Little Hobbits

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This kid stomps his way through the library to the most adventurous section of the quiet reading area and sits down with The Hobbit. He looks nothing like Bilbo Baggins. But the way he acts, with a blanket wrapped around his neck like a travelling cape, he looks exactly like Bilbo Baggins.

Self-Publishing and DIY/Underground Culture

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I’m going to come right out and say that I think if you’re looking to write the next great American novel, there’s probably a good chance you won’t self-publish it. It could very well be that you could write the next great 21st century novel as a self-published novel. I think 21st century literature has one important thing in common with self-publishing. The internet. Things haven’t been as accesible to independent writers as they are right now. You could publish your own book from your own bedroom if you wanted to. And unlike those barbaric days pre-y2k where you’d have to photocopy everything and hand it out to get it read, these days you can put out a book and get it read.

Some people absolutely swear not to go there, which I think is a professionalism thing. That’s cool. Some people think it’s a great place to start. That’s cool too.

I read this blog post yesterday, which got me thinking about the whole “to self-publish or not to self-publish” debate all over again: How Self-Publishing Got Me a Book Deal, by Jason Jack Miller.

And when the topic of self-publishing, or publishing on the internet comes up, I always think of the book, John Dies At the End, by David Wong. He put the book up on his blog, and because of the demand the book was attracting, it went into print. And a film’s being made out of it. And he’s writing a sequel.

It’s silly to say that self-publishing never pays off, or that it’s the wrong way to go. But it also doesn’t excuse bad writers from their lack of success with publishers/agents. It’s not the right way to go for everybody, and it’s not the wrong way to go for everybody. You’ve got to work out for yourself if self-publishing is right for you.

As for me, I’m not selling books until I get a publisher. That’s where I’m at right now. But it hasn’t stopped me self-publishing novelettes or short story collections or stuff like that and giving them away for free.

The first year I really started writing, before I started uni, I wrote quite a lot of short stories, and I decided I wanted to give them to friends. Once I got a decent amount of stories together I compiled them into a short book, looked into techniques on how to bind books, bought my ink, paper, glue, tape, accessories, and printed out my own books and I was literally binding them in my own bedroom.

It was frustrating when the printer stuffed up or I got the formatting wrong, or things like that, but it was basically just stuff I was putting together for fun. And I learned a bit from the experience. The stories could have been better, but hey, I was just a 17/18 year old country boy at the time, with no professional writing, editing or publishing experience. I’d like to think I did alright.

Then I went to uni and got a bit of experience with writing and editing. The editing was really basic stuff, informal, really. I wasn’t doing professional writing or anything, so I didn’t pick up anything on publishing/printing from uni. That’s ok. After my first year at uni I wrote my first novel. It was a steampunk adventure novel. I don’t remember it being all that good, but I don’t remember it being all that bad either. And with very minor editing, I got my brother to make a cover, and I got it printed up through Lulu, I bought a bunch of copies for family/friends and such. I’ve still got copies lying around. I didn’t make it available to the public. It was more for the sentimental factor of writing and publishing my first book. A couple of times it’s automatically been made available to buy on Lulu, and at one point it was on the apple ebook store. This was years after I got it printed, and needless to say, I took it back down. And because it’s not a book I want people to buy, no one knew about it, and no one actually bought it. It’s probably not the smartest move I’ve made, but it’s given me some good experience and I don’t regret doing it.

In my second year of uni I took a class on experimental writing. We did some poetry and spoken word/slam poetry. Then we had a major project of our own choice. I did a zine. It’s nothing I’d looked at before, but it seemed to represent a DIY/underground culture that reflected my values, like what I did with my short story collection a couple of years before, and the novel the previous year.

The zine was basically a more experimental version of what I was doing when I was just out of high school. It mixed poetry and flash fiction with quirky art. And as with before, I had a lot of fun piecing it together. Admittedly, it was a lot shorter and much easier to bind. But as with before, I did a bit of reading and research into the different ways you can put a zine together.

