Happy St. Patrick’s Day

A 100 word long piece of flash fiction. Pogue mahone.

The despair of that ancient and proud indigenous race fell on deaf ears until that grey March morning in New York City. Is it any wonder, after seeing the image of his people made a grotesque caricature for the purposes of tourism, of seeing their culture and their traditions sold out, made foolish and twee for the sake of souvenirs and gaudy trinkets –“the shilling of the shillelagh,” as one columnist later wrote- that the leprechaun sat down cross legged in front of the St Patrick’s Day parade, emptied a bottle of poteen over his head, and struck a match?

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Some Good Advice

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A cat’s glistening wound houses something monstrous. A brother and sister are haunted by the ashes of their uncle. A hipster falls prey to a murderous sorcerer. Three sexless, immoral beings climb out of a woman’s head. These are the tales of Burn Down The House And Everyone In It, a collection of fiction ranging from the comically absurd to the deeply disturbing.

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR BURN DOWN THE HOUSE AND EVERYONE IN IT

“Owen’s writing is a masterful mix of sly humor and absolute terror. The stories presented here could easily be found in a Stephen King/George Romero collaboration.”
– William Pauley III, author of Hearers of the Constant Hum, The Brothers Crunk, and The Doom Magnetic Trilogy

“Horror is a city, and the Absurd is one of its neighborhoods. Zachary T. Owen just moved in and he’s inviting you around to the house warming, to meet the Junk Man, Little Danny, Ruffles, the Limb King, all three of the Dandies… the whole damn family! You should accept his invite. Fuck knows what’ll happen to you if you don’t.”
-Kevin Sweeney, author of Damnation 101, Exeunt Alice, and co-author of the Sideshow P.I. series

A Blasphemous Tome (If You’re A Cthulhu Mythos Purist)

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”
The Call of the Cthulhu, H.P. Lovecraft, 1926

“Every science is a mutilated octopus. If its tentacles were not clipped to stumps, it would feel its way into disturbing contacts.”
Wild Talents, Charles Fort, 1932

We know Lovecraft had read Fort, but did Fort read Lovecraft? If not it must be one of those coincidences that Fort himself liked to collect. I was thinking about this after posting about the mythos inspired McHumans by Kevin Strange (well, ranting about Spongebob under the guise of posting about McHumans.) And thinking this made me realise I haven’t tried shilling my own nonsense on here for a good few hours, so…

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Post-postmodern tales of the Cthulhu Mythos for those who obsessively devour every new spin on the old tropes, CHOOSE YOUR OWN DAMNATION is an affectionate deconstruction of the pseudo-pantheon of hideous ancient alien blasphemies and the endless obsessive cataloging of same by the fandom! IA! GOOGLY MOOGLY!

Here’s what my old mucker Mike Reeves had to say:

“That book of yours (Choose Your Own Damnation) is one of the funniest things I’ve read in years. It’s like Robert Rankin and HP Lovecraft fighting in a bear pit whilst debauched serial killers circle jerk into the arena. It’s also a very clever way of stitching together otherwise unrelated little sketches of surreality. The line that goes something like ‘John Thomas was slightly relieved that part of his testicles were outside of space-time’ made me do a triple-take before corpsing. The humour makes the purely repulsive stuff stand out more too.”

The cover is a joke for long term Mythos nuts too, and a click on it will take you through to the Amazon page.

The Slithery Mickey Dee

McHumans

After Cthulhu awakens and destroys civilization as we know it, humans are used as slaves and food by their new slimy, submerged masters. One such young man, Ricky, works at an undersea fast food joint where he’s forced to kill and cook other humans for the Deep Ones to eat. But he has a plan. His restaurant caters to the Big Man himself, and if Ricky’s plan works, he could pull off the unthinkable: He could actually Kill Cthulhu.

