Bizarre Book Club: Scary Grandpa, Surreal Stories, Puppet Overlords And Sci Fi

Hello my little sugar cubes dangled over a glass of absinthe. My friend Steve and I have once again created our own writer and artist’s retreat as we have strict deadlines to get things finished, but I have still managed to read some peculiar books.

Cartoons In The Suicide Forest by Leza Cantoral

This is a bizarre and beautifully poetic book about some dark things. Leza takes inspiration from same sex Russian marriage, Jean Cocteau’s beauty and the beast, Mexican folklore and underground sex slave cults among other things and gives them an erotically feminine fairy tale twist. I enjoyed the ‘real world’ stories as much as the surreal, a good example being a relationship failing amidst heroine dependence. Pretty!

Cartoons In The Suicide Forest book trailer

Puppet Skin by Danger Slater

This fun book is a kind of YA twist on the bizarro genre. When youngsters reach a certain age they are forcibly turned into marionette puppets with strings that reach far into the sky. No one knows what’s up there, or why they have to do it, but one young girl decides to rebel just as something strange starts happening to the puppets .

I liked the way the teens actually do things teens do like smoke and skip school. In fact this could be an allegory for ‘responsible’ rebellion and why it’s necessary to look beyond your situation and not always do as you’re told.

Puppet Skin book trailer

Like Jagged Teeth by Betty Rocksteady

The story starts with immediate tension and continues throughout. A girl is walking home from a night out followed by boys when, just in time, she’s picked up by her grandfather – who’s been dead for several years. When she arrives back at his place joy turns to fear as she realises something isn’t right.

As the character lurches from room to room the story becomes progressively darker and the effect is disorientating, but it deals with shame and guilt and love and is more than mere gross out stuff.

Betty on the This Is Horror podcast Original post

Cog by K. Ceres Wright

The head of a large corporation in a futuristic world is in hospital and his son is missing, along with millions of dollars. Add to that an estranged son with questionable motives and a daughter who has to go on the run and you’ve got an enjoyable read that reminded me of classic action science fiction films. The gadgets aren’t always immediately described which can seem confusing at first, but I’d much rather that than reams of explanation.

K. Ceres Wright reading a section (NSFW)

Good day, hope you enjoy these if you decide to purchase, toodle pip!

Weird Flash Fiction In Flash Fiction Magazine

Hello my little sandwich bags!

Just a quick pop in to say my weird, sort of but not at all science fiction story is up on Flash Fiction Magazine.

Have a read, thanks!

The Patsy (1928) directed by King Vidor shown: Marion Davies
The Patsy (1928)
directed by King Vidor
shown: Marion Davies

Modern Gothic, Extreme Horror And Haunted Vaginas: Bizarre Book Club

Today’s pretentious book picture is brought to you by Utopia coffee shop in Southend, Essex. Books, hipster decorations and brilliant drinks oh my!  img_20160806_145807

Good day my lovely packets of weird flavour crisps that you’re not sure if you’ll like at first but turn out to be really good. I’ve read a bunch more weird books so join me on my wild ride. P.S. I’m on rather a lot of painkillers so forgive me if I gibber nonsensically like a drunk aunt on Valium.

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle. ballad-of-black-tomThe thing I enjoyed most about this modern weird fiction tale was the characterization. Black Tom, a man from 1920s Harlem, is completely believable and draws you into his story of finding a strange book for an even stranger old white man.

Set in the Lovecraft universe, it offers a unique perspective in that the author is an African American man. The dedication is to Lovecraft himself and ‘all (the author’s) complicated feelings towards him.’

Sunruined by Anderson Prunty. sunruined This collection of short stories has a gothic Halloween flavour to it, I could almost smell the Autumn leaves. Or perhaps I was just desperate for Autumn to begin.

They may not always be outright horror, in fact some are probably dark fantasy or whatever the kids are reading these days, but they’re always beautiful and very imaginative. Don’t worry, there’s no vampires, but there are screaming trees and predatory women.