I even turned it into an ezine and made it available here: Splinters if you’re interested in seeing where my writing was at about a year and a half ago.

To me, doing stuff like self-published zines and short stories and such, it’s about getting my work out into the internet so people can read it. I mean, what will happen when I publish my first book and people want to know what I write like if they can’t find anything to read? Before this whole internet and social media thing, it was more about real world promotion, word of mouth, getting stories in magazines and such. You can still do those things, but you can also get stuff published in online journals and zines and things, network with other writers, publishers, and editors, share your writing where people can access it at the click of a button and give you feedback at the click of another button.

Since I did that zine, I’ve played around with different ways I can display my work in electronic media, such as blogs. I did a zine as a blog a while back, and an art/comic blog, and a choose-your-own-adventure blog. It’s all publishing online, a variety of self-published media.

I’m yet to self-publish and sell my own books, but the option is there, and I don’t think it should be written off unless it’s been properly considered.

Just a couple of months ago I published the first part of a web series called Once Upon A Time On Mars. I could probably just as easily finish the thing and try to find a publisher for it, but while I would be writing, rewriting, editing, then running around after agents or publishers, I’ve got stuff that people can read while I work on more stuff to publish.

And now, I’ve found myself going back to this idea I had earlier on in the year. To compile a short collection of bizarro short stories and poems. I originally thought it’d be something I’d put together then set aside for when I start professionally publishing books. But then I thought, I’m always writing, it’s not like I won’t have the chance to write more material for another collection later down the track. And if I put it out now, while it’s still fresh, people will have more stuff to read. And they’ll also get a glimpse of the stuff I started off doing, in making my little books from home that didn’t look the prettiest, but had that whole DIY/underground feel to them. If it didn’t cost me anything to write, edit and assemble, I might as well distribute it for free, like those people making their own zines, fanzines and things, handing them out to whoever will read them, that what I really want. People reading. And having fun reading. And maybe occasionally thinking about something they wouldn’t otherwise think about.

I’m hoping in the next week or two, I’ll have a flash fiction/prose poetry collection up online. Pterodactyl’s Last Stand. It’s not pretty. It’s low budget. It’s just who I am and what I do. I’m still learning and gaining experience. I’d love to get into editing zines, anthologies, novels. But right now, I’m 21, writing up a shitstorm, and giving people some idea as to what to expect when I’ve actually got books you can buy.

Also, I’d love it if you’d keep this in mind for when that glorious time comes: A Bestseller in the Making: 7 Ways You Can Help Your Author Friends

My Year In Books: January

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This year I have read a lot of books. I was really quite pleased with my effort. Most of the things I’ve read have been pretty top notch, there’s been a lot of weird stuff, a ton of awesome stuff, and a lot of styles and genres I’ve never given much thought until this year. What I want to do here is list everything I’ve read and then say a little bit about it. Of course, the stuff I read around the start of the year, I’ll be a little fuzzy on, and even stuff I read a few months ago things can be a little unclear. Maybe I’m reading too much, but I’ll try my best to accurately recall my thoughts and opinions on each book. Now, I suggest getting comfortable, because this might take a while.

January:

1) The Flappy Parts, by Kevin L. Donihe.

Genre: Bizarro, flash fiction, poetry

Length: 113 pages

I love bizarro. And flash fiction. And poetry. So when I found out Kevin Donihe was putting out a book of collected flash fiction and poetry I knew I had to get my hands on it. Kevin’s a great author, really clever and inventive, and I think his ingenuity is particularly notable in this collection. At the time of reading this collection I was only just getting into bizarro. As of maybe two-three months prior. The first book I read by Kevin was Washermouth, and I was a big fan. I’ve still got to read more of his work, and I’ll probably do so over the Christmas holidays. What I love about Kevin is his strange and wonderful, and at times uncomfortable, ideas. There are plenty of those in this fantastic collection. Furthermore, Kevin is the editor of the New Bizarro Author Series, and all seven NBAS books that came out in November 2010 will appear further down this list.

