The cult section of the literary world

Interviews

Madeleine Swann & 4 Rooms in a Semi-Detached House

by Lee Widener

Madeleine Swann entered the Bizarro realm with her debut novella “Rainbows Suck,” released through Eraserhead Press’ New Bizarro Author Series in 2015.  Now her second novella “4 Rooms in a Semi-Detached House” is available from Strangehouse Books. I asked Maddy some questions and she answered them!

LEE:  Tell us about your new book.maddy

MADELEINE:  My new novella is about a girl, Aisha, who lives on a street where each room of each house leads to landscapes in an alternate dimension/the past/whichever you prefer. The front rooms lead to a cinema during the Depression, the bedrooms to a Parisian Salon, kitchens to a Georgian banquet hall in space and studies to a psychedelic book shop. Disturbing things take over the rooms and Aisha thinks a secret of hers might be the cause.

LEE:  I know you have a particular interest in avant-garde cinema and also the psychedelic experience. From the trailer for this book it seems these interests play a large part in the story. Is this true, and if so, what other interests of yours show up in this book?

MADELEINE: Avant-garde films and books are a huge inspiration to me. Also I love Pre-Code films, vintage cinemas and vaudeville so I set an area in the early thirties. I also enjoy writers and artists of the twenties, in New York and the expats in Paris mainly, so they’re in the bedroom. The Georgian period is an era I find fascinating, partly because of the lawlessness but also because they were getting to grips with science and life post-religion (mostly). Plus I love all the frills, they were so flouncy. Finally there’s a psychedelic book shop because I felt like I joined the hippie movement in spirit from the age of about 16. Not so much now but I was really into it.

LEE: Can you tell us something about how this book came to be? What was the spark that got you thinking about what came to be this book?

MADELEINE: I genuinely think it just came to me while I was watching Regular Show. It’s taken a lot of work from three editors to get it to a place where I’m really happy with it, but the idea itself just sort of popped in my head. I wanted to write a story involving different periods of history and something involving a street, and there it was!

LEE: I find your talk about using three editors fascinating. I have a piece I’m working on that I’ve sent to two editors and I still don’t know what to do with it. What was it like working with multiple editors? Did you pick and chose which feedback seemed more apt, or did you do a rewrite, felt like it still wasn’t right, so you sent it to another, or what?

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MADELEINE: Well, it’s a bit complicated. First off I sent it as a novelette to an anthology but nothing came of that. Then I asked Garrett (Cook) if he’d edit it, I got his notes back and worked on them. Then I asked the publisher if he’d consider releasing it as a novella, he said yes and ended up giving me notes too. I worked on those and then was told Rooster Republic didn’t have room that year but StrangeHouse did, and then they edited it too. I didn’t use every single note but I did most of them.

LEE: Let’s talk about Bizarro Fiction. Do you consider yourself primarily a Bizarro writer, or do you work in other genres as well?

MADELEINE: I think of myself more as a weird writer, but I suppose that fits under the blanket of bizarro. I just like exploring weird, dark things and wherever that takes me is fine.

LEE: What would make a good soundtrack while reading this book?

MADELEINE: Well, if I told you that Miley Cyrus’ Dead Petz was the actual soundtrack to my writing, it would probably put you off. I think anything jaunty and odd, like Mike and Rich or Tobacco.

LEE: You do a lot of outreach to your readers: blog posts, Twitter, youtube videos, personal appearances at festivals and such. What works best for you, and which do you most enjoy?

MADELEINE: I genuinely enjoy all of it. Probably Twitter and blogging the most because I blog about things I enjoy more than myself, and I like sharing the weird arty things I find. I’m very nervous about meeting and talking to people but I’ll certainly be working on that this year! I’m trying to get more used to it by reading my favourite stories to camera and talking on YouTube and it’s getting easier.

LEE: What’s up next for the Evil Pixie?

MADELEINE: Well, I’ve got a few short stories coming out at some point this year, and I’ve just finished a new novella/connected short story thing which is inspired by a section of The Red Tower by Thomas Ligotti, though it’s very different in tone. Also I’m reading from 4 Rooms at the Brighton Fringe Festival, The Big Green Book Shop with Laura Lee Bahr and others and I’ll be at Bizarrocon. See you there!

Trailer for 4 Rooms in a Semi-Detached House:

You can find out more about Maddy and her work, complete with links to buy her books at her website:

MadeleineSwann.com

Read her weekly column at CLASH Media:

Memoirs of a Professional Weirdo

Read her blog here:

Madeleine Swann Blog

Follow her on Twitter: @MadeleineSwann

Subscribe to her Youtube channel:

Madeleine Swann on Youtube


Lee Widener is the author of “David Bowie is Trying to Kill Me!” and “Rock N Roll Head Case” published in October 2015 by Eraserhead Press. His collection “Under the Shanghai Tunnel & Other Weird Tales” will be published in 2017.