While The Black Stars Burn by Lucy Snyder. whiletheblackstarsburnIt’s very shallow but the main reason I bought this book was because of it’s beautiful cover. LOOK AT IT! Then I was pleasantly surprised by the stories.

There are a number of genres here but mainly science fiction and weird, two of my favourite things. The author uses these strange set ups as a backdrop for everyday feelings, such as the woman in mourning who goes on a space voyage. The ending of this one is wonderfully dark, by the way, as are many of them. Read it!

The Teratologist by Edward Lee and Wrath James White. What a pair of sick puppies. I took a picture of my face whilst reading the second page. THE SECOND PAGE!img-20160823-wa0000

Generally I would say this kind of thing isn’t my cup of tea as the grossness is kind of an endurance test, while the aberrant sex gets a little tiresome. However something about it kept me reading. It sounds like I hated it but I really didn’t, I found the story quite fascinating. Two men, a journalist and photographer, are invited to the house of a wealthy man who secretly collects deformed people and religious leaders and feeds them lust enhancing drugs in order to offend God and bring him to Earth.

I think I enjoyed it, but seriously, only read if you have a strong stomach.

The Haunted Vagina by Carlton Mellick III. thehauntedvaginaI expected a very different book to the one I got. I thought I’d be reading a gross, immature comedy with not too much depth, but entertaining. It was entertaining, but it was also a very sweet and heartfelt look at relationships and the odd little things that make us love a person and, often, why relationships don’t last.

It is occasionally a bit gross, such as when the main character oils up to dive inside his girlfriend’s nether regions to explore the strange world within, but sex and love is sometimes gross and messy and we can’t explore these topics without getting a bit dirty.

There we have it! I won’t be posting next week as I’m having a holiday in my house, but you have plenty to be getting on with. Adieu!

7 Advice Podcasts For Writers Of Weird Fiction And Horror

I don’t know what I’m doing! Sometimes I think I do but, more often than not, the further into this writing game I get the more I realise I know far less than I thought. However help is at hand in the form of people who know a bit more than I do making words into microphones. Take their hand (don’t kiss it, it’s probably sticky) and follow them down a dark corridor. Or a well-lit one, whichever seems nicer.

Speculate!speculate!

Billing itself as the podcast for writers, readers and fans, Gregory A. Wilson and Bradley P. Beaulieu have been referred to as ‘the best interviewers currently podcasting about genre fiction.’ They’re also joined by Michael R. Underwood and all have a good background in writing weird. As well as in depth interviews they review books and discuss writing techniques and publishing.

Bizzong The Bizarre And Weird Fiction Podcast

If you like silly and daft you’ll feel at home here, but there’s a lot of information too. Frank Edler interviews a different weird writer each episode to discuss their work, life, and zombie Elvis.

The Horror Show With Brian Keenexkeene_horrorshow_podcast-cover.jpg.pagespeed.ic.K9Jc-hqB_E

Brian Keene seems like a nice man. He and his friends discuss horror fiction as a genre, the various news and points of interest facing horror authors and, well, pretty much anything else. It’s like having a nice cup of tea – except when they talk about something unpleasant, then it’s like having an unpleasant but interesting cup of tea.

This Is Horror

This is also an informative podcast! Authors discuss their personal work, outlining stories, getting published, getting self-published and everything it entails – pretty much anything a horror writer needs to know.

The Outer DarkTheOuterDark1

Winner of the ‘This Is Horror’ award 2015, guests are interviewed about their books and writing techniques followed by ‘news from the weird.’ This is any information weird writers may find interesting such as anthologies looking for submissions.

Dead Robots’ Society

Soothing and amusing, they chat with a guest on subjects ranging from beta readers, selling yourself, emotional arcs and mankinis with heels. deadrobotssocietypodcast

The Horror Writer’s Podcast

Zach Bohannon and J. Thorn ‘discuss all things horror’ including an interview with the director of The Invitation, horror news and interesting TV. Bless their cottons.

