10 Weird Writers to Save Us All in 2018


Here is our highly-anticipated list of “10 Writers to Save Us All in 2018.” “Save us from what?” you ask. We’re not entirely sure. What we do know is that an unexpected number of writers and readers alike sent us impassioned demands to recognize writers across the independent and small-press spectrum, and that the Silent Motorist Media Street Team voted for the finalists you’ll find listed below. Without further ado, we’d like to recognize these exceptional writers for their tireless effort to brighten our lives with their incredible work. We thank them, from the bottom of our hearts, for keeping the world of words alive and screaming.

An additional thanks to all the readers and writers who nominated someone. We couldn’t have made this list without your enthusiastic support for the writers you enjoy.

This list is in no particular order. We put one of our favorites at the very bottom just to prove this.

-Justin A. Burnett

Jon Padgett

Since a strong beginning is always advisable, Jon Padgett, the author of The Secret of Ventriloquism, seems an obvious choice to head this list. While many of us have happily stumbled across The Secret of Ventriloquism at some point in our reading lives and consider Padgett an obvious example of quality fiction, the rabbit hole goes much deeper than we ever expected. From editing magazines to professional narration, Padgett’s diversity certainly calls for recognition.

Jon Padgett is a professional–though lapsed–ventriloquist who lives in New Orleans with his spouse, their daughter, and a rescue dog and cat. He is the Co-Editor-In-Chief of Vastarien, a source of critical study and creative response to the work of Thomas Ligotti. Padgett’s short story collection, The Secret of Ventriloquism, was named the Best Fiction Book of 2016 by Rue Morgue Magazine. He has work out or forthcoming in Weird Fiction Review, PseudoPod, Cadabra Records, Lovecraft eZine, Xnoybis, and the anthologies A Walk on the Weird Side, Wound of Wounds, Phantasm/Chimera, and For Mortal Things Unsung. Cadabra Records recently released two albums narrated by Padgett: The Bungalow House by Thomas Ligotti and 20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism by Padgett himself. His novelette, The Broker of Nightmares, will be published in a signed, illustrated edition by Nightscape Press later this summer. He will also appear in the Ashes & Entropy anthology, also from Nightscape.

Padgett is also the creator and co-administrator of Thomas Ligotti Online, which just celebrated its 20th birthday. He recently narrated Laird Barron’s novella, “Mysterium Tremendum” on PseudoPod. This is only one of multiple stories on Pseudopod he has produced and/or written. There are also quite a few recordings available on YouTube including his own work, work by Thomas Ligotti, and a story by Conrad Aiken. His work is additionally featured on SoundCloud.

Padgett can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Madeleine Swann

Madeleine Swann braids punch-drunk humor with a spritz of strange storytelling to create fun, entertaining stories that aren’t easily forgotten. Check out her interview with us for a glimpse of yet another talent more than deserving of a special honor this year. Check her out! We’re sure you’ll enjoy her work just as much as we do.

Madeleine Swann’s interconnected short story collection, Fortune Box, was released by Eraserhead Press in June 2018. It’s about a mysterious company called Tower Ltd Surprise Packages, who send gifts to random strangers throughout The City. Swann’s second novella, 4 Rooms In A Semi-Detached House, was published by Strangehouse Books, and her first was part of Eraserhead Press’ New Bizarro Author Series in 2015. Swann’s short stories have appeared in various anthologies and podcasts.

Check out Madeleine’s website, and follow her on Twitter and YouTube.

Christopher Ropes

Christopher Ropes caused quite a stir among the writers and readers alike who made nominations for this list. Each nomination made on his behalf insistently demanded that Ropes deserves more recognition in the writing world. His name continually surfaces on social media, unanimously attached with a passionate encouragement by those in the know to give Ropes a well-deserved read. We are certain that Christopher Ropes is a force to be reckoned with, and that he will continue to find the weird and wonderful readers he deserves.

Christopher Ropes lives in New Jersey with his partner, their kids, and an assortment of pets. He writes weird fiction and poetry infused with the lived experience of mental illness and occult practice. He believes in the Devil, the Night Primeval as explicated by Richard Gavin, all forms of true Art, the redemptive power of loving someone more than oneself, cats, cockatiels, and that mental illness is survivable and must be alchemically transmuted into artistic creation or wisdom.

His work has appeared in Turn to Ash Volume 3, Nightscript 2, and he has a piece that reviewers seem to truly love in the first volume of Vastarien: A Literary Journal. Dunhams Manor published his quickly sold-out novelette Complicity, and Dynatox Ministries published his poetry collection, The Operating Theater. He’s currently looking for a home for another novelette and contemplating a small short fiction collection. He also occasionally writes book reviews for the journal, Dead Reckonings.

Betty Rocksteady

Betty Rocksteady has been on our radar since the release of her debut novella, Arachnophile, in 2015 as part of Eraserhead Press’ New Bizarro Author series. Since then, Rocksteady has grown into a palpable presence in the wild world of bizarro fiction, diversifying into illustration in addition to writing. Yet again, another Rocksteady release looms on the horizon, and it’ll arrive just in time to save us from running out of excellent books to read in 2018.

Betty Rocksteady is an author and illustrator made of 1920s cartoons, cats and phosphorescent muck. Her writing blends surreal nightmares with character-driven conflict. Her short fiction has appeared in Looming Low, Lost Films and Eternal Frankenstein. Arachnophile, her first novella, was released by Eraserhead Press and describes the romantic relationship between a previous arachnophobe and a giant spider. Like Jagged Teeth, from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, is a claustrophobic story about a young woman, saved by what appears to be her dead grandfather. Her new alien novella, The Writhing Skies, is being released this fall from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and includes 20 illustrations.

Check out Rocksteady’s website and follow her on Twitter.

William Tea

William Tea created a stir with his haunting story, “I Am Become Death,” in Planet X Publication’s anthology, Test Patterns. Now that he has a novel in the making, we’re gripping the edge of our seats to see where this Pennsylvanian frequent flyer of the anthology world will take us. We’re certain it’ll be one hell of a ride.

