at all. So day after day I would dot and tittle like a human dot-and-tittle machine, searching out every lonesome “i” and “j” with the blade of the orthpen, taking particular care of the Order’s orders. I once saw a Grammar Neo-Nazi slice a man in half with a claymore just for using “who” instead of “whom”. I even wrote an article about it: For Whom The Bell Tolls.

But now, knee-deep in work-mud, I had no time for writing light news. Dot, dot, dot, dot—eight hours, dot, per day not counting, dot, the overtime. And ending several hours late became, dot, something of a regular thing. Especially when the printing company managed to keep its head above the water and more and more orders started to come like an ink tsunami. Dot.

And so one day, almost a year after I was hired, the Boss paid me another visit. By then he was already wearing a diamond-encrusted ivory nose, very pointy and chic.

“Mr. Pointe,” he said, “we’re expanding rapidly. It’s still a tightrope walk, so no chance for a raise, don’t even ask. But you will receive a bit more work, I’m afraid.”

“How big a bit are we talking?” I dared ask.

“Not a big one, not big at all,” he said, waving his hand dismissively. “We just bought a few more fonts for our dear special Printy, that’s all.”

The new fonts were for publications in German. They were dot-less and tittle-less, of course, meaning they had no umlaut diacritics. Not only did I have to double-dot those foreign vowels, twice the work, but I also had to know where they actually go. I spoke German only so lala, so I had to constantly ask the typesetter guy which of the signs were plus-umlaut and which ones I should just leave as they were.

Such a long time did I have to spend at work, that my eight-hour day became the twelve-hour one, no breaks. Not a single moment was left to polish my newspaper articles.

And meanwhile, the Boss Man concocted a new entertainment for my delight: math textbooks.

Now I would tittle dawn to dusk. I sweated over the symbols and hieroglyphics: “multiplied by”, “divided by”, “therefore”, “such that”. I stabbed at the paper imagining it to be the noseless face of my Boss. Every pi in every circle reminded me of the pitiful pay, of the lack of life outside of work; of my long-forgotten articles. What was I thinking, for Dot’s sake, wanting to become a journalist? I should have majored in tittling! Maybe they would teach me how to avoid writer’s cramp? Maybe with the master’s degree in Advanced Dot-Making I would get paid a bit more than $3.14 (tax not included)? I started asking around if anyone’s heard of any decent tittling courses but people just took me for a wacko.

I was alone. Misunderstood. The only tittler in the whole wide world, breaking his back over another dot-less publication: dot, dot, dot, dot…

Until one day he appeared at my desk again, smiling like the Cheshire Cat. The Tyrant, the Belze-Boss. The stingy bastard with a nose of priceless antimatter.

“My dear Mr. Pointe, I just had the most brilliant idea ever, period!” he declared with his usual amount of modesty. His voice resonated inside the magnetic trap that was holding the prosthesis together. “Have you ever heard of a French painter, one Georges Seurat?”

I shook my head. The only painter I knew well enough was Albrecht Dürer, and that’s only because I was in the process of tittling his three-volume zombiography. The wretched thing was written entirely in third person—Dürer this, Dürer that—as if to spite me. I punctured the pages over the undead scribbler’s name picturing nails being hammered to his coffin.

“Who’s this Seurat, Boss?” Dot. Dot.

“Well, he was this genius pointillist, which basically means he created paintings… yes, you guessed it, out of dots only! I was just visiting the National Gallery with my wife and I thought to myself: ‘What is a text if not just a collection of close-knit dots?’ Why, every shape in the universe is made out of a finite number of points! You know what this means, right? Illustrations, we can dot them out as well! Isn’t this absolutely marvelous? A revolution! The entire work of a printing company in the hands of a single worker. No need for some half-retarded machine. Think how much money I can save thanks to that!” he exclaimed, delighted.

The mention of money sprung me into action, as if I were stabbed with the tip of my own orthpen.

“And how big of a raise are we talking about here, Boss? To go along with this promotion?” I asked, fingers twitching with hope. “After all, I will be responsible for the entire company, no?”

The Boss smiled apologetically and explained to me, point by point, that, unfortunately, blah, blah, blah, the savings need to be, blah, blah. Only due to the patience acquired at work, did I manage not to get arrested that day for the assault with a deadly three-volume Grammar Neo-Nazi nightmare and for gory orthpen-rape.

The next morning I tittled out my letter of resignation. It was short, straight to the point and featured a pointillist caricature of the Boss as a noseless goblin, with carrots sticking out of his ass.

Then I found a job at the local tattoo parlor. Here, for an entire day of dot-dot-dotting butterflies and hearts, they pay me hundred times more.

——

Cornell R. Nichols usually writes in his native tongue but words like “chrząszcz” and “gżegżółka” are slightly too extreme even for the bizarro crowd. Due to the miracle of translation, his real name can mean “Horny Santa’s Little Helper”. He supports the cause of the snail farmers.