2) The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, by Douglas Adams.

Genre: Science fiction, comedy

Length: 200 pages

This is probably my least favourite book I’ve read all year. Now, if you love Douglas Adams, I’m thinking you’ll come to one of a couple of conclusions. That either; I clearly have poor taste, and therefore my list is misguided, or my opinion of the book is misguided, or; if this is my least favourite book, the rest of my list must be pretty damn awesome. Or you could just sit down, shut up, and let me tell you why I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I thought I should have. Maybe it’s because I watched the film first and thoroughly enjoyed that. Maybe because I read the first book and enjoyed it somewhat, only to find out that this book is the exact same style of humourous wordplay with much less substance keeping the story going. I felt the plot was too disconnected to follow and enjoy, and the humour that went with it, too, became a bit of a chore. I didn’t much care for the characters this time around. It felt like they were there to fuel the plot, which was only there to fuel the humourous wordplay. Maybe the other books are better, and yes, Adams is very clever with his wordplay, and he’s quite imaginative, but I felt that the poor fellow, god rest his soul, made a right mess of the Restaurant.

3) Blankety Blank, by D. Harlan Wilson.

Genre: Bizarro, irrealism, satirical memoir

Length: 183 pages

This book would be close to one of the best books I read this year. It’s really unusual. It takes reality to strange new places. Truth and lies blend into one superbly written ‘memoir’ about Blankety Blank, a serial killer in the suburbs. I used this for a case study at uni this year for an essay on postmodern representations of suburbia. The way it reaches out for those pure, idealistic 1950s suburban ideals, yet completely misinterprets them/bastardizes them, it led me to conclude that this book is about the death of suburbia in contemporary cultures. Examining the book in that context really opened it up to new perspectives for me. The first time I read it was just for the pure absurd fun of it. Sure, the warped consumerist undertones are there, but it wasn’t until I studied it at some level that I realised just how sophisticated and clever it was. I mean, I already knew it was brilliant and sophisticated and clever, but it is fantastically beyond just about everything else I’ve read this year. It is not just a bizarro book, it is an ultraviolent parody of the American Dream, something that people seem desperate to hold on to, but realistically, they never will.

4) Starfish Girl, by Athena Villaverde.

Genre: Bizarro

Length: 141 pages

Starfish Girl is just adorable. In only the way that bizarro can be considered adorable. Well, even then, it’s got that angle to it that if it weren’t for those couple of quite graphic scenes it could probably work as a kids novel. It’s got that fantasy spectacle about it that is so sweetly captivating. And it’s Athena Villaverde’s first novel. It’s charmingly bizarro, treading the line between cuteness and weirdness. The world of Starfish Girl is brilliant. I’m looking forward to reading more from this author.

5) Zombies and Shit, by Carlton Mellick III.

Genre: Bizarro, zombie

Length: 288 pages

Ah, Carlton Mellick… My introduction to bizarro was through a short story of his called “Candy Coated”, about a manly man called Knob, who had a lollipop for a head. Mellick knows how to tell a good story. He knows how to tell weird stories in interesting ways that don’t feel like gimmicks. Zombies and Shit is a zombie novel. One of many zombie novels coming out recently. But I’m sure the others aren’t anything like this. First off, it’s about a reality show that’s set up to be a sort of “Battle Royale” set in a zombie apocalypse. Then there’s the social class differences in the post-apocalyptic culture. Then there’s the zombie apocalypse back story. Then there’s the zombie fetish porn. It’s incredibly brutal. I was really disgusted at several points during the book. But it’s just so batshit insane, from the ridiculously outlandish concept, Mellick carves a really distinct, unique zombie story. Highly engaging. It won’t disappoint zombie fans or bizarro fans, or the gore addicts who just love some really crazy, crazy shit.

6) Fistful of Feet, by Jordan Krall.

