by Eric LaRocca
The soles of his custom-made patent leather Oxfords click anxiously on the tiled floor of the doctor’s exam room. Jonathan McCoy can scarcely contain his delight. His hand rests on his wife’s thigh as he sits beside her, rubbing her leg, his fingers occasionally harassing the hem of her flower-print skirt. She doesn’t seem to mind. Her concentration is focused on the male practitioner, maybe 5’9 and gowned in a knee-length white coat. He stands beside the screen and points to the MRI scan of her brain glorified on the wall. Jonathan notices Colleen’s eyes water as the practitioner speaks and animatedly gestures to the monitor.
The highlighted photograph looks like a fileted jellyfish; a small round nugget of silvery whiteness, perhaps the size of a moth, noticeably lines the periphery of the organ. Jonathan’s ears do not seem to register the doctor’s words as his mouth moves, instead silence blaring between the openings of his lips; infrequently his auditory system records the word “malignant.” He catches the words: “atypical,” “surgery,” “chemotherapy,” and “futile” as well. His entire body loosens with joy; one instrument of his anatomy in particular seems to harden with enthusiasm, imagining her body’s throbbing kernel of discomfort. He thinks of deleting his online handle, cyst_licker_69, from the frequently visited chatrooms.
He reaches for Colleen’s hand and her grip is weak. Biting his lip, anxious for her attention, Jonathan unfortunately goes wanting. He admires her head – her perfect head – and studies the arrangement of hair, neatly pulled back in a bun. The stiffness in his trousers toughens as he imagines a small and orderly arranged aperture ventilating her left temple and advertising her cerebrum. The very idea of the integrity of her head’s organ spoiled by a minute knob of tissue only excites his growing erection more. Her cranium seems to bloat with the prospect of unlimited variations of sexuality.
She does not say much during the car ride back to the apartment on the Upper West Side. Only a few grunts and one word answers regarding her headache. She has always been one to talk to herself. But, not today. The silence is unbearable for Jonathan. He notices how the corners of her eyes collect water and her mascara clots in thick lumps.
“Talk nice to me,” he hears in an unfamiliarly feminine voice.
He turns and the door to the bathroom closes, Colleen on the other side.
“Did you say something?” he asks.
Jonathan hears nothing other than the vehement arguing of taxi cab horns outside down on 73rd Street. The toilet flushes and Colleen opens the door.
“Don’t you have to be back down at the office?” she says, passing by him.
He loosens his tie, flexing his esophagus. “They can wait.”
Jonathan observes Colleen as she sits at the edge of the bed and kicks off her heels. He notices her flagrant preoccupation with reviewing his leather wallet resting on the nightstand, more importantly the small circular indentation pressing outward along the fold that’s about the size of his wedding band. She turns and he’s too late to hide his naked finger, undressed from several nightly meetings with bald women who hide small round secrets in their breasts and brains. Sometimes men as well, who keep similar unrevealed truths in their rectums.
“Don’t let me keep you,” she says.
He gently approaches her. “You don’t mind if I stay, do you?”
Colleen says nothing.
Jonathan sits beside her, mouth parting with the intent of words but eventually merely eliminating an exhalation. His hands are awkward and tremble, unsure where to begin. He rests one on her shoulder and she turns from him. He leans closer, pressing his lips against the nape of her neck, and drawing in her scent through his nostrils.
“Talk nice to me,” he hears again.
“I will,” he moans, running his mouth along the extent her collar.
Colleen turns, seemingly bewildered. “What–?”
Jonathan’s mouth is far too preoccupied with her ear to offer an answer. His hands are already beneath her skirt and playfully teasing the knots of pubic hair. He presses his mouth to her face and frenziedly pecks her cheek, forehead, and lips. Dragging down her panties, he tours his finger around her frowning womanhood, brings his thumb to his nose, and violently inhales the dampness of her musk. She rakes her head back on the cushions, making soft cooing noises, visibly enthralled with the pleasure and yet thoughtful to discourage herself to indulge completely in the activity. He unzips his trousers and holds his erection with both hands, envisioning the small lump in her brain quivering the way her clitoris does under correct stimulation. Although he expects she might, she does very little to oppose him as he mounts her. He massages her nose and forehead with the length of his shaft, his appliance finally reaching her temple. His entire body shudders on the brink of orgasm.
“Talk nice to me,” he hears again; this time the disembodied voice as fine and as trill as a whistle.
It’s then that he notices the left side of her cranium bloat exaggeratedly as though a balloon were expanding from the inside of her skull. Although nothing can discourage Jonathan from concluding the extent of his pleasure, his senses otherwise impaired by the ecstasy of satisfaction are perceptive enough to appreciate Colleen’s anguish as a portion of her head continues to swell.
“Wait–!” she sobs, her voice trembling with panic as she squirms beneath the heaviness of his body.