Show Me Your Shelves: Chris Kelso

Chris Kelso is one of those dudes who’s simultaneously likable and hard to love. Sure, he’s easy to get along with and always has a smile on his face, but then you read his books and you go “Fuck this guy, I wish I’d written this.” Oh, and he’s also ridiculously prolific and has a presence here in the US despite living in some faraway land known as Glasgow. In any case, he has a new book out, so I thought it was time to ask him some questions and get him to me me his shelves. Here’s what he had to say.

GI: Who are you and what role do books play in your life?

CK: I’m Chris Kelso, a dress-wearing polyglot savant who lives in the Highlands. Books play a crucial part in my life and have done since I was about 14. You can imagine how difficult it was for a remarkably unpopular teenager in parochial Ayrshire to find happiness and contentment. I started throwing myself into books – comics at first then I progressed to distinguished works of fiction soon after. It provided me with, and continues to provide me with, an extreme form of escapism – although my relationship with books, the role they play and the act of reading itself has changed slightly since I embarked upon a ‘writing career’ because recently I feel like I only read to learn my craft, to take notes and to develop as a writer. When I think about it, maybe I don’t read for just so much for escapism these days, which might be quite sad (not that I don’t still take some pleasure from reading).

 photo kelso1.jpg

GI: You’ve published a lot so far and you’re still a young cat. Are there any other hungry youngsters out there who you’d recommend to folks who dig your work?

CK: There are a lot. Most of the writers I know are young cats, I mean Max Booth III is 21 or something! I mean Jesus Christ! I think Preston Grassman, Jason Wayne Allen, Grant Wamack and Michael Allen Rose are all great, Rob Harris is great, Gabino – you’re great. In the other European countries Konstantine Paradias and Michael Faun are both young and hungry and brilliant. Love Kolle can spin a cool yarn too. They write smart transgressive fiction and will, without a doubt, forge long, prestigious careers for themselves.

GI: Is it hard selling books to folks in the US when you’re all the way in Glasgow? How’s the beer over there?

CK: It’s hard selling books anywhere to be honest. People in the US are actually a lot more responsive to my style of nihilistic nonsense than folks in Scotland. I really don’t sell a lot – fortunately the beer over here is radioactive horse piss that gets you good and lousy drunk.

 photo kelso2.jpg

GI: Best stuff you’re read so far in 2014, go!

CK: I’m enjoying Matt Bialer’s epic poem “Ascent” right now, but there are a dozen others I loved. “Time Pimp” by Garrett Cook is up there amongst my favourites with all the golden oldies I raced through this year, like Paul Auster’s “New York Trilogy” and Koestler’s “Darkness at Noon.” I also picked up Leopold Von Sacher Masoch’s classic “Venus in Furs” which I really related to. Actually, I had the pleasure of reading an early proof of Seb Doubinsky’s “WHITE CITY” which is coming out next year…but it’s a cracker!

GI: What’s in this new collection of yours and why should everyone go buy it the second they’re done with this interview?

CK: “Terence, Mephisto and Viscera Eyes is a collection of stories set within the Slave State. This is a much more measured and mature effort from me (at least I think so anyway!). There’s a story called ‘Baptizm of Fire’ in there that deals with a dystopian Lagos and the Slave State’s silent puppeteering of the Nigerian University confraternities. It’s much more melancholy than my usual stuff, it has much more heart – which was completely my intention. People should by it because I need to sell books…and I’m a real nice guy…

 photo viscera.jpg

Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author ofGutmouth and a few other things no one will ever read. You can find him on Twitter at@Gabino_Iglesias


Bizarro Field Trip with Eric Hendrixson: Pt II

Missed Part One? Never fear! Click HERE to catch up!

by Eric Hendrixson

The House on the Rock is an architectural anomaly, a spectacle, an autobiography in clutter, and a museum of hoarding. It holds vast, unrelated collections of of artifacts, some of them authentic. It is said to be the most popular tourist destination in Wisconsin.

As you enter, there is a small museum dedicated to the man who made this happen: Alex Jordan, Jr. A college dropout, Mr. Jordan enjoyed picnicking on Deer Shelter Rock, a towering rock formation near Spring Green, taking a hibachi and a gallon of Tom Collins with him on each trip. When challenged by the land owner, he leased the area for his picnics, eventually purchasing the rock.

After building a platform on the rock, he decided to build a Japanese-style house on it. He decided this having never been to Japan, probably never having seen a Japanese house. The first section of the self-guided tour is through the home he built without a blueprint or any architectural experience. The house is like something a Frank Loyd Wright impersonator would have designed during a drunken weekend, the floor plan resembling a cavern more than a house. While Johnson was well over six feet tall, the ceilings would be low for hobbit hole. The building resembles a stone treehouse that has grown wild. Live trees grow through the walls. It is decorated with dolls, oriental artifacts, kitchenware, stained glass, and self-playing instruments, including a banjo, tambourines, and a player piano that plays Aerosmith’s Dream On slightly out of tune.

The house climaxes with the Infinity Room, a tapering, unsupported structure that hangs over the valley like a wood and glass diving board in a creaking, vertigo-triggering homage to insane design. The house is only the first section of the tour. The second and third sections are larger buildings dedicated to this local eccentric’s collections.