Genre: Bizarro, weird western

Length: 210 pages

I have a… what you’d call a “love/hate” relationship with Jordan Krall’s books. Hate’s probably too strong a word for it. It’s more of a love/dislike, or love/disturbed relationship. As with Zombies and Shit, and the whole zombie fetish porn stuff, I’m not big on bizarro fetish writing. For me, this awkwardness with Krall’s writing started with a urine fetish and something to do with dead babies in King Scratch. Some people love that book. I didn’t. I’ve told Jordan this, as he was one of the first authors I got into when reading bizarro. I feel like I owe it to him to be totally honest with what I think of his work. Fistful of Feet is a love book for me. It’s a weird western. It’s one of the books that inspired me to write my own bizarro space western. I loved Squid Pulp Blues for its noir aesthetics, its style, and Fistful of Feet takes that style to the wild, weird west. Yes, there are some pretty fucked up fetishes here. But they didn’t gross me out or intrude on the narrative. It’s got a lot of tropes and such from classic spaghetti westerns and such, and while I’m not as plugged into the western genre as Krall is, those aesthetics really shine through and give the book an awesome cult western vibe. Also, Krall is one of the best writers I know at making asshole characters. This book is full of assholes.

7) Peckinpah: An Ultraviolent Romance, by D. Harlan Wilson.

Genre: Bizarro, irrealism

Length: 105 pages

After Blankety Blank, I had to read more of this guy, just to be sure his brilliance wasn’t a one-off thing. I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t yet seen a Sam Peckinpah film, as much as I want to. However, I could still make enough sense of the book without being overly familiar with his work. The book is short. The chapters are short. And while it doesn’t feel as intricate or as clever as Blankety Blank, it’s still a fantastic book. It’s filled with scenes that are at times ultraviolent, surreal, strangely awkward, absurdly exaggerated, and occasionally filmic. And it’s got illustrations. Flicking through the book just now, I came across a page that had something startlingly appropriate written on it. “It was as comical as it was dead serious.” It’s pretty fucking awesome. I love the way D. Harlan Wilson writes books.

8) The Egg Man, by Carlton Mellick III.

Genre: Bizarro

Length: 168 pages

I think this is one of Carlton Mellick’s favourite of his books. It’s probably one of my favourites too. Where his other books are mostly just weird in creative and interesting ways, this book takes his creative and interesting weirdness to staggering heights, completely reconstructing how people perceive the world around them. People are tuned in to their senses in different ways and some people are born better off than others. It’s a narrative that acknowledges some of the worst aspects of contemporary cultures, and it attempts to prove that what you’re born as and who you are can be two different things, and the person who has control over that is you. Of course, this is a bleak dystopian narrative and it’s not all that fluffy and nice, but it certainly shows an ugly aspect of society that can only improve through change. And the guys that have the power to change are the ones that benefit most from the way things are. It’s been a while since I read it, so I can’t remember the details, and maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I remember it was pretty amazing stuff.

9) Night of the Assholes, by Kevin L. Donihe.

Genre: Bizarro, zombie

Length: 175 pages

This book is sort of like the reverse of Zombies and Shit. Where Mellick’s book is a Battle Royale narrative with zombies, Kevin Donihe’s book is a zombie narrative with assholes. Instead of zombies. So it’s not really about zombies. In Night of the Assholes, Kevin reworks the zombie apocalypse into something that’s altogether more relatable. People acting like assholes, and that rude, boorish behaviour catching on. It’s delightfully decadent, as the main characters try to avoid the assholes in ways that mimic the zombie apocalypse, as the last thing they want to do is turn into an asshole. Well, the genius part of the book is that people turn into assholes by being assholes to assholes. It’s a vicious and ugly cycle. The only way to make them stop being assholes is to kill them by ramming a pole up their *ahem*, take a guess… It’s clever and entertaining, a wicked parody of the zombie genre.

10) Muscle Memory, by Steve Lowe.