Colleen heaves Jonathan off of her and sprints from the bed to the washroom, occasionally scowling in unadulterated agony, the intense pressure of cranial inflation observably unbearable and remarkable in its profoundness. Jonathan rushes after her, grabbing and pulling at her dress. She screams, sobbing, as she catches the embellished nature of her distended skull in the bathroom mirror. Jonathan throws his naked body at her and she swings both arms at him, shouting until hoarse. She turns again to admire the deformity and her footing is unbalanced. She cries out and her wildly thrashing arms go limp as her head slams against the rim of the toilet. Her body is still, head draining redness all over the tiled floor. Jonathan turns her over and admires the vent perverted along the side of her head. Cartilage and puffy tumefaction bulge furiously from the yawning maw. Most notably ornamenting the rubbery looking matter is a bulbous wad of otherwise unnatural distension. Jonathan’s penis has not weakened in its stiffness; in fact, it’s harder than ever as he lovingly admires the tumor in its glistening brilliance. Shutting his eyes, he guides his quivering manhood into the outlet and begins to massage the plump tissue already lubricated with blood.
His entire body palpitates in euphoria as his pelvis rocks back and forth against the side of her head, the wetness of blood dripping from her hair occasionally tickling the sensitivity of his testicles. As he strokes his erection against the tumor one final time, the duct of his urethra opens and violently launches fat buttery globs of cream all over the exposed colorless tissue and splintered bone. He moans as he strokes the last of the discharge from his tube, smearing it in the grooves of her unprotected brain matter.
Suddenly, he hears it again.
“Talk nice to me.”
His eyes return to the tumor, three times larger in size than when previously observed, drenched in blood and wet ribbons of ejaculate.
He feels foolish speaking as his holds his sagging erection in one hand.
The tumor stirs in its place with a jellied gurgle. Its voice is infant-like. “Will you talk nice to me?”
Jonathan lowers his head, bringing his hands closer to the shiny fat wad of material. The growth seems to twitch excitedly at the anticipation of his touch.
“She talked nice to me,” it says, wiggling in the pulp of exposed oily material. “She was sweet to me. She can’t take care of me now, though. But you can. Right?”
Its impish articulation curls as though genuinely hopeful Jonathan might.
He holds out his hand and the clump slides from the channel of brain matter right into his open palm. It squirms gleefully as he holds it and carries it toward the bed where he rests it on a small pillow. The tumor wriggles, giggling merrily as it rolls onto the cushion.
“You have to talk to me,” it demands. “If you don’t, my cells will weaken and I’ll die. If you talk, I’ll give you whatever you want.”
“What – what should I say?” Jonathan stammers.
“Tell me a story,” it says. “Anything you like.”
Jonathan opens his mouth and says whatever comes to his mind. He speaks for hours and hours on end; the tumor merely sits, listens, and occasionally chuckles, bouncing with laughter.
In the morning, Jonathan wakes to a putrid smell drifting from the bathroom. All that is left on the cushion is a small ringlet of blood and semen detailing where the tiny growth had once been. It’s nowhere to be found. Jonathan’s nostrils flare again at the reminder of his dead wife. He cannot be bothered with that now.
He swallows an aspirin.
Nothing seems to soothe the intense pressure within his head. It feels as though his brain might explode.
He brings his hand to his ear and his fingers are wet with small beads of blood. His canal feels loosened, enflamed with redness, as though something has just crawled inside.
Eric LaRocca is a writer and long-time admirer of the grotesque and the bizarre. Although only 21 years old, he has had the privilege of having some of his short fiction published in several magazines in the US and the UK such as Dark Moon Digest, Massacre Magazine, Sanitarium, and The Horror Zine. He has also been featured in anthologies such as Of Devils and Deviants: An Anthology of Erotic Horror (Crowded Quarantine Publications). He currently studies at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, CT.
Why The Human Centipede 3 Might Be Smarter and More Interesting Than the Book You’re Writing and What You Can Do About It
A lot of people told me it would be a bad idea to write a blog post using The Human Centipede 3 to dispense writing advice. So I sewed them together. It’s clearly something that’s done nowadays. Sewing human beings together anus to mouth? Pretty commonplace. Nobody told me I shouldn’t do this. That was a joke. But anyway, you probably think an article full of writing advice using this series is perverse, stupid and a waste of time. The Human Centipede looks like a poo joke that has gone on way too long and should be probably have been shut down…well, three films ago. In certain ways, the film’s writer and director Tom Six would agree with you. Making a movie about a human centipede is, as an idea, about as viable as making an actual human centipede.
Thing is, I saw The Human Centipede 3 and it surprised me a lot. The Human Centipede 3 might be better than the book you’re working on right now. It might be smarter, funnier and more thoughtful. It might have more compelling characters. It might have more tenable and interesting central themes. It might be braver, more intense and more “fun” (everyone’s idea of fun is different. If this makes you projectile vomit, you ain’t havin’ fun). I’m not saying your book is garbage or obsessed with scatology or that it would be better if it was but this film has some lessons to teach.
