Violent Poetry: A Review of Karl Fischer’s Towers

The next time someone says to me, “Oh, bizarro is just meant to shock people,” I’m going to shove Towers into their hands and then push them out the door.

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In a wasteland ravaged by giant monsters, Alti and Quatra are drafted into becoming sentient guard towers. Once their service ends they’re promised an eternity together as payment. The only problem? Life is never that fair or easy.

No, instead Alti finds that he’s been betrayed. Locked within another tower and slowly becoming a monster himself, Alti sets off on a journey driven by the one thing that can catapult any human into the hungry void: LOVE.

Few writers can write about violence in a way that is both revolting and beautiful. It takes the skill and know-how of a truly talented voice to do so, and Karl Fischer is one of those few. We’re along for the ride as Alti’s mind, body, and spirit undergo a blitzkrieg of torment that we can’t look away from. However, never once does it feel like Fischer ebbs into gratuity. These scenes are necessary and expertly crafted to show you how ugly one’s own journey and transformation can be—as far as character arcs go this is one of my favorites.

Along with the poetry of Towers, Fischer presents Alti’s love for Quatra in a very sincere manner. What do I mean by that? Well, a lot of times the protagonist’s quest for a loved one seems more like a drone on a mission; there’s no questioning of the possible outcome or if the desired partner even wants to be saved. There’s none of that in Towers. Fischer shows us Alti’s moments of doubt, fear, and the idea that maybe Quatra won’t be at the end waiting for him. This understanding and representation of emotions (everything from hate to infatuation) helped me feel closer to Alti; so when he hurt, I hurt.

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How do you not want to buy a book from a dude who loves cupcakes and dogs?

My complaints are minimal. I felt the ending was hurried and less-thought out than the rest of the book. A solid 20 pages or so more I think would have rounded the narrative out a bit. Also, there’s a bit of confusing imagery that made it difficult to understand exactly what was happening—nothing that can’t be fixed in Fischer’s next book.

Overall, Towers is a beautifully written love story and Fischer’s voice is the equivalent of a heavy weight prizefighter. If you’re looking for bizarro with a strong literary backbone then this is definitely the book for you.

GET IT HERE: http://www.amazon.com/Towers-Karl-Fischer/dp/1621051986?ie=UTF8&keywords=towers%20karl&qid=1462751120&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

To Scrape Away the Past

A few days ago I finished Tom Piccirilli’s 2000 novel The Deceased and it’s been a long time since I’ve had this many mixed feelings about a book. For the last year or so I’ve either liked, loved, or hated the stuff I’ve been reading. the deceased

This is a good thing. Because it meant  the book elicited a multitude of emotions from me and I like that. I don’t always want to be a raving fanboy or a grumpy jerk. I want to be challenged and I want to be forced to question certain decisions the author is making.

Synopsis: Writer Jacob Maelstrom returns home to the site of his family’s brutal murder at the hands of his sister and enters into an ever-shifting nightmare world where the lines of reality and dreamscape never stop bleeding into one another.

What Piccirilli excels at in this book is imagery. Oftentimes while reading it, I felt immersed in the world that one might only see through a wet painting, glossy and oozing with colors. From melting faces to the cacophony of the muses and forest creatures, the prose gets inside your head in vivid technicolor.

Piccirilli doesn’t shy away from the taboo, either. The scenes where the dead Rachel and Joseph are terrorizing Lisa, while simultaneously getting off together on the experience really gets under the reader’s skin. Not only because Piccirilli’s prose is so engaging, but they also happen to be brother and sister–a fact that in the hands of a less skilled writer would come across as a gratuitous shock-tactic, but in this book makes sense given the Maelstrom family history.

Now, it might be just me, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an author that could take a possessed inanimate object and turn it into a terrifying instrument of chaos (the exception being Cody Goodfellow’s short story “Conseula Hates a Vacuum,” which if you haven’t read unfuck that NOW). Towards the end of the novel Joseph’s wheelchair, in an attempt to communicate with Lisa, goes bonkers and starts to destroy the house. I loved it and that’s why I’m mentioning it.

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Now, I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of horror novels where the protagonist is themselves a horror writer. I’ve always felt that in a lot of ways by doing this the author is mainlining their life and routine into the book and it comes across as lazy–that’s not to say there aren’t good ones out there. Brian Keene’s Dark Hollow is a great example of when this works well. So, I was a bit turned off by this backdrop for Jacob Maelstrom going into the story.