When William Tea was a boy, he thought monsters lived in the dark. So when the lights were out, he snarled and spat and twisted his hands into claws, trying to blend in with the things that went bump in the night.

He’s been friends with the monsters ever since.

Today, William Tea lives in the Northeastern Pennsylvania Coal Region. His work has been featured in anthologies published by Muzzleland Press, Wildside Press, Planet X Publications, StrangeHouse Books, and CLASH Books. He is currently working on his first novel, tentatively titled Mother of Sorrows.

Check out William’s website and follow him on Facebook.

Kyle Rader

Kyle Rader made quite an appearance in 2018 with his novel, KEGGER, from NihlisimRevised. The novel is about metal, and SMM readers know how we feel about our metal. We’re hoping do dive deeper into Rader’s fiction soon on SMM, and we can’t wait to see what he’s up to next!

Kyle Rader doesn’t like to color inside the lines, and thinks the greatest sin a writer can commit is to bore his or her readers. His writing career began at the tender age of nine when he received his first rejection letter from the Nintendo Corporation of America. They didn’t care for his video game idea, but they were kind enough to let him down gently.

2018 has been a rough one for a lot of people. Kyle spends his days listening to Chainsaw Gutsfuck on repeat or randomly screaming the theme song to Frasier at his wife. Rader hopes that his brand-new novel, KEGGER, will bring people some happiness or, at the least, some laughs. If you like heavy metal, transgressive/bizarre comedy, and good, clean, stupid humor, then Rader hopes KEGGER will help you get through 2018.

Rader’s short fiction has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies, including Masks, Between the Cracks, and And Death Shall Have No Dominion: Tales of the Titanic. Rader’s short story, “The Countess and the Bard,” was the recipient of the Readers’ Choice award on Fiction Vortex. Rader’s latest novel, KEGGER, and debut novel, Four Bullets, are available on Amazon.

Rader lives in New England (in the state where they’ve got all the opioids. Seriously, opioids as far as the eye can see) with his wife and dog Scrambles the Death Dealer. He’s currently hard at work at multiple novels of varying genres, including horror, sci-fi, and more bizarre comedy featuring Satan and an undulating tentacle monster named after John Cusack who loves to play board games. If KEGGER is a success, Rader hopes to finally start work on his dream project where Jean-Claude Van Damme and a talking squid save Thanksgiving by learning how to parallel park.

Check out Kyle’s website, follow him on Twitter, and read “Only the Names Have Been Changed,” a bizarre freebie for new cult members! JOIN THE CULT OF KILE!

S. L. Edwards

Readers and writers alike swarmed our inbox to nominate S. L. Edwards, not only for his writing, but for his “tireless work in the scene promoting other writers and sharing opportunities. A rare beacon of light,” as one nominator put it. We love nothing more than passionate writers who go out of their way to lift up their colleagues. The heartfelt eagerness of his nominators inspired us, and we are thrilled to give Edwards the special mention he deserves in 2018.

S. L. Edwards is a Texan currently residing in California. He enjoys dark fiction, dark poetry and even darker beer. With Yves Tourigny, he is the co-creator of the webcomic “Borkchito: Occult Doggo Detective.” His debut short story collection, Whiskey and Other Unusual Ghosts, will be published in 2019 by Gehenna & Hinnom.

Daulton Dickey

Daulton Dickey has been one of our favorite writers since Flesh Made World released last year with Rooster Republic Press (check out our review of the book here), so we jumped at the opportunity provided by multiple nominations to include him on this list. Dickey’s website, Lost in the Funhouse, provided much of the inspiration for Silent Motorist Media, and we believe he is a truly underappreciated talent in the small press world. Check out Lost in the Funhouse and read Flesh Made World; you’ll see what we mean.

Symbolist and surrealist, absurdist and pataphysician, Daulton Dickey specializes in fried eggs. You can find his musings, writing, and art at Lost in the Funhouse.

When he’s not working, Daulton lives with his wife, kids, and pet human-lizard hybrid in a universe he created. He’s the author of Elegiac Machinations, Bastard Virtues, and Flesh Made World. Contact him at lostitfunhouse@gmail.com, and find him on Facebook.

Christine Morgan

Christine’s prose is magnetic whiplash—it’s swift, clever, and precise. Reading her work is an ass whooping you’re thankful for, and one that also deserves special attention in 2018. If you haven’t already, give Christine Morgan a read! She’s certainly one writer to save us from boredom this year.

Christine Morgan grew up in the high deserts of California but headed for water and trees as soon as she was able. A resident of the Pacific Northwest ever since, she now lives in the Portland area amongst the bizarro and weirdo-creatives community.

Her stories span many eras and genres, with a particular focus on combining horror and dark fantasy with ancient or medieval cultures. She’s best known for her Viking-themed tales, a collection of which — The Raven’s Table — came out in 2017 from Word Horde.

As a reader, she’s a regular contributor to The Horror Fiction Review. As an editor, she’s responsible for the Fossil Lake anthologies as well as a few other projects. She also enjoys baking, and modifying Barbie dolls into custom strange creations.

Christine’s most recent projects include the modern thriller Murder Girls, the pioneer blizzard horror novel White Death, and her extra-gooshy Deadite Press debut, Spermjackers from Hell. She’s had short stories in many anthologies and is currently at work on a book called Lakehouse Infernal, with the kind permission of Edward Lee.

Nicholas Day

Who could pass up a writer like Nicholas Day, especially when he has a new novella, At the End of the Day I Burst into Flames, on the way? We absolutely adored Necrosaurus Rex and Now That We’re Alone, and we can’t wait to see what else this creative and dexterous talent has in store. If any weird writer can save us all from whatever it is that weird writing saves us from, we’re pretty certain it’s Day.

Nicholas Day writes within the horror, science fiction, and crime genres. He studied creative writing at Southern Illinois University and at Seton Hill University. He co-owns Rooster Republic Press with Don Noble. Necrosaurus Rex, a novella, and his collection of short fiction, Now That We’re Alone, are both available through JournalStone and Bizarro Pulp Press.