It doesn’t matter what a protagonist is up to, you should be rooting for them
The first thing I noticed about The Human Centipede 3 is that you apparently have nobody to root for. The film is set in a prison, whose warden, Bill Boss (Dieter Laser) is like the maniacal lovechild of Charlie Sheen and The Red Skull, with some Boss Hogg thrown in for good measure. He’s a screaming, violent, torture obsessed, clitoris eating (yes, literally that) creep. There is nothing admirable or beautiful about this man. He is one of the most fearsome monsters our penal system could possibly create.
But his longsuffering accountant (played by Laurence Harvey) has a vision and a mission. The film begins with him showing the warden the first two films in the franchise and telling him he has an idea. You know what this character’s idea is. You should be inwardly squirming. Or maybe, if you’re watching this movie to see a Human Centipede (as opposed to watching it to hear the dulcet tones of Bing Crosby) then you’re excited. You watch this character constantly hassled, neglected, shouted at and turned down. He becomes an underdog determined to refine a system that he believes is flawed and disgusting. When you see the warden cause a great deal of carnage and torture, you can see that he certainly is.
The film makes you feel sad for this man. It makes you wonder what the hell is wrong with this warden and it makes you angry that he is not listening to the idea that will change everything. The power to change the world the viewer is inhabiting now falls on the shoulders of this character, who openly displays compassion for the boss’ sexually exploited secretary, who is telling him that torture doesn’t work and is trying to encourage some modicum of stability and sanity. And all this poor, tortured, misunderstood and sensitive creatures wants is a chance to prove himself by sewing several hundred people together ass to mouth.
Wait, what? Are you actually feeling bad for and sitting around waiting for the triumph of a guy who wants to sew several hundred people together ass to mouth? This man has all the traits of a feel good underdog hero. He is beleaguered, he is surrounded by evil people, he is working to change an oppressive system and he needs to reach someone to be heard. This guy is Nikolai Tesla, a man with a dream of a better future who is being stomped on by a corrupt system. He is shouted down so many times for so long, that it doesn’t matter anymore what it is that he has to say, he has become somehow sympathetic.
Characters we love are people we follow the gates of Hell. Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark is a womanizing drunk firmly entrenched in the military/industrial complex who is trying to save the world with killer robots and a semilegal suit of armor that fires bursts of energy. Enid of Daniel Clowes’ Ghost World is a jaded, cruel, narcissistic, condescending antisocial teen who is twice as mean as any of the people around her and yet she has become a role model and hero to many disenfranchised young women. Al Pacino’s Tony Montana is a guy who we end up feeling for and hoping that he’ll clean up his life and come out on top…even though he deals cocaine and chopped up a guy with a chainsaw that one time. Hell, Bill Moseley and Sid Haig as Otis Driftwood and Captain Spaulding in Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects have enough charisma and defiant revolutionary rhetoric that we watch them maim, rape and murder people for two minutes and some of us somehow hope they’ll come out alive. How much can your characters be forgiven for? Will we be curious and sympathetic as they go through their lives on the page? Showing a crooked system, normalized violence and a very identifiable feeling of powerlessness and unimportance makes Bennett someone who you almost root for. Have you done enough to make your characters fascinating and sympathetic or do they fall short? Tom Six had an extremely tough job in getting you to feel for Bennett. That takes skill.
It Explores a Theme From Several Angles
I must admit, I was not a fan of this franchise before seeing the third one. I felt as if the theme of the films was “Some dude is building a human centipede. Stay the hell away from that guy.” Thing is, The Human Centipede 3 makes one of the franchise’s central themes clear as day. The film begins with the credits of the second film and the accountant showing the warden the films and claiming to have an idea. As I said, it is very clear what the idea is and where he got it. Tom Sixx is taking on a certain level of culpability or else questioning how culpable he is. Either way, he is exploring the culpability of artists for the effects on the viewer.
The first film in the franchise is about the beginning of a bad idea. A mad scientist comes up with the idea to build a human centipede, just as its creator Tom Six has. The centipede is built and the results are disastrous. A bad idea instituted causes harm to the community. But what happens when the bad idea spreads beyond the head of the sicko who has it? What could happen now that Six has released the first work on the public?
Well, the second film addresses this question. Larry, the viewer has become obsessed with the film. In the grim, abusive circumstances of his life, he has decided that building a human centipede is his only chance at power and respect. The bad idea exists and the bad idea has become virulent. He acts upon it, luring an actress from the first film into becoming a part of this centipede. The idea has become a horrible reality. The second film questions the consequences of unleashing a piece of art on the public, creating a scenario where film violence becomes real violence but only in an actually violent circumstance. This is a pretty solid statement about film violence’s effects on our lives. The movie does not suggest violence occurs in a vacuum or that it’s completely harmless to see film violence.