Show Me Your Shelves: Mandy De Sandra

Sometimes you do an interview and then life happens and the interview never sees the light of day. That happened to me with this interview you’re reading right now. Luckily, it’s never too late to take a look at the shelves of the queen of bizarro erotica, the great Mandy De Sandra.

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

MDS: In my mind I am still working for the Dept of Labor and in an open relationship with my boyfriend Trevor. He is very into cuckolding and watches me have sex with alpha studs while we party on his yacht.

Books are everything to me. At my Department of Labor job we don’t do much actual work so I read to pass the time. I read so I can write. I love Bizarro Fiction, horror, and literary novels. People are surprised to learn I only read one erotica author, Tiffany Reisz. I love her writing and The Siren series.

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GI: As an erotica writer, how do you deal with every guy out there thinking you’re just begging for dick pics?

I actually welcome dick pics. I got the idea from the terrific show You’re The Worst. Basically, I save all my dick picks and sell them to SmallPenisHumilation.net. Small penis humiliation fetish is on the rise and most of these guys aren’t packing. The site pays 5 dollars for under 5 inches and $7.99 if it is really thin, too!

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GI: There seems to be an emerging genre that blends satire, politics, and sex. As a pioneer in this area, why do you think we crave this type of literature? How and why does bizarro come into the equation? How hard is it to stay on top of current events? How does our short memory for news affect your writing?

MDS: Someone said I am South Park of erotica. I like that and love Matt & Trey so much, even though they are not hot but I’d let them DVDA with Trevor and Henry Price.

I love Bizarro Fiction. To paraphrase that sexy fucker Brian Keene, Bizarro Fiction is all about being genre fuckers. Why not give weird erotica a good genre fucking?

I want to do stuff besides the news tho. I want to write more about publishing. I am working on something now titled “I Was Published in An Anthology for Exposure, But All I Got Was Fucked in the Ass & A PDF.” Also academia, as I get very excited about the idea “My MFA Teacher Made Me Gay.”

I get requests now to write about people in the news. That is why I did the one about British Prime Minister getting head from a pig.

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GI: If you could have one of your books turned into a movie, which one would it be and how would you cast it?

MDS: My favorite book of mine is Ravished by Reagansaurus. I must admit that I see this book as more Bizarro than erotica even though there is a lot of dinosaur bukkake. It is also my only novella. I would love to see the cast behind Wet Hot American Summer play all the roles.

GI: What’s your latest sexy tale about and why should folks go dip their eyeballs in it right now?

My latest sexy tale is Fox News Fuckest published by New Kink Books. I am a big fan of comic books, I have Trevor collect and then masturbate to the pictures. My favorite is The Age of Apocalypse and this book is part of series I am calling The Age of Trumpocalypse. The second book will be Donald Trump & The Alpha Billionaire Buttrons.

Thanks for having me, you sexy stud.

Love Mandy

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Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of Zero Saints (Broken River Books),  Gutmouth (Eraserhead Press), Hungry Darkness (Severed Press), and a few other things no one will ever read. You can find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias


The Strangest: An Interview With Michael J. Seidlinger

Laurance Friend: Did you have to choose between coffee and suicide this morning? Are you really alive?

Michael J. Seidlinger: Truth is I’m already dead and the only thing keeping my body from rotting away is coffee, lots and lots of coffee. Dead is better because you don’t have to give a shit about anything but what keeps you hungry and interested. Meaning books.

LF: Your latest book is The Strangest, a modern take on Albert Camus’s, The Stranger. In what ways does the modern way of life have an impact in your version?

MJS: The most immediate difference is the use of social media. It’s an integral part of Zachary, the main character’s, life. You could say he lives online, and the life led offline is pathetic, even miserable, if viewed and judged by others. The “strangeness” of his life is how he chooses to (dis)engage with it, compartmentalizing every emotion and whim. The book takes place in the modern day, assumed to be in the US, so there are also lots of stores, American football, and numerous drunken parties. I think it was in the Kirkus review, where I heard it being compared to Fight Club in terms of its setting, the locales Zachary navigates… and yeah, my explanation of Zachary’s external world wouldn’t be far off.

LF: You recently did a social experiment based on the book, letting social media dictate your actions, what kind of crazy stuff went down and did you learn anything?

