Shane Cartledge is one of the really cool emerging voices in bizarro fiction. His first book, House Hunter, was published in 2012 as part of the New Bizarro Author Series. Since BizarroCon is nonstop fun and mayhem, I didn’t get to sit down with my Bionic Brother in Portland, but have been in touch ever since, and he’s a great guy: talented, mellow, humble, and he loves Junji Ito. Now Shane’s second novel is here, so it’s a perfect time for him to show us his stuff and talk books. Dig.
Who are you and what role do books play in your life?
I’m Shane. I read books. I write books. I live them in my head. Books are the key to my imagination. Smashing words together in a way that makes different people picture different things in their heads, I think that’s a very powerful thing. It seems mostly harmless, but it can be terrifying, the things books can make you think. It can also be beautiful. At times it can be blissful, surreal, chaotic, or cathartic. With each book, there is a different experience to be had, and within books, a complex network of thoughts and emotions. It overwhelms me. I read to experience those feelings. I write hoping that other people can feel it too while reading my own work. What more is there to books?
You were part of the greatest NBAS class ever. What did you learn? Do you think it changed your career in a significant way?
I have five other authors to thank for my NBAS class being so great. The books were magical. I went to places I’ve never been and never could imagine from the comfort of my own home. I made so many friends and I learned that this first book was only the beginning of something. I learned what hard work really is, and that I’ll never achieve much without it. I learned that respect and admiration is earned. You don’t wake up published and dive Scrooge McDuck style into a pool of royalty money. Every book sold is a blessing. Every book read. Every review. Every time someone tells someone else about this book they read that was yours. I learned that everyone won’t love my book (and some might really dislike it) and that’s okay, and the solution to it is to wake up the next day and keep writing. Write something better. Write what you love to write. Write what you’re afraid to write because you think it’s beyond your limits. Don’t be afraid to go insane. Of course the NBAS changed my career in a significant way. I became part of a collective. I found out how little I knew about the publishing industry, how little writing experience I had, how much hard work I had ahead of me if I really wanted to stick around. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Is living in Australia an impediment to your career in the US? Are there any pains that come from it besides the price of sending books this way?
Pretty much all the book-related shipping I do is international shipping. I’ve had books sent to me that have wound up missing, and some of those books were one-of-a-kind limited edition type deals. It hurts both me and the guy on the other end. Every time I ship books out I’m worried they won’t arrive. I’ve come to peace with the cost of international shipping, and I’m constantly thinking of ways to work around that to give people the best deals I can without running at a loss. But I’m always concerned about whether or not my books will arrive. It sucks being so far from all the writers I cherish. It sucks that I can’t afford to fly out to Portland for BizarroCon each year. Talking with other writers is something I’m getting used to, trying to work around American time zones in order to have a decent conversation. I guess the other thing would be that I don’t really have much of a local writing collective. It might just be that I’m shy and don’t get out all that much, there isn’t much in terms of readings/events/conventions in my part of the world (and specifically my part of the country). I’m constantly telling myself that I need to talk more with local poets and writers and try to latch on to everything that comes along and try to boost it up a bit, to try building up a local network.
You read books and comics, so let’s split it: give me the best five books you’ve read this year and the top five comics.
One – Long Lost Dog of It, by Michael Kazepis. His prose is so smooth, the details are so sharp and clear, the story is raw and aggressive.
Two – Crystal Eaters, by Shane Jones. I just finished it, and there’s this mythic quality about it, the child-like simplicity of the concept and the way that you see it from the beginning charging head-first towards heartbreak.
Three – The Creek, by Justin Grimbol. There is a lot of humour and a lot of heart in Justin’s writing, and I think it is beautifully displayed here in his poetry collection.
Four – The Last Horror Novel in the History of the World, by Brian Allen Carr. Carr’s writing, like Jones, has that mythic quality about it, but it exists on a darker spectrum. It’s an all-consuming monster, and it is beautiful.
Five – Black Cloud, by Juliet Escoria. This is the world unfiltered and brimming with conflicting emotions. Short stories with characters saying and doing things you wish they wouldn’t, feeling things you know are true feelings. It feels real.
Comics, while I read American comics on occasion, I read a ton of manga. Here’s my five picks:
One – Knights of Sidonia, by Tsutomu Nihei. If there’s one name I can hammer into the skulls of people reading this, it’s Tsutomu Nihei. His works are beautifully, apocalyptically sublime. He is a science fiction visionary and artist.
Two – Claymore, by Norihiro Yagi. This one’s been going on for a while, and I’m currently up to date at volume 24 in the series. The story has a Dragonball Z style build up of powerful heroes fighting powerful monsters with each volume building up to something larger and more inconceivable than the last. I read it for the monsters which never cease to amaze me.
Three – Attack on Titan, by Hajime Isayama. Giant naked humanoid creatures eating humans towards extinction? Brilliant!
Four – Gyo, by Junji Ito. I’ve had this manga on my watch list for a long time but volume 1 was always unavailable. It’s a 2 volume horror manga from the author of the infamous Uzumaki. Same tone, except instead of being haunted by spirals, it’s a fish apocalypse. Gruesome. Wicked.
Five – Mardock Scramble, by Tow Ubukata and Yoshitoki Oima. Cyberpunk assassin revenge story. Seven volumes. Lots of action. And there are shape shifting hamsters and talking dolphins in there somewhere too.
What’s your new book about and why should we spend our coffee money on it?
My new book is about milk (get Day of the Milkman HERE!). How a world is drowned in it, people rely upon it to continue their day-to-day lives, and then a milkman wakes up to find that he’s the last of his people, left floating in a curdling ocean. It’s about the will to survive. It’s about the search for meaning and understanding. It’s about coping with loss and trying to comprehend the world around you. But really, it’s just about milk.
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
August 19, 2014 | Categories: Authors, Bizarro Fiction, BizarroAuthor, Eraserhead Press, Interviews | Tags: Books, Day of the MIlkman, Gabino Iglesias, NBAS, shane cartledge, Show Me Your Shelves | 3 Comments
by J.W. Wargo
BWEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOOOOPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!!!!! Toss in another quarter, don’t let the bastard die! Who the fuck thought to bury all those Atari cartridges in New “No Lives Here So Let’s Test Another Nuke” Mexico? Don’t they know what happens when anything is introduced to radioactivity?? Haven’t they seen GODZILLA???
No and no. No they don’t and no they didn’t. Plastic shit mixes underground with isotopes, and before too long there’s a giant video game cartridge attacking Denver. It wants to play, but it plays hard and to the death. Who among the masses of Coloradans can challenge this 6507 processing monstrosity!?
As a boy, he dominated these games. But that was then and this is now. A critical loss at a big tournament has left him a shell of his former self, sweating for shit pay in a cheesy costume and fantasizing about whispering Russian women or Korean massage specialists. Today, he might be the last hope for humanity.
All Jimmy Toledo really wants, I think, is to meet a nice girl he can talk with and occasionally maybe make body contact with. He never had the chance in his younger years, he was too busy winning arcade tournaments in the early 80’s under the guidance of a domineering father.
Hiding himself behind a mask at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant, Jimmy had effectively given up on any sort (more…)
by J.W. Wargo
SSSSSSPPPPLLLLLUUUUUUUUUURRRRRTTTTTTTT!!!!!!! Fucking stab my dick with a stiletto heel! Vixens have gone mucho loco terrorizing the world with their outrageously sadistic games. No one is spared. Middle class suburbia is turned to rubble, families torn apart both figuratively and literally.
Oh, but they fucked up royally not finishing off this dude. His kid was murdered and his wife was kidnapped, taken to be a new plaything. They thought they left him a pulpy mush, but one of their own resurrected him with the green goo of life.
It’s vengeance time, and this beefed up husband/father is ready to take out these bitches one at a time if necessary. From the diviest bar to the swankiest mansion, he’s got one agenda: Fucking pussycats, kill kill!
The Clay family has had what I estimate to be a metric ton of feces of poor luck befall them. I cannot blame them for falling victim to the heinous acts committed in the name of vixenhood. Tom and Marianna and little Peter were happy and oblivious to the evils of pure sexual violence existing outside their home.
Tom is a born again Angel of Death. He was a good man, but anything that existed of that man was ripped apart and thrown away. Now the ghost of his dead son and the memories of a beautiful lover are all he has left. I read with great anticipation as he went after the wretched tarts, dispatching them with the same total lack of mercy they had shown him.
Leading the sordid group of vixens is the nastiest thing in a nurse’s uniform to ever be giving out the shots. Linda seems hellbent on destroying the world and recreating it into one giant afterparty I wish I were invited to but I’m not. She rules the house with an iron dildo, commanding every kind of vixen from coeds to cowgirls to the bionic terror of a woman who must kill.
I was glad to find that not all the vixens are malicious, malcontenting minxes. Mindy, a barely legal vixen, seems to me to be a misguided young woman who got mixed up in with the wrong crowd. Throughout the story she is a guiding force behind Tom, helping him keep his strength and limbs as he hunts down Linda to rescue his wife.
The simple explanation of “mondo” is a that it is an exploitative film centered around acts of sex and violence. Translating that idea onto paper using only words is no easy feat, but Mr. Grefe has represented that template admirably and with touches of flair more impressive than the films it emulates.
The prose skirts and dances like a possessed mime choking on its very silence. It is a frenetic pace set at once on the first page and never letting up. There is barely time for brief bits of exposition, and who needs it in Mondo book? On to the next scene of blood and gore!
This the book’s strongest aspect, that it sets out to be exactly what it is. A no holds barrel off a waterfall into a lake of crocodiles with grenades for teeth. Tom is beyond death, he is the shadow of his revenge. We are an audience of popcorn and 3D glasses, ooo-ing and ah-ing are way to his climax, one littered with dead vixens and a certainly uncertain future.
Like my review? Read the book!
The Mondo Vixen Massacre at Amazon.com
J.W. Wargo is a writer and author of his own NBAS book, Avoiding Mortimer, now a major motion picture starring Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, and a prenatal Ron Howard as “Lil’ Karmatt”. You can also read about the crazy shit he gets into while hitchhiking the world over at Imperial Youth Review.
by Tiffany Scandal
I cradled our baby in my arms. I hummed sweet hymns as she slept against my breast. You walked by the doorway and smiled at me in that way that makes me blush.
We talked about horror movies. How funny they are and how nothing is really scary anymore. We smiled at each other. Our eyes communicated how happy we are. I kissed our baby’s forehead and set her down on the bed. We walked toward each other and just as I could start to feel your breath on my face, you changed. Your skin covered in grey and boils. Your purple lips snarled up and exposed yellow stained shark teeth. You aggressively latched onto me in an embrace and together we flew up toward a ceiling that we could never quite reach. Your nails dug deep into me. I screamed. My back contorted and bones snapped into unnatural positions. Elbows touched behind my back, my head rolled back and I could see our baby crying on the bed beneath us. She looked scared. Terrified. I looked to you and your head started spinning as you screamed. I forced my arms to slowly reach for your face. Your decomposing cheeks in my hands, I looked directly into your eyes as we hovered in the air. I smiled.
“I want all of the chocolate-covered gummy bears. All of them.”
Tiffany Scandal is writer, suicide girl, photographer, and crazy cat lady living in Portland, Oregon. Her fiction has been published in The Magazine of Bizarro Fiction, and her first book THERE’S NO HAPPY ENDING is part of the 2013 New Bizarro Authors Series.
By Daniel Vlasaty
My Life As a Writer – Marathon Writing and Saving Your Work
I wrote a book! And that is awesome. It’s called The Church of TV as God and it’s probably the most awesome thing I’ve ever done, aside from maybe marrying my wife … or deciding to grow a beard.
I love books and art and the idea of living an artist’s lifestyle, although I’m not actually sure I’m living such a lifestyle, at least not exclusively. I still have a soul-crushing day job, which makes me sad and angry. The only thing the day job is good for (besides a pay check) is making me realize how much I hate it, which makes me want to write more and write better.
I love hearing about other writer’s routines – how they get in the mood for a story, how many words a day they force out of their brains, where they write, when they write, if they write better facing the east or the west. All of it. There’s not as much routine or ritual to my writing. I just write when I write. I try to do it every day, of course, but some days maybe I’ll only get like 100 words down, while others I’ll get 5,000. None of them are technically failures, some are just more productive than others.
The writing of my book kind of came out of nowhere. Before I started working on it, I had only written short stories, and most of them I would label as flash fiction. So the idea of writing a book, even a short one like mine, a novella, whatever – it just seemed crazy and unattainable. But I wanted to challenge myself. I never thought I would actually do anything with it. I assumed it would be more of an exercise than anything else.
I wrote it in a marathon session, I’d heard of some authors (Carlton Mellick III, Cameron Peirce, Kevin Shamel, to name a few) writing books like this. So I wanted to try it. I gave myself a goal: 20,000 words in ten days. Not too crazy. 2,000 words a day was totally doable. I had no other plans than that. I just sat down on day one and wrote, and fucking wrote, and wrote.
I have an “office job” and the work I do is not very time-consuming, so I wrote there, all day, on the clock. Work is actually where I do all my writing. I get paid to write … kind of. I just close my office door, blast some fucking hardcore music, and write. I finished the first draft, just over 20,000 words, in three days. I wrote a book in three days! It was awesome, and exhilarating, and then I fucked it all up.
That very day, the same day I finished the first draft of The Church of TV as God, I lost my fucking jump drive. I hadn’t saved it anywhere else. I lost my book. It was GONE.
I was devastated. I didn’t write another word for months. I told myself I’d never write again. I told myself that I was the biggest asshole to ever live. Seriously, who does that? Who loses their very own book? I felt like such a douche.
This was right around the time last year’s New Bizarro Author Series books were being announced. And I swore to myself that I’d re-write my fucking book, and submit it for this year, that I wouldn’t screw this up. I rewrote in just under a week. Spent the next few weeks going through it again and again and again, like crazy. And here we are today, pretty much exactly one year later.
Seriously, back your shit up. Don’t be stupid, it takes like five seconds! I’ve gotten crazy about it. I save my work on my jump drive, I email it to myself, I save a copy on my work computer and also on my laptop, and I even print hard copies. It’s probably a bit much, overkill, but I never want to experience such a thing again. It was the worst.
Also, when I first lost my jump drive, my book, I did what anyone else would do: I posted about it on Facebook. And Bradley Sands yelled at me. And I never want to experience that again either.
Daniel Vlasaty lives in Chicago. He works at a methadone clinic and rides a bicycle, for both transportation and leisure. Not too long ago he was hit by a conversion van. The Church of TV as God is his first book.
By Andy de Fonseca
I realize how dull water will seem to everyone. How bland, how unimpressive, how… not special it is. And that’s where my article begins.
Does every kid go through an “I’m going to be an artist!” phase? I did. I would paint, color, draw, pastel away, thinking I was in the know, thinking I had something others didn’t have, thinking I was special. I was an artist. Not only that, a mother fucking prodigy.
Then I started elementary school and saw that everyone was an artist. Every single one of those god damned kids knew how to paint, and some were better than me. Some knew how to make people look more like actual humans, and not thick stick men. Their suns looked proportionate to the sky their drawings played under. And fuck if ALL they knew how to blend their fucking colors!
Now is a good time to mention that at a young age, death was very real to me, and so the You-Have-Little-Time-Left clock started a good forty years early. The desire to leave my imprint on this speck of dust floating on a sunbeam became my core motivation. Art was a beautiful thing in itself, but I wanted to change the world with it.
So, elementary school was my realization of how boring I was. How bland, how unimpressive, how not special I was. I was just like everyone else, and if books and movies told me anything, “everyone else” didn’t change the world.
I became extremely competitive in all of my endeavors. Not with others, but with myself. I was a damn good runner in elementary track, I won ribbons. But why didn’t I run faster? Why didn’t I pass that broad up there? You’re shit at this, Andy, FIND SOMETHING NEW.
This mental flogging went on for quite a while, from one undertaking to another. Shit was getting hopeless as the years went by, and a desk job as an assistant for the rest of my life seemed imminent.
I can’t tell you the turning point for me, of when I found what I truly loved to do, because it was something I had always been doing. Something I went to every night when the day needed to be forgotten. I went to it in my free time while trying to figure out how to leave my signature on earth, between the old failed ventures and new.
Long ago, I saw the movie Toy Story in theaters, and even as a kid, I realized there was something special about it. They didn’t dumb the movie down for me. It knew my pains. My weaknesses. It knew how to make me laugh from within. It filled me with nostalgia when I barely had a life to remember. This movie was written by people who had really felt life, and remembered every bit, every age of it, and pushed for something more.
And that was it.
Writing. Writing calmed me, moved me, flowed from me. It was as natural as breathing to me. I didn’t do it to leave my name on earth, I did it because I knew nothing else. I did it when I had nothing else. Letting my fingers fly across the keyboard or scribble a note for later was cathartic. I could mold a being into someone you love, who will betray and destroy your faith. Carve a knight who could slay your dragon, only for you to find out later it was the dragon you wanted to win. This I knew, and this I always came back to.
There are stories to tell, specific emotions to pluck, worlds to discover, villains to love, heroes to hate.
I’m not special. I never will be. But there are millions of people in my head who are. People who fly over oceans to be someone new, ruined teenagers who discover a grand truth, old women on the verge of dying who burst forth with the light of a burning sun and swallow the universe whole. Yes… these people are special.
They’ll turn their water into wine.
Andy de Fonseca is a geek. She has always been this way, despite numerous attempts throughout childhood to curb her love of anime, video games, dragons, and the unholy songs of science. She also likes Cheez-Its.
Her book The Cheat Code for God Mode, published by Eraserhead Press, can be found on Amazon.com. If you order it before the end of the year, she’ll send you an 8-bit bead design of your favorite video game character. Because, hey, you deserve it
by J.W. Wargo
(NOTE: After reading the title of this post, you might be asking yourself, “HEY! Where’s the 25 NBAS book reviews that came before this one??” If you are interested in reading my reviews of all the previous books in this series (including a review of my own book by guest reviewer Garrett Cook), you can find them on my website HERE.)
000110110111010011011!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The code is all around us!! For Margy and Victor, video game addicted best friends, life is a daily dose of Up-Up-Down-Down-Left-Right-Left-Right-B-A-Starts. But shit gets wicked cool when they come across an extremely rare, retro gaming system at a thrift store with a sandbox-style game inside neither of them have played before. They take it home, plug it in, and start playing.
Oh fuck, then shit turns totally heinous when they realize everything they do in the game world is happening in the real world! They try to contain the mayhem, but when Victor’s parents accidentally get a hold of it they raise the fuckness by a factor of 10 (Luckily margy’s parents are in comas at the hospital so they can’t raise fuckness anywhere), and the noise they make in Sprinklesburgh, IL is loud enough to perk up the ears of the higher ups.
Margy finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy involving an Original Player and its original controller. From the city to the Infranet, to the dreaded desert wastelands of the Internet, she hunts for the equation that can save her world, her parents, and her Victor… Oh yeah, and her Victor’s chicken familiar, Mort, whatever the fuck that ugly thing is.
I was delighted to discover a major theme of this book the characters were forced to deal with was that of identity. Not satisfied with merely skirting the edges of this difficult idea, Cheat Code follows in the footsteps of films likes The Matrix and books like Archelon Ranch in forcing the protagonist to question who they are and why they are.
Margy at first felt to me like a hapless heroine. She is haunted by recurring blackouts and the pain of dealing with not one but both her parents locked up in a asylum. Deep down, though, she feels that something is askew. A good portion of the book develops her intuition as she slowly comes to realize the truth to her.
Victor is her irritable boweled, best friend and, though he doesn’t arc as roundly as Margy, as I see it he is the deuteragonist of the story and nearly as important. His familiar Mort, a digitally constructed chicken, acts as a sort non-speaking counterpart to easily identify Victor’s thoughts/feelings in a particular moment.
I concluded that supporting roles include, Tyson, a seeker of the equation and the first gamer to use the Original Player capable of godlike creating/destructing in their world. He was caught and banished to the Internet wastelands by a group known only as The Panel. The Panel’s made up of various people invested in keeping the status quo, some being well known characters from actual video games. I would’ve liked to see more about this group, but as it stands in this short novel their presence is minimal.
Seeking the answer. It is what we all want. A simple, short, and clear expression of who/what/when/where/why that includes everything. Even life seems to be pondering, using evolution and mutation in its own code, DNA, to discover the secret of itself.
For the denizens of Sprinklesburgh and the world they inhabit, many do not question their lives. Victor seems totally content eating flying turtle bacon burgers and designing new pet familiars for people. Margy could live with her planetarium job and collection of video game systems, catridges, discs, and spare parts.
Ms. Fonseca uses a mixture of gaming terminology and subtle hints to pull the plot together as it races towards a big reveal. Surprisingly it is not the reveal, but the reaction of Margy afterwards that completes this story and impressed this reader greatly.
As the line between real/unreal begin to merge, a sense of necessity and righteousness emerge. It’s like the very games Margy and Victor play, and the fate of the entire universe rests in their portable Opus system controlling hands.
J.W. Wargo is a writer and author of his own NBAS book, Avoiding Mortimer, which received the 2012 award for Best Use of a Termite Golem or Ant Blob in a Fiction Novella. You can read about all the crazy shit he gets into while hitchhiking the world at Imperial Youth Review.