The third brings up what happens when the idea of instituted violence comes into contact with the public, and even further, how a bad idea gets instituted in the large scale. Forget about doing it once, The Human Centipede 3 posits that it could be done hundreds of times to hundreds of people. The third film shows an environment where people encounter the possibility of doing that thing they saw in the movie. The first film does not inherently suggest that you can build a human centipede if you’re not an insane scientist. The second film says “nope, bad ideas can effect anyone.” When we accuse the human centipede of being a bad idea, Tom Six says “no shit, a human centipede is a bad idea.” He even slyly hints at it being a bad idea through the warden and the prisoners in the prison around it.
The prisoners in the third film are disgusted by the film, just as the warden is. Six is indicating and admitting “yes, it is a perfectly valid, sane response to be disgusted by this idea. It is a bad idea.” But wait…doesn’t the willingness to explore this bad idea, to go through with it so thoroughly and to examine its potential show that maybe this piece isn’t about human centipedes at all and that maybe this lack of intelligence, this lack of reverence and this lack of vision that critics and viewers have accused Six of might be a lot less well founded than it seems?
The painting below, The Treachery of Images is by the surrealist Rene Magritte. It makes a statement that on the surface seems apocryphal. It says that this is not a pipe. Some of you look at it and think “of course this is a goddamn pipe. What are you, stupid?” But when you step away and reconsider the statement, you realize that Magritte is right. This is no pipe. Try lighting it and smoking it. What? You can’t? That’s because this is the image of a pipe. To say The Human Centipede is about Human Centipedes would be to light and smoke Magritte’s pipe. As I have reiterated, the films show the process of hermeneutic movement using a very concrete example of a virulent idea and exploring it to the terminus of it, exploring it further than it probably should be explored. Tom Six even shows up in the third film saying he wants to see the surgery performed. Why? Because this must be seen through to the bitter end, even if it makes Six puke.
When you look at the complexity of your own work, you cannot pretend to exist in a world that does not have narrative mad science like this. We cannot brag about skateboards in times of jetpacks. Tom Six made three films about the idea of creating a human centipede. Burroughs said that language was a virus from outer space and across three films, Tom Six showed us this virus incubating and spreading to the populace. While the execution may look flawed in the live action Ren and Stimpy denouement to the trilogy, the intricacy of the undertaking cannot be overlooked. Nor can the commercial viability of these explorations.
Does your book take its content and examine the themes and ideas behind it as boldly and interestingly as it can? You can tell a story that says that violence is bad or you can wave violence into your narrative and constantly reveal the problematics of violence. You can do as Burgess and Kubrick do with A Clockwork Orange and show the temptation and the decision-making process behind violence instead of simply lecturing your reader on the ugliness of this behavior. The Human Centipede ambitiously encodes its message in its walls and structure across three gory and insane films. Stories like this call out artists to be this smart and daring, regardless of consequence.
Examine how you tell your story and think about how you can weave the messages and themes into the structure and imagery instead of just into the plot and dialogue. This takes “show don’t tell” to a whole new level.
It Evokes A Response
Audacity and quality are not necessarily one and the same. Plenty of transgressive art will fall short aesthetically and intellectually. Just because music is loud doesn’t make it cool. Just because there are tits and gore doesn’t make you edgy. But when a certain level of visceral response occurs, you have to look into what pissed people off. Critics giving out a number of zero star reviews to a piece that is not clearly Dude Where’s My Car 2 or a remake of Breakin’ should be a giant semaphore flag that shit is going down that bears paying attention to. When we see zero star reviews from disgust and confusion, that’s a trail to sniff down.
When audiences first encountered Luis Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou, things were thrown at the screen, raw outrage conquered the theaters. The outraged prisoners in The Human Centipede 3 were not unlike the crowd who encountered Bunuel and Dali’s surrealist masterpiece. The director Pasolini was killed in the street for his transgressive films and in your face homosexuality. Frankenstein, Night of the Living Dead and the Exorcist all turned stomachs. While the turned stomachs, critical revulsion and utter contempt for The Human Centipede movies does not insure their merit, they do beg a question.
Do people care this much about what you’re doing? Carlton Mellick’s book The Baby Jesus Butt Plug riled up an angry mob on The Blaze last year. It was not the first angry mob, it was not the last. Christians were calling for a boycott because it was being taught in a class, used as an example of the excesses of the left wing intellectuals. The fact that something could be grotesque and blasphemous and yet used as a teaching tool evoked a natural revulsion in these people. The grotesque is supposed to just be there for perverts to jerk off to or idiots to spit mouths full of Big Mac at as they guffaw at their computer screen. It is not supposed to be studied, dissected or understood. It is not supposed to have themes, it’s just supposed to make people feel grossed out. Right? Right?
The combination of smart and grotesque will always evoke a response. The fact the brain and the viscera can be engaged and at odds is a problem for critics and a lot of viewers and a conflict that does not resolve itself simply and cleanly. As I said, it is not a guarantee of merit but it is certainly evidence a piece shouldn’t be ignored and discarded. Something that can invoke that much hate and revulsion without being propaganda for something hateful and repulsive must be hitting some kind of nerve or must be using something repulsive to show you the inherent repulsiveness of an idea, a process or a condition of society.