MJS: No, and that’s what might be the most insane part about it. It was all very stressful, essentially having to color my hair blonde, have to do some ballet moves, etc, but the entire experiment was actually quite… complacent. I was surprised by the response; I was worried that it wouldn’t take hold. Mainly due to the fact that social media is crowded these days and more so on Facebook than Twitter, underlying algorithms dictate a post’s visibility. It’s not just who’s online at the time of posting anymore. It’s not just about how many friends you have. It’s about how your post is processed by the platform’s structure. I worried that my posts would fly under the radar. Somehow they didn’t, so okay, maybe I did learn something from the experiment: I’m still capable of being surprised and there’s always more to learn about social media. Oh, people told me I looked good with blonde hair but—fuck that—I’m not going back. Accept me for who I am, not my hair color.

LF: I haven’t gotten to read all of your books, but know your catalog is quite varied. What areas have you explored and which was the toughest to write?

MJS: I’ve explored the transgressive, the surreal, and lately, the YA/New Adult world. I’ve just finished a screenplay and before that, a memoir. I’d say of the work that’s been published (or at least sold/to-be-published), the YA one, “Falter Kingdom,” was the toughest due to the necessity to write for a specific audience. Normally, I follow what I feel the book should be, rarely paying attention to things like demographics. It was different with the YA and posed a unique challenge. Of the work that’s not yet published, hasn’t been sold, or in the case of the memoir, I haven’t even started shopping it around yet, the most difficult was the screenplay. It’s quite difficult writing not from inside a character’s world or mind; when you’re writing what is essentially what the camera sees, things get very objective and very difficult, streamlined, really quickly. When you grow used to writing from within the mind of a character, stepping outside of it poses a unique, and exceedingly difficult, challenge. Man, writing that screenplay sent me into a real and present depression. Doubting myself as a writer, all of that stuff. Real bad. But then again, we all fall into those at times.

LF: I thought The Fun We’ve Had was a deeply surreal and symbolic book. It seems to speak from somewhere in us all, something on the edge of every thought. What was your inspiration for the book? Did you have to become a monk to voice such a void?

MJS: So The Fun We’ve Had happened differently from how I usually begin a novel. Cameron Pierce, editor of Lazy Fascist Press, emailed me the cover of the book as you see it today, no adjustments—the coffin, the young girl and the old man, the greenish sea, everything—with the prompt to write a novel about what this might be. He didn’t give me any details other than the cover and a loose deadline. It’s the first, and really the only, time I’ve ever written something via a prompt. Typically I have the idea and the general outline of something and it’s all very planned, from structure to narrative arc, but with The Fun We’ve Had, I had the cover and the title. I had to figure out what it could be. The end result, yeah, neither Cameron nor I expected it to become a surrealistic tale about dead lovers floating in a coffin on a purgatorial sea. I went in blind, but was I a monk? No. A blind monk? Maybe. What matters is that it’s done and the process was truly fun, and very different.

LF: What would you consider the highlights of your life as a writer? What keeps you writing?

MJS: The elusiveness of a good idea. I’m always brainstorming, looking for possibilities. Inspiration keeps me writing. A great idea decides the way. As a writer, I need to feel every word or else, there’s no point. If it doesn’t feel right, or feel like anything, it shouldn’t exist. Never waste a word.

LF: Who are your literary heroes and what peers do you recommend for others to read?

MJS: Oh man..there are so many literary heroes out there. I’ll just name the first three that pop up in my head: Isaac Fitzgerald of Buzzfeed Books, Lidia Yuknavich, author of The Small Backs of Children, and Dennis Cooper, author of Zac’s Control Panel. So many good people out there… I could go on a namedrop spree. But I won’t. They are the type of lit citizens that go above and beyond the call of duty (don’t you dare think of the videogame), promoting the work of others and essentially keeping community morale high.

Same goes with who I’d recommend. There’s so much out there. So many amazing, unique voices that I feel it would be debilitating to start up a list. So same rule of three: Joshua Jennifer Espinosa, Matthew Bookin, and Elle Nash. Three that come immediately to mind. But yeah, could go on a namedrop spree. Won’t, but seriously could.

LF: What’s a typical day in the life of Mr. Seidlinger?

MJS: Wake up at 5:55AM, go to the day gig. Leave at 3:30-4pm, fit in a workout before sitting down at the computer and going through correspondence, then any/all editing needed for CCM and Electric Lit; afterwards, I spend an hr or two on my own writing, then correspondence again. Some “free time” to read or watch something. Then correspondence. I think I sleep at some point, then correspondence. Correspondence = the emails, they never end.

LF: You wake up a cockroach one day, what is it you do?

MJS: I take a selfie and post it on social media.

LF: You run a publishing press known as Civil Coping Mechanisms and have helped bring a great deal of work into the world. What’s the origin story? Have any favorite titles?

