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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


Show Me Your Shelves: Jeff Burk

Jeff Burk was one of the first people I met outside of Facebook that quickly joined my “if you don’t like this person, you’re an asshole” list. I’ve talked books, beer, and horror with Jeff and it’s always been great. I’ve also talked about piracy, politics, the ins and outs of publishing, and even black pus and being tortured by bed bugs, and Jeff has always been cool, honest, and charismatic. Oh, and then there’s the fact that he’s one of the first bizarro authors I read and a man whose work I still dig immensely. So yeah, if you dislike Jeff, there’s something wrong with you. Here’s what he had to say about books, his shelves, his mast…er, his cat, and some upcoming books(!).

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

JB: I am Jeff Burk. I am the author of SHATNERQUAKE, SUPER GIANT MONSTER TIME, CRIPPLE WOLF, and SHATNERQUEST. I’ve also done a shit tone of short stories, interviews and essays. In addition, I am the head editor of Deadite Press and I do editorial work for Eraserhead Press.

I am a full-time writer and editor – so it is no exaggeration to say that books are my entire life and my life depends on them. Not only are they a personal passion, they are how I pay all my bills and feed my cat.

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GI: You know a lot of authors, so picking favorites will be hard, but I’m gonna ask you anyway: apocalypse is here and you can only take Squishy and five books. Which five make the cut?

This is super hard but I think I can do it.

1: THE INVISIBLES OMMIBUS by Grant Morrison and various artists – My favorite long-form comic book. It’s a super-psychedelic, anarchist adventure comic and I have a super nice hard-cover edition that contains every issue ever published. It’s basically the comic book world’s version of Jodorowsky’s THE HOLY MOUNTAIN.

2: ZOMBIES: ENCOUNTERS WITH THE HUNGRY DEAD edited by John Skipp – my all-time favorite horror anthology. It used to be, THE BOOK OF THE DEAD (also edited by John Skipp), but his more recent zombie collection blew the original away (in my opinion). From classic atmospheric tales to hardcore horror, this has it all, plus shit tons of zombies.

3: THE WAY OF THE TAROT by Alejandro Jodorowsky – I find Tarot cards fascinating and my favorite book on the subject was written by the brilliant Alejandro Jodorowsky (of EL TOPO and THE HOLY MOUNTAIN). Not only is it the best, most insightful, work ever done on the cards, it’s also a wonderful spiritual guide to life.

4: ALL I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FILMMAKING I LEARNED FROM THE TOXIC AVENGER by Lloyd Kaufman and James Gunn – Part history of Troma Studios (the oldest independent film studio in the world), part how-to-guide for DIY filmmaking, and part feel good guide to living an artistic life. I love this book. Nothing else gets me hyped up to go out and make art of my own. Plus, my copy is signed to me from Kaufman himself.

5: HOWARD THE DUCK OMMIBUS by Steve Gerber and various artists – there’s no harder book to recommend to people than the original comic of Howard the Duck. Sadly, George Lucas’ film has completely destroyed the reputation of one of the most brilliant, funny, and insightful comics ever written. This features the most brutally honest depiction of depression that I’ve ever come across (seriously) and is my go to read for when I feel down and just need the idea that someone else understands.

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GI: Where can I get some decent tacos in Portland? How does it feel to be a human paintbrush?

JB: For good tacos, just hit up any taco cart – of which there are dozens of them spread out all over the city. They are cheap and delicious. Or you could just come over to my house while Garrett Cook and I are having a cook out – we make some pretty kick-ass food and tacos are easy for the menu.

Being a human paintbrush is pretty awesome. You can make great artwork without having to do any work. (In case you are not aware, the brilliant Alan M. Clark, who has done covers for Eraserhead and Deadite Press, has done painting demonstrations using my dreadlocks as the brushes. He’s even painted a portrait of me using only the hair attached to my head).

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GI: You obviously love horror, but your own work is more bizarro/fun/weird/funny than blood/black pus/tentacles. Why is that?

JB: While horror is my true love and I can never get enough sadistic violence and gore – my natural writing inclinations do not go that way. What comes easiest to me (and what readers seems to like) is silly sci-fi stories with lots of action.

However, I have finally started work on my first straight-forward horror novel. And it will be fucking nasty (in all the best ways).

GI: What’s your latest book about and why should we run and get it?

My latest book came out over a year ago – SHATNERQUEST. Rather than pimp that, I rather talk about the three books I have in the works. Who knows, you might be seeing them soon.

HOMOBOMB – a tragic love story about a bomb that is attracted to other bombs when it is supposed to be attracted to people and buildings.

LORD OF THE LARPERS – a rewrite of LORD OF THE FLIES but with live-action role-players in the roles of the characters. The villains will be Civil War re-enactors led by “Robert E. Lee.”

A SNUFF FILM IN A HAUNTED HOUSE – my first straight-up horror novel. It’s about…well, the title kinda tells you.

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


Show Me Your Shelves: Jessica McHugh

I can’t remember when I “met” Jessica McHugh online, but her good attitude, constant hustle, and sense of humor made her one of those folks I like keeping in touch with despite the fact that we’ve never shared a beer. In a nutshell, Jessica’s one of those cool writers who make the indie scene a pleasure. She takes care of her own work constantly, but still finds time to share the love with her “inky cohorts.” In any case, all that taking care of business has lead to a few books in different genres, and one of them is perfect for the crowd that usually drops by Bizarro Central. Check out what she had to say.

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

JM: I’m a chick who will never stop playing make-believe. As hard as it can be generating unique plots, as poor as I am, as stressful as deadlines are, as slumped and swamp-assy as I get sitting in a computer chair for ten hours, I’m eternally, unapologetically, head-over-heels in love with writing. It’s the most fun work ever, and you better believe my swampass is going to explore as many parts of the playground as possible.