So, before you stop and judge a grotesque for fulfilling the purpose of grotesquerie, you should stop and make the inquiry of your own art. Does your erotica make people cum? If the answer’s no, why the fuck not? Does your horror boil people’s blood and elevate their heart rates? If no, then why the fuck not? Does your weirdness stretch people’s perception and confuse them? If no, then why the fuck not? Carlton Mellick, Bunuel and Tom Six didn’t hold back or question the conviction behind the idea or worry that it would be too weird or too sexy or too intense. They flat out fucking did it. Before judging those who have churned stomachs or confused critics, ask “do I have this much conviction in my story?”
Sew some motherfuckers together. You’ll be glad you did.
Garrett Cook is the Wonderland Award winning author of TIME PIMP, JIMMY PLUSH: TEDDY BEAR DETECTIVE, MURDERLAND, ARCHELON RANCH, and numerous short stories and non-fiction pieces.
Voting for the Wonderland Book Award preliminary ballot begins now for the Best Bizarro Novel and Best Bizarro Collection of 2014. Please send your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place votes in the Novel and Collection categories to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Wonderland Book Award Preliminary Ballot.” Preliminary voting ends July 31st.
NOTE TO AUTHORS AND PUBLISHERS: Please do not solicit or campaign for votes.
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Besides having a cool name, William Pauley III is one of those writers whose books never fail to entertain because he takes full advantage of bizarro’s lack of rules in order to create narratives that are fun, wild, and unique (you know, and gory and creepy from time to time). Besides being a hell of a writer, Williez is also a really cool cat with a great sense of humor and, if the picture below is any indication, antlers. WPIII’s last book brings together known characters, the Taos Hum, the Toynbee tiles, and a delicious plethora of pop culture references. I decided to ask about it, along with some other very important things. Dig it.
Who are you and what role do books play in your life?
I wish you only asked me what role books play in my life, cause this whole ‘who are you’ business is freaking me out a bit. I’ve sat here staring at the screen for at least 15 minutes wondering just who the hell I am. You’ve got me thinking about things, heavy things, things that should have been kept deep in the darkest pits of my mind. Is the rest of the interview going to be like this? Christ.
I am a father first, writer second. Whenever I have time, I work on making my dream of opening the world’s first water-only (nothing else…at all) bar a reality.
Books play a significant role in my life. Without them, I wouldn’t need bookshelves. Without bookshelves, my room would be completely empty. They say your bedroom is a reflection of your mind and without bookshelves, it would appear that my mind is mostly empty space and echoes (which is an accurate representation of only part of my brain). Oh, and books tend to have amazing stories inside them.
You read across the board; what were the last five books that made you go “Holy mackerel, this is certainly some supercalifragilisticexpialidocious shit that maybe I wish I’d written, Sammy!”?
The first one that comes to mind is The Alligators of Abraham by Robert Kloss. It’s a phenomenal book about a child’s experience during the American Civil War. His father goes off to fight, his mother dies, and the landscape is painted in such a way that it feels grounded in reality, yet somehow also completely surreal. Kloss’ voice is McCarthy/Faulkner-esque, but in 2nd person. Good stuff.
The second super-cali-docious book would have to be Burn Down the House and Everyone In It by Zachary T Owen. It’s a phenomenal collection of horror stories – some funny, some completely fucked up and scary. I get bored reading horror pretty easily, but that wasn’t the case at all here. Owen has a unique voice that I feel horror desperately needs. It’s difficult to find original ideas in that genre anymore, but Owen has a whole book of them. Hopefully he’ll one day have many books of them.
The third…David Cronenberg’s Consumed. I loved it. I’ve been a longtime fan of his films and this novel is everything I expected it to be and more. Deformed penis!
Fourth would have to be Pincher Martin by William Golding. I adore Golding’s writing. I enjoyed this book as much as I enjoyed Lord of the Flies. I’m surprised I don’t hear more people talking about this book. It’s wild, surreal, and had me flipping pages until there were no more left to flip. There is a second title to this book, and it’s a nice little tease: The Two Deaths of Christopher Martin. Keep it in mind while reading the book.
Last one: Child of God by Cormac McCarthy (or really any book by Cormac McCarthy). This one is brutal, man. For those of you that have read it, you know why this book is incredible. For those of you that haven’t read it, there are no words, other than McCarthy’s, that can accurately describe what’s in store for you when you read this novel. You’re going to feel all kinds of feels and think all kinds of thinks. A brilliant piece of literature.
I think there’s a WP3 mythos already out there. Do you agree? (Note: if you disagree, you’re wrong.)
Really? There are plenty of stories to tell, I’ll admit that, but I’m not so sure what travels from ear to ear. I’d love to hear this mythos if it does indeed exist. Oh wait, are you talking about my dick?
