Berzerkoids is the book I’ve dreamed of releasing ever since I started writing short stories when I was a kid. It’s taken a long time, but it is here now, and I’m super proud of it. Under that beautiful Bill Hauser cover are some of my favorite short stories I’ve written over the years. Here are some notes on where they all came from:
Berzerkoids Are Here
I have performed this story all over the country. It’s the first story I ever wrote with performance in mind. I built it like a hardcore song, with a simple, shouted chorus that repeats throughout. This turned out to be very effective, to the point that at some of my readings I’ve noticed people in the crowd joining in when I yelled “Berzerkoids are here!”
I Summoned A Demon With A Vagina Mouth
When Bill Hauser delivered the cover art for Freak Tension #15, he was very proud of the fact that he had made the demon’s mouths look like vaginas. I was so psyched about the vagina-mouthed demon that I wrote a story about it.
I’ve been going to punk shows for more than 20 years. I still love soaking in the energy that only really comes from a live experience, but I often notice that I’m one of the oldest people at a show. It makes me wonder why people stop. Is it work and family commitments? Is it the ache in the lower back that comes from standing around all night at a shitty bar? Or is it something deeper? Is it an acknowledgement that you’re never going to feel the same way about all this as you did when you were 15? And what would it take to make it all feel fresh and new again?
I’ve made no secret of my love for Charles Band and Full Moon films. In this story, that love is manifested pretty clearly in the main character, a sentient, mangled teddy bear with robot arms. Couple that with my adoration of drag queens and you’ve got an epic battle on your hands.
Hearts And Caterpillars
I went through a phase in which many of my stories were about weak men involved in bad relationships. This is odd, because at the time I was in a great relationship that really helped me grow as a person and become who I am today. But the grass is always greener, and perhaps I didn’t recognize the value of that relationship then. In this story, the main character, a sort of submissive man-child named Percy, catches his girlfriend in a weird sex triangle and finds strength with the help of an interdimensional caterpillar.
I love fetishes. They intrigue the hell out of me. People can totally become captives to them, yet they are sort of empowering in that a person can feel sexual attraction in a way that few or nobody else can. And I’m not just talking about “I like boobs.” That’s not a fucking fetish. I’m talking about shoe fetishes and nylon fetishes and exercise ball fetishes. I love nail fetishes. Shit, I just love nails. I also like pop music, monsters and really gross shit. I brought it all together and created one of my sickest stories.
Looking Fab And Fighting Scabs
Most people can’t even grasp what a crossdresser is up against. There are so many external and internal forces just doing everything they can to crush a girl. This is about a crossdresser who just wants to go out and dance, but one last thing stands in the way.
I Think I’ll Donate This Severed Head To The Salvation Army
I performed this at a punk show once between bands. Someone came up to me afterward and told me I shouldn’t say “bitch.” I got really confused. Did they think this was a true story? It bummed me out that they thought I was the sort of person who would refer to a woman as a bitch. I would never. But I have no problem at all creating fictional stories about unsympathetic assholes who say all sorts of dumb ass stuff. Furthermore, I would never get rid of any of my severed heads.
When I performed this one at a punk show in Green Bay, I noticed one audience member run out of the room when all the slicing and bleeding got really heavy. Afterward, she approached me and said, “I had to leave. I couldn’t take it anymore. I will never forget it!” That’s high praise to me.
Through Time, Knuckles First
I wanted to add a new layer to time travel in this story. What happens if you travel through time and stuff looks pretty much the same as it was? Do you just get pizza and hang out with drag queens and fight clown mobs like usual? Probably.
The Final Failure Of A Professional Small Animal Inside-Outer
This was the title story of my first non self-published standalone publication. I had done plenty of zines and self-pubbed chapbooks, and my short stories had been published in a bunch of other publications, but never before had a publisher taken a chance on a fully MP Johnson standalone thing. Cloud City Press accepted this and published it during a rough patch in my life. The fact that it came out and was pretty successful really gave me hope for the future and got me to re-focus on my writing. This story means a lot to me because of that.
Curse Of The Curse
My first censored story! Ever since I was a kid, I’ve worked slime and gross stuff into my writing. I just get so caught up in these worlds that I create that sometimes I forget that ooze and gore and whatnot is a no no for some people. The original publisher of this piece liked it, but didn’t think it needed to be quite so drippy, so I went through and toned it down. It was still fun, but not 100 percent me. Berzerkoids contains the original, uncensored version.
Record Collector Scum
Another piece exploring the world of aging punk rockers, particularly those with enough money to buy all those valuable old records. I just like writing about punk rock and punk rockers. It’s a world that means a lot to me, and I’m constantly trying to capture the energy of punk rock shows in written form. It’s probably not possible, but I’ll keep trying.
Story Of A Board
When I lived in Green Bay, I did a lot of vandalism. A lot. I don’t even want to think of how many dollars worth of property I destroyed. One night, some friends and I were out smashing stuff. I found an old board in a pile of trash and I ended up destroying a bunch of shit with it. I took the board home and started thinking about how the board felt about the whole thing. Did it like smashing? What would it really like to smash? Monsters? Yeah! So I wrote a story from the board’s perspective. I think I’ve still got that board somewhere.
Feed My Corpse To Sharks
My friends Darci and Nikki and I were driving around. Nikki started talking about shark diving. She was kind of obsessed with sharks, I think. I wanted to swim with sharks too, but maybe not quite as much. We made a pact that we would go to San Francisco and go shark diving at some point. Somehow this turned into talking about death, and dying, and I think Nikki said, “If I die, just feed my corpse to sharks.” And so I wrote this story.
The Songwriter’s Fingers
This is my favorite of all the stories I’ve written. If people read one of my stories ever, I really hope it’s this one. To me, it just really gets the mix of heart and gross just right. I was inspired to write it after reading the biography of one of my favorite country singers, Billy Joe Shaver, who lost some fingers in a mill accident. The story isn’t about him in any way, but about the recipient of those fingers, and what power they might have contained.
Rise Of The Berzerkoids
I’m super proud of “Berzerkoids Are Here,” but I also thought I could get slimier, weirder, meaner… so I did.