Ta dah! Fill your ears with facts and interesting titbits and may it help you on your journey. Don’t forget to pack a lunch!

Blood, Body Parts And Evil Angels: 6 Creepy, Weird Or Scary Plants

Hello!

It’s almost summer and the flowers are sprouting, which is the best time to remind ourselves that nature is the weirdest thing you’ll ever experience. As you can tell from previous posts, I love weird nature and creepy creatures, they’re brilliant prompts for stories, but today I shall focus solely on those life forms that were here long before us and will remain when we’re gone – plants.

The Bleeding Tooth Fungus: We’ll start with something really grotesque because you can handle it, you’re grown ups with eyes of steel. The Bleeding Tooth Fungus apparently isn’t poisonous but has a very bitter taste rendering it inedible. Doesn’t it make you hungry though? It reminds me of jam. bleeding-tooth-fungus

It lurks mostly in North American forests but has been spotted elsewhere. The ooze (or sap, if you want to be all sciencey about it) is sometimes yellow (mmm, pus) pink, beige or orange.

Bleeding Tooth Fungus: In French With English text

Angel Trumpet: brugmansia

The very epitome of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, these South American plants appear heavenly but are said to have a darker secret than an Edgar Allen Poe character.

They contain atropine, hyoscyamine and scopolamine, the last of which can apparently be used to alter another person’s state of mind, or create ‘zombies.’ I don’t personally know how true these claims are, much of it sounds a little over-hyped, but cases exist where the plant has been blamed for causing a hypnotic state, such as in the victims of a trio of thieves arrested in Paris who ‘willingly’ handed over possessions. However it’s unclear whether scopolamine can actually remove free will.

World’s Scariest Drug

Rafflesia Flower: We all know of the Titan Arum corpse flower and it’s scent of rotting corpses, but perhaps slightly less known in some parts is the Rafflesia from Southeastern Asia, also known as the corpse flower. Confused? Good.

It’s a parasite which latches onto the roots of a host plant. It’s innards stink of decomposing flesh to attract the flies it feeds on. Naturally, with all this going for it, it’s the official state flower of Indonesia (?).

worlds largest corpse flower Rafflesia Arnoldii

Devil’s Fingers: Mistaken online for an alien life form the Devil’s Fingers fungus, or Octopus Stinkhorn, is truly rather strange.

Growing mostly in Britain it bursts from an other-wordly sack to release it’s foul stench (for attracting flies) into the world.

Devil’s Fingers Time Lapse

Clitoria: clitoriaThe scientist who named this beauty certainly wasn’t shy. He/she saw a flower that looked like it had a clitoris and called it as it was.

Another native of Southeast Asia, this flower is used as food dye or eaten deep fried. Others have historically attempted to give it less ‘controversial’ names but they never stuck because, let’s face facts, it looks like a fanny.

Dracula Orchids: orchid-dracula With a name evoking the undead you would expect these flowers from Central America to look creepy but they’re actually quite cute, if you like monkey faces. Slightly judgmental monkey faces.

Being Orchids these are cultivated by fanciers for their beauty and rarity. They were named Dracula because of the red colour displayed by some.

There we have it my little summer popsicles. Go, now, and frolic amongst the monkey faced fields and corpse laden air. I’ll be watching.

My Top 6 Creepy, Weird Or Scary Serial And Fiction Podcasts

Hello my little flower seed packets surreptitiously passed to Poirot as a clue to be deciphered later. Here in the future there are so many ways to experience fiction that words leak from our every orifices. One of the ways I’ve been mainlining fiction is via podcasts, and thanks to all those who alerted me to these particular gems.