4. Answer three of the following five questions: A- What the hell is wrong with Joseph Bouthiette Jr.?
I admire that guy. He is 100% himself all the time, no apologies and no regrets. Yes, he ate a copy of HEARERS OF THE CONSTANT HUM, but he did it because he wanted to. He set his mind to it and he accomplished his goals. We should all aspire to be like Junior. I want to see more people eating my book.
B- When was the last time you murdered someone?
C- When are we having some beers?
The only reason why we haven’t yet is because I am trying to save enough money to buy you all the beers I owe you. Every time I get close, you do something else and I owe you more beers. So…soon. And so many beers…
D- What’s it like working with Mr. Andersen Prunty?
I do all the work while he sleeps on the couch and farts.
E- Who cut the cheese?
I only had to answer three, but I think you can figure the answer to this out if you’ve been paying attention.
What’s your latest book about and why should everyone get to clicking and grab a copy right now?
My latest book is called HEARERS OF THE CONSTANT HUM. It’s about a man who hears insects speaking, repeating the same phrase over and over again. He becomes obsessed with creating a way for other people to hear it and he quickly discovers the further he goes on his journey, the more his body collapses. He is determined to finish his work before his inevitable death…the future of the world depends on it. The book is also about a young woman who aspires to be uniquely individual and completely independent, but finds herself being held back due to various internal and external struggles. It’s also about a problematic relationship between two brothers, and also commitment, and loyalty, and human interaction, and technology, and the fact that we are all losing something precious as we progress. Are the sacrifices worth it? I’d like to think the book makes a strong argument for both sides, leaving the decision up to the reader. That said, I’d love to hear your thoughts after reading.
Everyone should get to clicking and grab a copy right now because you are all humans and this book was intended to be read by humans.
Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of Gutmouth and a few other things no one will ever read. You can find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias
Another year and another 200 (not really but I know it’s a lot) movies watched. This is my sixth time doing this list and I look forward to it all year. I’ve been keeping track since the first of January and can hardly wait to talk to you about all the awesome shit I saw!
If you want to catch up on past years, you can with these links:
I saw a lot of movies I liked this year but there were only a few that I outright loved. For the most part, it was the year of “meh.” Nothing summed up how disappointing the year was like the return of two of my favorite filmmakers (Alejandro Jodorowsky and Terry Gilliam) with movies that can best be described as predictable and forgettable (THE DANCE OF REALITY and ZERO THEOREM respectively).
Horror had an extremely poor showing this year. After more than a decade of torture porn dominating the genre, this year saw quiet horror make a huge return. While it would have been nice to have filmmakers playing with new ideas in the genre, most of the films I saw were just repeating tired old tropes. It seemed like almost every horror movie I watched was a ghost story. THE BABADOOK dominated the discussion but I was completely underwhelmed as, in my opinion, it was just repeating themes a hundred movies did better while adding nothing new. However, I didn’t hate it – I just felt like I had already seen it.
I saw two movies that were just so mind-numbingly disappointing that I can’t recommend them for any reason.
Worst Movies of 2014: WILLOW CREEK and CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO
Moving on to what I enjoyed. These are the movies I really liked but I only do ten titles a year for my list and they just didn’t make the cut.
Honorable Mentions: WOLF CREEK 2, SACRAMENT, BANKSY TAKES NEW YORK, ZERO CHARISMA, AFFLICTED, ZOMBEAVERS, SWEARNET: THE MOVIE, and COME BACK TO ME
Now with those formalities out of the way, let’s get on to my ten favorite movies of 2014!
10: EDGE OF TOMORROW (Doug Liman, United States)
Tom Cruise gets killed again and again and again. Also, it’s a really good movie!
Cruise is a soldier who is on the front lines during an alien invasion of Earth. In the battle he gets killed only to start the day over again but with memory of the events of his death. Until he gets killed once more. And so on and so on.
The premise – GROUNDHOG DAY meets STARSHIP TROOPERS – is thoroughly explored and dissected in one of the best, and surprisingly funny, science fiction movies of the past few years.
9: KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM (Joe Lynch, United States)
The nerd movie of the year!
When a group of LARPers accidentally summon a demon during an event a whole bunch of people die and they must become the heroes they pretend to be.
It’s a simple movie but super fun if you’re a total nerd. Unlike many other films that tackle nerd and niche interests, this movie never feels like it is laughing at you. The filmmakers are obviously just as dorky as we are.
I highly recommend complimenting a viewing with a few beers and tokes.
8: LATE PHASES (Adrián García Bogliano, United States)
For some reason the list of good werewolf movies is very short – fortunately, this year we got one to add. LATE PHASES feels like an eighties creature feature. The film follows a blind war veteran (Nick Damici – who is absolutely fantastic in the role) whose small community is under attack by a werewolf. Intense, darkly funny, and featuring outstanding practical effects, this film fits perfectly aside AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, THE HOWLING, and GINGER SNAPS.
