Tag Archives: Eraserhead Press

Guitar Wolf by Nicholaus Patnaude (me) (Eraserhead Press; 2016) released today!

16 Nov

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I’m exited to announce that I have a new book out. It’s called Guitar Wolf. It has been released on Eraserhead Press, one of my favorite underground presses. The images below were done by Sarah Kushwara and me; the purple figure playing the wolf guitar was the image that was selected for a the cover. I would like to send out a big thank you to Garrett Cook who edited the book; he also helped inspire, germinate, and nurture the idea during one of his online classes last April. Thank you to Rose O’Keefe for running the excellent Eraserhead Press all these years and tirelessly promoting exciting new voices in fiction. Thank you also to Carlton Mellick III for making bizarro fiction thrive with an unstoppable bouquet of unforgettable, ingenious concepts.

Here’s a description of Guitar Wolf:

“A wolf with guitar strings. A turtle turned into drum. An alligator girl transformed into a synthesizer. A golden retriever converted into a theremin. These animals are the lifeblood of prog/noise group 2666. The beasts live in slavery until a sentient golden ax teaches them that they can be free. Their human masters are ruthless, cruel and desperate for fame but for these creatures, life and freedom is at stake. The instruments of 2666 will fight and die for it.”

Guitar Wolf is out now! Available here.

 

Review: Ecstatic Inferno by Autumn Christian (Fungasm Press; 2016)

3 Dec

  

“They Promised Dreamless Death”

A future is stained by urges for psychical annihilation because vampires stand at bedsides howling for 20 years. 

Reading this first story made me think of another Fungasm author: Violet LeVoit. They both blend genre tropes with mesmerizingly poetic lines–that’s not to say that their voices are similar but that they approach writing from a similar angle. 

This line stood out: 

“Life would be better if we weren’t present during our difficult transitory periods, if we shut off the part of us that thought and felt and tasted, and slid our heads down on dark waters while the machines lived for us.” 

A scary yet prescient line indeed in our age when we frequently disappear into our technology. 

Another poetic and startling line:

“I had to plaster every deer that stepped in the headlights and keep melting the asphalt with Jeanine’s teeth and my foot on the pedal and her warm honey shy eyes in my stomach because I’d never feel that way again.” 

One can sense the pleasure overwhelming and reordering reality and spatial planes here. 

Sometimes weird and wonderful ideas might slip past you in the seductive, otherworldly flow of the language–such as here: 

“I think that while the world is sleeping a new entity will enter our universe, like a thief in the night, creep over our head-fog, and take away our bodies and our space, infiltrate our energy and our nightmarescapes. If the world ever walks, I don’t think it will ever know what it used to be.” 

The world–having been taken over by an evil entity–will not remember what it used to be if it walks. You could build an entire story around this casually mentioned concept! 

When Jeanine calls the narrator a “deadhead,” I did wonder if he’d had one of the machines in his head since he couldn’t recall why he had refused the operation. That coupled with the fact that Boxy only answers to Jeanine (“the name of every pretty girl”) suggests that there’s something screwy with the narrator’s perceptions as he jumps into the lake even though he mentioned earlier they’d be going there “so we’re not going to die.” 

“Crystalmouth”

The imagery in this story about skull-conjoined sisters is terrifying in both its precision and originality:

“His mouth stretched. Heavy. Yawning. Burrowing, big mouth. Big tongue. Crystals studded his tongue. They shredded the roof of his mouth so that the skin hung down in thick strips, and when he breathed the strips fluttered.” 

and:

“The crystals grew heavy in his mouth, and when he unlatched the window they sparkled in darklight. My sister’s snowpowder hair fell off the bed and he bent down and wound it around his wrists to drag himself closer to us.”

I picture the most evil cereal box cartoon monster ever here. Although perhaps that is a misleading statement for this story is bleak: “I imagine she wanted to dip us in formaldehyde and nail us to a piece of wood to sell to a curio shop.” 

