Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Fellow on the Balcony by G. Arthur Brown

"The party that's going on down there," the fellow points to a small group of nuns standing below the balcony upon which he and I both stand, "doesn't invite anyone to join it. It just keeps going on in the same fashion, like black and white reruns."

"Of the Flying Nun?" I joke.

"That was in color, moron!"

He seems indignant, so I stop smiling and take a sip of the punch. It tastes like something evacuated due to extreme weather systems.

"It's more like... The Munsters. They can't figure out that Marylin is the only normal one. I think that show could have run for another thirty episodes--more. I bet they could have pulled off two hundred episodes. Batman put it out of business because it was in full color!" He slams his fist down onto the railing. The nuns look up at him and then titter to each other, probably speculations about what G-d must think of this fellow.

This man has hair that I could never manage. It's sculpted, but the sculpture is boring and currently on display overseas where children are taught how to drink alcohol right from the womb.

"The Flying Nun was Spanish," I lie.

He takes out a dog-eared pad of paper. "I'm writing this down," he says and starts writing.

When I look at his pad, this is what I find, the beginning of a short story:

The Map of Canolune

I saw it for the first time on an outdated map I found amongst my uncle things, tucked behind a Middle-Eastern oil lamp at the back of his steamer trunk. I was in my early twenties, no longer a boy but still a romantic at heart. I think then that I knew I had uncovered my destiny accidentally, which is how these things always operate. The mystical city of Canolune was marked out by the Dutch cartographers of the 17th Century quite clearly amongst extant locales on that crumbling, yellowed paper. My late uncle was not available for questioning, so the detective work ahead would be quite challenging. I decided to call together my only close friends, have a large breakfast, and make plans to uncover the secrets behind the map and the possible existence of Canolune.

Hamilton and Theodore munched on sticks of toast before I unveiled the purpose of our congregation. Hamilton was the cautious third son of a formerly very well-to-do banker. He was lean if not scrawny, his clinging suit had been pressed, albeit imperfectly, and his fair hair attempted to mimic current fashion. Theodore didn't need to try to be fashionable; his father was an Old World aristocrat who imported suits from France and Italy. Theodore smelled of musk and manliness, and he was dark, handsome, and always up for adventure. I showed them the map and after many moments of scrutiny and consideration, they both agreed it looked authentic.

"We should get one of the professors at the University to verify this before we go off gallivanting," Hamilton offered.
I informed him, "I do not think sharing this secret would be the most beneficial route to take. Secrecy will be necessary until we have proof that Canolune is real, so that we may get the credit. We cannot tell anyone else what we are up to, do you understand me?"

Theodore, looking very distant, said, "Western Asia isn't exactly civilized. We'll need guns. My father has many hunting rifles. I'll see what I can do about something heavier. And dynamite."


I tell him I'd already read that story years ago, in a porno magazine that I had found.

"Well, I thought I'd go ahead and write it just in case you never had," he says nervously. Then he looks at the nuns again. "Don't tell them, will you?"

Friday, December 21, 2012

Review: Haunt by Laura Lee Bahr

Haunt by Laura Lee Bahr.

You Don't Know What This Book Is

You don't know why you bought this book. (I met Laura Lee Bahr, but you didn't, so why did you buy it? It's a mystery.)

You start reading this book. You don't know what it is. But you can't put it down. It's like being led by the nose. It's like being in love. You keep reading in hopes you can figure it out.

But then you give up trying to figure it out, because there is no way to figure out magic, and you just enjoy the ride, enjoy being led by the nose. The book smells great, by the way, so you don't mind. Once all is said and done, it's one of your favorite books ever. If you are ever remotely cool, that is.

So, if you are even remotely cool, you should buy this book. And then you have the excuse that I told you to buy it, and you won't have to wonder so much. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Last Librarian by S.T. Carledge

The Last Librarian

The smell of new books? That's a distant memory. Old books with dog-ears and yellowed pages and coffee stains are all I know. Old books with flimsy, faded covers and dust and words unread for years and years and years. As of yesterday, I have started eating the books for sustenance, but I don't think the paper and ink is good for my body. They have little nutrition to give. I never liked Dickens, so he will be the first to go. I eat Great Expectations while sitting by a fire made from Dostoyevskys on the third floor. By now I have used up all the varnished timber hand railings on the stairs and balconies. I am glad for the change, as the fumes from the burnt varnish made me light-headed and I almost fell two storeys down one time. I have made a toilet section in fine arts, and use DaVinci to clean the excrement from my backside.