His latest novella, At the End of the Day I Burst into Flames, is slated for release in December 2018. A second short-story collection was finished in May of 2018, and is currently being shopped around.

His current work-in-progress, Grind Your Bones to Dust, is a horror-western set in the Oregon desert during the 1950s, and features a quartet of man-eating donkeys. The title should be available sometime in 2019.

Don’t forget to check out his website.

God Save The Queen of Filth: An Interview with Dani Brown

Having been a fan of her work ever since the first time I experienced it, I caught up with Dani Brown, “The Queen of Filth”, to scour her brain about her huge library of published works (links galore to follow!), as well as her newest release, Ketamine Addicted Pandas. In addition, we ended up discussing her evolution as a writer, internet creeps, toxic assholes, the #metoo movement, and something called Marmite, which is apparently a disgusting toast spread banned in most countries.

-Austin James

“I’m a naturally squeamish person. I like to share that around.”

-Dani Brown

(I explain that I like to do these interviews over FB Messenger because it allows for real life to happen without interrupting the interview, as well as lends itself to a more conversational feel, and our discussion takes off from there) …

Dani Brown: I’m okay with using Messenger. And do you have WhatsApp in case the creeps come out and we need to switch apps?

Austin James: I do not, but I can download it. I’m curious though, when you say “creeps come out,” does that mean when random pervs see you active on messenger you start getting spammed?

Dani: Yep that’s the one. I’m not even sure if they see me as attractive. I think they want to lure someone into paying their way in life (some sort of co-dependent love bombing situation) and when one doesn’t respond they move onto the next. I don’t seem to be targeted as much this week, and I’ve changed my profile pic.

James: That’s insane! It’s sad that you have to put up with that. Do you think the content of some of your art, or maybe your author persona as “The Queen of Filth” has encouraged any of these assholes to harass you? Or do you think this shit is pretty common for most women in this social media age?

Brown: It’s a bit of both I believe. Being a woman on social media isn’t pleasant some of the time. I don’t think this current batch of internet creeps realized I write, let alone what I write. But the writing has its own problems. People have the impression that I’m some sort of sexually liberated person. I’m really not and I like to keep my sex life and even romantic life very private. Some people have difficulty viewing me as a person with a voice, ambition, hobbies, etc. It’s only a small handful of people, but it can be terrifying.

James: I was actually going to ask if any of this harassment fueled some of your writing…sounds like it has.

Brown: These people are absolutely making it into my current group of stories, something I think of as “Era Two of The Queen of Filth.” Some of the creepy FB messages are even making it into my stories. Regardless of the amount of times I’ve stated to these people that I want to be left alone, I’m not into sex, etc., I still live with the fear. They don’t come across as reasonable people. Constantly trying to outdo each other, in person and on social media, which in my writing came out as “trying to out-narc frenemies on social media.” With the exception of Sparky the Spunky Robot [see below] and a few short stories, this is the first time I’ve really been using stuff from my life in writing. It took years to become comfortable using my emotion in writing, let alone experience and deeper opinions

James: So, the harassment has been bad enough that it prompted whole new phase in your evolution as an artist?!

Brown: Partially, yes. Era Two is not only a response to internet creeps, but a deeper response to the toxic people of my past. And a deeper look at society and specifically how women are treated (the entire #metoo thing is also playing a huge role). As well as me being treated as crap for coming from a bad background and being a single parent (more the excuses people use). Sparky has a lot of the frustration I’ve experienced over not having a voice (more on this book later). It got to the point that I couldn’t write the erotic Bizarro story I wanted to, so I started to write what is becoming Smothered Hope (currently under construction). Basically, a girl band is repeatedly raped by their producers after learning they won’t be playing instruments or writing their songs. Kesha was making headlines again with her ongoing legal battle against her producer (best of luck to her!!). And the sheer way women are treated in anything art or entertainment related [plays a part].

James: I’m fucking proud of you for standing up and actually doing something about it!

Brown: Thank you. Although I’m anxious about sharing stuff from my private life and what influences me as a writer, I find the rewards and empowerment to help with the anxiety about letting the light in. After what’s happened, I can no longer return to the incredibly private person I once was. Ten years of having no voice, and now I find there are people out there that actually want to hear what I have to say. Even when it is something as simple as saying my favorite Disney Princess is Pocahontas, which I’ve never stated in public until today. Or admitting that stress wiped out some of my memories and I’ve only been reclaiming them over the past year. I don’t feel like I’m alone in standing up and doing something about it. It seems that every day on Facebook, there’s at least one woman with a long post about something she has experienced and what impact it has on her life and current situation, or how she got out of a bad situation. It took ten years to not feel shame over what happened to me over the course of those ten years.

James: So, is it safe to assume that those ten years (as well as the toxic people you referred to) make up Era One of your evolution as an artist?

Brown: Yep. Some of my older stuff relies on some shallow opinions, which was when I was really engulfed with these toxic and manipulative people. I suppose being surrounded by them, my own personality was becoming engulfed in the negativity and competition. All the drama would keep me in a perpetual state of stress which meant the people I do like to be around became further and further away, until I started writing my way out of it and being very open (a bit too much perhaps) about the cause of my stress.

James: “Writing your way out of it”. I really like how you worded that. I mean, that’s what art is for, right? To foster our inner need to create and to fully express our emotions?

Brown: It is. It took me awhile to get the hang of it. I was trying to write about these toxic people (Middle Age Rae of Fucking Sunshine, Reptile), or ignore them and write (Welcome to New Edgehill). Or even write the anger and stress (Stara) for a while. My early stuff (Seth, unpublished but a draft of the first section is available on my website, My Lovely Wife, Broccoli) is me trying to write with no emotion and as far away from myself as possible. Eventually I came to a point where I started to write Ketamine Addicted Pandas [links below]. I was overjoyed with it. Pointless, extreme, nothing of me in there. I started telling people what I was writing, and they were interested. I had a proven track record of published material by that point. The people I had been having problems with left for the most part. They realized they couldn’t change me and I would never be one of them. Stress levels dropped considerably, and I was able to do what I wanted. There were a few problems with some lingerers when I was finishing Sparky the Spunky Robot but somehow, I got that finished after having Sparky tattooed on my arm for inspiration. That one goes a lot deeper than my usual stuff. The underlying stuff is a story I’ve been wanting to tell since 2013, when the toxic creeps started appearing, but stress wouldn’t let me. I plan on more tattoos. I need to create. I can’t change that. I wish people would realize that the first few times I say it. Creating isn’t a choice.

