Southend Vlog And 1920s Horror Science Fiction Short Story Reading

I have returned!

I’ll just give a little personal update before looking up weird arty things to share. The first video is a vlog of my two weeks spent at home with Bill in Southend, Essex. The second is a reading (not live) of my occult science fiction horror short story.

If you ever wanted to learn how to make a Sidecar cocktail…ask Bill, not me. I’m also still reading my favourite stories each week here.

Zombie Lovers, Light Bulb Heads And Social Disease: Bizarre Book Club 17

Today’s pretentious book picture is brought to you by Leigh-On-Sea’s The Book Inn. Words galore!madeleine-swann-bizarroGood day weary travelers! Come inside my humble abode and rest your tired bones. have some soup. No, I wasn’t going to rob you, merely draw an amusingly upturned moustache upon your lip.

Let’s get on with the latest recommendations, shall we? There are a couple of books I’vezombie lovers anonymous madeleine swann berti walker promised to read but, never fear, I just haven’t done it yet – their turn will come.

1 The Pulse Between Dimensions and the Desert by Rios De La Luz. This book of short stories contains fiery Spanish poetry mixed with mostly English words (the author is Mexican American) and strong elements of magic realism, from stress related time travel to fruit containing photographs.

I did Spanish at college and was pleasantly surprised by how much I remembered, but even if you don’t know a single word I imagine it’ll be easy to understand in context. Each word is sprinkled in magic and El Paso dust, reminding us of the proud heritage of the cleaning women characters.

2. Zombie Lovers Anonymous by Berti Walker. Don lived through the zombie apocalypse. There aren’t many people left, but neither are there many zombies anymore. Those left fill their days with going to the bar and hanging around. One day Don decides to visit his ex girlfriend, who has unfortunately (or fortunately) become the undead, and Don just can’t help himself.

Joyously perverse and very entertaining, it made me laugh in several places. It’s erotica with a sense of humour and horror sensibilities. Sometimes it teetered on the edge of revolting but never went too far. However, this is me we’re talking about, I could be very different to you.

madeleine-swann-social-disease-anderson-prunty3. A Light Bulb’s Lament by Grant Wamack. Grant Wamack’s twitter proclaims him to be “A mind-bending entity who happens to be a novelist, rapper, urban mystic and book slinger.” Well, I don’t know about you, but that sounds exhausting!

The person waking with no memory is a common theme, but this time it’s a dandy with a light bulb for a head. The world is dark and snow bound and he, along with a pretty girl with a good singing voice and an amoral professor, have to figure out how to escape the evil Telemarketer.

I enjoyed this a lot, it appeals to my silly sense of bureaucratic humour, and I grew quite close to the characters. It was good fun.

4. Hi, I’m A Social Disease by Anderson Prunty.  As expected from the title, it shows the ugly side of humanity in a variety of ways, from surviving the apocalypse to sideshow revenge. It’s brutal, the characters are lonely and tortured, but it’s well written with enough strangeness and imagination to keep it interesting for me.

Just when I’d wonder if I was reading pure violence and unpleasantness, which isn’t my cup of tea, something very odd or beautifully described would happen. There’s intrigue in this mire.

Well, there we have it, I’m off to skip with rainbow unicorns with massive…ears. Until next time!

Bizarre Book Club 15: Kirk Cameron and Crockoduck Erotica, Transcendent Weirdness and Jigsaw Youth

Good morrow! Today’s book pictures are brought to you by Talliston House and Gardens. We went last weekend to a murder mystery at this amazing 25 year project and had jolly times and lots of food.Talliston-madeleine-swann

Without further ado, let’s have a look at the word bags that have unzipped my brain these last few weeks…

1. The Four Gentlemen of the Apocalypse by Various. There’s no apocalypse here, but there are four wonderfully different gentlemen. Each has written a novelette (about ten thousand words) of accessible absurdist, bizarro fiction. It may be mind-meltingly weird but the stories are easy to follow and entertaining, so if you’re normally put off by intense oddity the chances are you’ll enjoy at least one of these.

The 1929 Occult Study at Talliston
The 1929 Occult Study Room at Talliston

They’re very different in tone so if you’re not keen on extreme comedic violence you might prefer poetic beauty, or a surreal fairy tale, or a man turning into a cat. It’s fun, you should give it a whirl. And if you don’t like it, well, we can all move on with our lives and avoid eye contact from here on.

2. Jigsaw Youth by Tiffany Scandal. This book is pretty exciting, and I don’t just mean because the author is also a Suicide Girl and a photographer. It manages to transcend the angry alternative person cliches by packing in enough strangeness and raw emotion to make the reader’s eyes fizz like sour sweets.

Essentially it’s the main character’s story of navigating her way through life as an impossibly cool girl, falling in love with the wrong women and playing in a band, but it’s a lot more than that. I love her descriptions, her turns of phrase and the way it really seems to come from the heart. Everybody’s been through heartbreak at some point but here it feels fresh and somehow beautiful.