I am the last librarian left in the world.

I spend every morning taking books off the shelf and reading them. And I spend every afternoon sorting through the returns and putting them back exactly where they belong. But there are always more books in returns than those books I've taken myself. I think there is someone else in this library reading my books. I did not read the Lord of the Rings last Tuesday. I did not read Nineteen Eighty-Four two days ago. I did not read the Hunger Games this morning. Yet they still appear in my returns pile. And I think they're moving things around. Taking books from one shelf and putting them on another where they don't belong. I go to bed on a stack of John Grisham novels and dream about lawyers doing dangerous and exciting things. I wake up and find Winnie the Pooh has been moved to the non-fiction section in between the Mr. Men books and Harry Potter. Calvin and Hobbes turns up in philosophy. That one seems about right. I pile up my books to read and eat this morning and pluck Mein Campf from children's fiction.

My work is never done.

Copyright S.T. Cartledge 2012

Kitten by G. Arthur Brown (New Bizarro Author Series 2012)

My first book is out now from Eraserhead Press.
You can buy it at Amazon, Amazon UK, Waterstones, Amazon Canada, Book Depository, and other places, I'm sure. But if you live in the US, UK, Canada or Elsewhere, these links should be convenient for you.
Here's a link of me reading awkwardly from the book!

Here's what some people have to say about this book:

"If you want to read a fun book, get Kitten. It's crazy! It's hilarious! It's AWESOME! It's one of the Bizarro-est Bizarro books EVER!...  It flows well, and the wittiness peppered throughout constantly stimulates the pleasure-center of your brain!... I'm going to have to give Kitten the Kramer Award in Literature, which I made up right now. Well done, G. Arthur Brown (more like Great Author All-Around.) Thank you for doing this to us. I applaud you." -- Vince Kramer, Gigantic Death Worm

"One part a nightmarish family saga, and one part a fantastic, surreal voyage of discovery for a kitten. It's a seriously fun mix of grotesque humour and sombre existential horror." -- R.A. Harris

"This is bizarro written with sincerity. It's funny in a quirky, heartfelt way. It's complicated. It's got depth... I'd call it slow-burning bizarro." -- S.T. Cartledge, House Hunter

Being part of the 2012 New Bizarro Author Series is a special honor, not only because all the books are fantastic first books from talented, promising authors, but because we are the first class to go international. Links to my fellows can be found on the right-hand side of my blog. Buy all these books now from Amazon!  They all qualify for the 4-for-3 deal, meaning if you buy them all, you get two other qualifying books!  It's totally awesome.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Movie Review: The Amazing Adventures of the Holy Bible (1997) (Mexico: Una Biblia Magia y Tiene el Gran Día)

This is a little known film that came in under most critics’ radar, not appearing on my doctors’ x-rays, either. It is the heartfelt tale of the Holy Bible (Gary Oldman) as he struggles to find his place in world. Set in early 1st century AD, the Holy Bible confronts several adversaries, Herod the Great (Rod Stewart) and Jesus Christ (Keanu Reeves) chief among them. After performing three undeniable miracles, which were raising the debt ceiling, tap dancing in the Old West, and photographing Satchmo in his natural habitat, the Holy Bible is pressed to death by the evil Gutenberg (Steve Guttenberg), becoming far more famous is death than in life.

The movie touches on a few important philosophical issues that were commonly swept under the rug in the late 90s. Case in point, in the middle of the film a young girl (Phyllis Diller) asks the Holy Bible, “If the creator is perfect, why is the world imperfect?” Through a series of Power Point presentations, mostly consisting of pie charts, the Holy Bible manages to blame the imperfection of creation on the creation itself. Many prominent celebrities, after seeing this scene, immediately dropped out of creation to dwell in the outer void, and face federal charges for an array of metaphysical crimes. Jim Carrey and Cary Elwes, who played the Gospels Mark and Mark II respectively, dueled to the death in the theatre during the film’s debut in Mexico City. A Mexican child (Javier Ruiz) famously asked, “Are both the mens dead?” Philosophers of all ages, from pre-school to post-office, were unable to answer the child’s query, because they were all at home sleeping off a drunk. When questioned, the drunk (William Jefferson Clinton) claimed he did not know a single philosopher, so they were all sued for divorce.

What pleased me most about this film was the candy. There are not many movies printed on edible stock these days, but it was all the rage for several weeks in 1997. If you can find an original print, eat it quickly so that the local children do not hobble you in an effort to steal your wonderful treat. I also enjoyed the color of Gary Oldman’s sideburns, but as I’m a stickler I must point out that the historical Holy Bible was quite without sideburns of any color. Though there was ample nudity in the film, it was mostly chickens who went unclothed, and the years of therapy have told me to say that I have no interest in seeing naked poultry.

All in all, Steve Guttenberg needs more chances to show off his brilliant talent. Greta Gerwig, though not appearing in this particular film, is also quite a skilled young actress. Maybe someone should write a script where Greta falls in love with Steve, but there’s a complication: Steve has been frozen in carbonite for 8,000 years and Jaba simply refuses to let him thaw out. But Greta knows that Steve needs to be freed, or else the fate of cinema might be left to Disney, which I don’t think a free American could possibly accept.

Late, but Great, News

So, Eraserhead is publishing my short novel Kitten as part of the 2012 New Bizarro Author Series. I'll be flying out to Portland, OR (at great expense, due to holiday travel rates!) on the 15th for Bizzaro Con, at which I'll be doing a 'reading' from my new novel. I'll post the link to my book on Amazon (and other sites) when it becomes available, which should be on or shortly after the 15th of November. And to all the other authors of last years NBAS, I apologize for never finishing my intended reviews. Other than the Placenta of Love review I posted on the blog, I did a review for Vince Kramer's Gigantic Death Worm at Amazon. And that's it. But I read all the books, and most of them are pretty darn good. Anyway, hurray for me!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

New Bizarro Author Reviews I: Placenta of Love by Spike Marlowe

I'm going to do reviews of all eight of 2011's books by the New Bizarro Author series. Mainly I am doing this because I hope to join their ranks in 2012. But also because the books are all damn good and deserve as much publicity as can be mustered (mustard?).

We begin with Placenta of Love by Spike Marlowe. This is the tale of a Robo Pirate who goes in search of love, creating for himself a lover that goes all Frankenstein and causes major problems for the dude. On it's face a fairly simple but weird fantasy romance with thrilling resolve. But on further examination the story is anything but simple.

Spike Marlowe (who is a woman, despite the masculine ring of the fictitious first name) brings a uniquely feminine voice to the Bizarro movement without being in any way girly. I find that many male readers are turned off by 'feminine' writing because they assume it is girly lit, which is hardly the case with Placenta of Love. Little girls in their pink princess gowns aren't going to be sitting at tea party tables, a star tipped wand in one hand, a copy of Placenta in the other, reading it and doing all the various voices (cat, pirate, placenta, et al) in hilarious tones that their mothers can video and submit to a show that rewards hilarious video moments. Ironically, the color pink and faeries do figure into the story prominently.

For those of you wondering what the story is about, I guess a short synopsis is in order. The blurb on amazon goes:

Step right up! Captain Carl the robo-pirate is one of the few Artificial Intelligences living on Venus-the amusement park planet. When Carl is given the spark of intelligence by his creator, he becomes a creator himself. No longer just an automaton from a pirate ride, Captain Carl creates the love of his life and searches for her perfect body. He thinks he's found it in a big placenta. But programming is everything.

When the placenta's desire to reproduce kicks in, the whole park is endangered as the organ grows to monster size, spreading placenta babies across the planet and eating all the rides (and the people riding them!). Captain Carl must band together with a cat, a creator, and the Pope of The Church of Transubstantial Birth Fear to stop his love from killing everyone and destroying the park.