Genre: Bizarro (New Bizarro Author Series)

Length: 62 pages

This was the first book I read from Eraserhead Press’s New Bizarro Author Series. The books come out each year in November, at BizarroCon, and this (2010) was the second year of the NBAS. Basically, it’s for previously unpublished authors to get their first book in print (a novella or short collection, usually under 100 pages). If their books sell well (the target is 200 in a year), they may end up with a book contract with Eraserhead Press. Steve Lowe got the contract. And not only was this the first NBAS book I read, Steve was the first of the New Bizarro Authors I communicated with. And while this isn’t my favourite book of the 2010 NBAS, it is pretty awesome, and Steve is a great guy. And Muscle Memory is a brilliant body-switching story. It’s not just two people hilariously switching bodies, it’s the whole neighbourhood. And to get a feel for it, here’s  how the blurb begins: “Billy Gillespie wakes up one morning to discover his junk is gone. In its place is his wife’s junk. Billy is now Tina, and Tina is dead. That’s because Billy’s dead.” This isn’t your ordinary body switching narrative. And that’s without getting into the conspiracy theories and shady government business part of the plot. Needless to say, I’m eager to see what Steve comes up with next.

11) Bucket of Face, by Eric Hendrixson.

Genre: Bizarro (New Bizarro Author Series)

Length: 92 pages

This is number two of the seven 2010 NBAS titles. Bucket of Face is a gritty crime pulp novel with extra pulp. Because it’s got fruit people doing mafia business in low-key doughnut shops. But it’s also about a secret (i.e. genius) aspect to Michael Jackson’s life. When a deal goes wrong in an aforementioned doughnut shop, an average doughnut shop employee is thrown into a strange underworld. There’s a dead apple, a dead banana, a briefcase of money, and a bucket of faces. He’s being hunted by a tomato hitman and he wants to leave town with his kiwi fruit girlfriend. This isn’t my favourite NBAS book either, but as I read more of these books I came to realise they’re all pretty awesome in their own right. Kevin Donihe edited these book, and I got the impression he really knew what he was doing. As for the authors? They definitely know what they’re doing too. This book is really entertaining, really well thought out. It’s got style and pace and imagination.

12) The Egg Said Nothing, by Caris O’Malley.

Genre: Bizarro (New Bizarro Author Series)

Length: 84 pages

Now, this book. This, NBAS #3 for me. This is one of my favourites. I’ve got two favourites. This is one of them. I love this book. Caris O’Malley knocked my socks off with this one. Then knocked my teeth in. With a shovel. The Egg Said Nothing is a nightmarishly ultraviolent romance time-travel insane book thing that is not so much outwardly weird as it is psychotically fucked up. It gets in your head and doesn’t let up. When I first read it, it felt like what I’d expect to read if Chuck Palahniuk started out with bizarro instead of all of that Fight Club stuff. I guess it’s not all that different. Caris certainly packs a lot of solid punches. I’m really keen to see what he comes up with next. Brilliant.

Pick of the Month: Blankety Blank

Ceci n’est pas une man

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This is not a man

Ok, today I’m talking about men. Well, I’m not really talking about men, but bear with me a moment.

Men do not exist. In some sort of Baudrillardian high concept take on this subject, we can’t really talk about men because they don’t exist. But surely I am a man? Some people may consider me a man, and some may not. It is this variation between perspectives that I would like to focus on here.

And the first thing I need to do before proceeding any further is to separate and clarify two elements I will be working with: Gender and sex.

Gender is the whole man/woman, masculine/feminine thing upon which we base way too many social standards.

Sex is biological. Do you have a penis? If yes, you are male. Do you have a vagina? If yes, you are female. Both/neither? Well, let’s just keep it to male and female for now.

Of course, following the semiotic order of language, male and female are symbols, representative of the human body. They are words constructed to signify between two physical categories. However, where sex and gender differentiate from each other is that sex is denotative, it is representative of something real, something that is no more or less than its physical properties. Gender is a cultural construct. Gender is performative. It is not natural. Male is male and female is female. There are two distinct categories which contain all humans, and a fair amount of animals and plants too.