3. Gutmouth by Gabino IglesiasI started this book on a journey and had to put it down until I got home because I felt carsick. That doesn’t sound like a compliment but it is. One of my favourite genres is noir and the other is weird (is that a genre? It should be) and this is essentially a mix of the two. gutmouth

After the world faces apocalyptic mutations one man has a mouth in his gut, a mouth with a British accent and unpleasant attitude. He is friends with a rat-man who tortures people for their pleasure. His girlfriend was a one-legged cyber prostitute whom he now wants dead and everyone is watched over by giant eyes. It’s grim and fun, all rolled into one. Just don’t read it in the car.

4. Cirque Du Mort Volume 1 by Anastasia Catris. A circus of the damned is certainly not a new idea, any self-respecting oddball is drawn to dark circuses, and that’s because they’re brilliant. I read this in the early hours after taking painkillers and it tapped right into the place that drew me to weirdness as a young ‘un.

This comic is a collection of short stories, beginning with a character picture, of how each Circus of the Dead performer met their sticky end. The pictures and words are very pretty and I’m looking forward to getting the next one. cirque du mort

5. Nothing Is Strange by Mike Russell. This is some high minded weirdness. Each story made me go ‘ooh’ and ponder the nature of the universe. I liked it a lot and found the concepts thought provoking. Don’t believe me? Have a peek at one of them for yourself, Dunce, that’s probably the best way of deciding if you’d like to read more.

6. Kirk Cameron and the Crockoduck of Chaos Magick by Mandy de Sandra. This is the kind of short story you read to say ‘what the hell’ and show to other people. Once you recover from the fact that it’s not well-written in the traditional sense, you can appreciate it for the sheer…experience.

I didn’t know who Kirk Cameron was before I started, perhaps because I’m British and he’s not so famous over here, but I got the gist. The more I read the more I was reminded of Georgian satire against royalty and political figures, which may not have been poetic but they succeeded in making the chosen figure look very silly. Plus there’s a Jesus made out of cheese! In fact, there’s several. It’s just a bit of fun and if you feel like a chuckle I suggest you have a look.

Well, that’s it! I put all these words into my face and they emerged from the back of my head as information. Yummy. See you next time!

An Occult, Macabre Delight – Talliston House and Gardens

All pictures courtesy of the website.

Last weekend my friends and I decided to go look at a house. “Why?” You ask, “there’s houses everywhere. Look, I can see one now.” Well, yes, but this one “there’s one with a red door, and a green door, and…” Shush! As I was saying, this one is really special.

The 1929 Occult Study
The 1929 Occult Study

Talliston House and Gardens in Dunmow, Essex, has been a project of the owner, John Trevillion, for 25 years. It started as a regular ex council house and has become an art piece where every room exists in a different era, from a New Orleans voodoo kitchen to a late Victorian front room.

1960s Cambodia in the attic
1960s Cambodia in the attic

My favourites, however, were upstairs: a study from 1929 New York filled with occult books and props, a ‘haunted bedroom’ and 1960s Cambodia in the attic.

A Victorian front room
A Victorian front room

They’ve still not quite finished but there’s lots of things upcoming. They hold murder mystery nights, people can stay over on special occasions, plus there’s viewings, poetry and music nights (you can watch the videos on their youtube channel) and an event in October with actors occupying the rooms. Honestly, we thought it was wonderful. Visit if you can, and finally here’s a video showing how it was made (note: they had help completing it so don’t worry, they’re almost done):

Bizarre Book Club 9: The bored dead, news in miniature and bizarro stories

Hello! Today’s pretentious Book Club picture is brought to you from Ruby’s Vintage tea shop in Colchester, Essex. They have a cosy room upstairs called The Reading Room.

They sell tea, cakes and clothes oh my!
They sell tea, cakes and clothes oh my!

1. Anti Twitter by Harold Jaffe. This book features real news stories shrunk down to their essence and the whole thing took me a little over an hour to read. I felt the saddest one was about Billie Holliday, ending with: Nobody knew who she was.

It was a little like reading the odd news pages online only more worrying. Large amounts were about football hooligans but I promise you, not all British people are like that – unless you count the time I drank a whole bottle of Appletiser, the memories of that night haunt us all.

2. Flamingos in the Ashtray: 25 Bizarro Short Stories by Zoltan Komor. I love his ideas and seem to spend a lot of time now wondering how he came up with them. Admittedly there are one or two typing errors in the text but it really wasn’t a problem for me because his imagination made my mind crackle like a fizzy drink opened after a shaking by a school bully. I like his brain so much I’m also including this link to three free stories online.

3. Suspended Heart by Heather Fowler. I’ve also read People With Holes by this lady and I think she’s becoming one of my favourites. Although her short stories are classed as Magic Realism it’s easy to recognise thoughts and situations we’ve all been through. Her imagery is beautiful and makes me want to roll around nude amongst the flowers, however I feel that would quickly devolve matters and the original point would be lost during calls for an ambulance and the cries of children.

4. The Postmortal by Drew Magary. A story told in stages of the collapse of mankind after a cure for ageing has been discovered. John Farrell starts as an ordinary man whose life quickly goes down the tubes along with the structure of society after taking the cure. Although it’s mainly a thriller, there are some very amusing images such as a stoner who decides to end it all by being blown from a canon. I found it as entertaining as a shrew in a tutu, which is pretty entertaining despite what the RSPCA might tell you. It’s not my fault they have no sense of humour.