After the conjoined sisters startle and assault a terrified boy in the woods, the smaller sister says “It’s fun to be a monster.” 

Later they go on a date which goes awry–however, they eventually get revenge on the incubus by ripping out his crystal tongue. This story is somehow wacky, devastating, and creepy. 

“Your Demiurge is Dead”

I enjoyed the surreal world-building in this one during passages like this:

“There were three trash bags of summer-heated, red exposed fetid god flesh that washed up on the Gulf of Mexico.”

This tale is more of a slow-burner than the other two. 

I particularly enjoyed the weird imagery of the faery hole.

“Sunshine, Sunshine”

The “sunshine man” is an eerie figure who will search “for women so he could bury his hands into their hair, make love to them not with skin but with needles and blood finger-painting, transform them with wounds and later dissect them upon his tables.”‘

There is a breathtaking originality and strangeness to lines containing ideas like making love with “blood finger-painting” and to “transform them with wounds”–it’s as if destruction and mutilation is viewed as a delicate and artistic virtue. I’ll quote a bit more from this stellar paragraph:

“He collected these women like butterflies beautifully pressed between pins, and his sunshine house hid a labyrinthine cellar maze underneath full of freezers and tubes and monsters that lived in family portraits. He killed delicately, spread out bones and skin like wings, preserving them in ice and serum, stored inside locker rooms that he visited sometimes like favorite poems, counting off delicate, torn paper haloes. Freckles and indigo eyes were favorite lines, and he gently touched the places he drained of blood, sensual but not exactly sexual, like he smell that lingers after rain.” 

“Pink Crane Girls”

Loved the idea of “simulated sunlight cafes” in this one.

Also, this odd glimpse:
“Behind him a girl sat, her back to the line going out the door, her pink dress unzipped and revealing the layout of her protruding spine. It didn’t seem like a real body part, but something holographic, simulated, a real spine wouldn’t be on a girl constantly humming and vibrating to frequencies we couldn’t comprehend.” 

“Out of the Slip Planet”

I found the imagery in this anthropomorphic passage to be quite potent and affecting: 

“I wanted to save them. I waned to get up and run out to greet them like a war hero, press my shoulders into their sides and push them back into the ocean. Except I imagined once I touched them their bottlenecks would become aquiline noses, their seaweed entangled throats would turn into wet hair. I would touch gray skin and it would become pink and cool. They would turn over on their backs and look at me with dying woman eyes that had seen leviathans, shipwrecked vessels, the blue heart of coral reefs.”

“Honeycomb Heads”

The land where the protagonists travel lies somewhere between an alien fortress and an otherworldly beehive.

“The Dog That Bit Her”

Didn’t appreciate the insult to Kafka. 

Some great surreal touches in this nightmarish piece featuring recurring attacks by a rabid dog, such as here:

“I often rolled over and climbed up the attic ladder to find her at the canvas wearing her bloody sweater, head bent to the brush, red hair alive.”

I loved the twisted ambition of June throughout the tale to “bite him back” and the transformation scenes were incredibly vivid and original–much more disgusting, somehow, than a typical werewolf transformation sequence. 

“The Bad Baby Meniscus”

This line startled me with its eerie beauty:

“I got the feeling that underwater lived another me, a liquid, luminous blue me, who parted the reeds and struck me on the mouth.” 

As did these ones (although they’re a bit more grotesque): 

“The butterfly bite started looking even worse. Its poisonous cat-eye center dripped orange pus and black ichor.” 

One of my favorites. The idea of death as the perfect mathematical creation as created by a god was a fascinating one–as was the metaphor of existence as a vast labyrinth one must traverse in preparation. 
“The Singing Grass”

This has to be one of the strangest opening lines/hooks to a story that I have ever encountered:

“I told him that in the singing grass I saw a deer tear out the head of a cougar, but instead of staying away he went out there to paint.” 

