It’s 9 am, day I don’t even know of COVID-19 social distancing. I’m listening to my son play. My partner’s in the bedroom having virtual work meetings.
Last night, my buddy Nate Southard and I were interviewed for an episode of the Austin Outsiders podcast. We discussed favorite reads, weird Austin stories, and embarrassing moments from our pasts. Keep an ear out for the episode soon. I’ll probably post a link here when it goes up.
Afterward, I did a virtual watch-along of SLUGS with Austin Outsiders co-host Emily. She’d never seen it before, so it was fun to see her reactions. It’s a very silly movie and one of my favorites.
My kid woke up scared and crawled into bed with us. To make things easier on my partner, I moved upstairs to the couch.
I’m telling you all this, because they’re all things that would’ve happened regardless of the current situation in which we’ve found ourselves. Oh, sure, maybe we would’ve recorded the podcast and done the watch-along in-person under different circumstances. Otherwise though, I feel a sense of routine returning to my life. I’m adapting to this new normal, however horrifying.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still anxious as hell. I’m still frustrated and sad. Scared.
But people are resilient. I am resilient.
This may be the end of the world. If it is, I’m going down swinging.
I used to work as a 9-1-1 operator and let me tell you: my coworkers, in particular, the ones who’d been there a long time had the darkest senses of humor. If they didn’t laugh at the horrible shit they heard about on a daily basis, they’d go absolutely mad.
My mother used to be a lawyer who exclusively handled cases involving abused women. This type of work led her to stop watching violent movies and she no longer laughed at black humor.
Neither my former coworkers, nor my mother are wrong. My former coworkers are not insensitive, and my mother is not a “snowflake.” We all deal with life’s nightmarish qualities in our own ways.
We all have our own coping mechanisms for the apocalypse.
Some of us need experience trauma within the pages of a book or in a film or in a song. Such an act can take the power away from real world horrors. As a lifelong horror fan, I know all about that.
This brings me to DEAD INSIDE by Chandler Morrison. You know the book. It’s the one that caused quite a stir at Bizarro Con in early 2019 after its author performed one of its shocking scenes.
People have written and talked about that particular event at length. This post isn’t about that. This post is about the novel.
And let me tell you: For those of us who need to feel the fullness of the world’s horror and absurdity in the pages of a book, meet your new favorite read.
This is not an easy read. Often, I had to stop in order to catch my breath. It’s got a sense of humor as black as Texas crude. It’s got gross-out moments which would make even the most seasoned fans of extreme horror blush. There are sex scenes to make you feel at once aroused and disgusted.
More than anything, though, DEAD INSIDE has a tremendous amount of heart. These characters, abhorrent at first glance, are tragic figures. One has lived with his monstrousness all his life and doesn’t know how to face actual love. The other became a monster after facing intense childhood trauma and, despite occasionally wishing she could, she never looks back.
I don’t want to say much else. This is not the sort of book you want to spoil, so I’ll close with three comments:
First, context is king and even that infamous scene has a purpose in the novel’s narrative. So much hinges on that moment, the story couldn’t exist without it. It is the opposite of gratuitous.
Second, my God, does Chandler know how to end a story. Both DEAD INSIDE and UNTIL THE SUN left me screaming for more. He sets it up so you should see it coming, but he’s so clever, you won’t.
Last, I’m not an asshole. This book is not for everyone. We all deal with our apocalypse in different ways. If you’re like me, and you rely on dark fiction for catharsis, grab DEAD INSIDE now, and prepare to revel in the ways it will hurt you.
So, multiple states decided to exempt churches from shelter-in-place orders enacted as a result of the Coronavirus.
I’m not a religious person. “Spiritual” is probably a more apt descriptor of me, but that word’s been cheapened in recent years. That said, I’m not going to go on a tirade about how religion is poison and the Bible is a fairy tale. I’m not sure I feel that way. In fact, when I stayed in a psychiatric hospital for a long weekend, I saw how religion really gives hope to addicts and the mentally ill. Attempting to take that away from them like most militant atheists try to do seems needlessly cruel.
What bothers me almost as much as how attending religious services in person puts the most vulnerable among us in danger is the defense used by some of these religious types.
Their logic stems from the belief that the blood of Jesus will protect them. I don’t know about you, but to me, that sounds like a case of putting God to the test, which Matthew 4:7 explicitly warns against.
So, I dunno, maybe listen to your own scripture and stop endangering people, ya jerks!
