Nocturnal Admissions: Swine & Roses

Entry number five or six in my series of shorts about a third-shift psychologist. Special guest-reference to the work of Andy Reynolds, fellow New Orleans SF writer — check his stuff out here.

 

Nocturnal Admissions: Swine & Roses

Ever since I helped that smooth guy from Cafe Envie get over his affair with a sexually-frustrated ghost, my practice has begun taking on the occasional supernatural client. A number of them, unsurprisingly, have trouble integrating into modern society.

Andy is probably the one who gave Circe got my number. Dream girl? I can’t date clients. Pixie? It was more of a Chelsea cut. But manic? That’s exactly what her appointment that night was about!

“So,” she began, “after some bro-y sailor spread gossip about me being a battleaxe just because I wouldn’t line his crew up and blow ’em all in a row like a trained seal, I had to skip town for a couple thousand years. New Orleans seemed like a fun place with the vampires and all.”

“That’s just for tourism,” I said.

“Whatever helps you sleep at night.”

“That’s what brings you here, but what brings you to my practice?”

“I don’t know anybody in the city and I have absolutely no cultural referents with which to get to know anybody, and I think I’m starting to go stir-crazy. I’ll go out to a bar and people will start talking at me about whateverthefuck TV show I’ve never seen and I just nod vacantly until they trail off. Trying to talk to them about Aeschylus doesn’t get me anywhere. When I asked this one dude if he was into Euripides he made the woooorst double entendre.”

“There’s nothing wrong with not being into the bar scene.”

“What’s wrong is that I’m going to wear out both my literal and metaphorical magic wands.”

“Have you tried online dating?”

She chortled. “Briefly. I don’t know what kind of data OKCupid stores on its users but I’m worried they’re going to notify the police if they realize what I’ve been doing to the guys who send me dick pics.”

“Well, do you have any hobbies?”

“Other than fricking my magic wands out of sheer boredom? Not really. I was into farming back on the island but that’s not really feasible when you live Uptown. I keep the lights on by selling former-dudes who sexually harassed me to Cleaver & Co. but that isn’t exactly luxurious income. Mostly I just kinda hang around and keep in touch with the few demigods who still use ICQ.”

She knew how to use the Internet, needed a side hustle, had a significant sex drive and seemingly little in the way of empathy. I decided to make an inspired suggestion at the risk of getting myself pigged.

“Have you considered joining FetLife?”

“No, what’s that?”

“It’s a…” I held up a finger to let her know I was thinking because, honestly, how do you describe it in a professional setting? I’m vanilla as all hell, but I don’t have that high school mindset where I look down on people who have better sex than I do. “It’s… a discrete web community where people with… sex… interests… find people to do… the kind of interesting sex they’re interested in.”

“You’re going to need to unpack that a bit because my great-uncle liked to turn into a swan while he was chasing tail.”

“That’s kind of what I’m getting at.”

She looked taken aback, but didn’t reach for her pigging wand. “My tail is not into getting chased by swans.”

“You totally don’t have to go that far if you don’t want, and it’s the kind of scene where you can talk all that out with partners ahead of time. Some people are actually just kinda… into pretending to be animals and sex isn’t necessarily involved. You might even be able to work a second income stream out of it — can you turn people into animals other than pigs?”

“Yeah, but real animals though; not Pokemon or anything.”

“Could you do real animals, but in not-real colors?”

“Probably, yeah.”

“Then if you ask around online, I think you’ll find a community of guys willing to pony up for some time with you.”

Three Reviews

I don’t know how effective longer reviews on personal blogs really are, so I’m experimenting with shorter ones that’d fit on Goodreads since reviews on there seem to matter to industry people. However, my blog still craves content. So here’s three reviews of books that aren’t related aside from the fact that authors have signed them and I think more people need to know about ’em!

Part of me likes the idea of not really theming the reviews I group together here since a lot of books I’ve enjoyed were just blindly stumbled across while I was trying to find something else, so… here goes an attempt at recreating that.

threebooks

Stay Crazy, by Erica Satifka

I think a lot of portrayals of mental illness in media lack necessary nuance. In Stay Crazy, Emmeline struggles with the stigma of taking or not taking medication, worries over telling friends and family, and still manages to save the world from malicious interdimensional beings in the midst of all that.

The plot with Escodex and the potential invasion keeps the book moving at a steady pace, and the surreal elements have just enough deniability (at first) to put readers off-balance. Despite the alien provocateurs trying to contact Emmeline through RFID tags at her dead-end retail job, the book stays fairly grounded when dealing with her conditions, never stooping to basic “lol she just cra-ha-haaazy” jabs at her expense. There are plenty of jabs, though! They’re just all punching up.

Marrero, by Kataalyst Alcindor

Being in the audience of a good poetry slam is a better experience than having sex on the moon and I’m not gonna brook any complaints from more academic poets on that subject. Kataalyst is one of the best slam poets I’ve gotten to see here in New Orleans and, while the whole experience can’t be conveyed in print form, the words alone still hit like a pallet of cinderblocks.

There are some excellent indictments of America’s failings featured in Marrero, but the poem I found most interesting was “When Dating a Sexual Assault Survivor.” When it comes to men addressing sexual assault in writing, it feels like the default mode is to speak aggressively about the perpetrators. Kataalyst takes a different route and speaks with eloquent sympathy for the victimized and cautious optimism for those they let in to their lives. It’s fucking potent. Watch it here on Write About Now, then time your next New Orleans vacation to coincide with one of his readings because goddamn.

The Ultra-Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again, by A.C. Wise

With a stylized cover like that, I wasn’t really expecting anything more than fun camp with a nod towards representation. How glad I was to have underestimated this book.

Yeah, the Glitter Squadron’s adventures are full of 70s scifi action facing off against gribbly aliens and ancient mummies. But the Squadron members themselves are all well developed outside of their monster-fighting capacity. Before we see Bunny fight a sea monster, for example, we know why she became Bunny. But it shouldn’t be surprising that a confident, self-possessed character with healthy social support fares better against Lovecraftian horror than Lovecraft protagonists do. Wise’s thoughtful characterization even comes through in the themed cocktail recipes interspersed throughout the collection!

Book Review: The Apocalypse Reader

Being bogged down with a final semester means it’s time to just gank something from my bookshelf and reminisce instead of finding something new, and I’ve found something from way back in the black-and-white rabbit-ear-antenna days of 2007!

The Apocalypse Reader was an anthology edited by Justin Taylor from Thunder’s Mouth Press. I grabbed this book off of a new releases shelf at Barnes & Noble during college because I’d had an assignment that required reviewing a book published in the last six months which I hadn’t already read. And it did have a pretty neat cover.

apocreaderimage

The mix of classic and contemporary authors in this anthology, at that point in my literary development, was a big step in introducing me to interesting genre fiction. Lovecraft and Poe’s names in the table of contents sold me on it, but the rest of the collection introduced me to names like Carol Emshwiller, Brian Evenson, and Theodora Goss. I think I actually have this book to thank for leading me to The Mount. Overall it’s a solid collection with great variety in the style and approach the stories take to the post-apocalypse, but two of my favorite stories here weren’t, as far as I can tell, published anywhere else.

“These Zombies are Not a Metaphor” by Jeff Goldberg is a delightfully dry flash fiction set during a zombie outbreak, following the one person who’s more concerned about actually surviving than about what the zombies may represent.

“I’m not letting you in,” I said.
“Come on, I want to eat your brains.”
“No.”
“What about Jennine?”
“No.”
“Manny?”
I said, “No,” but he sensed my hesitation.
“Just give me Manny,” he said, “Please.”
“I’m going to activate the electric perimeter now.”

“Fraise, Menthe, et Poivre 1978” by Jared Hohl is a darker story, though much funnier for it. A group of survivors scavenge what food they can after society has broken down, staging (poorly-remembered) plays in an abandoned theatre to commemorate whenever one of them dies. It’s a wry twist on typical survivor stories — which tend to overlook things like nutrition and boredom when it comes to eking out an existence — and its moments of absurdity feel poignant without any it’s-a-story-about-the-healing-power-of-stories sentimentality, which has always been a personal peeve of mine.

Coming back to it several years after publication, it’s a shame to see the stories’ authors haven’t done much outside of this collection. Thunder’s Mouth Press also seems to have dissolved shortly after this anthology was published, so you’ll only be able to find this through used booksellers. But if you need just one more item to put your order over the free shipping threshold, it’s definitely an overlooked gem among the glut of post-apocalyptic fiction. Hell, if you know me in person just ask and I’ll photocopy those two stories for you.

Since stars are kind of played out, I’ll give the Apocalypse Reader four tildes out of five! ~~~~_

A Review, A Con, and Theatre Stories

Random updates to publishing ventures this weekend!

My short story “Steam & Hot Air” was praised in a writeup of Gallery of Curiosities on the blog Steampunk Way of Life. Thanks, folks!

I went to Bouchercon here in NOLA this weekend, got some signed Ken Wishnia books, had to snark on a guy for expressing surprise that we’re not a blight-addled swampscape a decade after Katrina, and got handed an entire pint bottle of whiskey by what I sure hope was someone officially employed on the con’s behalf. Hm.

This Sunday also marked the publication of two books I’ve contributed to! Longing is Esoterotica’s third anthology which includes a style parody of a favorite author of mine and a (rare!) actual confessional essay. Beyond Desire is a reissue of their first anthology which removes some material from performers who’ve parted ways and includes the scripts to our two Fringe shows. Our collective stories about the production of these shows could probably run longer than the scripts themselves, but I’ll share two of my favorites.

Continue reading “A Review, A Con, and Theatre Stories”