In this story again we find these sudden, surreal, macabre moments mentioned casually like here:

“No girl from the town could’ve snapped her head back until it touched the tip of her spine. No, she emerged out of the singing grass, out of the electric song that whipped through the meadow and straight through me.” 

This story was definitely my favorite. 

These stories will wound you, warp you, steal your dreams, and entangle your soul with a weird otherworldly vision that is Autumn Christian’s. I loved the odd logic, surreal visuals, midnight loneliness, and speculative dream-visions in these tales. There is also a lyrical quality to many of the mind-bending lines, offering stories rich in detail and kaleidoscopic in construction, rewarding multiple rereadings.

Read Ecstatic Inferno by Autumn Christian 

Review: Scary People by Kyle Muntz (Eraserhead Press; 2015)

16 Nov

  
A series of disturbing vignettes open this curious, extremely fun, and playful novel. 

The style of this novel is breezy yet concise and funny while it disturbs. For example: one character named Siguard–identified early on as a serial killer–shares a song with the narrator about eating children’s fingers; eerily, the song is non-fiction. 

I enjoyed the elliptical nature and blank space in Scary People. The tone was apathetic and detached and the lack of extraneous description was refreshing–a task that is difficult for a writer but which Muntz makes look easy. 

Interspersed with the plain but absurd dialogue are dark gems like this: 

“You’re awful. If I was a teacher, I would say you have no future, and years from now you’re going to die in a gutter with syphilis and hemorrhoids, while living on a diet of plastic wrappers, fermented rats, and moldy grass, with half of your limbs rotted off, and only one eye.” 

And this: 

“”Nothing makes sense,” he said. “It’s kind of sad, really. The only light this world has doesn’t illuminate anything. All it does is shine brighter, so we have to pay attention to the things we don’t want to see.” 

I wish he wouldn’t be so profound, by accident.” 

We have glimpses into harrowing but transformative philosophical ideas amidst all the cartoonish violence. After re-reading the second, above-quoted passage a few times, it’s meaning still mystifies me–is it suggesting that optimistic aspects of life are difficult to discern because they are seen under the same light as negative ones? 

A disturbing scene with pirates is a memorable. I’ll leave it up to your imagination what they use a mean-spirited Redbeard’s peg-leg for! 

I loved the moment when Karen spits flame!

It was odd yet fun to encounter the scene Muntz and other writers performed at this year’s Bizarro Con later in the book, particularly having read about the fates of the characters during the 1st 200 pages–this pushes the RPG scenario into a different space than I had originally envisioned during the performance; if the conflicts and growth of the characters is sort of erased by this new scenario, then what plane of reality are we on now? Although the characters actions were cartoony in the first 200 pages, there was, while not exactly emotional depth, still, emotional currents and a rawness or: a sort of sadness observed at the heart of all human interaction. 

Which is a relevant observation as it turns out, given the metafictional nature of the final third. 

I deeply loved this book. It was fun, original, and a joy to read. I’ve never read anything quite like it or felt my sense of grounding become an entrance into a cartoon while being pinched in the rear by shears. 

Read Scary People by Kyle Muntz

Review: I Will Rot Without You by Danger Slater (Fungasm Press; 2015)

14 Nov

  

I Will Rot Without You

A poetic homage to the threat of cockroaches? A series of surreally humorous observations? A New Jersey blood brother of Dostoyevsky’s underground man? 

The encounter with a neighbor (Dee) in the hall, offers a haunted glimpse into what is surely a major theme in this book: morbid devotion. And then we get a weird blend of Basket Case 80s horror and Notes from the Underground when she reveals amputated pieces of her boyfriend sewn to her chest. 

Between scenes that could be straight out of the end of Psycho, we hop on the wings of an eerie butterfly to discover a fantastical plane amidst all the vermin and devotion, a different plane of existence so fierce and ignited by poesy that it’s immune to rot or decay.