Something called an Antonio García Martínez unleashed a tweetstorm which basically boiled down to three things:
The novel is dead
Short stories are dead
People with less than 600 followers aren’t allowed to have opinions.
I’m not taking his words out of context. I didn’t even want to write about this, because I don’t want to give the jerk the attention. But you know what? If people like him, who I honestly hadn’t even heard of before today, can breathe hot air on Twitter, I can talk some shit here.
It’s MY blog, bitch!
Let’s take a look at a few things. First, what the fuck is an Antonio García Martínez?
Not a novelist. He wrote a book called Chaos Monkeys, which as far as I can tell, is a memoir about his life in the tech industry. He calls it an exposé. Not a novel.
Not a short story writer. Checks his biography on his website. Nope, not a short story writer.
He doesn’t know how opinions work. Everyone has them, regardless of how many Twitter followers they have. If he’s suggesting people with less than 600 followers shouldn’t voice their opinion, that’s some elitist bullshit.
So, are novels still being written? Don’t check Amazon or Wikipedia, I’ll save you the trouble. The answer is yes. I suppose a book written doesn’t necessarily have life, so maybe all these novels aren’t being read (or consumed).
Nope! People are still reading. Those who aren’t reading are listening to audiobooks, or their watching good TV, and guess what, Antonío, good TV shows are laid out like novels, chapters, backstory, theme and all.
What about short stories? Still being written? Yup. Still being read? Not a whole lot, admittedly, but there sure are a lot of fiction podcasts out there. Guess what their content is. You guessed it: short stories.
Oh, and, in case anyone’s counting, I have 604 Twitter followers, but I had opinions when I only had 599, and when Twitter wasn’t even a thing.
Listen here, chump, just because no one bought whatever shitty fiction you undoubtedly tried to sell doesn’t mean the art form is dead. It means you suck.
I’ve been watching lots of fights lately. Boxing, UFC, and even the bare-knuckle stuff (which I enjoy, but also can’t believe it’s legal). People often ask me why an intelligent, literate dude like me enjoys watching people beat the crap out of each other. They say my love of combat sports runs in contradiction to my personality. An easy answer would be to simply say people are full of contradictions, and then just put it to bed, but this is a blog, so let’s dig a little deeper.
I’m both a storytelling enthusiast and a storyteller myself.
A fight is the oldest and most primal type of story there is.
Before I dive into this further, I want to clarify a couple of things. First, I’m not a meathead. I don’t fancy myself a tough guy, by any means. Second, I think fighting outside of a sanctioned, sporting event is almost always foolish and unnecessary.
With that out of the way, what is a fight, really?
Two combatants who want the same thing (a win, sometimes a championship). Each of them must stop the other in order to accomplish this goal.
So, what’s a story?
Two characters who want the same thing (a win, usually some form of self-fulfillment). Each of them must stop the other in order to accomplish this goal.
Here are some random examples off the top of my head:
In MOANA, the lead character hopes to restore the world to its previously balanced state. The lava monster Te Kā, a heartless shell of the goddess Te Fiti, also wants to balance the world. Their methods are different (much like each fighter has their own style). Moana seeks restoration. Te Kā seeks the eradication of humanity.
In STAR WARS, the rebels and their Jedi allies seek balance to the galaxy. They believe restoring the Republic is the way to do so. The Empire and their Sith allies also seek that balance, but by contrast, they believe domination and the destruction of the Jedi is the key to achieving this goal.
In my book SAINT SADIST, the protagonist sets out on the road, not just to escape an abusive environment, but to become herself. The multiple antagonists she faces aim to mold her into who they believe is the most perfect version of herself. Their methods are abusive and their visions for her are skewed because they aren’t her.
In a mystery, the criminal wishes to get away with their crime, while the detective hopes to solve the crime. While their goals are different, they, like fighters, aim to outdo the other in their achievement of their goal.
In a romance, the hero and the heroine, are both looking for love. They often find themselves at odds with each other, because their own damage prevents them from seeing how perfectly matched they are. “Love is a battlefield,” as Pat Benatar said, and like fighters with good sportsmanship, the battle ends when the combatants, no matter how bloody, embrace each other.
I could go on and on.
Perhaps, I’m simplifying things, but I don’t think so.
On the side of the main drag, some five miles from Daddy’s property, I have a vision:
A genderless angel falls, wings on fire. When it hits the ground, the sky turns red. I’m caught in the infernal blast radius. My child swims like a fish in my belly. Tongues of fire rise alongside me like burning buildings. They line the road ahead and I walk on.