So there we have it! Fare thee well, and may your summer be nice and warm, although not too warm as it can be unpleasant. A bit warm. Byee!

Bizarre Book Club 8: A handbook for weird writers, Sherlock v Lovecraft and Jane Austen plus sea monsters

Today’s book picture was taken in Calli-Orphic in Chelmsford, Essex.

Merry May to you all, if you’re a policeman remember not to go investigating missing girls on remote Scottish islands.Righty-ho, let’s have a look at what we’ve got.

This is exactly how I read the entire book
This is exactly how I read the entire book

1. Architectures of Possibility: After Innovative Writing by Lance Olsen. This book has been very helpful to me already and I haven’t even done any of the exercises. As well as these it has interviews with authors, analysis of ‘innovative’ novels and reading suggestions. The part of my brain which finished English Literature was very soothed by those. I won’t pretend I understood everything it told me but I’m sure you will.

2. The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas. A jolly jape through time travel, thought experiments and Victorian sideshows (briefly) all with a heroine I could relate to. The blurb on the back reads: “When Ariel Manto uncovers a copy of The End of Mr. Y in a second-hand bookshop, she can’t believe her eyes. She knows enough about its author, the outlandish Victorian scientist Thomas Lumas, to know that copies are exceedingly rare. And, some say, cursed.”

The characters spend a lot of time discussing physics and philosophy and, again, I can’t pretend I understood it all, but it taught me quite a bit and by the time things got weird I was hooked. It fed my imagination and my brain at the same time, like mind fish and chips. Or probably something fancier than that, like in a restaurant in London, or something.

3. Shadows Over Baker Street edited by Michael Reaves and John Pelan. This anthology of Sherlock Holmes and Lovecraftian myth contains Neil Gaiman’s award winning A Study in Emerald which is, of course, very good. There are a couple of other good ones but I noticed Sherlock Holmes seemed a bit…tired or distracted in some of them, and the endings of a fair few seemed to trail off into a puff of seagulls. However this is only my opinion and I’m still glad I have this, which is why I included it in the list.

4. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H Winters. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. OK, so it’s a completely daft retelling of a regency love story mixed with giant crustaceans and tentacled monsters but it’s entertaining and quite funny.

I reckon you’ll have to find the original style of writing enjoyable enough as it’s far from a simple read, but I found the addition of man-eating fish improved things. I hope I’m not struck down by some literary God before getting the chance to see the BBC adaptation. For those interested here’s a blog post on how it was written.

So long, fare well, please avoid any wicker men. Bye!

Bizarre Book Club 7: Candy Cannibals, Weird Anthologies and the Apocalypse

A chair on the wall? What tea based madness is this?
A chair on the wall? What tea based madness is this?

Today’s book pictures (me posing and pretending to read) are brought to you by The Glass House Tea Shop in Braintree, Essex. They gave my friend and I a small slice of free cake, which was wonderful by the way.

Phew it’s all happening in this one! Let’s begin.

1. Cannibals of Candyland by Carlton Mellick III. A good, fun read which doesn’t take too long as it’s quite short. A race of cannibals exists in a magic land under the city. The main character searches them out in revenge for leading his siblings away years ago with a hypnotic sweet scent, but things don’t go according to plan.

2. The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer. I’ve mentioned this book once before but I love it so much I’m mentioning it again. It has almost everyone you can think of: Neil Gaiman, Haruki Murakami, the short story of Don’t Look Now by Daphne Du Maurier, George R.R. Martin (wrote some books about thrones and games, I dunno), Franz Kafka, Clive Barker, Robert Aickman, Leonora Carrington (Max Ernst’s extra marital partner and a surreal painter and writer) and Saki, to name a few. Everyone should read more Saki, he was a genius. Basically, buy this book now or I’ll creep into your room at night and sniff your ear.

That's right, we moved just so I could get another picture
That’s right, we moved just so I could get another picture

3. Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens edited by ? I could be incorrect but I believe there were ten of these short story issues gathered before they stopped. Perhaps they’ve moved to a new home (though they’ve left no explanation) or perhaps they vanished into a puff of kittens, either way have a look at the archive editions for a dose of true insanity.

4. Apocalypse Culture edited by Adam Parfrey. First published back in 1987, even more reports of fringe cultural practices were gathered in 1991, and then again for Apocalypse Culture 2 in 2000.

Here’s what wikipedia says: Apocalypse Culture is a collection of articles, interviews, and documents that explore the various marginal aspects of culture. It explores aesthetic nihilism, destructive cults, extreme violence, sexual deviancy, conspiracy theory, extreme forms of nationalism, and other subjects. First published in 1987, it was reprinted in 1990 and 2001. In 2000 the sequel Apocalypse Culture II was released. The book has been widely campaigned against and has been banned in many countries.

What’s not to like?! Get buying!

Very well, thus concludes another session of Bizarre Book Club. May you not run weeping into the night. Or perhaps may you, depending on preferences. I’m not here to judge. Toodle pip!