Fingers of a boyfriend crawl about, stitched to a neck–or sometimes legs become tree trunks when we dream of pus bubbling in boils. 

A line of a 100 cockroaches pass mold spores (“little white and pink bulbs in their palpi”) from the bathroom to our sleeping hero’s mouth which are “held like torches.” 

I loved the following passage: 

“Like a specter she stands. She is the poltergeist of doorframes. She peeks into the apartment, unsure if she should step out of the purgatory of the vestibule and back into this graveyard she used to call her home.” 

Another line I adored: “Her flowers suffocate the garden of my heart.” 

Nightmarish Twilight Zone moments intertwine with a Remedios Varos painting. 

Sitting on a throne of human skulls, we gaze down on the festering city. 

A pile of bills resembles Ernie as he hobbles about decaying and with new wooden mop legs.

Your face may be rearranged by this book; your soul may become disfigured. 

Ernie discovers a ghastly surprise about Dee when the lights are low–a surprise that rivals what Jack Torrance finds on room 237.

This novel shares moments in a beautiful realm of the ineffable while making love feel tragic and ephemeral: 

“These are the people who I need to continue to carry around with me. I just–need to remind myself that I used to be a person before we poisoned each other.”

And:

“Our time together, it was like smoke. You filled my lungs, briefly, and then I breathed you out and you were gone.” 

I read the book over the course of a single morning. This definitely has the humor of previous works I’ve read by Danger Slater, but this one has darker themes and a more poetic conclusion. 

Read I Will Rot Without You by Danger Slater

Review: Pax Titanus by Tom Lucas (Eraserhead Press; 2014)

9 Feb

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Contains Spoilers

This action-packed, surreal, and humorous science fiction novella will challenge your science fiction genre expectations and confound your worldview.

Meet Pax: a four-armed intergalactic beefcake. Join him as he battles an array of imaginative beasts and contenders for the title at the demand of an egotistical Emperor.

Often, Pax Titanus reads like a dark adult cartoon. I wish there were bizarro novellas like this one when I was growing up. I would have devoured them with the gusto I spent lapping up every last b horror and drive-in classic from those long-forgotten video rental shelves.

The opening had a great hook (eventually, the two best friends would put their hands on each other’s cocks, ha, ha). Their conversations are refreshingly crass for a sci fi novel. Most sci fi I’ve read lacks the sense of humor of this one (except for PKD, who is the best IMO). Craxx’s sensual obsession with his sister is also funny and irreverent.

Here’s a memorable scene: Pax enlarging himself while saving Craxx with his monstrous member as they landed on the planet’s wailing diva and splattered the crowd with his love juices. Crude yet imaginative as the best of bizarro always seems to manage.

I read in the intro that this book was originally a short story. I asked Tom Lucas about the story’s genesis; he told me it was produced in a Litreactor writing class with Rose O’Keefe.

A vivid and mysterious call to adventure commences, along with a well-argued refusal of the call; however, the adventure must be undertaken: it means saving Pax’s family. The destruction of the journalists is funny scene. Pax’s relations with his squid wife and her secretions a bit eerie as she must’ve smelled his musk through her beak.

I would say Tom’s strength is definitely in writing imaginative action sequences with a sense of spectacle. His talents really shined in the first fight sequence with the…Mugworth (sp?). It was a nail-biting scene, which must have been difficult to accomplish given the odd nature of both the opponents’ bodies, but since we learned of Tits’ growth abilities earlier, it was a sound fight that did not tax the plausibility detector in this reader, even as his overweight fly trainer hovered in the corner.

The beaver with the hair caught in his throat was pretty hilarious–I got the sense of an ominous presence, but then when he coughed up the hair he became rather goofy. The second fight left me wanting for a bit more obstacles and passed too rapidly. The mana-pot and the fireballs made for RPG-esque imagery.

The scene with the dead Craxx and his “ninja handler” provided another PKD-esque horror moment. I love when horror blends with sci-fi and honestly wish their more of this sort of stuff out there.

The fight with the brain squealer was memorable. The mixture of cuddliness and terror reminded me of one of my favorite bizarro novels: The Cannibals of Candyland.

The final fight sequence did not disappoint. The inter-dimensional time-shifting device created quite the final adversary. The ending balanced humor with pathos ingeniously. Overall, a wild and fun ride. Sort of a bizarro Rocky mixed with Farscape.

Prepare to be disgusted, shocked, surprised, and awed at the magnificently grotesque set pieces this novel conjures up with a slightly satirical tone; that being said, this novella is not strictly a satire. It plays by the rules of the pulpy bizarro playbook: it delivers in equal doses of fun, entertaining storytelling, crisp and direct prose, unexpected plot twists, and bizarre and original imagery that somehow mocks and reshapes science fiction tropes while celebrating them.

Read Pax Titanus.

Review: Kill Ball by Carlton Mellick III (Eraserhead Press; 2012)

6 Jan

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Fusing giallo with a children’s film concept (people must stay in hamster-ball-like bubbles because of a disease) is an unexpected and brilliant idea. The darkness of the tropes in the giallo genre also keep things from getting too cartoony.

The book functions like a fast-paced thriller, although I do wish certain giallo elements had been played up more, particularly the elaborate death scenes of Argento–although I’m not sure if this would’ve worked on the page.

The explanation and inner-workings of the devious Kill Ball are unexpected and imaginative. The imagery of the narrator and Siren’s evolved bodies was also original.

Carlton Mellick III certainly has a knack for balancing conventional structures with bizzare and outlandish ideas. He states in his introduction to this book that he considers it to be a satire of the giallo genre. It definitely has its share of comedic moments, particularly early on where I chuckled at least a few times (people making fun of each other for how they chose to dress their balls). Kill Ball also contains its fair share of horror movie imagery, yet also resembles a comedy in which one cares about the characters (something like Superbad or Planes, Trains, and Automobiles).

Buy and read Kill Ball.

Review: Armadillo Fists by Carlton Mellick III (Eraserhead Press; 2011)

24 Dec

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Armadillo Fists has a non-linear structure but is still incredibly easy to follow. The concept is both bizarre and funny. I especially liked the ideas of “Dop”(doppelgänger) conventions, having living armadillos for hands, driving dinosaur-shaped cars, and a legless and armless character who, over the course of the book, became quite likable while remaining funny.

Armadillo Fists owes just a little bit to Reservoir Dogs (and Carlton Mellick III acknowledges his debt to Quentin Tarantino in the introduction, in addition to Neil Gaiman’s “urban fantasy” works (this seemed less apparent, although the only “urban fantasy” work of his I’ve read is Neverwhere)), but the influence is slight and does not detract from this work’s utter originality.

I did grow a bit bored during some of the sections of cartoonish violence, but Carlton Mellick III has a way of introducing consistent surprises and unexpected concepts to keep the pages turning and reader feeling both time and money were well spent.

Find out more about Carlton Mellick III’s work here.

Review: The Mondo Vixen Massacre by Jamie Grefe (Eraserhead Press; 2013)

22 Dec

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Cinematic techniques and odes abound, although the language is sensory rich and visceral. Humiliation and degradation steam off every page.

It feels like we drift at the periphery of a great b-movie. Little details and tropes–Russ Meyer dialogue, throwaway phases like ‘hundred dollar handshake’, 70s exploitation film iconography and motifs, etc. This is not to say this novella is at all a hollow rip-off of any one b-movie or an unimaginative fanboy ode to such cinema; on the contrary, The Mondo Vixen Massacre is stylistically ambitious and unique.