James: Your need to create is very apparent—between your books and anthology appearances, you’ve got a huge resume. I know a few of these titles are already on my TBR pile and after this interview there are going to be even more.

Brown: The only way to escape from the toxic people in my life was to get up at 5am every morning before the day job and school run (no matter how little sleep I had) and write. Now I have a large amazon account and a Sparky tattoo and people around me shut their mouths and take me seriously.

James: Personally, I first discovered your specific method of insane creation in the Strange Behaviors Anthology, which prompted me to publicity exclaim that you’re one of the few authors who can actually make me squeamish. And thus, I fell in love with the “Queen of Filth.” Is that the type of response you hope for when you write?

Brown: Typically, yes. I’m a naturally squeamish person. I like to share that around. Places in the stories should result in squeamishness but that isn’t the overall point. I have written stories purely for the sake of trying to induce a vomit worthy reaction (Broccoli). I was working on one based on Rapunzel when my Era Two writings grew from a handful of stories to a massive undertaking. I will probably get back to that when this Era is over. My story in Strange Behaviors came about simply because I hate Marmite (like any sensible person). I hope I at least put some people off smearing that on their toast. I wanted it to be disgusting but not over the top like some of my other short stories.

James: Well I loved it, even though I have no idea what Marmite is. It was a great introduction to your work!

Brown: Marmite is some sort of brown substance that comes in a jar. It’s thick and the most disgusting thing known to humanity.

James: Must be a European thing (says the dumb American).

Brown: I think somewhere in Europe has banned it. Might just be an English thing.

James: Speaking of first-time readers, is there a particular story or book you recommend for newcomers to your work?

Brown: What I recommend to first-time readers is Night of the Penguins. It has lots of blood and gore. Phlegm tentacle sex. Weird cult activities from upper management and social climber types trying to out-do each other. So gore, sex and story.

James: Sounds delightful. So outside of Era One and Two, are there any stories that kind of transcend this timeline?

Brown: Sure. Just released, Ketamine Addicted Pandas (also available on Kindle). I wrote it when I was breaking free from the toxic people and then free but sitting around awaiting more therapy. Kind of bridged the gap a little. Then there are series such as Stef and Tucker (still to be published) and Chester and Lester (free on my website) which will probably span over a few more Eras.

James: Great segue…I was going to ask about Pandas. Got time for a quick, shameless plug?

Brown: Of course! Pandas escape from the zoo. They don’t like bamboo, they like baboon brains. And Ketamine. And dance music. Nazis in Hell are pissed off they’ve taken a liking to their uniforms so pursue them. Demons then follow after the Nazis. It is pointless. Violent. Influenced by black metal rumors. And was very, very fun to write.

James: Sounds awesome—this is one that’s already on my pile of books to read. Alright, so we’ve talked about Era One stories and work that ignores the timeline. What can we expect to see from you out of Era Two?

Brown: Soon to be published: The Last Human, Love Can Die: The Last Human 2, and a couple of books that will release later this year. Works in progress include Dream Princess: Basement Fantasy (might not be the final name), Push the Button/Spend the Night in Me (not sure of the title yet). Sat on a slush pile that is turning into a novel called Strip/Becoming. Still to come: all of the The Last Human stories, the Dream Princess stories (probably three of these), Smothered Hope, Change of Season and probably more. I’ll know they’re finished when they’re done.

James: You’re a busy woman! I guess that’s how someone gets as many books/stories out there as you have. Oh, shit, before I forget, tell me about the Queen of Filth logo.

Brown: It was designed by Ilan Sheady of Uncle Frank Productions when he did the cover for Broccoli. He said I needed a logo, so we talked about things I like. He added a unicorn horn to a pig.

James: I love it, it cracks me up and fits your work so perfectly!

Brown: Thanks. Other artists are being cool about adding it to my book covers.

James: I love to see artists being open to another creator’s art like that. Alright, so a moment ago you mentioned a couple books that are slated for release this year. I’d love to hear about them.

Brown: Okay, so my next book release is called 56 Seconds (NihilismRevised, August 2018). 56 seconds of lust/love lost to the sheets. This is the second story of Era Two, but first to be published. It introduces Donnie (also the Knight in the upcoming Strip/Becoming collection), Marcy and Honey. It took about two weeks to write and I had fun with it. Brought in random outside influences with a playlist that seemed more chosen by the story than me. It starts to explore some of what I went through in being around people with borderline personality disorder for what could have been my entire life (my mother refused point blank to speak to someone, but therapists thought she might have suffered with it, a hard diagnosis to make at any rate). I don’t have it, but I’ve obviously been around people with it and I’m trying to understand why people do the things they do, and when those things might be because of a personality disorder.

At the end of the year, Sparky the Spunky Robot will release through Bizarro Pulp Press. This story is very special to me. It clicked to place one day when I said, somewhat sarcastically, that I was going to write a story about a robot powered by cum. I had just received positive feedback from a publisher about a short story I wrote with an emotional robot (to be published) but the most requests for stories I get are for my Chester and Lester series [link above] which are all about cum. I tried a few times to write a typical “Queen of Filth” story. I also tried to write a more traditional sci-fi story. Nothing worked. Then something must have triggered me, and I got to thinking about failed attempts to write a story about how some people behave in regard to status and keeping up with neighbors/social media “friends.” My (now) ex-partner was talking about the keytar he wanted to buy and suddenly all these elements clicked together. Dreams in Suburban Hell are sent to die in garden sheds. Each time part of the dream dies, the resident of the house is rewarded with garden decorations. Karen is fed up with having low tier garden decorations. Matthew still has his keytar. He jerks off over it once per month. Any more and it might get ruined, so he builds a robot. Enough spunk and Sparky comes to life. But he doesn’t have a voice. He breaks into garden sheds, unearthing Suburban Hell’s lost dreams. Along the way, he meets Sandy the robot. Sandy is filled with a different person’s cum, which makes all the difference in terms of his personality.