MJS: The press started as an intended art collective—think a press, record label, and more all rolled into one—by a guy, and friend, named Gabe Cardona, but things never picked up on any other front except the publishing part so it sort of organically became a small press. He backed away towards the end of 2013, beginning of 2014, and CCM was set to shutter but since I had already been helping out with operations, I stepped in to save it. At the beginning of 2015, CCM merged with Entropy and we haven’t looked back since—things have remained active and the community surrounding the press and magazine has a lot of amicable energy, the sort that inspires as much as it motivates; so yeah, perhaps the “art collective” part never disappeared; it simply manifested in a different way. Nope, as publisher I’m the “parent” or “papa” of all the books published. I favor them all equally; each book is so different, much like its author’s voice, so there’s a lot to love about any CCM title you might pick up. I’d like to think that I’m a good “parent,” or at least trying my best at being a “good parent.”

LF: What is the super power you most desire?

MJS: Mind control, but I wouldn’t be like Kilgrave from Marvel’s Jessica Jones; I’d use the power to control MY MIND. It gets exhausting having all these scattered thoughts and doubts and so forth. Being able to control every damn thought would be amazing.

LF: Do you still feel alive?

MJS: Nope. Dead, remember? RIP. Every day is the same.

 

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PURCHASE THE STRANGEST & SEIDLINGER’S OTHER NOVELS HERE.

 

About the interviewer:

Laurance Friend is a freelance travel journalist, digital vagabond, truth-seeker, and poet under the moniker of NOBODY IMPORTANT. His first collection, SELF-LOATHING & OTHER FORMS OF CYNICISM is available to purchase around the globe in digital format. You can better follow his adventures on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


Interview with Richard Thomas

 

gamut

Richard Thomas is a brilliant author, and he’s Editor-in-Chief at Dark House Press. Richard has taken time out of his busy schedule to chat with me about Smurfs, Gamut Magazine, and other topics.

Jeremy C. Shipp: Hi, Richard. Welcome to my little chthonic cave. I hope you didn’t have any problems finding your way here.

Richard Thomas: Hey, Jeremy. Thanks. Just followed the trail of bones, and the colony of bats that came streaming out of the opening. No worries.

JCS: First of all, I should ask the question that’s on everyone’s mind. Do you believe that eating live Smurfs is morally wrong?

RT: I’d have to say yes—no matter how juicy or delicious they might be. Eating anything that’s still alive is pretty cruel. Smurf is a little gamey for my taste, anyway.

JCS: We’ll have to agree to disagree. Anyway, if you were a supervillain, what creatures would you want as your trusty minions?

RT: Huh. Minions—something prehistoric, maybe? Pterodactyl? I wrote a flash fiction piece about a Gandaberunda, a two-headed mythological bird. Those would be cool. Although I do have a slight fear of flying monkeys from my childhood Wizard of Oz days—so maybe that’s too close. As a kid, when asked what animal I wanted to be, it was always a cheetah.

JCS: Which multiverse hypothesis do you find most compelling?

RT: I have a lot of beliefs—some which may contradict each other. I believe in reincarnation, but I want to believe there is some kind of heaven. I believe in ghosts, that there are aliens out there, life on other planets. I’d like to believe in parallel dimensions. I’ve seen some wild things in my life, time rewinding, and playing back, which makes me think what we believe to be true is probably not very accurate. I also love The Matrix. There’s the end of Interstellar to consider, too. Whether you want to apply Occam’s Razor, or believe in quilted, brane, cyclic, or inflationary multiverses, I think we probably know only a fraction of what’s really going on.

JCS: What would you do if you met your doppelganger?

RT: I think there would probably be a handful of gut responses—kill it, have a conversation, or pretend you didn’t see it. I’d probably want to sit down and talk, try to understand what was going on, because it would certainly shake my reality. Saw a movie recently, Enemy, with Jake Gyllenhaal that was really interesting, about a doppelganger. There are days I feel that this is all a dream, and there are days where I feel that I’ve lived this life before. Who knows?

JCS: What question would you least like me to ask? And can you answer that question?

RT: I’m sure I’ve got some skeletons in my closets I’d prefer to leave there. And no, I’d prefer not to get into that.

JCS: How do you deal with withered hands growing out of your walls?

RT: You know, a hand, by it’s definition and nature, just wants to touch—it wants to hold, stroke, caress—just wants to be loved, like the rest of us. They want to feel valued, and special, a part of something. And withered, I imagine there would already be some self-conscious doubt, not the hands they used to be, all of the young, soft hands getting the attention. So, the way I deal with MY withered hands growing out of MY walls is to embrace them—I let them get to work, in a number of ways. Very exciting. The future of publishing, I think.

JCS: By George, I think you’re right. If Earth were an egg, what do you believe would hatch from it?

RT: LOL. Good question. I think it could go one of two ways—all of the love, and peace, and kindness could give birth to some kind of beautiful, angelic creature (why am I thinking about the baby at the end of 2001?) or it could be the opposite—all of our hatred, fear and violence born in some demonic, mythic, destructive beast. Depends on if you’re a half-full or half-empty kind of guy, I think.

JCS: Do you have a favorite Bizarro author/filmmaker/artist?

RT: Oh, man, that’s tricky. I was just thinking about this the other day. The first story I ever published was a bit of bizarro at Opium Magazine, entitled “Animal Magnetism” about a couple that gets a series of animal parts attached, in order to make their sex life better. I think the opening line was something like, “It started out with the elephant penis and went downhill from there.” Bradley Sands passed on it for Beat Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens, but suggested Opium. Which brings me to a reading Bradley did at an AWP event, maybe in Denver, where he read a story about soccer moms that just had the room in stitches, so funny. I laughed so much. So, I think I’ll always have a soft spot for Bradley.

JCS: What is the origin story of your interest in neo-noir and transgressive fiction?

RT: I think it all starts with Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. I saw the movie, and it woke me up. I found his books, and read everything he had out, starting with Choke, Survivor, Diary, Lullaby, etc. That got me to The Velvet, a website for Will Christopher Baer, Craig Clevenger and Stephen Graham Jones. Those guys really spoke to me, the way they bent genres to create dark, lyrical stories that were both exciting and literary, ticking off all of the flavors—salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. I didn’t know you could write like that. I read some wild authors in college, William Burroughs, for example, but I grew up reading Stephen King and John Grisham, popular writers, mostly. Later, when I got my MFA, I’d study the dark sheep of the literary world—Denis Johnson, Mary Gaitskill, Cormac McCarthy, Joyce Carol Oates, Haruki Murakami, Toni Morrison, etc. So, for me, the ideal story, or novel finds the sweet spot between genre and lit, between visceral and introspective, between tension and lyricism. That’s what I try to write, and that’s what I like to edit and publish.

JCS: Can you tell us a bit about Gamut magazine?

RT: Sure. It’s an online magazine I’m Kickstarting on 2/1/16. It will focus on fiction, with new stories out every Monday, reprints every Thursday, with columns sprinkled in, and poetry, as well. If we can hit a few stretch goals, we’ll expand to more non-fiction, a Flash Fiction Friday, and a Saturday Night Special (which would be a serialization of Stripped: A Memoir, to start). We’ll focus on the kind of genres we’ve been talking about here—fantasy, science fiction, horror, transgressive, magical realism, neo-noir, Southern gothic, bizarro, and new weird—all with a literary bent. It won’t be “classic” in any sense of the word, but contemporary dark fiction. If Gamut were a film it would be directed by David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, or David Lynch. We need to raise $52,000, and the bulk of that will come from an annual subscription of $30, for over 400,000 words of fiction, new art every week, and much more. After the Kickstarter, the regular rate will be $60/year, or $5/ month. We will NEVER offer the $30/year rate again. AND, as long as you keep renewing, you can keep that rate indefinitely. If you’ve read any of my writing, the books I’ve published at Dark House Press, and/or the four anthologies I’ve edited—The New Black and Exigencies (Dark House Press), Burnt Tongues, with Chuck Palahniuk and Dennis Widmyer (Medallion), or The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers (Black Lawrence Press)—then you’re probably familiar with my aesthetic.

JCS: Where do you see Gamut in 10 years? And where do you see it after the Singularity?

RT: I’d like us to be an important part of the landscape—alongside publications like Tor, Nightmare, Apex, F&SF, Clarkesworld, Black Static, Shock Totem, etc. I’d like to see us continue to grow, to gain the kind of following that Tin House and A24 Films have—passionate fans that are invested in what we do. This is all in progress—people can make suggestions, help us to shape and form Gamut, into something special. Hopefully. As for after the Singularity, hopefully Gamut will just start running itself and I can chill out on a beach in Hawaii and sip on Piña Coladas for the rest of my life.

JCS: Perhaps a pterodactyl butler could serve you the drinks? Thank you kindly for taking the time to answer my questions. Here’s a complementary bag of fresh ectoplasm.

RT: My pleasure. Great questions, Jeremy. Oh, and thanks, I just ran out, this saves me a trip to the store.

