Slave to the word: the Deadheart Shelters


The Deadheart Shelters by Forrest Armstrong

I had heard great things about this book prior to picking it up. I didn’t really know anything about it, but the people I spoke to about it, or the people that were talking about it had nothing but praise for this book. So basically this book is about a slave who escapes and becomes a coal miner. That’s the simple way of putting it. But really, it’s a bizarre smattering of stunning descriptions of a world that is both beautiful and terrifying. This is a story of love and loss, heartbreak and tragedy. It fills you up with so much vivid, surreal imagery that the story powers through purely on the emotion that imagery provides. The characters are fuelled by the tragedy of the world they live in, the devices of a terrible machine that are seemingly incapable of questioning the status quo. Yet the story is about one man who challenges the nature of the world, yet he simply escapes one tragedy to fall into another. Hope is built up then torn away, built up then torn away. What more can I say? The writing is beautiful, and the book is totally, wonderfully touching, emotionally conflicting, and leaves you feeling woefully wounded. In the afterword, Jeremy Robert Johnson said one thing in particular I felt captured the awe of the book perfectly: “It appears Mr. Armstrong has an obsession with the atmosphere in its various states, and when I mentioned this to him he simply replied ‘It’s the biggest thing in the world’ and left it at that.” Woah. Buy it, read it, love it.




I Ate a Baby on the Bus This Weekend, Kept its Sunhat as a Souvenir, by J.W. Wargo


It’s like holding the handle of the spoon that’s stirring the pot of boiling water which contains none other than yourself. You convince yourself it’s okay. It’s just the usual dinner, nothing out of the ordinary. But as you watch yourself crying out as you’re boiled alive, you become depressed. You turn away yet continue to stir, believing it’s the right way. Everything will be better after you eat.

Oh, El it hurts! You’re being boiled alive. Your first reaction is fear, complete and total fear. You feel your flesh bubble as a familiar smell wafts across the room. You look up to see none other than yourself slowly stirring the pot. You see two distinct looks on your face, one of disgust and one of hunger. You try to yell out something, “A circle! You’re stuck in a circle!”, but you can’t hear yourself and it wouldn’t matter anyway. You were prepared especially to become tonight’s meal. You will be eaten and you will be forgotten.

What about tomorrow? Won’t you just be hungry again tomorrow?

For in a world that is hungry the people will go mad, but how mad must they go? Surely there will be some who accept the situations handed to them and adapt as necessary. Take Barbel von Gruber, receptionist for an Austrian manicurist, for example. She ate her fingers, one at a time, over a period of ten days. As she defecated each night, she collected her stool and formed the droppings into ten crude feces fingers, connecting them to the bloodied stumps on her hands with a combination of 3M and Elmer’s.

Barbel was careful to moisten her new turd digits with spittle every hour or so in order to keep them flexible, limber, and usable. She moved to Hungary and went on to become a famous pianist, playing weekly with the Budapest Symphony Orchestra. Although she was quite beautiful, no man ever proposed; for who in good hygienic conscience could take her hand in marriage?

When hunger strikes, it locks onto you with state-of-the-art computer guided accuracy backed by a targeting system the Department Of Defense wet dreams about, awakening to an imaginary enemy obliterated and a bed full of sticky relief. Even the wasted sperm is in awe. “With that kind of determination, we’d all be multicellular organisms in no time,” they squeak, as the fibers of the blanket they have been deposited on slowly absorb their viscous armor, and the oxygen around them partically and ironically sucks the life out of them.

Madness from hunger makes you dizzy. You forget who you are, who you’re trying to be/become. You no longer care about the world around you, only the world inside you screaming out in terror with a bloodlust for fuel, for energy. When your stomach sings, it’s a choir that drowns out all small talk. You have no choice but to acknowledge the spectacle. It’s the dying call of a swan not fed. Your swan. You are the swan.


J.W. Wargo is the author of Avoiding Mortimer, which is part of the 2012/13 New Bizarro Author Series.

The adventures of a space walrus


Space Walrus by Kevin L. Donihe

I’m a fan of Kevin L. Donihe. I thought Washer Mouth was amazing. I loved the Flappy Parts. And Night of the Assholes was awesome. Yet, for some reason I haven’t read his Wonderland Award winning House of Houses. But his latest, Space Walrus, is fantastic. Look at that cover. Fucking drink it in through your eyes. That is a beautiful space walrus. You don’t NEED anything more to convince yourself to go buy it right now. It’s about a walrus in space. That’s the concept, that’s the story, that’s the bread and butter of it. But if you really must know, it’s about a walrus named Walter in a space program training him for all sorts of space adventures. He’s not as awesome as he’d like to be. His alter ego, the Space Walrus, his ultimate space-conquering fantasy persona, is far from reality. Yet he wants to be this amazing creature, to show the chimps what he’s capable of. To show Dr. Ron. And to impress Dr. Stephanie. There’s a great depth to this story, and the characters are fantastic. Part of me wishes Space Walrus were a more action-packed thrill ride (perhaps an entire novel dedicated to the adventures of the fantastical Space Walrus), yet what we have here is a fantastically constructed story that will break your heart. It’s about a fucking space walrus, but it’s fucking tragic. And that’s what Kevin does so well. And of course, I felt that reading this book was enhanced by my experience of reading it on a plane far above the earth, and reading it in Kevin’s wildly engaging voice. Get space walrus now, or a giant space walrus will come down and impale you on his glorious, shining tusks.



Win a spot in Garrett Cook and J. David Osborne’s Online Bizarro Workshop


If you’re plugged in to the Bizarro community, you might be aware that I’ve got my first book out in the 2012/13 New Bizarro Author Series. My book is called “House Hunter”, and it’s available right now on Amazon and various other online bookstores. You’re probably also familiar with the authors Garrett Cook and J. David Osborne.

To get things kicked off, I’m running a competition in which you can win a spot in Garrett Cook and J. David Osborne’s online Bizarro workshop. You might have already guessed that from the title.

A little bit of background into why I’m doing this competition:

The first draft of House Hunter came from the first workshop I did with Garrett, during his 10,000 word weekend challenge. I have also taken his workshop one time since then, co-run with Bradley Sands. The workshop was a fantastic experience, with interesting workshop exercises and great feedback. Garrett Cook doesn’t hold back with his criticisms. He wants you to do your best, so he will constantly point out your flaws and suggest ways for you to improve. If you haven’t done a workshop with Garrett in the past and you’re looking to work your way into the Bizarro community, or even if you’re looking to refine your Bizarro writing skills, a workshop like this can only be a good thing.

How to enter:

If you buy a copy of my book between now and December 7th (you have two weeks), you will enter the draw. If you write a review for the book in that time, I will put your name down again. And if you put the review up on multiple places (eg. Amazon, Goodreads, your blog, etc.) they will each qualify for another entry into the competition. To enter, just email me at with some form of proof of purchase and/or links to reviews.

The workshop takes place in January, and I will announce the winner within the day and sort out the details with Garrett right away. This way, if you miss out and you’re still interested in enroling in the workshop, you will still have time to do so. I highly recommend it.

Thank you and good luck!