The characters of Lisa and Katie seem underdeveloped. I found myself wondering what their purpose was in the narrative. Lisa’s pregnant with the baby of her boss (Jacob’s agent), but the unborn feels more like a prop to up the stakes for when everything goes down rather than a vital character trait.

In some ways I wish that Katie had been on her own, trapped in a giant house with the subject of her thesis who is unhinged and haunted by his dead family.  They share interesting histories when it comes to bloodshed and I think that could have been used a lot more for them to become closer, but as it stands, when she tells Jacob, “I love you,” it feels unearned and phony.

Overall, I wanted to LOVE The Deceased, but I only came out liking it. There’s some fantastic passages in here and I love how the scenes drift in and out of reality (apparently a problem for a lot of other readers). Unfortunately, all the interesting complex characters are the dead ones and the living feel like cutouts. However, I can’t wait to start Piccirilli’s A Lower Deep!

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All the Right Notes

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Thanks to the amazing Miguel Rodriguez (Director of the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival), I had the opportunity to see Jeremy Sauliner’s latest film Green Room. I’ve been looking forward to this ever since I saw the trailer a few months back, which is masterfully cut to Morning Ritual’s cover of CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising.” It looked like the film had all the ingredients to make me a happy cinematic pie: A media-shunning punk band, Patrick Stewart playing the leader of a neo-Nazi gang, and a simple, but punchy premise–yeah, sign me up.

Now, I’ve never been a huge fan of reviews or posts that give you a full play-by play of the movie. So here’s a quick synopsis before I start talking about what I liked: Hard-up for cash four young punkers play a show for a group of skinheads and end up walking in on a murder, which results in them having to escape the venue.

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Several things impressed me about this film. First of all the cinematography  is beautiful. Between shots of the beer-soaked, graffiti’d venue permeating in testosterone and the lush Oregon forests, it provided just the right juxtaposition of grit and beauty. I salute both Sauliner and Sean Porter for the amazing visual work.

I have to give the movie a lot of respect for not giving us the mousy kid that learns to be a hard ass or the tough guy protagonist that tears through goons like a shark in bloody waters. It would have been the easy route to have Reece (Joe Cole) be the group’s warrior and lead character for the entirety of the film, but Sauliner flips it and we see how Reece’s temper and aggression acts a dual sword–it saves them in some moments, but also makes the scenario they’re in worse.

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Instead of a stock hero we get Pat (Anton Yelchin) as our lead. He’s quiet and awkward, but packs a mighty will to survive even though everything seems hopeless for the band. Pat isn’t a tough guy. He’s a musician that happened to walk in on the wrong situation. He’s a vulnerable kid who has a love for playing live music and a detachment from the social media saturated culture we live in.

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The gore is going to be a turn off for a lot of people, but don’t let that deter you from watching this film. Yes, it’s gut-wrenching at times, but the violence in Green Room works. And it works because we care about what happens to the band. We care about what happens to Amber (Imogen Poots) and even to a lesser extent Gabe (Macon Blair), who seems like he’s just trying to survive the world he’s a part of. Sauliner’s spends time letting the audience get to know the band. We seem at their lowest: playing for a diner full of disinterested people and not even getting paid what they were promised. The band isn’t disposable like a lot of the young, doe-eyed kids that show up in slasher films, so when things go south we’re rooting for them to escape, and when we start losing them, it feels like we’re losing our friends.

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I’ve heard a lot of people bemoan that Patrick Stewart’s casting wasn’t right or that it didn’t work for them. It’s disappointing because I’m sure this has a lot to do with Stewart’s long-standing role as Captain Picard on the Star Trek Franchise. Don’t let this muddy up your view, Stewart is fantastic as skinhead leader Darcy and it’s awesome to see him taking on roles like this.

Lastly, The only complaint that I have about the film [SPOILER] is that I would have liked to see Werm (Brent Werzner) get it in the end. He’s the reason The Ain’t Rights are put into the position they find themselves in and given all the mayhem it takes just for the last two survivors to make it out, I felt like a bit of justice was due. However, this is just me being nitpicky. The film is more about survival than revenge, and in reality, it ends right where it should.

