Three Short Parables

by
Daulton Dickey.

I.

For a brief moment, no longer than ten years, which wasn’t much, all things considered, the city seemed on the verge of greatness. Nestled at the mouth of Lake Michigan, it had served as a portal for steel manufacturers to transport their goods to and from Gary and Chicago, both voracious consumers of raw and processed steel. Houses bloomed in fields until no fields remained. Streets and sidewalks, buildings and stores and factories filled the city. The leaders of industry diversified, and soon a Pullman boxcar manufacturer popped up. By the lake, a cough lozenge manufacturer erected a simple, box-shaped building. The city boomed, as people would say. Incomes increased, and along with it the accoutrements concomitant to disposable income: pools and swings and cars, some excessively luxurious, and general stores packed with disposable goods, all of which people devoured, people looking to fill their lives with evidence of their squandered time. Then voodoo economics and global trade deals crushed the steel industry, and the port withered and died. Chasing jobs, people fled. Poverty replaced prosperity. Drugs and alcoholism, crime and violence, anxiety and depression and suicide scarred the faces and fattened the bodies of everyone left to rot in the city. Paint on buildings and signs and fences chipped and faded, and concrete cracked and broke. Gray replaced color. The world seemed to dim. Every once in a while, sometimes twice a month, the sky over the city cracked: blood and sulfuric effluvia drenched the city. The poor bastards buried in the bottom-most levels of the social strata, left to rot when the wealth of the middle class fled, watched as the faces of their friends and loved ones drooped. No one understood the affliction. Doctors hypothesized neurological disorders possibly caused by an ecosystem poisoned by decades of industry, but they nixed the neurological argument when faces melted and slid off and merged with the flesh on chests or necks or stomachs or arms. Something else was clearly at work. That no one seemed to notice or care, that doctors only treated it with anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication didn’t evoke questions from anyone passing through the city. Most people, those with money who passed through town, dismissed the affliction as a problem relegated to the impoverished. In some way, people argued, it was probably their fault–maybe not directly; perhaps it was the product of poor upbringing, or genetics. At any rate, people said, there wasn’t much use in worrying. ‘My life’s good,’ one traveler said, ‘my face’s intact; why should I worry?’ The old woman, who lived in the abandoned post office, known to everyone in town as a ‘crazy witch,’ laughed when she overheard the traveler’s apathy. ‘The way things are going,’ she said, ‘the sky over every city will crack, and every face will soon droop and melt.’ The traveler ignored her. Everyone ignored her. And when the sky over cities around the country–around the world, even–cracked and bled, and faces drooped and melted, entire populations ignored the problem, pretended it 20160601-230511.jpgdidn’t exist, by focusing on alcohol, drugs, sports, and pop culture. ‘I mean, really, there’s nothing to worry about,’ a local community organizer said. He was a prominent billionaire, face intact, who lived in a neighborhood enclosed in a dome and often acted as the voice of the people. ‘This is something that happens,’ he said. ‘It’s important now, it’s absolutely critical, that we carry on with our lives. We as citizens must continue shopping, go on vacation, go to college, accumulate as much debt as is needed to help our struggling economy. Faces change. Yes, some even melt. But it must not prevent us from living our lives, from raising our children, from playing our part in maintaining the economy.’ Footage of his speech played on repeat on news broadcasts around the country. Few people expressed alarm when his cheek twitched and his eyelid sagged mid-way through the speech. Sometime later, he retired from public view. Continue reading

Book Review: Zero Saints by Gabino Iglesias

by
Daulton Dickey.

Setting aside debates about whether or not we as a species are hardwired with a predilection toward violence, we can at least agree that our species displays a knack for it. Point to any period in human history and you’ll highlight an age rife with violence. From the Sumerians to the Romans, from Christendom to America, our stories and cultures reflect, and even glorify, violence. As foundation myths—Romulus murdering Remus; Washington crossing the Delaware to slaughter sleeping enemies—entire cultures are predicated on romanticized violence. Yet violence is never romantic. Or noble. Imagine it not as an abstraction, as something others engage in, and imagine it as a thing-in-itself, as an action or activity injuring or ending the lives of living, breathing human beings, as a carnal act committed against sentient meat, and you’ll find nothing amusing or romantic about it.

Popular entertainment treats violence in a variety of ways, from the absurdity of cartoons such as Looney Tunes or B-movies to the unflinching realism of Cormac McCarthy novels, and our society seems to view it in its many varieties, not always as acts of brutality. As such, we Americans tend to treat violence with a sort of flippancy, occasionally calling for appalling acts against people or countries as politics by other means.

Bracketing causal speculation, somezerosaints people live and dwell in violence—directly or indirectly, intentionally or inadvertently. Human civilization is a series of Möbius strips, sets within sets within sets. Some subcultures navigate broader social rules and norms while playing by different sets of rules altogether. These subcultures tend to epitomize violence as means to ends. The violence perpetrated by drug cartels is a prime example of this Möbius strip strip within a Möbius strip, where shadow laws and governments, of sorts, operate within broader society. These cartels reap violence on such massive scales that it’s hard to wrap our heads around. So many tens of thousands of people have been slaughtered that we’ve abstracted the violence—and we view these deaths as nothing more than numbers and statistics.