JCS: *backs away and fades into the shadows*

If you feel so inclined, check out Gamut Magazine’s kickstarter campaign right here. 

richardthomasRichard Thomas is the author of seven books: Three novels, Disintegration and Breaker (Random House Alibi), and Transubstantiate (Otherworld Publications); three short story collections, Tribulations (Crystal Lake), Staring Into the Abyss (Kraken Press), and Herniated Roots (Snubnose Press); as well as one novella of The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books). With over 100 stories published, his credits include Cemetery Dance, PANK, Gargoyle, Weird Fiction Review, Midwestern Gothic, Arcadia, Qualia Nous, Chiral Mad 2 & 3, Gutted, and Shivers 6. He has won contests at ChiZine and One Buck Horror, and has received five Pushcart Prize nominations to date. He is also the editor of four anthologies: Exigencies and The New Black (Dark House Press), The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers (Black Lawrence Press) and Burnt Tongues (Medallion Press) with Chuck Palahniuk (finalist for the Bram Stoker Award). In his spare time he is a columnist at LitReactor and Editor-in-Chief at Dark House Press. He has taught at LitReactor, the University of Iowa, StoryStudio Chicago, and in Transylvania. His agent is Paula Munier at Talcott Notch. For more information visit www.whatdoesnotkillme.com.


Show Me Your Shelves: David W. Barbee

David W. Barbee is one of those rare individuals I liked from the get-go. He’s amicable, talented, and has a great sense of humor. He’s also a great wrestler. In any case, I read a lot of bizarro, and very few author have the kind of innate understanding of the genre that David possesses. His books are always a blast and his readings have the kind of sexiness and nastiness balance that makes you gag and wink at once. Now that Mr. Barbee has a new book out, I asked him to show me his stuff. Dig it.

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

I’m David W. Barbee and I’m a weird author, which is to say that I’m a weird person who writes things but also that the things I write are really fucking strange. Books and stories have been a huge part of my life because they afforded me an escape from the real world, which is usually a shitty place for me to hang around in. Instead of religion, I worship stories: all those cool pop culture things that I grew up with and that sustained me, whether they’re books or movies or comics or video games. I always knew that I wanted to create my own stories that would reflect all the weird things that I hold so dear.

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You were in the first NBAS. You’re a bizarro OG. How come you’re still around when so many have failed? Are you comfortable with being a go-to guy when newbies like me have questions? Can we call your gramps?

My OG status is thanks to a steady diet of Don’t Give A Fuck Flakes. I eat a hefty bowl every morning with orange juice instead of milk. It’s strange that I’m one of the most successful NBAS authors, mainly because I feel like my book was one of the weakest. Carnageland was supposed to be the beginning of a perverted alien trilogy, and published alone the first part is too short and doesn’t have enough character development. Anyway, I remember Carlton Mellick III talking about the qualities each of us had back then. Some of us were good performers or promoters or even lived in Portland with the Eraserhead crew. My quality was my determination. I lacked experience but I wanted to be a bizarro author more than anything. I was willing to throw myself into it, even if I didn’t always know what I was doing. To this day I try to make up for it all with hard work. It’s the same approach I have when I’m writing. I’m not always the best but I show up and I work at it. Now I have people calling me gramps and asking for my advice, which I’m happy to give but I must warn you: like every old man in existence, my advice will be folksy, simplistic, and irrelevant. Now get off my lawn.

Using the books on your shelves, give me five bizarro titles everyone should read and five non-bizarro books every bizarro fan needs to check out.

Five Bizarro Titles: Quicksand House, Space Walrus, The Cannibal’s Guide to Ethical Living, Starfish Girl, and The Pickled Apocalypse of Pancake Island

Five Non-bizarro Books (and why!)

Smonk, because it’s one of the meanest and most brutal books on my shelf.

The Hangman’s Ritual, because it’s just as brutal but also beautiful and elegant.

-The Plucker, because it’s my favorite modern-day children’s fable.

-Bones of the Moon, because Neil Gaiman ripped it off in a Sandman storyline.

-Top 10, because it’s Alan Moore writing a superhero cop show and it’s stunning.

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Please finish the following sentences:

David W. Barbee is… a diddle-eyed Joe to a damned-if-I-know.

Zelda is… my future daughter, the first of what I hope to be many offspring, and probably the one who will bring balance to the Force.

If I had a beer with Cthulhu… we’d ride around town visiting my enemies and filling their souls with our puke.

The most amazing southern plate is… cornbread…. Mercy, I love me some cornbread.

I wish Kevin L. Donihe… a very Merry Christmas.

The best comic book ever… is Garth Ennis’ Preacher. That comic reached out and pinned me to my seat.