Men and women are a lot more diverse, more subjective to change. What distinguishes a man from a boy? How does a person behave to fit in with the cultural expectations of men? Are there different expectations of white men and black men? Are there different expectations of fourteen year old men and forty year old men? What is manliness? What is masculinity? Ask someone what a man is and you can expect to hear any variety of expectations based on what that particular person believes to be a man.

It’s all cultural mythology. If males behave like men, it is natural. If females behave like men, it is unnatural. If males behave like women, it is also unnatural. Of course, what it means to “behave like a man” is subjective from person to person, but it ultimately comes down to a variety of stereotypes. What does it mean to be a male in a 21st century western society? Who determines how I should behave, and what are the repercussions if I should deviate? What is normal? What is natural? You don’t naturally act like a man. The process of being a man is naturalised through cultural upbringing.

My upbringing has led me to be somewhat skeptical of the performance of masculinity. Mostly because it is acted out as a way of belonging, of fitting in with the culture at large. While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with belonging (in fact I think it’s a good thing to know where you belong), I feel like the performative nature of masculinity renders itself (at least for me) meaningless, hollow, artificial. A belonging based upon cultural pressures and expectations.

So why don’t men exist?

Well, a man isn’t one set specific thing. It is an idea. While there are many types of men, like there are many types of cups or many types of male organisms, the identity of man is imagined. It is about how one presents oneself, a projected, performed identity. As everything you do says something about who you are and how you choose to present yourself, manliness and masculinity are shaped around image and performance. Our sex is fixed. Our gender is fluid. There is no ‘one’ man, there is an endless supply of what a man is, and yet none of them are real, physical.

On this same note, ‘child’ and ‘adult’ are not real because they are assumptions based around how we behave at a particular age. Gender is not real because we make assumptions based around how we behave based on our sex.

Identity shouldn’t be as complicated as it is, but I don’t think I have anything to gain by acting like something I’m not, or acting like something that everyone else thinks I should be, or everyone else should be.

Gender is fluid. Identity is fluid. It’s your choice. All that man/woman, masculine/feminine bullshit is just society feeding ideas into your head, telling you that you should be acting a certain way. No, you shouldn’t be acting like an asshole or a murderer or a rapist or whatever, but that doesn’t mean you should perform to society’s standards of normality. Reclaim your identity, make of it what you want.

Just make sure that when you’re acting the man, it’s because that’s what you want to do, and not what you feel you need to do to fit in. I like doing man things, but I think it’s important to make sure they don’t form the entire basis of my identity.

NaNoWriMovember Reflection

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This is the third year I’ve completed NaNoWriMo. This year really tested me, and I pulled all my dirty tricks out of the bag to make it over the 50k line.

So what did I write?

Two shitty essays. One about a writer’s potential, and one about fan fiction.

One shitty novella.

The start of two shitty fan fiction stories.

One flash fiction story.

One short story.

The start of three novellas.

About two thirds of another novella.

They’re all works in progress. None of them are anything outstanding or fantastic, but the ideas have begun to formulate, and I’ll go back to the drawing board and flesh them out some, and chances are, I’ll be coming back to these drafts over the next few years to turn these stories into something else. After all, the one novella I finished, and the other novella I got a decent way through, they were ideas I’ve been working on since last year. One was a chapter from my last NaNoWriMo, and the other, I think it might have been as well, but I remember working on it in December and January of 2010/2011 as well.

So, what else did I do during the month?

I read a few books, watched a few movies, TV shows.

I finished reading the manga “Elfen Lied.” It was ok. The action was really good. The story was decent. But the domestic stuff just wasn’t my thing. I watched a couple of episodes of the anime, which I enjoyed a lot more. I should try to watch the rest of it some time soon.

Goliath, by Scott Westerfeld. This is a book I’ve been waiting for a while. I was a big fan of Leviathan and Behemoth, and this book finished off his massive steampunk-esque young adult trilogy. The story is an interesting one, not exactly uncommon, but it is a story told well, and the world (and artwork) is bloody brilliant.

Sam Pink’s Hurt Others is a short story collection that is truly cringeworthy. In a totally fantastic way. He writes the most annoying everyday characters. They’re the type of characters that could be someone you work with. But they’re anything but flat. They’re numb. They’re stupid. They’re maddeningly frustrating. And Sam Pink’s writing is really fun.

I’m also getting right into my comics lately. I read the first volume to Grant Morrisson’s “The Invisibles” and the first volume to Richard Starkings’ “Elephantmen“. The Invisibles is pretty crazy, pretty confusing, and Elephantmen is pretty darn stylish. I’ve also started reading Morrisson’s graphic novel, “The Filth“.

Along with those books, I’ve started reading a few others. Some ebooks, Spike Marlowe‘s “Placenta of Love” which I’ve just started and don’t have a lot to mention at this point in time. Some Goosebumps. And a couple of bizarro books I’m real excited about.

I’ve been reading Cameron Pierce‘s new novel, “Cthulhu Comes to the Vampire Kingdom” and Kevin Shamel‘s “Island of the Super People“, and I’ve been pacing myself with these books, really savouring them chapter by chapter, although now that NaNoWriMo is over, I’ll probably rip through the rest of them. Both are fantastic in their own ways. Cameron Pierce took out the Wonderland award for his short story collection “Lost in Cat Brain Land” at this year’s BizarroCon, and since writing that book, he’s gone on to do some really fantastic stuff. And Kevin Shamel, this is his debut novel, after releasing his first book, a novella, “Rotten Little Animals” at BizarroCon two years ago. Island of the Super People is the first book of his I’ve read (am reading?) and it’s shaping up brilliantly.

I got around to watching that new Coen Brothers film, True Grit. I love the Coen Brothers. They do great films. And Jeff Bridges is a great actor too.

And I’ve still been watching my fair share of anime. Mind Game is quite possibly the strangest anime I’ve seen. It’s totally insane in a totally insanely brilliant way that at times I had no idea what to make of it. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. I bought this film ages ago. When I first started watching anime, earlier in the year. It was the only thing out of all the stuff I bought back then that I still hadn’t watched. I don’t know why. It was brilliant. It had that stylistic energy to it that Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy did in book form. It was crazy weird, violent, the story was pretty good, and the animation was stunning. A real gothic action masterpiece.

And then there was Arrietty. The Secret World of Arrietty. A Studio Ghibli film. Please excuse me while I grab something for you to feast your ears upon.

There. Click play. The music for this film is beautiful. Everything about this film is beautiful. The story is a retelling of “The Borrowers”. Screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki. The story is really well told. And the animation is stunning, the perspectives are brilliant. When I watch a Ghibli film, it takes me to another world completely. While I love Ponyo and Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle, those particular films to me didn’t feel as breathtaking and exciting as Princess Mononoke, or my favourite, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. To me, Arrietty is right up there.

I watched bits and pieces of a few anime shows too. I watched a series called Noir. It’s about female assassins. Girls with guns. If Japan has taught me anything, it would be that everything is better if you make it more violent, and give it guns and bigger tits. This isn’t that kind of anime. It’s plot heavy stuff. Set in France and focusing on a secret society conspiracy of elite assassins and such. There’s still a decent amount of action, but it’s based entirely around the pacing of the plot, and while the gunfights are pretty awesome, there is zero blood. So, where the typical thing would be to overexaggerate those sorts of scene, it’s totally understated. But the story develops really well, and the animation is great. It’s more of an action/mystery, sort of noir-esque without being hard-boiled noir. It’s now one of my favourite anime series.

So, while my bizarro writing friends have been getting up to amazing things in Portland recently, I have to say, this month for me has been pretty fucking great.