And we’re rarely afforded opportunities to humanize those caught in these traps. But by creating situations with seemingly-living characters, fiction can and does serve a purpose: it transforms statistics into shared experiences, allowing empathy to replace apathy or antipathy.

Zero Saints (Broken River Books), Gabino Iglesias’s unflinching portrayal of violence, revenge, and redemption is the kind of fiction that can illuminate the toll violence takes in the real world.

Fernando is a small-time drug dealer in Texas. Having fled the chaos of the Mexican cartel wars, and entered the states illegally, limiting his opportunities, he’s taken a job as a pusher for a dealer who’s carved out a decent territory in Austin. And he’s about to have a bad week. Continue reading

Book Review: Berzerkoids by M.P. Johnson

by
Daulton Dickey.

Berzerkoids are here! And this book is here to stay. If you love weird, intelligent, and entertaining short fiction, than this book should feature prominently on your bookshelf.

Loosely centered around the antics of toys–as a sort of anti-Toy Story–this collection also features several stories only tangentially connected to its titular themes. It’s thematic in the way Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is conceptual: some stories follow the 51ypuzfhl-_sy344_bo1204203200_overall theme and some could fit into any collection. But one thing is certain: every story in this collection is entertaining.

Say what you want about MP Johnson–and why the hell would you say anything negative, you prick?–but he has a wicked, pop-culture-infused, and, at times, minimalist imagination and sense of humor. His approach to the short form reminded me–as improbable as some readers might find this–of the best short works of Hemingway, as well as Joyce’s stories in Dubliners. Some are only a couple pages long; some build slowly, then hit you like a freight train; but none overstay their welcome, which is, to my mind, the strength of this collection.

The stories hit hard and fast. Realized worlds are developed within the matter of a few pages, characters are presented and developed well, situations go from weird to weirder, and the stories end, often without resolution, often without explanation–a sign of a confident writer.

Johnson doesn’t waste paragraphs or pages justifying the worlds he’s creating; instead, he drops you into them, creates weird or funny or intense situations, and leaves you wanting more. But there’s little confusion. You’re never dropped into a world in which you are confused or lost. You’re always viewing the worlds through the eyes of characters you care about, or through characters or high concepts so weird or funny or clever that you assent to take the trip, and oftentimes you can’t anticipate where you’re headed.

This is a great collection of stories by a strong and confident writer.

Book Review: The Green Kangaroos by Jessica McHugh

by
Daulton Dickey.
When you’re trapped in the cycle of addiction, where drugs transcend a good time and dominate your life, your existence, where every action you takes is predicated on scoring the next bag, the next hit, the next taste, everything in your life–indeed your life itself transforms, in a sense, into your periphery, there’s nothing you won’t do to score. In chasing his drug of choice, the fictional atlys, Perry Samson does the unthinkable: he sells chunks of his flesh. It’s a desperate move, one frowned on by even the lowliest of drug addicts. In the world of The Green Kangaroos by Jessica McHugh, those who sell their meat–to an upscale restaurant of all places–are viewed as the lowliest of lows, even by those in the grip of atlys addiction. Set in the waning years of the 21st century, The Green Kangaroos starts as a classic drug novel. But it quickly descends into a Philip K. Dicksian landscape of questionable or ambiguous reality.

On reading the opening chapter, one thing strikes you: the voice. This is a narrator so fully realized that you, at times, forget it’s a work of fiction. His attitude, his drive, his personal lexicon, his overwhelming desire to court, and succumb to, his addiction, feels plucked from the pages of a memoir. Nothing is off limits here; no taboos are too sacred to avoid. Drugs and violence, sex and desire–all consume the Perry, who alternates between these desires and his drive to score the next hit. It’s an unflinching look at the depths and depravities concomitant to drug addiction. 22043543

But this isn’t simply a Fear & Loathing-esque tale of excess; instead, it’s a morality play, an existential dirge, and, most importantly, a family drama. Perry’s relationship to his ex-wife and, crucially, his sister, grounds the novel in a pathos missing from some drug novels.

Then there are the dicksian elements. Without giving too much away, or spoiling several big reveals, I’ll just say that this is, in part a science fiction novel dealing with questions of reality and the ethics of advanced medical and scientific technology.

Equal parts drug novel, dystopian fiction, science fiction, and meditations on family and reality, The Green Kangaroos is a novel that grabs you from the opening paragraph and doesn’t let go until it races toward the climax. It’s a masterful novel that isn’t without it’s flaws: for me, the denouement was a little too protracted, and the epilogue inspired mixed feelings. On reading it, I felt misgivings, as if it was tacked on simply for the sake of creating a twist ending; but the more I thought about it, the more it occurred to me that it was a commentary on the nature of drug addiction and the personality types susceptible to slipping into that spiral.