That's a pretty good plot summary, I must admit, so to redo it in my own words would be a waste of time. It tells you exactly what happens without revealing the exciting finish (Spoiler: the good guys win!). But again, don't mistake this relatively simple story as just sheer light entertainment. There are several truly profound philosophical angles to explore.

i. The Male Protagonist as Portrayed by the Female Author
Dealt with both in a very straight-forward way--we can easily understand Capt. Carl's motivations and weaknesses--and in more subtle terms, the penning of a male protagonist by a female author always brings with it certain philosophical underpinnings, most notably that she believes her audience is predominately male and that males will not read feminine writing because they think it is girly, as I mentioned above. This could be the case with Spike, or it could be that she wishes to dissect the overused male protag to shed a postmodern light on his ridiculous innards. For instance, Capt. Carl desires to create, and he tries to do this by taking the non-sentient automatons of Venus and creating from them sapient AI-driven Robos. The age old notion that men create things because they cannot bear children is well-trod territory. Does Marlowe intend us to suspend our disbelief and swallow this nugget without a grain of salt, or should we see it as a lampooning of a cliched (and frankly, unfounded) notion perpetuated in the patriarchal society we find ourselves in? Viewed honestly, doesn't this notion reduce women to nothing more than baby-makers who are completely satisfied in chasing their biological destiny? More on this in the next section.

ii. The Portrayal of Biological Purpose as Ultimately Destructive
So, Capt. Carl fashions for himself what he believes will be a perfect lover: a living placenta with an implanted AI. His new creation/lover names herself Helen. Now, Helen consists of two (contradictory)natures: the rational and sympathetic AI, the carnal and self-serving biological nature. In contrast, Carl is motivated by his AI without the hindrances of the flesh. Helen can't wait to have sex, which Carl doesn't seem to really comprehend, and once Helen becomes pregnant for the first time with Carl's progeny she desires the feeling of 'fullness' that this experience gives her, despite her pregnancies only seeming to last for a few minutes. So, her thirst to produce more and more offspring is unslakeable. She has seemingly no concern for all these placenta-babies that she is creating, only caring that she can remain pregnant for as much of the time as possible. Is this a metaphor? It's hard to see it as anything but.

iii. Inconsequential Offspring

In the course of her rampage, Helen creates hundreds of placenta-babies, which she immediately abandons. Carl is only concerned with stopping Helen's path of mayhem; in order for Helen to become "pregnant" she must absorb an object or person to impregnate her. Carl is not concerned with the offspring, all of which he orders destroyed by fire, except for the original offspring he and Helen created together, which he damns to a life of slavery in a side-show exhibit. Another prominent character is the female Pope Natzo Innocent, who creates her own army of Robo servants for the sole purpose of worshiping her. Is this new generation simply to provide new consumers for the corporate machine that is Venus? One may take the guess that Marlowe's attitudes to toward parents is somewhat negative, and that leads us to the next section.

iv. Parental Roles
There are two creative forces on the amusement park planet Venus: Zampanò, the male force that instills intelligence, will, and emotion; and The Lady Fey, who gives all automatons their physical (read as: carnal) form. Are we to understand that the feminine creative force does not elevate and enlighten the souls of her children, but relies on the male for that guidance? I should turn this work over to an expert in feminist theory, because I'm afraid I'm getting out of my depths. Which brings me to:

V. The Stereotypical Presentation of Pirates

Much of cinema and literature has served to degrade the multifaceted and sometimes even noble pirate into a flat, cardboard clown that is often made the subject of fun. Capt. Carl can't abide his pirate nature because it is so restrictive, being confined to cliched lines like, "Avast, me hardies!" and "Shiver me timbers!" He is also portrayed with a hook and a pegleg, the combination of which was relatively rare when piratical history is truly examined. Marlowe seems to be saying it is okay to forget about the generally ecumenical and democratic nature of service aboard pirate ships. We must focus only on the eye-patches. Am I digging too deep here for meaning? I feel that we are not digging nearly deep enough. Because I haven't even touched the fact that she equates cats with femininity, and includes the Japanese picture snapping tourists, and her trivialization of religious institutions as the cults of self-important self-appointed pontificators. If I was a Republican, I would suggest we burn the book, but since I don't believe these Bizarro books can be destroyed by anything less than Hellfire, I shall resist the urge to vote for Mitt Romney.

All in all, a very entertaining book. And yes, it is a first novel, so I did a cut a bit of slack--you can tell it was a bit rushed, but damned if it wasn't thoroughly entertaining. I look forward to her next release and I'm sure it will be even better than this one. Marlowe is going places. If we could only get her to remove her mask and show us her true face...

Next up: Gigantic Death Worm by Vince Kramer.