You can probably gather that books are essential to my overall well-being and happiness. Whether I’m playing make-believe in my own worlds or giving myself over to someone else’s creations, I need books for entertainment and education—in and outside of my career. That being said, I tend to read slowly these days due to overall exhaustion and lack of time. I think a lot of writers get shamed for not reading enough—and that “enough,” of course, is based on another person’s reading speed and timetable. But I submit that you just have to read as much as you can. It’s great if “as much as you can” means you read five novels a month. It’s great if it means you read one novel a month. It’s great if you take a few months to read a short story anthology filled with a variety of tales and writers. As long as you’re making an effort, the books will forgive you. Books are cool like that.

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GI: You write everything. Do you change magic hats to painlessly switch genres? Do you sacrifice mythological beings in order to write funny stuff, eat a sandwich, and then write about bad things?

JM: I’m afraid I’m somewhat ignorant when it comes to this answer. I don’t know how it happens. I don’t who or what flips the switch. I just know it happens when I need it to, and as long as I keep paying the Goblin Lord in enchanted chocolate doubloons, everything will be just fine.

Or maybe it’s because I trained myself to switch projects/genres/POVs, just like I trained myself to write in various locations and noise levels. When I decide it’s time to put away the young adult novel for a while and write some seriously fucked up horror, my brain usually obeys because I’ve conditioned it to do so. But there are exceptions. Occasionally, I’ll hit mental blocks when I’m switching genres, so I find it helps to change my physical location. I’ll move from my Writing Hut to the living room or to a restaurant—any place that changes the scenery, clears my head, and prepares me to embark on this new journey.

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GI: You seem to have the social media platform thing down. Any tips for newbies? Words of advice for folks who invite me to their release party in Manila on a Tuesday night? How much time do you usually invest on your online presence? Are the days of the secretive Pynchon-esque figure officially over?

JM: I hear pretty frequently that I’m adept at social media, but honestly, I’m just being my normal annoying self. Readers have always wanted to be friendly with their favorite authors, to know what makes them tick instead of merely assuming from their fiction, and social media provides us with that opportunity. I’m just taking advantage of that desire and my natural ability to be a loudmouth. Personally, I think writers need to let down their walls—or bust them to rubble, actually—to infuse their characters with honest thoughts and emotions. Doing that ensured that I no longer have a filter when I write (though I screw the filter back in place when it comes to editing), so I often don’t filter myself online or in person, either. It can get me into trouble, no doubt, but I think I come off okay most of the time. There are definitely people who hate pretty much everything about me, especially my fondness for using the word “cunt,” but I’m learning to ignore those hateful comments. When it comes down to it, I’ve never been that secretive about my personal life, and I’ll admit my proclivity to being a bit of an attention whore, so I’m naturally comfortable being an open book to my readers.

So…tips? Be yourself. That’s what people want, and being yourself is healthy for you, too! If you’re shy or scared to be so unguarded online, tell your followers that. We all have different personalities, different truths and stories to convey, which is what makes this such a magical time to create and share your art with the world. Being honest about your fears and doubts, celebrating your accomplishments, owning up to your mistakes, or encouraging your fellow artists might be outside of your comfort zone, but I swear to you, those anxieties are nothing compared to the joy you feel when people tell you something you wrote or posted had a positive effect on their lives.

Obviously, there are lines you shouldn’t cross on social media, and there are things you can do to make sure your posts/links get seen, but a lot of that is trial and error. It just takes time and effort, like everything else in the writing world.

Oh, and I can’t deny that a part of me would love to disappear with a typewriter and a case of wine and spend my days writing novel after novel in solitude. But I think I’d survive about six months before I cracked. I’d definitely need someone to step in and tell me it’s time to shower and rejoin society.

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GI: If the house is burning down and you have to run out only with the books you can carry, which books make it?

JM: If I’m being logical, I guess I’d have to grab the least replaceable books. So I’d gather all my work-in-progress stuff, then I’d scoop up my autographed Peter S. Beagle books because they’re all in one place. But if there’s a damn fire, I doubt I’d be thinking very logically, so I’d probably only get away with “Zombie Butts from Uranus.” It’s a classic in its own right, I suppose.

GI: What’s The Green Kangaroos about and why should weird lit lovers get to the clicking and buy a copy as soon as they’re done reading this?

JM: “The Green Kangaroos” is a filthy fun adventure through the world an unremorseful drug addict named Perry Samson. Perry would like nothing more than for his concerned family to ditch their concern so he can continue shooting atlys into his balls, but they can’t let him do that when there are rehab avenues not yet explored. One such avenue is the Sunny Daye Institute, which begins Perry and his family down a perilous, and possibly deceptive, road to recovery that takes them from 2099 Baltimore to Antarctica and into the fantastically horrid nature of addiction itself.

This novel from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing was the most fun writing experience of my life so far. I don’t know if it was playing a first person male character, that Perry himself was so delightful disgusting, or because of the dazzling genre goulash this book became, but crafting “The Green Kangaroos” felt like a joyride in stolen car—if said car was rusted and smelled like rotten hotdog water. It was revolting, but it was freeing. This book also served as a way for me to forgive the trespasses made by an addict in my own life, so even though it’s not a direct representation of those events, it will always be close to my heart because of my past. I didn’t expect it, but “The Green Kangaroos” quickly became my favorite world in the McHughniverse.

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


Show Me Your Shelves: William Pauley III

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.

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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.

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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?

Pass.

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.

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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.

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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: 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