And the transformation scene (obviously influenced by THE COMPANY OF WOLVES) kicks ass.
7: JODOROWSKY’S DUNE (Frank Pavich, United States)
One of the all-time greatest directors, Alejandro Jodorowsky of EL TOPO and THE HOLY MOUNTAIN fame, taking on one of the all-time beloved science fiction novels was just not to be. Fortunately, we have this documentary to watch and imagine what an amazing creation it could have been.
It’s a heartbreaking story about the most incredible group of creative people ever assembled and the failure of their film – not from any of their own actions but because the movie studio got cold feet. Just imagine Jodorowksy, Orson Wells, Moebius, Pink Floyd, H. R. Giger, and Dan O’Bannon all working together.
6: TUSK (Kevin Smith, United States)
We’ve seen Kevin Smith do comedy, drama, horror, and social commentary – but we haven’t seen this side of him before!
TUSK is classic body horror in the spirit of early David Cronenberg and Stuart Gordon about a man being held against his will and being surgically transformed into a walrus. Smith takes an absolutely ludicrous premise but takes it seriously (in a story-telling sense) and stretches the concept to “logical” extremes. Twisted, weird, bleakly funny, and a mean streak a baculum wide – TUSK was my favorite horror movie of the year.
Fun fact – TUSK is the first movie ever made based on a podcast. Don’t look up the original podcast unless you want most of the movie spoiled for you.
5: THE LEGO MOVIE (Phil Lord, United States)
The LEGO movie shouldn’t be good. There’s absolutely no reason for it. It should just be a ninety minute long toy commercial – and in many ways it is – but in the process it completely subverts the idea. In many ways this is more anarchist propaganda than a children’s movie. LEGO heaven is depicted as being awesome because “we have no government!” Hell, the villain is Lord Business.
Combing humor, real heartfelt moments, amazing CGI/stop-motion animation, subversive ideas, and more franchises than any YouTube mashup (there’s Batman, Simpson, and Star Wars characters!) this was the surprise of the year for me.
THE LEGO MOVIE may also be the closest we ever get to a Grant Morrison movie – seriously, this is ANIMAL MAN!
4: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (James Gunn, United States)
When Marvel first announced this I thought they were crazy. Captain America and Iron Man make sense but Guardians of the Galaxy? Who the hell cares or wants to see a movie about them?
How wrong I was.
James Gunn created an epic and joyous sci-fi/action/comedy that puts everything else Marvel Studios has done to shame. This isn’t your standard bunch of do-gooders – thieves, assassins, and con artists must band together to travel the strangest parts of the universe to save all of reality. But who really cares? There’s a raccoon weapons expert who shoots everything!!!!
Far and away the most fun I had at the movies this year. This is what STAR WARS would have looked like if Troma produced it. Llody Kaufman even has a cameo!
3: RETURN TO NUKE ‘EM HIGH VOL 1 (Lloyd Kaufman, United States)
Speaking of Troma…
It’s always a cause for joy when Lloyd Kaufman does another movie. He may be the most consistent director of all time. Gore, nudity, and the lowest and highest brow humor combine to create pure movie magic in every one of his creations.
His latest movie is a part one of a sequel to his classic eighties creation THE CLASS OF NUKE ‘EM HIGH and it’s everything you want it to be – social commentary, biting humor, and punks killing people in a high school.
Fuck. What do you want to know? It’s Troma! Go watch it!
2: THE RAID 2 (Gareth Evans, Indonesia)
The first RAID was a fantastic action film. The second completely blows it away.
The plot picks up immediately where the first film ended but sends the main character undercover to prison – but that’s just the very beginning. The story takes so many twists and turns that it really feels like you watched THE RAID 2 and 3.
But why you watch this is for the crazy intense action scenes. My god, this film has probably the most insane, violent, expansive, and well directed shots of violence ever done. For those who love onscreen carnage – it doesn’t get better than this.
1: SNOWPIERCER (Bong Joon-ho, South Korea)
This is what truly original filmmaking looks like.
After a failed attempt to control climate change, all that remains of humanity is on one train that is on a constant loop around the globe. The lower class live in the back cars and do all the hard work, the upper class lives in the forward cars. But the end of the train is fed up and, at the start of the movie, lead an uprising to take all the cars. So begins one of the most unique and strange movies made in years.
At heart it’s a vicious social commentary but in practice it’s a wild wide of movie making that changes genres from scene to scene. There is absolutely no way to predict what turn the film will take next.
The axe fight/New Year’s scene was the best movie moment of the year – those that have seen it know what I mean.