What works so well about the fictional casts is the blending of fact and fiction, echoing Orson Welles’ fifties radio version of War of the Worlds where the first section was presented as a genuine news reel. Also taken from the past is the serial format, reflecting the stories Dickens and many others wrote for newspapers.

I’m going to assume you know of Welcome to Night Vale and Thrilling Adventure Hour (especially their ‘Beyond Belief’ segment). If you’re after podcasts to send your own fiction to have a look at the mini list below:

Escape Pod (science fiction

Pseudopod (horror)

Drabblecast (weirdest of the weird)

Wicked Library (more horror).

OK let’s go!

  1. Fireside Mystery Theater 

These stories, despite being set in the modern day, have a distinctly fifties feel. Performed live at The Slipper Room in New York it’s in turns funny, strange and…mysterious. Of course, being a variety show (each episode has one or two songs as well as a few stories), some are better than others but you can feel the fun they’re having and there’s some great ones.

I really enjoyed this Childhood Fears themed episode:

2. Tanis

Inspired by places of mystery or legend like Atlantis and Xanadu, this series is a fictional search for Tanis. Is it a place? Is it a thing? Is it a tiny lemon-shaped vacuum cleaner? The main story is punctuated by true mysteries and literary/weird fiction references from Haruki Murakami to House of Leaves, which makes me as geekily happy as this bird with a paper towel.

Episode 1:

3. The Black Tapes

This serial on the unsolved cases of Paranormal investigator Dr Strand comes from the same production company as Tanis. Again the stories are inspired by ‘true’ mysteries such as the audio from Hell and the exorcism of Anneliese Michel (here under a fictional name).

The individual cases aren’t always brought to a satisfying conclusion  – so far, anyway, I’ve only listened to a few – but they are intriguing and definitely enjoyable. Also Strand reminds me of a moodier and darker Richard Wiseman, a magician and debunker whose book promotion I went to in Edinburgh. He was very jolly, it was fun.

I couldn’t share episode 1 here, sorry!

4. Limetown Stories

This seven part (so far) series actually made me very nervous as I listened through headphones late at night. It’s premise is eerie enough; ten years ago residents of Limetown disappeared without trace and journalist Lia Haddock is determined to find out what happened. The story builds in spookiness and intrigue until…well, I won’t tell you anymore.

Episode 1:

5. The Message

This reminds me of the Twilight Zone episode To Serve Man: Aliens land and announce they’re bringing earthlings back to their planet to live peacefully. Scientists attempt to decipher a book of theirs throughout, not succeeding until it’s too late. I have a sneaking suspicion that the possibly extra-terrestrial message the code-breakers are attempting to crack in this podcast isn’t going to be anything good.

Episode 1:

6. Serial

This is the only nonfiction entry and it’s completely addictive. Sarah Koenig, a journalist and radio personality, is attempting to get to the bottom of a case which doesn’t add up on closer inspection. Or does it? That’s what she’s trying to figure out.

Adnan Syed is in prison for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee in Baltimore. It seemed at the time to be a cut and dried example of a jealous ex boyfriend, but none of their school mates believe it and some of the timelines are iffy to say the least. Also there are possible fantasists, streakers, and much more. Seriously, give this one a listen, I had to force myself to switch it off and go to sleep.

Years from now I will be discovered, nothing but thick cobwebs stretched over bones, a pair of headphones stuck to my yellowing skull, the only sound the weak strains of one of these podcasts or Audible (which is also good, Gillian Anderson and Neil Gaiman have already read me spooky stories).

That’s how anyone would want to go, isn’t it? Join us…

Writing Advice From Professional Authors

Oh, hello! You’re early! My my… I was just in the middle of baking macaroons. Erm, have a seat and chat with these well known author types until I’m finished:

Neil Gaiman’s advice for aspiring authors:

Octavia Butler on writing science fiction:

Ray Bradbury on writing:

Jeff Vandermeer on weird writing:

Angela Carter discusses her writing:

Jamaica Kincaid on finding her voice as a writer: