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.

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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”

Book Review: Above the Snowline

I first read Steph Swainston’s Fourlands series when I was getting interested in the “New Weird” movement several years ago, and Above the Snowline was for whatever reason the only book of it my library system had. I thought it was alright, and pirated an ebook version of The Year of Our War on a whim, during which I fell immediately in love and ordered hard copies of the entire series through legal means as penance. I can’t say enough about how convention-breaking the series is. I’ve been re-reading it since the announcement of a new book after a five year hiatus, and I’m appreciating Snowline much more the second time.

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Continue reading “Book Review: Above the Snowline”

EsoTarot Cards, part 2

Part 1 of my vaguely-erotic tarot cards can be found here.

There’s a couple more in-jokes with fellow performers here, and if you don’t know who they are, check out the bio section on our website, or even better, come by next time you’re in New Orleans.

11. Justice

The Ghost of Esoteroticas Present leads you through the night to a well-lit house, and clasps its hands together to give you a boost up to peer in through the window. Inside you see two people, their faces obscured by one’s hair, embraced on the living room couch and in the process of undressing each other.

“Did you really take me here to show me my cheating jackass ex getting laid?”

The Ghost shakes its head, lets you down, then produces a ladder which it raises against the side of the house. You climb and look in through a second story window, where you recognize your ex, alone on one side of a bed, fast asleep.

Interpretations: Schadenfreude, things evening out, the not-Alanis-Morissette kind of irony.
Reversed: You’re just going to sit there scribbling over his face in old photos for another weekend, aren’t you? I worry sometimes.


12. The Hanged Man

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Interpretations: Ongoing frustration, being surrounded by unoriginality.
Reversed: Satisfying one-night stand from a Craigslist “Missed Connection.”

Continue reading “EsoTarot Cards, part 2”

EsoTarot Cards, part 1

Once I realized the natural pun, I just had to do something with the idea of Esoterotica-themed tarot cards. However, I’ve zero ability with visual art. So I wrote little vignettes that could be read in accompaniment with a normal tarot deck instead of the traditional interpretations for the major arcana. Part 2 can be found here.

0. The Fool

“Dear Reddit,” you begin to type, “I’d read The Game and completed all the practice tests at the back, and thought I was at a level where I could just neg some girls into submission with my conversational prowess, but they all called me a dweeb and then ignored me. Are there some better tricks I should be using?”

You awake the following morning to find your thread has made it to the front page.

Interpretations: False leads, mistakes, underestimating your audience.
Reversed: You carry yourself with an easy confidence.

Continue reading “EsoTarot Cards, part 1”