The Unreprinted: Extermination Zone by Dr. Randall Philip

In the zine scene of the 80’s and 90’s, a brand of transgressive zine that covered crime, deviant sexuality, racism, and misanthropy emerged. Some of the more well-known ones were Pure, ANSWER Me!, and Singin’ Dose Anti-Psychotic Blues. Among these was the zine FUCK, created by Dr. Randall Phillip. We’ll just move past if he’s actually a doctor or not and what kind.

FUCK was filled with disgusting imagery, crude art, pitch black humor, rape and murder fantasies, and all manner of horrible things. In 1996, Phillip release a full-length book similar in style to his zine through the same publisher of some of Mike Diana’s comics called Extermination Zone. It seems to have been largely forgotten and is rather difficult to find physical copies of now, but this is up there as one of the most graphic books I’ve read.

Extermination Zone‘s major theme running through it is the idea that most people aren’t actual Humans, but Martians in disguise. He claims that people who follow religion, non-whites, boring people, and just about anyone who gets on his nerves is actually a Martian. He advocates murdering them in horrific ways, making abortion practically mandatory to cull their numbers, and forming fascistic laws to exterminate them.

It’s clear he doesn’t take any of this seriously, as much of it is an exercise in base hatred. The racism especially comes across as an insincere repeating of Nazi talking points to make the readers angry. This is especially obvious in the latter parts of the book with several fiction sections that read like purposefully gross erotica. A story about torturing a Chinese and Polish man to death seemed especially very try-hard.

One of these sections that works better is “I Wish I Were in a Concentration Camp.” In this article, Phillip turns his hatred inward and rants about his extreme distaste for his own Jewish heritage. He talks about how he wishes he could go to a concentration camp so he could revel in the suffering of his fellow Jews and assist in it. While it’s best not to look for sincerity in these over-the-top articles, if the abuse from his parents that Phillip describes in the opening article, “I Want to Grow Up and Be Just Like My Mommy and Daddy,” it’s easy to see where this kind of self-hatred would come from.

The article that stuck out most to me was “Get Rid of Welfare!” One would think that this would be a hateful rant against poor and homeless people, but instead it’s a rant against corporate welfare. It includes several facts and figures of what various corporations receive in subsidies and tax loops. It wouldn’t be out of place in a radical leftist zine, right down to advocating sending mailbombs to these companies.

I suspect Phillip has some genuine distaste for pro-lifers. He recounts a “prank” in one part where he went to a rally where pro-lifers and pro-choicers were having opposing protests where he held up a sign saying, “Unborn Babies are Stupid People, Too. So Kill Them!” along with the picture of a bloody fetus. He notes the pro-choicers wanted nothing to do with him, but this is surrounded by a cartoon with the severed head of a pro-life activist on Phillip’s cock and a collage of new articles about murders committed on abortion doctors that deride the killers as loons.

There is a lot of offensive art, both drawings and collages, throughout the book. Almost all of it is graphic and offensive. The best drawing in the book is a very disturbing one of a man fucking a beheaded woman in a sex dungeon. There are several collages of deformed and dead people with ridiculous things scrawled on them. One which I’m probably going to hell for laughing at is a picture of a mans hand that was horrifically mutilated in the Rwandan genocide with the caption “Slap me five, homey!” scrawled over it.

This is a strange book. It self-consciously tries to attack the reader. In many ways it succeeds, in others it doesn’t, but it obviously has its tongue so deep in its cheek it’s stabbed through in a bloody gaping wound with the tongue sticking out like a living meat worm. It’s easy to find a scanned version online, and if you’re curious I recommend reading it that way. It’s an interesting piece of angry Generation X ephemera, but it’s not really worth the almost $200 price tag that used copies go for. It seems unlikely this will ever be reprinted, as Randall Phillips seems to no longer be active. The last thing he released was an album back in 2004, but I can find nothing else since.

Maybe the Martians finally got him.

Ben Arzate

The Story of the Y by Ben Arzate – Book Review

by Zakary McGaha

Up until now, Ben Arzate has only written shorter works of fiction and poetry. Now, his first novella-length work has been unleashed into the wilds of the small press scene. Although still rather short, The Story of the Y is written in a minimalistic, to-the-point way that makes it play out like a full-length, road trip comedy movie.

The Story of the Y will touch the hearts of all those who have ever collected stuff…in particular, rare/obscure stuff. In this book’s case, there is an album by one Y. Bhekhirst. Said album and artist are actually real…and completely unknown/obscure…but the book’s plot is a fictionalized account of a music writer setting out on an adventure in hopes of interviewing the “real” Y. Bhekhirst.

If that brief synopsis doesn’t make you want to read the book, then you’re probably lame.