McHumans is probably my favourite of Kevin Strange’s work. It starts off reading like someone strained the Cthulhu mythos through Spongebob Squarepants, but then becomes a bizarro action romp which is great fun. I’m highlighting it here because it’s a great read and I highly recommend it, but it also serves as an excuse to segue into a rant I have about a certain cartoon show…

I grew up in the 80s. The cartoons I grew up with were little more than long adverts with twee moral lessons tagged on the end -these always accompanied by a terrible joke which the animated cast found inexplicably hysterical- but mainly they were about pushing “product” on impressionable minds. Buy the toys, the lunch box, the bed spread, and a metric ton of other poorly made shit with your hero’s inanely grinning faces plastered all over it. But you know what? I’ll take that form of brainwashing over the kind exhibited in Spongebob Squarepants. The show is basically indoctrinating an entire generation into accepting their lot as wage slaves.

Consider.

Spongebob works in a fast food restaurant (representing the entirety of the service industry) and he is deliriously happy about it; every morning he gets up ready and eager to get to his dead-end job behind a grease trap, a position of which he is psychotically proud and devoted. His place of employment is the starting point for all kinds of hilarious hi-jinks and whacky adventures, a McWonderland of fun, gee kids bet you can’t wait to get out of boring school so that you can enter the workforce and start having a high old time? His boss, Mr Crabs, pays him bugger all, but that is constantly shown to be besides the point, because Spongebob loves his job so much (and he somehow not only manages to own his own house on this threadbare salary, but also feeds pet food to his pet rather than having to eat it himself or default on his electricity bill that month.)

Not convinced that this is all priming the target demographic for a life of drudgery with a BIG SHIT-EATING SMILE?

Next consider the character of Squidward, Spongebob’s neighbour and fellow burger-flipper, a character constantly shown to hate his job, resent his co-workers, and who dares to dream of something better, perhaps a life in the arts. He plays a musical instrument and paints, and is often shown to yearn for “fancy” things, such as food which hasn’t been deep fried, or even respect. What happens to Squidward? He is the butt of every joke, a figure of fun, ridiculed and subjected to slapstick violence… almost like he’s being punished for not getting with the program.

The message is neon bright. Love your life of slavery and never dream. Be a colourful, fun-loving, braindead Spongebob, not a dour, dismal, aspirational Squidward.

It’s not like children’s entertainment hasn’t been used before to condition and program developing minds, but Jesus H. Aslan, SUBTLETY MUCH?

(And yes, I am aware of the irony in me pointing out other’s lack of subtlety, what with the OTT nonsense I’ve published over the years.)

P.S.

Give McHumans a whirl, it really is an absolute hoot.

Bittersweet & Sour – Review of Sweet Story by Carlton Mellick III

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Sally is an odd little girl. It’s not because she dresses as if she’s from the Edwardian era or spends most of her time playing with creepy talking dolls. It’s because she chases rainbows as if they were butterflies. She believes that if she finds the end of the rainbow then magical things will happen to her–leprechauns will shower her with gold and fairies will grant her every wish. But when she actually does find the end of a rainbow one day, and is given the opportunity to wish for whatever she wants, Sally asks for something that she believes will bring joy to children all over the world. She wishes that it would rain candy forever. She had no idea that her innocent wish would lead to the extinction of all life on earth.

Sweet Story is a children’s book gone horribly wrong. What starts as a cute, charming tale of rainbows and wishes soon becomes a vicious, unrelenting tale of survival in an inhospitable world full of cannibals and rapists. The result is one of the darkest comedies you’ll read all year, told with the wit and style you’ve come to expect from a Mellick novel.

I love stories about wishes, stories about monkeys paws, magic lamps, deals with devils, and the inevitable horror that follows as the wish goes horribly wrong. I love stories about wishes so much I even wrote a whole book of them, Try Before You Die. Carlton Mellick III’s latest, Sweet Story, is a story about a wish that goes horribly wrong, and it is a corker . Sweet Story starts off reading like a children’s book, the prose pitch perfect in effect, establishing a mood of light wonder which is then gorgeously, hideously destroyed by the reality of a child’s innocent wish being granted. There is a double pleasure in this kind of tale; first, the delicious tension of knowing that something awful is about to happen, and second, just how that awfulness is brought about. Sweet Story delivers on both counts; its set-up as a children’s book means that when the twist in the wish comes -and it’s a great one- the impact is all the more brutal. And not to give anything away, but the ending is perfect (and even I as an avowed addict of these kinds of tales didn’t see it coming.) As far as stories about wishes go, this one now joins the ranks of my absolute favourites, so much so in fact that I wish CM3 would write some more…

CONGA!