James: That sounds like a fun story to read! Anyway, it’s been a pleasure chatting with you, and I’m looking forward to reading more of your work (despite potential problems with my gag reflexes). One last question: where can we find you online?

Brown: It has been fun, and thanks again for the interview. My website has a synopsis of my published books, and the best places to keep up with what I’m currently working on are on Facebook and Twitter.

Austin James writes obscure and uncomfortable fiction.

© 2018 Silent Motorist Media

Violations: An Interview with Vincenzo Bilof

It’s my pleasure to welcome Vincenzo Bilof to our ever-growing series of SMM interviews! Bilof is the author of The Violators, Necropolis Now, Japanese Werewolf Apocalypse, and a slew of other horror/bizarro/literary weird wonders. In addition, Bilof is also the Editor-in-Chief of one of my favorite publishers, Bizarro Pulp Press. Check out his Amazon author page and Bizarro Pulp Press. Without further ado, I hope you enjoy our discussion of The Violators, Roberto Bolano, the declining gothic element in horror fiction, and, of course, Bizarro Pulp Press.

“So then we have to wonder: why do people read horror fiction, or watch horror movies? I think we want our sense of normalcy and safety challenged.”

-Vincenzo Bilof


Justin A. Burnett: The Violators is my first exposure to your work, and it was enough to convince me to follow up. I don’t often come across a thoughtful horror/weird fiction book with a literary sensibility. Do you have a suggestion for what book Violators fans like me should visit next in your oeuvre?

Vincenzo Bilof: A few of my books have literary sensibilities. Vampire Strippers From Saturn is a genre satire that I wrote with more concentrated prose; I think that’s my way of saying the book is semi-pretentious. The Horror Show is a book of poems that string together to form a narrative, and because of its surreal quality, it might be considered literary.

Burnett: At the end of The Violators, you mention a follow up entitled Worship This Fiction of Explosions. Is that still floating around in the works somewhere?

Bilof: “Floating” is probably the best word for it. At this time, any sequel is on the back burner.

Burnett: Do you consider The Violators a work of bizarro fiction?

Bilof: I think, sometimes, when a book’s genre is difficult to identify, it might be easy to lump it into the bizarro category. As the bizarro genre has evolved, I think there are some identifiable tropes. I like to think of The Violators as an anti-novel, more or less a deconstruction of genre. There are more horror elements than anything else inside the loose narrative, and I think, because the book has surreal qualities about it, that it must belong to some category. I’ve heard it referred to as “transgressive”, and I think that’s appropriate. Wherever you would find Burroughs in a bookstore (not comparing myself to him), that’s probably where The Violators belongs.

Burnett: I would say it belongs where Bolano shows up as well. And since it belongs with Bolano and Burroughs, it undoubtedly has literary leanings. Much about this novel reminded me of Savage Detectives and Distant Star, particularly the intersection between art and transgression. Did you sense a similarity between the Visceral Realists of Savage Detectives and Bizarro that inspired you to respond to Bolano’s novel?

Bilof: Bolano is one of my favorite authors. I consider him my “literary hero” because a big part of me wishes I could have lived and experienced life the way he did. I feel like I certainly discovered a similarity while writing The Violators, but I have to confess the idea for my work was generated by a dream. I dreamed about the class and the professor, though not exactly the way they’re characterized in the book, and a few of the other scenes. I don’t think I could confidently say that anything I do is similar to what he might have done; for me, that sounds like a horror writer comparing themselves to Stephen King, or a science-fiction author suggesting they are the next Asimov.

Burnett: The dream origin certainly seems apt, given the anti-narrative quality of the book. The juxtaposition between scenes lacking a firm causal relation reminds me also of poetry, to a certain extent. Poe and Baudelaire play a central part in The Violators‘ literary meditations, and Rimbaud is mentioned more than once. Are there any other poets working behind the scenes here, insofar as they influence your artistic vision?

Bilof: T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound are definitely at the top of my list.

Burnett: You add a disclaimer to the beginning of The Violators stating that the views held by fictional characters are not the views held by the author. Has the exploitative nature of your work inspired outrage from readers, despite the fact that you clearly don’t endorse your character’s behavior?

Bilof: I think an author’s beliefs will oftentimes bleed right out of the page. We have to remember that a book is sort of an extension of someone else’s consciousness, and as much as an author attempts to project the personality of a character that is completely different than them, it’s never completely without the influence of experience. We can’t possibly meet all walks of life, and even if we place characters into archetypical models, we can fall into traps.

This is challenging to explain. The characters in The Violators are absolutely deplorable people. There is nothing good about them, and really, what they’re doing isn’t funny. These characters are not people we can empathize with. I would compare them all to older versions of the Jack archetype from Lord of the Flies. They are young sociopaths in the company of like-minded people. They are essentially a murder cult.

I was very careful in the construction of my novel. I began to reflect upon the horror genre, and particularly, extreme horror. Do the authors endorse eating babies? The atrocities committed in Edward Lee and Wrath James White novels are shocking, but I doubt they are an intimate reflection of any fantasies these authors have. These authors want to make you feel uncomfortable; they want to make you squirm. And there’s an audience for this type of fiction. What compels someone to write about genital mutilation in vivid detail? What compels someone to read it—and enjoy it?

So then we have to wonder: why do people read horror fiction, or watch horror movies? I think we want our sense of normalcy and safety challenged. I’m minimizing the rationale behind horror genre consumption, because there’s a lot more to it than that. I think it’s foolish for readers to complain about “shock value” in fiction, because more often than not, it’s part of the package. I like to think that books have their own “special effects”, and The Violators is no exception.