My wrestling name is… Barbeque Sauce Boondock

I’m inspired by… All the weird stuff, even the weird stuff that I’m not into, simply because of the people who love it. The fans of weird stuff are usually the most delightful people on earth, especially in the case of the Bizarro community.

Tell folks about your new book and at least one reason they should run and buy it right now.

My new book, THE NIGHT’S NEON FANGS, is a collection of four novellas that are very near and dear to my heart. My best stories are the ones that are personal and reflect who I am on the inside. They are full of monsters and maniacs, humor and horror, sex and drugs. A Town Called Suckhole was like that, and this book is even better because you get FOUR stories packed into one book. That kind of value refuses to be ignored, so just get it over with and buy a copy!


Show Me Your Shelves: Mark Rapacz

by Gabino Iglesias 

I met Mark Rapacz the same way I’ve met a bunch of cool people: he had a book out there I wanted to review. City Kaiju turned out to be a lot of fun and I was wondering what else Mark could be cooking. A few months later, the mailman brought me an answer to that, and it was something so cool it made me ask Mark to show me his shelves. Get ready for some books and some toilets.

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

Whoa. Who am I?

Nearly three years ago I moved to California and for anybody new to the state they give you this really weird gift basket. In it is a bottle of Napa wine, a hunk of cheese that isn’t as good as Wisconsin’s (hard for a Minnesotan to admit), and a therapist.

So, my therapist and I have been working on this question, “Who am I?” for over a year. Outside the context of self-affirmations, positive thinking, and quasi-spiritual advice that has me twisting my leg over my head and straining my groin (it cures anxiety!), I’m a writer, editor and designer.

Depending on my mood and time of the year, I spend more time working in one of these creative modes than others, and it’s impossible to do them all at the same time. When you try to do all three, you just end up spending more time with the Gift Basket Therapist, doing more stretches and breathing exercises, and obsessing about resource inequality issues in the Bay Area, which Gene never thinks is on point because it’s not specifically about my issues.

What I’m saying is that books are sort of like yoga, only easier on your ass muscles.

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Tell me who your favorite kaiju is, and then what book you would give him or her as a birthday gift.

My favorite kaiju is Gamera because he’s a giant tortoise and can fly by pulling his arms, legs, head, and tail into his shell and shooting jets of flames out his arm/leg holes, which makes him dart around like a flying saucer. He can also fly like a rocket—depending, you know, on the circumstance.

I like the symbolism behind Gamera and turtles and tortoises in general—that of a protector of some kind. Sometimes they protect nature, sometimes humanity, sometimes they’re guardians by virtue of being creators of the universe. It depends on what folklore you’re looking at. Gamera actually has connections with the Black Tortoise, or guardian spirit of the north—of the winter season— which could also mean the protector of death.

Being from the cold wastelands of Minneapolis, I like that connection because it allows me to daily judge these weenies in California who think 65 degrees is cold. There’s also something about being from a place where death is a totally reasonable outcome if you get locked out of your apartment at the wrong time of year. This teaches you humility (in a mind-blowing awesome way).

I like the pace of turtles and their connection with peace and longevity—their depiction as beings who were here long before us and will be long after. It puts the human life span, and by extension our obsession with ourselves, in perspective.

I mean, I think writers are clinically self-deprecating, so turtles probably aren’t the healthiest choice of spirit animal—maybe, like, a penguin in a Hawaiian shirt might be better—but … I don’t know what I’m trying to say. The Kardashians should maybe get a pet box turtle and give it some dumb Hollywood name. It might make them come off as more human that way.

I’ve also always had an obsession with turtles and tortoises. I’ve been known to write about them (here and here). I have a huge ceramic turtle collection and have planned a number of vacations to the Galapagos that my wife and I cannot afford. Costa Rica has some service vacations where you can help sea turtle hatchlings into the ocean. Always wanted to do that, but have been reluctant because it might affect my reputation in the writing world as the consummate badassthatIam. Like, I can do over ten pull-ups, I own a BB gun,and I have read a number of David James Keaton’s Facebook posts about violent movies.

If Gamera flying-saucered to my apartment right now, I’d tell him to read the first and most amazing book of American kaiju fiction: Moby Dick.

Then I’d show him my small stack of City Kaijus (the kaiju book I wrote) and guilt him into finally writing that Amazon review he promised. Or, I’d ask him to just plasma blast every copy because that would probably be a better promotional tactic than the review.

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Your shelves look like mine, which is to say packed and groaning under the weight of too many books. Is there a method to your madness? What makes you buy a book? The cover of City Kaiju is awesome. Do you think covers sell books?

