Thursday, February 4, 2010

Kevin Shamel

Kevin Shamel lives in the Pacific Northwest in an old haunted house with his whole wild family. He writes as weird as he can and does it often. Rotten Little Animals is his first published book, and he’s pretty happy about that.

About a week ago I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
What am I reading? You can bet it’s weird. In fact, I’ll just go ahead and tell you, it’s extra weird. I’m reading Bradley Sands’, It Came From Below the Belt. It’s freaky times ten.

From what I’ve gathered so far, and I have to tell you that I’m not far into it, it’s about a guy named Grover who’s been thrown into the future and he’s met his detached, sentient penis. He’s fairly lost, and quite shaken by the experience.

He’s actually just started high school at the point I’m reading. He has a couple of Grover clones, and is defeating ridiculousness as best he can. Chapter eight begins a miniature choose-your-own-adventure story that I nimbly navigated. Others may not be so lucky.

It Came From Below the Belt is a gorgeous display of Bizarro Fiction with a heavy leaning toward the ridiculous and surreal. I’m loving it. I can’t wait to get to where Grover’s going.

Which brings me to the reason that you can bet whatever I’m reading is weird.

Since June of 2009, I’ve only read Bizarro books. And I’ve read quite a few of them. I’m only reading bizarro for one year. (Just to see what it does to me.)

Bizarro is the genre of the weird. It’s the literary equivalent of the cult section of a video store. It’s where you’ll find the books to tickle that part of you that wants something different. Eraserhead Press is leading the bizarro genre into the light of mainstream with amazing, beautiful, well-written books that explore the weird side of many different genres. From (weird) westerns to science fiction and everything in between, bizarro aims to entertain.

One of the goals of Eraserhead is to provide books that can be read in the time it takes to watch a movie. Many of the authors of their books are influenced by film, and it’s appropriate that their philosophy of writing quick, easily accessible books is in line with that medium in that manner. If you’ve given up on reading, if you think you don’t have time, if you think there’s nothing new out there, bizarro has the type of books to convince you otherwise.

Eraserhead just put my first book out in October. Rotten Little Animals is about an independent film crew who happen to be animals. They kidnap a child and make a movie about it. Then all hell breaks loose. It’s got zombie cats, car chases, drugs, puppet shows, a weird guru in a thong… It’s Nature at its most natural. RLA has been read on a flight to Maui, a long commute, and in the gynecologist’s waiting room.

Another book that you could read in any of those situation is Carnageland, by David W. Barbee. Reading Carnageland is pretty much exactly like watching a movie. Or playing a video game. It is fast, furious, funny, and freaky. The four Fs of fabulousness.

The story follows an LGM (yep, a little green man) whose sole purpose is to commit global genocide in the name of his corporation world.

We go along with the little killer on his first mission to a planet that is literally made of money. It is the ultimate planet for corporate takeover.

Mr. Barbee pulls no punches. His short green murderer, equipped with a gun called the doomshooter (which can shoot anything the trigger-puller can imagine) tears through every fairytale character, ‘80s cartoon hero, and D&D trope you once held sacred. The first thing 898 (that’s our LGM) does upon arriving on the planet is slaughter a happy faun. He doesn’t stop until he’s gone through every living thing on the world of magical creatures—dragons and wizards are no match for a doomshooter.

Reading this really is like being along for the somehow hilarious adventure of destroying all life on a ripe, ripe world of cliché, cache, and crazy.

In the time it takes to watch a movie, you can watch this one in your little green mind.

I happily suggest doing so.

The master of Bizarro, Carlton Mellick III has something like twenty books published, all of them completely weird and entertaining. He started the genre, and he rules it. I recently finished reading The Cannibals of Candyland. But I would suggest any books by CMIII if you’re looking for bizarro.

Bizarro looks at things in a very strange way. Take for example, a cherished childhood fantasy: Wouldn’t you love to go to Candyland? To eat gumdrop boulders and swim in rivers of soda and eat the grass cuz it’s candy, too? Wouldn’t it be great to meet people made of candy? NOPE.

The people of Candyland are cannibals. And they eat children.

Carlton Mellick III says that the Candyland in his book is not the Candyland from the board game. He says there are no characters from the game in the book, no Gumdrop Pass or the likes. He does say, however that the game was definitely the inspiration for the book.

The story is about a man named Franklin who witnessed a candy person kill his brother and sister when he was a child. He spends his life searching for the candy people after that, trying to prove they exist. And one day he finds the candy woman that killed his siblings. He follows her to Candyland.

Franklin learns about the eating habits of the candy people. He falls in love. He runs up against Licorice, a cruel, smart candy man. He eats marshmallow animals and chocolate dirt.

Franklin’s adventures in Candyland are certainly not any that you may have fantasized when you were a kid. But they’re definitely an amazing, thrilling, hilarious, fun, scary ride for those of us a little more grown-up.

If you’ve got time for a movie—though this might be on the side of a longer film—you’ve got time to visit Carlton Mellick III’s very adult version of Candyland. I’ve been there and I’ll go again.

If you’re looking for something to read that will take you to places you wish you’d imagined, I suggest Bizarro Fiction. I’m over half-a-year into my all-bizarro journey. It’s been a trip.

Thanks so much for reading. I know I am.
Check out Kevin Shamel's Shameless Creations for more of his writing and artsy sorts of things.

--Marshal Zeringue