In an organization that includes young, sociopathic artists with the permission to do serious damage, these artists would certainly attempt to outdo each other. These characters want to shock each other, and they are awful people to being with. I wanted the reader to experience the madness within Professor Krang’s class, and the only way to do that was delve deep. In short, the warning was included as both a part of the novel’s special effects, and to highlight the fact the book doesn’t actually attempt to make any statement whatsoever. The characters are constructed out of nightmares, and that is why, in my mind, they would be scary to ME.

Burnett: Excellent response. You touched on several issues surrounding the “paradox of horror,” which I deal with in some other writings. I won’t unpack it point by point, as much as I’m tempted to, ha ha. I know this might be a difficult question, but why do you think readers want their sense of “normalcy and safety” challenged? Is there a value to this that goes further than mere excitement? Do we “need” this challenge, in other words?

Bilof: I think you would have to analyze an individual’s psychological profile to determine why any one person likes to do anything. People don’t like roller coasters, or taking a trip by plane, or skydiving, or pineapple on pizza, or horror media. Who can say what’s thrilling and what’s not?

Good horror preys on psychological factors; its one of the founding principles of the genre. Frankenstein still resonates with audiences; and the Gothic tradition is just as evident in a TV show like The Terror, based on a phenomenal novel that deals with all the horror of surviving in an arctic wasteland with a monster thrown in. I think the departure from the gothic tradition ultimately dooms subgenres. Consider zombie and vampire media; psychological horror has become completely absent.

I remember when zombie fiction was difficult to find. But we take the psychological horror element out of it to appeal to wider audiences for a longer period of time. And it’s exhausted most of us. As popular as zombie fiction was, I think 99 percent of it is trash, and easily forgotten. Even now, when someone asks, “Can someone recommend a good zombie book to me?”, they get a thousand different opinions on the matter. The idea of what might be considered “good” is difficult to pin down because authors tried so many different things to stand out. Ultimately, I think it’s good that we tried to create different interpretations, but we let it overstay its welcome, and a lot of good work remains buried. Alternatively, popular zombie authors stuck with what made them successful in the first place, and the formula was simple, but not at all horrific. Zombies and vampires have had the “horror” bled out of them. People seem to hate it more than love it, now, and that’s too bad.

But we want to recapture the magic of that first time it thrilled us; the first time we watched Alien, or the first time we watched Dawn of the Dead. We become nostalgic for that feeling and we convince ourselves that we love zombie or alien stuff, but then we have to sift through all the “different” stuff to recapture the original feeling. It’s like falling in love. The next time we fall in love just won’t be as special as the first time when we’re looking for something specific. It’s when we don’t know what we’re looking for that we’re surprised and fall in love all over again.

Burnett: I absolutely agree, and think you diagnosed the “pop horror” problem beautifully. There’s an undeniable difference between watching Dawn of the Dead fourteen years ago (holy shit! Has it really been that long?) and, say, The Walking Dead now. As the Editor in Chief at Bizarro Pulp Press, is this psychologically hollowed-out version of fiction something you actively avoid?

Bizarro Pulp Press

Bilof: We have our fun, pulp-horror books, so we do cater to some tropes for the sake of doing it. There is a special place in my heart for Grindhouse-style fiction. I think I will seem like an utter jackass if I talk about my expectations for Bizarro Pulp Press, and any editor would just easily say something to the effect of, “I want fresh, original fiction that’s different…” What does that even mean? I’ve heard editors say things like that, and yet they publish work that is hardly original at all. For me, I suppose I more or less want a specific thing at a specific time, and that changes.

Burnett: Is there anything coming up for Vincenzo Bilof, the writer, or in the Bizarro Pulp Press world that you’d like your readers to know about?

Bilof: I have two novels coming out: The Poetry of Violence, which is a modern version of Titus Andronicus with two rival families—that one should be out from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing this year. The other book, called The Profane, is a horror-action novel coming from a publisher named Source Point Press; they are mostly known for their comics, but I’ve worked with them at a few conventions, and they are rolling out a revamped book lineup.

Bizarro Pulp Press always has something going on. It keeps me plenty busy. We have several great titles coming out this year, including Taterskinheads by David Barbee and Skull Nuggets by Amy Vaughn.

Islam, Robot Surgeons, and Porn Stars: An Interview with the Reverend Bob Freville

Our next Silent Motorist Media interview is compiled from a lengthy and strange phone conversation with Bob Freville, author of Celebrity Terrorist Sex Bomb and Battering the Stem from Bizarro Pulp Press, as well as the soon-to-be-released, extensively illustrated novel from Psychedelic Horror Press, The Network People, available for pre-order on the Psychedelic Horror Press website. I’ve tried to recapture some of the strangeness of the conversation in the brief transcript below (the full conversation clocked in at just over five hours), but I’m afraid it’s no match for the real deal.

Art’s function is to explore the things we pretend to run away from. Art is confrontation. Even for those who don’t share their art and only create for themselves, art gives voice to parts of them that cry out from inside. It’s like the call of the void. Nobody wants to admit that they’ve thought of wrapping their car around a lamppost or drive off a cliff, but it’s in there.

-Bob Freville

Bob Freville: What’s up, man? (a blurry edge in Freville’s voice indicates the ingestion of more whatever the hell I keep hearing him sip on during the interview)

Me: Hey man. How’s it going? Are you ready to do this?

Freville: Can I just start off by saying it’s a genuine pleasure to be interviewed by you? You are one of very few indie authors whose work I truly admire. It’s an oversaturated scene out there, and there are so many people who claim to love literature, but their minds are hummus and their grasp of language is that of a 5-year old immigrant or worse. Your work in Esoteric Sausage is meticulous and stays with me. No bullshit, this is a real treat.

Me: Fuck yeah man, it’s truly flattering to hear you say that. I’ve been loving Celebrity Terrorist Sex Bomb and the bits and pieces of Battering the Stem I’ve been reading in between. You really do put a lot into your books, and it’s refreshing to see. Do you research a lot when writing your books? They seem thoroughly researched.

Freville: I do, actually (cat meows loudly in background). I didn’t have to really do any research on Battering the Stem because I’d already kind of lived most of it, but the others definitely called for tons of research, particularly Celebrity Terrorist Sex Bomb. It was really cool, discovering all these things about the history of terrorism in America. I’ve also interviewed friends and shit about their prison experiences. That came in handy as research for the novella I’m currently working on.

Me: That’s awesome man! The research really paid off. It definitely does not read like a lot of the off-the-cuff type stuff I tend to come across. I’m very into it. I’m going to have to go and finish Battering the Stem when I’m done with it. In Sex Bomb, I definitely picked up on some deep criticism of western ethnocentricity, but you also play with a whole diorama of stereotypes and redeploy them in unexpected ways, like having the terrorists watch American Pie. You take a cosmopolitan or promiscuous liberty with stereotypes and put them in unexpected conversations. This, to me, is a very interesting method of critique, and I’m interested to see where you go with it.

(a cork pops and something crashes)

Me: You okay, man?

Freville (either ignoring or not hearing me): Thank you, man. It’s good to see that it comes across. The American Pie thing was a bit more overt than some of the other material, but that was sort of the intention with much of it. It’s especially true of the use of stereotypes because I wanted to kind of shine a light on the fact that we’re an inherently racist species. Even people who get along with everybody still have innate misconceptions or preconceived notions when it comes to other races, other genders, whatever. Different accents and ideas, all these things present the potential for miscommunication and misunderstanding. To be able to laugh about it seems of particular importance now when the country has been torn apart by partisanship. This book was written long before the president ran for office, but it seems oddly prescient when I look at it in retrospect. I don’t mean that to sound like I’m sucking my own farts or high on myself in any way, just to illustrate that I’m as amazed as anybody about how it reads in the age of Trump.

Me: Ha ha ha, not at all man. It does read very well over the Trump mess. But what you called our “inherent racism” sort of transcends this specific point in time. It seems to suggest that true cultural equality, wherein everyone really is blind to difference and ethnicity (and not just saying so) is something of a utopian fantasy. Do you agree with that?

Freville: Absolutely! And despite the divisiveness we’ve seen in the last couple years, you can also see that larger sense of equality in the younger generation. Teenagers don’t shy away from each other because of their ethnicity or skin color the way a lot of them did when we were in school. I see black, white and Asian-American kids skateboarding together now. That was rare when I was in high school and unheard of when our parents were growing up. That’s probably the closest we’ll come to a utopia for some time, but it’s comforting to know that Sam Cooke was right when he said a change was gonna come. So yeah, while a lot of people kind of pretend to not “see color” or something like that, it’s mostly bogus for people of a certain age. The difference between us and the generation that’s coming up now is that a good number of them aren’t blind to their differences, they just don’t give a fuck. They focus on what they have in common instead of fearing the other like the rest of us. For them, it’s not, “Oh, he’s brown. He probably wants to bomb the consulate, it’s, “Oh shit! Dude’s got that new Minecraft book!”

Me: That’s definitely true. My kids don’t have the slightest trouble associating with homosexuals or black or any kids regardless of any inherent difference whatsoever. So, race is definitely something you feel positive about. What about religion? Is God going to keep fucking things up for everyone?

Freville: (here, Freville bursts into uncontrollable laughter for a moment as something distinctly glass shatters in the background) Ha ha ha! God doesn’t destroy, we destroy. The mental viruses known as organized religion and mortality destroy. We’re the only species that is aware of its imminent demise and, so, faith has become our security blanket. That’s not to say that I don’t believe in an afterlife or anything like that, it’s just to say that so-called religious people (less than people who identify as spiritual or secular) are desperate. They doubt their faith on the reg, and they overcorrect by putting it on hard. They are passionate in all the wrong ways. One look at what the Catholic Church did to the Gnostic Gospels tells us all we need to know about the religious establishment. The great irony is that we fear Islam because they challenge our own lack of faith. After all, how can you contend with a people who believe so wholeheartedly in their faith that they are ready to die in the name of what they think is Allah, or God? But so, with the book, I kind of wanted to underscore how stupid the westerner’s fear of Islam is. The reality is, The Quran was never intended to replace Christianity or besmirch it in any way. On the contrary, Muslims believe in our God, they just call him by a different name. The Quran was meant to be the final iteration of The Bible. It only clashes with Christianity because it names Muhammed as the last prophet instead of Jesus. These are things the average American have not been exposed to because it’s been suppressed, but the book goes into most of that, I hope.

Me: That’s a good point, particularly when you mention the inadequacy anxiety Christianity has in the face of Islam. Christians would be hard pressed to display the kind of true devotion members of Islam display. What Christians would say, however (and not being one, I’m playing devil’s advocate here), is that The Quran is filled with incitements to violence against the infidels, and that Islam is therefore inherently violent.

Freville: And that’s what really twisted my nuts about the Christian right’s reaction to Islam. The Bible is one of the most violent, misogynistic, preternatural and homophobic texts in human history. It makes Caligula seem like Bernie Sanders by comparison. On the contrary, the violence cited by Islamaphobes extends only to the Sword Verses which comprise a mere four pages of the Islamic faith’s book. These are the verses that extremists use to justify terror attacks, but when read with any sense of clarity, it becomes clear that the wrath of those passages are the same kind of wrath referenced in the Book of Revelations. In other words, it is a wrath reserved for God, not for misguided converts with suicide vests. It’s the same kind of wrath. Hope that all kind of makes sense. I’ve been ranting about this shit for a while ha ha ha. I became an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church back in the early 2000s for shits and giggles. I found out that there was this website that people like John Waters and Conan O’ Brien had used to become ministers and I thought it would be funny. But in the ensuing years, I really became entranced by the study of theology and different religions and anti-religions (cat meows again).

Me: Do you have a favorite religion you like to read up on?