Green Room is a film driven by both character and suspense. Not everyone is going to love it the way that I did, but it’s definitely worth your time and money. This is one of those unique films that has a killer original premise and doesn’t come around often enough.

GO SEE IT.

A Little Taste of Sweet Beef

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Last night me and two of my closest friends went down to the Music Box to check out Mac Sabbath, the MacDonald’s themed Black Sabbath parody band. I had no idea what to expect and to some extent I was convinced that the show was going to be cool for a few songs, but then the novelty would wear off. Turns out, as always, I was wrong.

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Complete with two smoke-breathing Ronald McDonald heads placed at both sides of the stage that lit up like forgotten Nothing but Trouble props, and four musicians that tore through songs titled “Cherries are Fruits,” “Frying Pan,” and the circle-pit anthem “Pair-a-Buns,” Mac Sabbath proved to my naysaying ass that I should always keep my mouth shut till the music stops.

For a band that sings about the cancerous nature of the golden arches corporation in a goofy way, these guys are on-point musicians. The joke never got old and the energy and crowd interactions kept the momentum going. At one point there were a handful of beach  ball hamburgers flying around, while the singer sprayed those of us in the front with water. I’d gladly see Mac Sabbath again and if they come to your town, go down and have a blast.

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Wonder Con 2016

Now that I’ve spent the last week in con recovery and the virus that AWP left me with seems like it’s on its way out, I wanted to talk a bit about my experiences at both AWP and Wonder Con.  However, since that would mean one long ass post, I’m going to break it up into two.

First up, Wonder Con 2016.

I get to the L.A. Convention Center the night before WC opens. It’s the easiest time I’ve ever had picking up badges. Name. Company. Driver’s License. I was out in less than twenty minutes. A good first impression for someone that’s a bit bitter about how SDCC handles their business now.

Smash cut to the convention itself. Kai Martin and I are placed in a not so great locale, but we made it work. The folks across from us never showed up, so we took the opportunity to share the space with another exhibitor to bring more people to our area.

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Taking over the empty table worked to a degree, but there was only so much we could do given the placement of the booth. Here’s the thing, though. I wasn’t expecting to sell out of copies of King Space Void or Fruition. In fact, I was surprised by what we did sell and the people that did come by were rad. When’s the last time you sold a book to a dude named Spike that knew more about Opeth than you?

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I did get a chance to wander the hall a bit and check out the Lovecraft panel put on by the organizers of the H.P. Lovecraft film festival. After said panel I joined up with Cody Goodfellow, Aaron Vanek, Leslie Klinger, and company for flaming margaritas. For those of you that don’t know me, Cody has been my favorite writer since I read his amazing short story “Wasted on the Young” in an issue of Cemetery Dance years ago. So, to be able to kick it with him as two dudes sharing a drink, was a great moment for me. Believe the hype. He’s as cool as everyone says he is.

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Overall, Wonder Con reminded me of San Diego Comic Con before it became the pop culture Goliath that it is today. There’s breathing room on the floor and no one reprimands you like an ego-maniacal hall monitor for posting up at a wall to rest, eat, or charge your phone. The entire vibe of the con was chill and the folks that stopped by our table to chat were awesome and genuine. And Kai did an awesome drawing of one of the character’s from King Space Void, which I love! IMG_20160326_110123

This was my first time ever being on the other side of the booth and I gotta say, I dug the hell out of it. I’m looking forward to bringing the thunder again to Wonder Con 2017.

You Lost, Pardner?

Howdy!

I’m assuming you probably stumbled onto this blog from the New Bizarro Author Series 2015-2016 page or it showed up randomly in some reddit thread about weird shit. Regardless of how you came across it, welcome! I’ve always been hesitant to create one of these because of my innate fear of being a lone man screaming into the void, but here goes nothing, right?

A little background: I’m Anthony Trevino. Author of King Space Void from the 2015-2016 New Bizzaro Author Series (NBAS), contributor to Tom Holland’s Terror Time, and general buffoon. I have a passion for the weird, surreal, horror, and art in general, and hope that this blog becomes more than just me ranting about how much I dislike The Purge films (article forthcoming).

I hope you dig the sterile, po-mo, Brave New World feel of the place. Trust me, the longer you stare at the white walls, the more you’ll see what’s lurking underneath…now, if I may quote the fantastic Return of the Living Dead, “Are you ready to party?…it’s party time.”