I usually just see what mastermind and pulp aficionado Craig T. McNeely is reading and buy whatever he tells me to. Or, I read your [Gabino Iglesias’] reviews. I’ve bought plenty that way. I follow Anthony Neil Smith and whenever he says he has a book coming out, I buy it. I do the same thing with Mike Miner’s books. Basically All Due Respect anything right now is a sure bet. Sometimes David Oppegaard goes insane at two in the morning and sends me a draft of one of his works-in-progess to proof. I really like that. Always love seeing a book before it officially comes out.

Covers by Matthew Revert, Dyer Wilk, and Eric Beetner sell books.

How would you describe Blastgun Books in 27 words?

Blastgun Books is releasing TA Wardrope’s book of sci fi kaplow, Arcadian Gates, on March 17. Pre-order now.

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What’s your latest book about (tell us about its history too!) and why should folks go get it immediately?

My latest book is called Les Toilettes d’ Alcatraz. It is an ultra-serious look at the depravity of federal incarceration through the lens of Instagram filters. It has writings about life and love, including poetry, essays, captions, and diatribes that will, more or less, save your soul the moment you crack its spine.

Actually, if you don’t buy this book of amazing photographs and musings, you will be complicit in your Eternal Existence on the Wheel of Want and Suffering, and you will never break free to become a Hermitbird of the Cosmos, flying into the heavens on a Rainbow Trail of Maniacal Bliss.

So, a billion years down the road when it’s just you and Gamera on some hunk of lava stone in a sea of fire somewhere out in the worst parts of the Multiverse and Gamera is about to plasma blast your soul nuts off for the duration of another ice age, you’ll only have yourself to blame.

Don’t have your soul nuts blasted off by a turtle god. Buy this book now.

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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


Show Me Your Shelves: Brian Alan Ellis

Say what you like about Facebook, but it’s a great place to meet awesome people. One day a book popped up on my feed. The title caught my eye: The Mustache He’s Always Wanted but Could Never Grow. It was written by a guy named Brian Alan Ellis. I reached out. He sent me a digital copy. I read it. It was funny and sad and a bit noir and somewhat bizarro and a hell of a lot of fun. Most importantly, it made me go “Who the fuck is this guy?” Anyway, I reviewed that book for Electric Literature and then stayed in touch with Brian. We haven’t shared a drink/night in jail combo yet, but we became friends because wrestling and books and humor and gnomes (especially Gnome Chomsky). Then he asked me to blurb his next book, and I did. Better yet, I asked him to show me his stuff. He did. Then he also showed me his books. And his bathtub. Anyway, here’s what he had to say and major props to the wonderful Christia Nunnery for the photos.

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

My name is Brian Alan Ellis, not to be confused with Bret Easton Ellis, Brian Allen Carr, or Karen Allen ofRaiders of the Lost Ark-fame. Books are kind of my thing. I buy them, borrow them, give them away, smell them, chew on them, bathe with them, write them, publish them, etc. etc. I’ll even read them, from time to time.
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There’s a place where wrestling and literature meet. Tell us about that awesome place.

They meet on the corner of Know Your Role Boulevard and Jabroni Drive.

You seem to favor short stories over long novels. Do you hate Russians?

Actually, in my twenties, I read the shit out of Russians. I read all those motherfuckers: Gogol, Dostoevsky,Yuri Olesha, Mikhail Bulgakov, etc. etc. Chekov is my dawg, though. He’s def. one of my main short-story influences, so blame him. As far as novels go, I definitely own more short-story collections. The novels I’ve enjoyed are definitely few and far between. Nothing matches the power or beauty of a killer short story. I’ve gotten more out of reading a 500-word Lydia Davis story about socks than I have from many of those so-called “Great American Novels,” which are generally stuffy and longwinded.

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So what’s the longest novel you own?

The longest novel I’ve ever read was probably Something Happened by Joseph Heller (or maybe a couple of Céline books, I don’t know). Big fan of it. Would you believe that this is the only Heller novel I’ve ever read? I’ve never even finished Catch-22. It wasn’t dark or funny enough. Something Happened is the funniest, darkest book I’ve ever read. It kills all that spooky Stephen King-Halloween-monster shit. See also: The Demon by Hubert Selby Jr.  Also, also: The fattest book I own is probably The Essential Ellisonby Harlan Ellison; the tallest, Henry Rollins’s Get in the Van; the thinnest, Bring Me Your Love by Charles Bukowski (illustrated by Robert Crumb).

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What’s the title of your newest book and why should folks stop reading and go buy it right now?

Something Good, Something Bad, Something Dirty is my latest story collection. It’s so wild I had to give it three titles. Also, it comes recommended by you, Gabino. And everyone knows that your word is law, boss.

[Note: No books were seriously harmed in the making of this article.]

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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