In discussing my new book, The After-Life Story of Pork Knuckles Malone, a few people have asked, “Where did you get the idea for such a weird book?” The germ of the idea started with this flyer for a Big Eyes show by Twin Cities artist Claire Monet:
I liked the image of a ham sitting in front of a wall of old televisions, watching them. In my head though, I saw the ham with antlers stuck into it instead of branches, probably a subconscious tribute to the geek helmet worn by Rev. Norb, the singer of legendary Green Bay punk band Boris the Sprinkler. My ham didn’t have eyes either. Instead, it had a pair of pineapple rings wedged between the antlers that kind of looked like eyes. I describe my interpretation of this image in chapter 12 of the book, which I’ve been reading live.
Of course, an image isn’t a story. I knew the ham was malicious, but maybe it wasn’t always that way. Maybe it was once a sweet little pig that liked to run through cornfields with a little farm kid. Maybe it was killed by a misguided father. Maybe a road trip ensued that was filled with slime-spewing insanity, mainly because I really love slime-spewing insanity. The rest of the weird book unfolded from there, pulling further inspiration from punk and the years that I lived in Green Bay. I kind of like how it turned out.
Have you read it yet? If you like weird fiction, it’s available on Amazon for a pittance.
Razorcake #73 is out now. Did you know that, along with all the columns and interviews and reviews, each issue includes a bunch of punk rock comics by the likes of Mitch Clem and Ben Snakepit? It’s true. What more could you ask for?
I suppose you could ask for a handful of record reviews by yours truly. You can read some of them in print or all of them online:
- DESPISE: Desolate: 7”
- HELLBASTARD/DRESDEN: Split: LP
- PORN STARS OF HORROR: From Love Letters to the Morgue: CD
- SHAME, THE: The World is Ours: 7”
- WARTORN: Domestic Terrorist: 7”
- WILSON ST. PUB & SLUTHOUSE BAND: Pirates of the West Bench: CD
Pretty crust-heavy this time around, huh?
I basically went from reading comic books to reading William S. Burroughs. Like many people my age, I discovered Burroughs through less-than-literary sources:
I quickly became obsessed and created my first bizarro book, a cutup hodgepodge of nonsense featuring a Dr. Benway-esque character named Dr. Lamplighter. Strangely, it was sex-free. I was just entering high school at the time, so I was a bit afraid of sexuality still. So instead of having scenes of strangulation jerk-off time travel, I wrote about exploding squirrels. There were a lot of exploding squirrels in this book.
While I was working on it, I walked into school one day to find a bunch of kids mobbing a squirrel that had accidentally gotten inside. They were rabid, zombie-like. They killed it in their attempt to catch it in their coats. As a naive young author of bizarro fiction, I took this as a sign that I needed to write about squirrels. Lots of squirrels. Fuck.
I wrote a squirrel-free piece of bizarro fiction called “Freak Tension,” which later appeared in thoroughly revised form in the debut issue of my zine. My high school English teacher got really excited about it. She pulled me aside after class and said it was the best thing she had ever read in her years as a teacher. I felt so proud. Then I told her I was inspired by William S. Burroughs. She had no idea who he was. Baffled, I decided that compliments on my writing didn’t mean shit from ignoramuses like her.
Although the Burroughs influence is much less overt in my writing these days, I still like the idea of including almost standalone bits in larger pieces, such as the Nazi fly bit in The After-Life Story of Pork Knuckles Malone. Now I suddenly have an idea for a story about a squirrel.
This year will see the release of my first two books! Both are with publishers I am really psyched to be working with. The first one is out now: The After-Life Story of Pork Knuckles Malone from Bizarro Pulp Press. Here’s the cover:
Back cover blurb:
What’s a farm boy to do when his pet pig becomes an evil, decaying hunk of ham with slime-spewing psychic powers?
After Daryl Malone absconds to Green Bay with the remains of his pet, Pork Knuckles, strange things start to happen. Why is everyone around him so hungry for ham? And why is green ooze pouring from their orifices? When he finds the answer to these questions, he’s forced to choose between his best buddy and a family that has only existed on the periphery of his life. That choice will send him and the ones he loves barreling nonstop through a labyrinth of cannibal hippies, Nazi flies, rabid drag queens, brawling grizzlies and punk rock muck fests.
Inspired by author Darci Schummer’s post about why she writes sad stories, I started thinking about why I write weird stories. I sometimes say, “That’s just what comes out,” but there’s more to it than that.
First grade. Mrs. O’Connell’s classroom. So many kids staring at me. Maybe they wanted to be friends. Maybe they were staring at my awesome Star Wars hat, the one my parents had bought for me special for my return to school after a long absence. I was so proud of that hat. So proud.
But that’s not what they were staring at. They were staring at the bandages around my shaved head and the scars peeking out. They were staring at my eyes. They were staring because I looked different. And they were thinking of names to call me, names that scarred much deeper than the cuts from my surgeries. Didn’t they know that I just wanted someone to play with?
That was okay though, because I could create worlds filled with stuff like time-traveling fuzz monsters and glow-in-the-dark dinosaurs, stuff that I could understand, because I sure the fuck couldn’t understand why everyone was so mean to me when I wasn’t mean to them. Not only could I understand what went on in the worlds I created, I could control it.
And I did find friends, kids who just wanted to bike and skate and listen to metal, at least until middle school and high school, when they decided that being cool did matter. So they disappeared, and I kept writing, and the writing got weirder, and sometimes the only thing that kept me alive was diving into these worlds I scribbled out. I sure didn’t want those worlds to look like the real world. Fuck the real world. Monsters and spaceships kept me safe.
And they still do. A couple weeks ago, I smiled at a woman – not lasciviously, just the way that I smile at people and hope I always smile at people – and she called me a name. And I’m still that kid in Mrs. O’Connell’s classroom and I still need a place to go because I can sometimes see that the people looking at me don’t always have friendship in mind even though I always do and I keep having people who I thought would stick with me leave me alone and was it my fault? I don’t understand.
But I always understand what happens in the worlds I write. Maybe you’ll understand too or maybe you’ll get freaked out by stories about professional small animal inside-outers, but at least you won’t be thinking about whatever bullshit the real world dealt you today, right?