Santa

Check this out, Adam Millard’s latest, The Human Santapede. Mr Millard is a fellow author in the StrangeHouse Books stable, and I have to say that this looks like a hoot.

Santa Claus is coming to town…at least, that was the plan, but now his elves have started going missing, kidnapped by some insidious figure in a black cloak, and despite the magic swirling about the place, the toys aren’t going to put themselves together. So begins a terrifying game of cat and mouse as Kris Kringle searches The Land of Christmas for his abducted minions, unaware that he is to play an integral part in his foe’s plans.  Krampus is pissed at Santa after lending him his snowblower and never getting it back. His punishment? To build a Human Santapede long enough to stretch around The Land of Christmas, and at its helm, the jolly fat man himself. Can Santa – aided by his best foreman, Finklefoot – get his elves back, defeat Krampus, and save Christmas before it is too late, or will Krampus succeed in creating the ghastliest single-file organism the North Pole has ever seen?  Ho-Ho-Holy Shit, things are about to get messy…

And this plug neatly segues into a piece I was writing about a question that writers get asked over and over and over…

“WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS?”

Every writer has been asked this question, or some form of it. Considering the kind of things I write, the form I hear most often is “What the fuck is wrong with you?” Or something similar to that.

The question is a cliché, and most of the time the answer given will be as well. But there is one true answer, though to explain it I need to refer to another cliché; that there is nothing new under the sun. It’s all just the same shit, ingested and digested, around and around and around…

A few years ago a movie came out called The Human Centipede. I became aware of it after a friend sent me a message asking if I was going to get a credit for it. Interested, I looked into what the film was about -spoiler alert; it’s about poop- and I was a little puzzled as to what my friend was referring to (I believe I asked them “What the fuck is wrong with you?” Or something similar to that.)

This friend then pointed out that the central image of the film -the eponymous centipede, made from people sewn arsehole to appetite, a conjoined conga of coprophagia- was uncannily like my depiction of the Devil met by the eponymous subject of my “autohagiography” The Pornographer-General.

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In the first chapter F.U. Stein, a kind of insane John Waters, goes on a spiritual quest and meets the Serpent, a being which really, really, really matches the description of the human centipede.

Except instead of being three bodies long, it’s over six hundred.

In The Human Centipede: Second Sequence the body count is up to a dozen. At the time of writing the third film hasn’t been released, but apparently it’s going to be five hundred. I wonder whether the final logical step is taken, in which the mouth part of the front of the centipede is sewn to the anus at the other end, completing a closed circuit of crap… Something similar happened in The Pornographer-General, except that the Serpent served as inspiration for a six-hundred and sixty-six man circular gang bang.

(And what do you know! Turns out there’s a porn parody out there called The Human Sexipede!)

Now, my parody of transgressive novels first came out in 2008, and the chapter featuring my Serpent-centipede creation was published as a separate short story in a now defunct on-line magazine called The Open Vein at roughly the same time, so could Tom Six (writer and director of The Human Centipede) possibly have read it, and said “Hey, that gives me an idea…”? Well, yes, he could have. But I doubt it.

Besides, it isn’t even as if the idea was original to me. You see, that chapter of my novel was, weirdly enough, about a bloke wondering where a creator got his ideas. And the idea for that chapter came after I’d read an article on how the German chemist Kekule came up with the notion that the chemical structure of the benzene molecule was a ring after daydreaming about a serpent eating its own tail.

A serpent eating its own tail is an ancient symbol called an ouroboros (I prefer the spelling “oroboros”; I dunno,it sounds ROUNDER to me.) It represents the cyclical nature of things. That shit goes around and around and around.

That there is nothing new under the sun… or where the sun doesn’t shine.

PS: But seriously, The Human Santapede looks like an absolute hoot. I hope to get a copy in my stocking (hint, hint, Pinky!)