The “adventure of the open road” aspect is where The Story of the Y shines, because the road in this case is surreal. Literally anything can happen in this bizarro sort of world, so you never know what to expect. Strangeness is thrown at you a mile a minute…yes, that was a road trip pun…but none of it ever feels annoying or tacky.

Instead, the effect makes you think you’re watching one of those trippy ass cartoons from the late 90s or early 2000s. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson also came to mind, and not just because someone mentioned it in one of the books’ blurbs.

The action, comedy, and forward-moving momentum all conspire to make it hard to stop reading The Story of the Y. I, for one, finished in two sittings (which is saying something because I started it late at night while already running on little sleep).

The characters were another strong point for this book. They were just as funny and memorable as the surreal aspects of the plot. There’s a ghost trapped in a record (my favorite character), a lovable conman/small-time drug dealer dude with a lobster claw for a hand, a couple anarchists, etc.

Some of the prose was a little deadpan (and, as mentioned before, minimalistic) in terms of dialogue, action, etc., but that isn’t necessarily a complaint considering it was a stylistic choice on Arzate’s part.

Overall, the book was a fun, short read that had the same effect on me that most of Arzate’s stories have: they make me want to stay in the universe longer. This one, in particular, could lay the groundwork for a surreal universe of books; we’ll have to wait and see. The characters and situations are interesting and unique enough to easily offer up more material.

Another thing I feel I should note is that Arzate walks the line between seriousness and silliness. Everything going on is insane, yet it’s all believable, compelling, and entertaining. In other words, he’s not writing for gags despite the silly aspects (I, of course, don’t use the word “silly” in a derogatory sense).

I give The Story of the Y 4/5 stars. I’m eager to read more of Arzate’s lengthier work.

Golden Rod by Bram Riddlebarger – Book Review

Review by Ben Arzate

[Disclaimer: Golden Rod was published by Cabal Books, which is also publishing a novel by me]

Jack, a dishwasher obsessed with tea, has contracted a strange disease which turns his penis a deep yellow. After a stint in the hospital due to an attack by dogs, he decides to burn his truck and go to live in a cave in the woods with his dog.

While there, a number of other strange characters join him including a socialist revolutionary, a hippie girl, an Ethiopian who never speaks, some wood fairies, a pair of twins with breathing problems, an alcoholic dental hygienist, and a baby who seems to have appeared out of nowhere.

Before he met Jack, revolutionary ideas had flowed through the Revolutionary’s brain like tea from a samovar. But now, boots in the sand, things had proven to be more difficult. Food was hard to find. Love was not always free. No one in the cave really knew what to do. The lessons of history were before them.

Golden Rod is a mostly straightforward story with several quirks. In the beginning, we’re told that Merle Haggard is the soundtrack to the book, however, Merle himself also occasionally interjects in the action, especially when his songs are interrupted by other ones. Deer and guns talk, a monster stalk the woods, and ghosts occasionally show up.

The best way to describe the book is that it’s like it was written by a very disillusioned Richard Brautigan. Jack and his comrades want nothing more than to live a simple life in the woods, dubbing themselves “the Locavores” for living off the local land and after the monster that lives in the woods. However, they have no idea how to actually live off the land and are constantly starving and bumbling around for nourishment.

Their attempts to spread their ideals do nothing but annoy the people around them. At one point, they occupy a local supermarket to protest modern food production. The shoppers either ignore them or regard them with bemusement. All of this played for comedy, this is a very funny book, but there’s still a sense of futility. The modern world is an unstoppable beast.

This is especially true with the character the Revolutionary. He views living in the cave away from contemporary life through an idealistic lens. He even comes up with the ways to spread the message of simple living.

Eventually, his idea to shoot cars (most of which are already broken down) gets the law on the group. Despite that, the group splits up of its own accord. The Revolutionary decides to shave and go back to teaching. The forest rangers are far more interested in playing Risk than looking for the group anyway.

Jack himself is no idealist, though he’s willing to go along with the Revolutionary’s ideas. He’s simply sick and tired of his daily life and the disease that turned his penis yellow. He’s the only one who chooses to remain after all of his comrades get tired of living in the cave. Mostly because he has nothing to go back to. His few possessions are gone, he has no other friends or relatives, and he wants for nothing besides a simple life. He has no reason to do anything but stay in the cave until the bitter end.

Golden Rod is a funny, unique, and insightful read. Riddlebarger’s prose is simple but poetic. He paints vivid and surreal pictures of the woods and the strange cast of characters reside in it. He shows both the appeal and the downsides of returning to a simpler life and how the modern world simply won’t allow it either way anymore. I highly recommend this novel.