The interesting thing about the New Bizarro Author Series is that almost none of the authors I’ve read so far fit into the bizarro mold completely; sure, there are lap-overs, shared themes, sensational titles, gaudy cover art, etc. Someone like Carlton Mellick III is such an excellent storyteller that one wishes some of the NBAS did fit more neatly into the bizarro mold. A few of the titles managed to be both aimless and formulaic. The Mondo Vixen Massacre is not one of those.

I took slight offense to Phil Spector being referred to as “pathetic.” We’ll have to see what music this author prizes. [Okay, Otis Redding and possibly grindcore. Not bad. ]

I notice a heavy Tarantino influence throughout, particularly during the hyperbolic fight scenes (beheadings, fire exploding from Vixen orifices, etc.). Yet then it gets more surreal, moving beyond the Tarantino realm, yet still retaining cinematic language (okay, obviously I know what a close-up, although I did pause to wonder what a “jiggle cut” might be).

The Mondo Vixen Massacre just gets wilder and loopier as the tale winds to its compact yet outrageous close.

Review: The Egg Man by Carlton Mellick III (Eraserhead Press; 2008)

21 Dec

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This one can be read in a single enjoyable sitting. The image of the egg man is one I’ll not soon forget. The post-apocalyptic setting is similar to Crab Town–and, to a lesser extent, Warrior Wolf Women of The Wasteland–but the concept is completely different here.

Society has been divided into different classes based on sensory ability (smell, touch, sight, etc.). There is a palpable sense of dread in the day-to-day experiences of our doomed but all-too-human protagonist: his neighbors are unfriendly and secretive, except for a crude woman he caught giving birth to thousands of flies.

I read somewhere that Carlton Mellick III fully advocates following the heroic journey structure. I thought about this as I read this book. Despite its wacky premise and grotesque imagery, it is clear that Carlton Mellick III follows this structure. But, then again, as rooted as this structure is in classic myth perhaps when we talk about storytelling we are really talking about the heroic journey structure.

Anyway, I was absorbed by the story in The Egg Man the entire time. And, despite following the heroic journey structure, I would not argue that this story is predictable.

Its simple, direct style with its odd premise and rule-playing structure makes it read like a fairy tale for adults.

See what Carlton Mellick III is writing with his furiously unstoppable pen and boundless imagination here.

Review: Deep Blue by Brian Auspice (Eraserhead Press; 2014)

17 Dec

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Devils in fridges. The door opens and closes. A woman pancakes, disappearing through a crack in the floor. The narrator buys another little man.

Deep Blue is reminiscent of a Lenora Carrington painting.

Posters of Abraham Lincoln standing next to a log. An obese man eats his own cigar then points to an elevator which leads nowhere.

Colors dominate the Roland Topor-esque cityscape. They filter experiences, draw the wandering narrator forward past new boundaries as he tries to buy more little men in cans for his machine and the blue devil in his fridge, and call out to him as if grasping the wand or brush of the mad painter as he scribbles vivid faces on blank masks in a movie theatre where the attendees watch him instead of the film.

Women melting into brick as he is whisked away by cab drivers requiring no fare. Yet it may not have been fair the way his mother treated him, preferring to listen to the newscaster rattle on about the weather than to talk to him.

The many psychologist decapitated heads in the dumpster may believe in reality, but the receptionist who chose to melt into a bloodstain in the carpet did not.

Siamese starfish were meant to be removed from stepmothers. An old man rides a centipede during John’s ambitious journey to become a man in a can.

This book is excellent. Vaguely nightmarish, the language is stripped-down and the intuitive plot is trippy. There is a heavy emphasis on redundant suicide and nausea. The voice remains deadpan, no matter how ridiculous or dream-like the unfolding events become.

I thought about Phillip Jose Farmer’s “Sliced-Crosswise-Only-On-Tuesday World” but as there were no seemingly intentional direct references, I remain unsure as to whether Auspice ever read that particular tale.

Check out Deep Blue and Brian Auspice’s blog.