Jessica McHugh is one of the more exciting writers working today. Her confidence, her voice, her ability to create compelling characters and worlds, and her embrace of the offensive, grotesque, and obscene makes her a rare writer these days, one willing to tackle any subject as honestly as possible.

Overall, it’s a fantastic novel.

New Release! Petroleum Precinct: Grudge Punk 2

test-3

Rooster Republic Press proudly presents the highly-anticipated sequel to Grudge Punk… 

The King of Eyes is dead. Long live the King.

The Grudge just ain’t what she used to be. In the aftermath of a bloody mob war, the city is without a kingpin, but not short of hoods spoiling to claim the title. Into the fray steps Lieutenant Sternhammer, of the reviled and corrupt Grudgehaven Police Department.

His mission: rebuild the reputation of his fellow cops and re-establish their dominance in the eyes of the public. His target: the cunning and ruthless gangster, Chupa Junior. His battleground: Chupatown, the worst slum in the city.

No easy task, even without all those other little complications, like headless jazz musicians, duplicitous pimps, a serial killer targeting gold-hearted women and whatever strange, powerful mystery lurks within the bowels of…

PETROLEUM PRECINCT

gp2WEB FJ Click picture to order directly from Amazon.

New to Grudge Punk?…

View original post 124 more words

Still Life with Chattering Teeth and People-Shaped Things: and Other Stories–Out Now!

Violent and surreal, twisted and macabre—these stories wstilllifedaultondickeyill challenge your idea of normality and asceticism. From a psychopathic serial killer who meets her match in a family of serial killers to men and women lost and tormented by their minds, Still Life with Chattering Teeth and People-Shaped Things and Other Stories will burrow into your skull, and mind f**k you.

Warning: This collection contains stories not suitable for children or the faint of heart.

Click here to buy the ebook on Amazon
.

Printers Row, or Being Weird in Broad Daylight

P1100025 From left to right: John Bruni, D.F. Noble, MP Johnson, Michael Allen Rose, and Sauda Namir.

It was a last minute kind of gig for us. Michael Allen Rose (we met in a bathroom at BizarroCon and quickly became friends shortly after) invited us up to this show in Chicago. Last year, several of the presses in the Bizarro community had teamed up to showcase their books at Printers Row, and since Nick and I were now carrying the torch for Rooster Republic Press, we figured it’d be a good idea to represent. Right there on the street. In broad daylight.

We gathered up some of the new releases, took a four hour road trip to Chicago, bought a goofy Batman cowboy hat, and stopped at Michael’s apartment (who was putting up us for the weekend). Mr. Rose and the lovely Sauda Namir welcomed us in to meet with…

View original post 686 more words

Cover Reveal: STOLEN AWAY by Kristin Dearborn

Shotgun Logic

Today I have the honor and the pleasure to be presenting to you for the very first time the cover to Kristin Dearborn’s new novel STOLEN AWAY, coming on June 25 from Raw Dog Screaming Press. I’ll be reviewing that book over on This Is Horror soon, so watch for that, but don’t wait for it by any means. You can pre-order the book right now. In the meantime dig this lovely cover art by the talented artist, Daniele Serra. Thanks to Raw Dog Screaming Press for allowing me to share this with you.

9781935738848-Perfect.indd

About the Artist:

The cover was created by Italian artist Daniele Serra. He is a winner of the British Fantasy Award and has worked with companies such as DC Comics, Image Comics, Cemetery Dance, Weird Tales Magazine and PS Publishing. Visit his web site to see more of his art: http://www.multigrade.it

STOLEN AWAY Synopsis:

View original post 672 more words

An Excerpt from Bastard Virtues

by
Daulton Dickey.

Click here to pre-order the paperback edition of Bastard Virtues
Click here to pre-order the Kindle edition of Bastard Virtues

Imagine sleeping.

Or trying to sleep.

Or lying in that state between sleeping and awake, a sort of light REM sleep.

Then imagine your phone rings.

Or someone pounds on the door.

You lie in bed for a moment, wondering who the hell’s bothering you.

Or maybe you know who it is.

Maybe you don’t want to answer the phone—or the door—and so you lie in bed.

Then, perhaps out of curiosity, you leap out of bed and grab the phone, or open the door.

Now imagine your cousin Rodney.

He wants your help.

Go into town with him and bail out his son, your second cousin.

Was it even possible to bail someone out at three in the morning?

Imagine thinking it over.

Or acquiescing and throwing on your clothes and shoes, grabbing your keys and wallet. Half asleep, maybe, you say you’ll go, but you don’t feel like driving.

You’re in the passenger seat now.

Racing down a county road.

No streetlights.

It’s dark.

You’re still trying to wake up, maybe. Rodney talks, spews the type of bullshit he’s known for spewing.

Maybe you listen, maybe you don’t.

Maybe you regret agreeing to this, maybe you’re happy to help.

But why’d you agree to do it?

At three o’clock in the fucking morning.

Rodney’s racing to town.

To bail out his son, his worthless son.

You’re going faster, faster. Continue reading