Shock Totem #10 (Jan 2016)
- Closing for Submissions
- Shock Totem Returns!
- Apex Publications Acquires Shock Totem Book Line
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 8
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 7
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 6
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 5
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 4
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 3
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 2
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Tag Archives: Chuck Palahniuk
Transgressive fiction is just a spiffy gold badge for seriously fucked up and off-kilter stories to wear so they seem a bit more high class than they are. I love weird fiction. I like stuff that is dark and bleak and just plain strange. A taste that began when I first read the works of Robert Aickman and continued through to the heady waters of bizarro that we have around us today.
I must admit that I am not much of a fan of the work of Chuck Palahniuk. I find a great deal of his work a bit pretentious and overly obnoxious for no other reason than to be just that, but I hung in and accepted the challenge to review Burnt Tongues. All stories were hand picked by Palahniuk and all of them rabidly wild and unsettling—and like any good scar, they’ll itch and remind you of their existence long after you’ve tried to forget them.
“Charlie,” by Chris Lewis Carter, in which a lonely man brings an abused cat to a veterinarian who proceeds to tell a tragic story from his childhood, one that seems to have an all too tight noose around the present.
“Melody,” by Michael De Vito Jr., shows us a sweet love affair missing a side and a few other things. “F is for Fake,” by Tyler Jones, is the story of an imposter and the lengths he will go to prove a point. Phil Jourdan’s “Mind and Solider” is a deeply troubling tale of a crippled veteran and his encounter with a neighbor boy.
“Ingredients,” by Richard Lemmer, reads like an urban legend, woven around a twisted retail game and the grisly outcome. Matt Egan paints a tear-stained picture of a girl justifying her own tragedy with that of another in “A Vodka Kind of Girl.” One of my favorites from the collection is Brandon Tietz’s “Dietary,” is a gut-punching window into cubicle politics and reindeer games with sharper teeth and parasites.
My favorite of the bunch is “Bike,” by Bryan Howie. This one has stayed with me, so simple and brilliant, I can’t even give a synopsis for fear of draining any of its power. “Heavier Petting,” by Brien Piechos, is a gruesome tableau of relationship woes and secrets, with a little bit of dog-fucking thrown in.
The closer, “Zombie Whorehouse,” by Daniel W. Broallt, saunters up to you while you’re already weary from the others and smacks you upside the head and grabs your face to make you read it. A sick and brutal tale of a man undercover sent to expose a zombie whorehouse from within, and much more.
The collection is solid and while not all of the stories left me gobsmacked, quite a number of them did. But it left me feeling dirty and ashamed, like I’d just watched Gummo again. If you like your fiction left of center and brutal, unafraid to hurt you and unwilling to hide behind the flowery garments of literary trends, this is your shit. Embrace it.
Available through Medallion Press.
There really isn’t a lot you can say about the work of D. Harlan Wilson. I know that I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel stupid every time I read something he writes. The man wields words like tools and weapons, goes at you with surgical precision and gets at those wounds with the heavy tools. So heady and wild are his plots (if you can all them such) that by the time I’ve finished, I usually think I may need to start again to figure out what I’ve missed.
He was one of the first of a class and style called Bizarro that I long ago encountered. I have read a lot of the stuff since and I still insist, Wilson is one of the best. While his work does contain some of the oddly goofy, almost cartoonish escapades that his contemporaries often purvey, his is tightly leashed with psycho-intellectual philosophies and down right unwieldy lectures that somehow work and fight like puzzle pieces.
His newest novella is called Primordial: An Abstraction. I shall do my best to interpret for you: A professor is busted for toxic teaching and sent back to redo his Ph.D. Sent to a dorm room that he shares with countless others, he begins a wildly paranoid and claustrophobic nightmare of educational bureaucratic bullshit as well as an epidemic of pornography. He immerses himself in anger, violence, and obsessive weight-training. For every step he seemingly makes towards his beloved degree, he slides back on the blood of those he’s terrorized.
I dug this book. Did I get it? I’d say, maybe a little. But I am a lover of words. Any words. All words. I just like looking at them and saying them and seeing them in strings. Wilson weaves wonderful strings. If you have the resolve to dabble in the real deal of Bizarro, if you’re growing bored of Palahniuk and his edgy-for-edginess’-sake offerings, then maybe it’s time to unhook the training wheels and give Wilson a go.
Available through Anti-Oedipus press.
I have probably stated before, quite a few times, actually, the fact that I am just about zombied out. So when I received a package containing Dead Things, by Matthew Darst, I read the blurbage and sighed. Zombies. But I won the book through a Goodreads giveaway—and hey, Free book! Better yet, a signed free book.
I started it that night, and within two or three nights had finished it. It was that good.
The debut novel is set nearly twenty years after the “zombie event.” The dead have risen and eaten folks. Society has collapsed and rebuilt itself. Religious fanatics have lots of control. Our main characters are literally thrown together in a plane crash and forced to stick together to survive. Adding to the tension of outrunning the hungry dead, there is the fact that no one trusts anyone else, as anyone could be a mole for the church. I’m talking Witch Hunt kinda-church.
Darst uses a number of nifty maneuvers to keep this a fresh offering. The dialogue is smart and witty. The science behind the story is very well thought out and smart. In fact, I’d say the weakest point would have to be the ending, which seemed a bit rushed—literally rushing headlong into and messily hitting closure in a chapter.
As I stated, this is a debut novel. A well-written, smartly entertaining debut. Integral to the plot are the zombies; however, it is more than a zombie novel. It’s a novel about humans being, a novel where the monsters we become are far more frightening than the things shambling from the graves to gnaw on our flesh.
Dead Things is available from Grand Mal Press.
In 1992, James Havoc released this wonderful book of bizarre and repulsive word swill. I loved it. Still do. Then he went missing. Dropped right off the face of the earth.
Gone. Never to be heard from again.
Like a meth-fueled mixture of William S. Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, Michael Gira and Chuck Palahniuk being poured down the eager throat of Edward Lee, Satanskin is that hardcore. Graphic as anything you can imagine. Surrealism carved in the faces of the damned with a rusty razor equals Satanskin.
Havoc didn’t paint with words…he fed you the words then reached down your throat—or up your ass—and then finger-painted your brain with them. These stories are prose-beasts. Skulking ugly creations that stumble in and out of cohesive narrative. There are vampires and nameless things, aliens and undead creatures. Depraved children and Demonic butt-sex. It’s an explosion of supreme insanity and chaotic cringe-worthy debauchery. This is Bizarro, from a time when the tag didn’t really exist.
This title was released in 1992 via The Tears Corporation/Creation Press. In 2011, the 20th anniversary e-book edition, which includes the bonus story “Third Eye Butterfly,” was released by Elektron Ebooks.