Most anticipated for 2015 – THE GREEN INFERNO (Eli Roth, United States)
GODDAMMIT!!!!!! Eli Roth (CABIN FEVER, HOSTEL 1 & 2, and one of my personal heroes) was supposed to finally return to directing movies with THE GREEN INFERNO. Roth making a cannibal flick is a dream come true for me but we were all denied it due to distribution issues! Some got to see it on the festival circuit but I wasn’t one of them. There’s no news about a 2015 release but I’m praying and my cat is doing dark magic rituals for us to see it.
Agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments!
by Garrett Cook
Damn. Christmas sure gives you a lot of things to hate about it. Crass commercialism. Carols everywhere. Bitter cold. Mechagodzilla.
Everyone is tired of your shit!
But worse and more excruciating than all of these things is the Christmas craft fair. Purchasing poorly wrought wooden reindeer to support your stupid kid’s school for jerks is nobody’s idea of fun. I know there are people that like Christmas craft fairs but there are also people that like bestiality and the two camps are just as difficult for me to understand. Telling me that you like the Christmas craft fair is like telling me that a particular pangolin you saw has got it goin’ on in all the right places.
So, how about an alternative to the Christmas Crap Fair? How about some weird, fun stuff that you might actually want hanging up in your home? I promise, no wooden reindeer.
Paintings and Prints
The most notoriously hangable of art works, paintings and prints are something we often think of as out of our price range or somehow culturally austere. We might own posters but actual paintings by a contemporary working artist aren’t as common in people’s homes as they could be. Particularly if you decide you want to do something about it.
My alterego Henry Price is a lucky guy. Having gotten three covers from Justin Coons for my Satan’s Mummy novelettes, Henry’s work has been represented by a whole lot of monster kid whoopass. Justin Coons brings the weird and brings pulp art back to a Heavy Metal magazine kind of place.
Narwhal vs. Unicorn
Escape from Hamster Planet
Get it all here.
Ann Koi is a gifted sculptor and artist. Her erotic and strange art and wonderful assortment of bone sculptures are sure to invigorate any discriminating Bizarro friendly residence.
Resin owl skull
The Undeniable Beauty of a Love in Decline
Jim is one of the finest artists in the Bizarro community. His work is cartoonish, organic, filthy, fun and diverse. His shit is just plain awesome. You can view his stuff on the page below. And you should buy most or all of it.
Liv Rainey Smith
Liv’s woodblock prints and Lovecraftian stuff are great for the dark fiction and cosmic horror enthusiast in your life. Occult esoterica with class, distinction and a genuinely informed viewpoint on the subject matter. While possessing a modern perspective on the history behind the imagery, it hearkens back to a profoundly archaic style, wearing the influence of traditional alchemy on its sleeve.
Surrealism and psychedelia merge with Neopagan and Aquarian tradition in Pepera’s work. There is usually a space between the surreal, which is often thought cerebral, the province of manipulated logics instead of magicks and the sacred but Jodorowsky and Kenneth Anger and French Decadents never cottoned much to these boundaries and neither does Alexandria. These paintings are beautiful, colorful, distinctly sexual, tantalizingly dissassociative and pleasing to all three of our eyes. With a pop art color pallet, a strong narrative and a library of dream images, these psychedelics don’t patronize or pander or bring back memories of sparking up a jay to Umma Gumma.
For a full gallery of Alexandria’s work, check out the link below.
Grade A Monster Kid, class act and erudite, fun artist, Nick Gucker does cosmic horror and horror fandom in a way that has caught the attention of many publishers and collectors alike. Nick’s work graces Skurvy Ink’s Jimmy Plush t-shirt and the pages of Imperial Youth Review, the magazine I edit, so I’m a little biased but that bias certainly wouldn’t have existed in the first place without Nick doing stonecold fantastic stuff.
Alan M. Clark
Man. Myth. Icon and iconoclast, Alan Clark’s cover have adorned work by some of horror’s very finest. His paintings can adorn your home too. His longtime obsession with the Ripper murders has inspired not just his novels, which I highly recommend but some of his art. Visit his online store, The Imagination Aperture: http://ifdpublishing.com/zencart2/
Phillip Lo Presti
Phil is a crass and smart poet with a ton of potential and exactly no fucks to give. If you know Phil online, you have probably at least on one occasion wanted to push him down a flight of stairs. But, he’s a good, generous, caring and often very funny guy and he does great work, with an irreverent eye and a lot of attitude.
Jim Snorfleet came highly recommended by my friend pinup model, Sauda Namir due to his horror pinup work. His photos are eerie, fun and confrontational and his models are well chosen. For the fan of burlesque and gothic imagery, these photos will go great on their walls.
Scupture and Craft
Sheryl Westleigh, Noadi on Etsy, is a sculptor and jeweler par excellence. For the geek, the pervert and the worshiper of Elder Gods, Sheryl is a person you gotta know with stuff that will make you exceptionally happy. Her Etsy store features things like fetus earrings, tentacle pendants, octopia, cuttlefish, bacteria and everything squirmy. Mad science chic.
Specimen Jar Necklace
Sanity Check Pendant
Fetus Specimen Jar Earrings
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.