The second section starts with a mill house, complete with a working waterwheel that turns only itself. The visitor then sees a number of glass cases, showcasing a collection of completely unconnected items, including a flintlock rifle with three locks but only one barrel, massive stores of colored glassware, locally-produced medieval armor and weapons, self-playing musical instruments, and animatronic displays. Because the exhibits are not labeled, identified, justified, or explained, they resemble a bunch of stuff more than a curated museum.

The tour continues through a replica old-timey Main Street—complete with ridiculously complete collections of the kinds of items each business on the street would have, coin operated nickelodeons, and animatronic fortune tellers. The dim lighting gives a twilight effect throughout the tour.

(more…)


Bizarro Field Trip with Eric Hendrixson: Pt I

by Eric Hendrixson

As midnight approached, we were far from the highway, on the kind of country road that starts a third of the horror films made in the ’80s. That’s when the GPS signal dropped out. My wife hadn’t told me where we were going. When we decided to take a trip, I’d hopped into the car like a Labrador who doesn’t know whether he’s going to the park or the vet. We drove through Dodgeville, up a hill, and past a tractor dealership. Near the top of the hill, I saw a Boeing C-97 parked next to the road. We had reached our destination.

Don Q Inn advertises its rooms as Fantasuites. The website claims that these suites will “spice up your stay.” We walked through the heavy wood doors into the lobby, where barber and dentist chairs were arranged around a huge, circular fireplace. On the counter, there was a lending library of VHS tapes and Stephen King books. According to a sign in the lobby, the hotel does not permit children, only consenting adults over 21. That was fine. Apart from a few business trips, I have never rented a hotel room without my consent. When the clerk woke up and came to the desk, we asked her what restaurants might still be open. She yelled the question back to another clerk. “McDonald’s,” she said. “And Walmart.” She gave us keys and directions to our room.

Our room was at the end of the hall, next to an emergency exit that led directly into a cornfield, making it useless in the event of a corn-related emergency. When I opened the door, I saw a spaceman suspended above the room’s only window, which was draped with black curtains. The walls were covered in a wallpaper mural of the moon’s surface and black space, accented with comets, stars, and planets. A Formica moon rover served as a coffee table. There was a rock formation on the left side of the room, from which a moon rock waterfall fed the tile-lined tub in the crater. Above it all was a Gemini space capsule, accessible by a spiral staircase built into the rock. In the space capsule, there was a circular bed, complete with a TV/VCR, a car radio, and switches that controlled the lights and ceiling fan. It was the bedroom I would have wanted when I was five, twenty-five, or thirty-five. It’s the bedroom I will want when I’m ninety-five.

Each of these fantasy suites is its own work of art. The subjects include a ’50s theme with a pink Cadillac, an igloo, a hot air balloon, and a medieval dungeon, complete with shackles. Is it good art? Well, probably not. The rooms are like a plastic Halloween costume of Spider Man that says “Spider Man” on the front. It’s not so much a moon landing as a collection of the signifiers of a moon landing.

As for the business model of catering to sexual fantasies, I’m a believer in Rules 34 and 36. I’m sure there are people out there with a moon landing fetish, but there can’t be that many of them in Wisconsin. They must have all moved to Florida by now. The fantasy aspect is beside the point. As a bizarro, former dinner theater worker, and B movie fan, the diligent, sincere, overdone, and wrong-headed manner in which this fantasy was constructed and presented pleased me immensely.

The hotel has a tunnel between the rooms and the restaurant, decorated like a carnival spookhouse with spiderwebs, portraits that change to skulls as you walk past them, and body parts stuffed into corners. Finding the restaurant closed, we crossed the road toward a roadside bar with a motorcycle and a few pickup trucks parked outside. There, we had local beer, cheese curds (the staple of the Wisconsinite diet), a couple games of pool (free ever since someone broke the sliding coin acceptor), cookies (because someone brought cookies), and conversation with the locals, mostly about how many shots Thor, the designated driver, should get in exchange for driving the others back to town. In the morning, we drove to our real destination: The House on the Rock.


Check back soon for PART TWO  of Eric Hendrixson’s Bizarro Field Trip featuring The House on the Rock with creepy-cool photos! 

 

_________________
Eric Hendrixson was born a military brat overseas. He has lived in England, Texas, Spain, Texas, Iowa, Texas, and Virginia. Attending two kindergartens, two elementary schools, five junior high schools (one twice), two high schools, and two colleges, he learned that most realities are hypothetical and are merely intended as suggestions. His first job, in musical theater, confirmed that lesson.


Flash Fiction Friday: This Page Is Intentionally Left Blank

That’s right. No FFF this week. We here at Bizarro Central are in dire need of content!

If you have a bizarro story, 2000 words or less, attach it as a .doc or .rtf and send it to garthurbrown@hotmail.com. Please include a brief, single paragraph bio.

Here’s a fun gif:

tumblr_m56gttsww61qedb29o1_r1_500


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 897 other followers