Freville: It’s been awhile since I’ve studied any particular text, but I’m kind of in agreement with Rainn Wilson and the Baha’i faith which sees the value in texts from all faiths. Universalism recognizes that even agnostics and atheists can turn to a religious tome for lessons on life, morality, humanity and spirit. One volume that has been with me for years is The Dhammapada. It’s this great, pocket-sized book that offers these tiny, prosaic tidbits for how to live. It reminds me somewhat of the Japanese code that Forest Whitaker lived by in the Jim Jarmusch flick, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. I like the idea of carrying something like that with you and turning to a random page when you’re having a day. I hate it when I hear the term “beach reading” thrown around and it’s always in reference to something like Nicholas Sparks. You never hear about someone taking The Dhammapada or Crowley’s The Book of Lies to the shoreline and that’s depressing to me. I think people who would waste the beach on something like The Notebook are sad and insipid people.

Me: I emphatically agree. I love The Dhammapada. My particular two go-to books are the Tao Te Ching and the Book of Changes. Are there any novels you would rather see people taking to beaches as well? Say if you had to pick no more than five…

Freville (a low, unidentified, moan-like noise begins and lasts the entirety of Freville’s response): Hmm…I’d probably recommend Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Michel Houellebecq’s novella, Lanzarote, and his novel, Platform. Vonnegut’s book got me through at-home detox several years ago and it was such a skull fuck because it’s so uniquely written and such a refreshingly humanitarian piece of literary fiction. It kind of celebrates humanity’s flaws as much of Vonnegut’s canon does. Houellebecq is the other end of the spectrum; he embodies the despair that we feel as people who are tethered to earth despite our hatred of mankind’s superfluous idiocy and the pain we all live with knowing that our existence is finite. Lanzarote is perfect for the beach because it takes place on the beach and is the cynic’s version of light reading. Platform gives you more to chew on and really functions as a counterpoint to my book in that its ultimate message is that Islam is a hopelessly dumb religion that attracts savages and fools. The rest of the book is really apt for the beach experience because it reveals the ugliness of the tourist scene.

Me: That’s a cool list, although I haven’t read any of those. I’ll have to rectify that. You talk about Platform being the counterpoint to Sex Bomb. This sort of leads to a cliché question, but I just have to ask: was Sex Bomb inspired by any other books or writers?

Freville: I wouldn’t say it was influenced by them, really. In the case of Platform, we kind of stole the cover design. Ha ha! By that I mean I showed [designer] Dyer Wilk the jacket of the paperback of Platform I owned and told him that I want something like this where it’s a brown-skinned beauty in a bikini, only our chick will have a tattoo of a grenade on her midriff. Other than that, I can’t point to any overt influences. I can’t remember what I might have been reading around that time, but I can tell you that I wanted it to have the brutal honesty of Hunter S. Thompson’s political reporting (On the Campaign Trail ’72 and Generation of Swine, in particular) as well as the kind of satire pioneered by Aldous Huxley and the like. The book’s pace definitely owes a debt to Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, Palahniuk’s Fight Club, and Harry Crews’ Feast of Snakes. At the same time, I don’t see those influences in the material itself. I think it’s definitely a book of its own time; it doesn’t occupy the same space that any of those books did because it can’t, it’s a piece of a very different age. By the way, what is the Book of Changes? I don’t think I’ve heard of that one. The Tao is a real head spinner.

Me: I was wondering if Palahniuk would come up. It definitely has that racy, Palahniuk edge, although your use of language isn’t so minimalist (which is a good thing, as far as I’m concerned). Yeah, man! The Book of Changes is a very old Chinese oracle consulted by tossing yarrow stalks. It can also be read as very deep “daily reflections,” although it’s based around determining appropriate actions in different situational contexts. I like it because it has a strong social dimension that doesn’t come across as strong in other… “spiritual”… contexts. And I adore The Tao for being a head spinner. I think we’re wrong to demand rationality from religious texts, and wrong, contra-wise, to read rationality into them. That’s where we get in trouble, I think.

Freville (cork pops, cat meows, and Freville fills a glass of something and drains it before responding): You said it, brother! There’s nothing rational about The Bible, but when read as metaphors, it’s a hell of a guide to the world we live in. Just as Huxley’s Brave New World predicted a society of dope-dependent drones with no sexual inhibitions and no knowledge of the arts, the Bible predicted the wave of diseases that would plague us and the barcode society we’ve allowed ourselves to become in the age of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.

Me: So, do you get bad vibes from the technological panopticon we live in? Is the Internet a place of potential menace?

Freville: Fuck yeah it is! And it’s only getting worse thanks to the president repealing the FCC’s Internet privacy rule and companies like Facebook acquiring bogus analytics apps that front like they’re virtual private networks when they’re really just a device for sending your activity back to their parent company so it can be exploited for personal gain. At the same time, I’m hopeful for the future, perhaps naively so. Some of the stuff that people like Elon Musk are doing with AI excites me and scares the balls off me simultaneously. Believe it or not, that’s the short answer to that question. Ha ha ha!

Me: AI makes me uneasy, but I’m not sure if this fear is rational or not. I’m not familiar with Elon Musk. What’s the story there?

Freville: He’s an entrepreneur who runs Tesla and is part of OpenAI, a project for developing artificial intelligence solutions. He’s also an eccentric billionaire who insists we’re living in a simulation, so I’m not about to attest to his credibility about anything, ha ha! But the dude has put a lot of bank behind advancing the technology of tomorrow and it’s tech that has the potential to change the health care game and then some.

Me: AI in healthcare scares me in particular. At the hospital I used to work at, they installed fucking robot surgeons. I think they’re still controlled by human input, but still. I think I’ve read too much sci fi. Especially PKD.

Freville: On an unrelated note, I don’t know if you can use this for the interview, but I think it bears mentioning if it you find it relevant. You mentioned influences earlier and I’d have to say that my background reviewing porn and covering the adult industry as a journalist definitely influenced the book insofar as I was exposed to the big players in that space and found them remarkably intelligent and stunningly self-aware. Everyone has this stereotype in their mind of the girl who is drugged and beaten into sexual slavery, but I say bullshit on that. I was friends with a porn star who used to go by Lisa Lamborghini in the nineties and she was smarter than any writer I’ve ever met. I’ve hung out and shot the shit with Sarah Vandella, Sara Jay, my mother from another mother, Nina Hartley. They’re all terrific business people. These are not subservients or idiots. When I started writing Sex Bomb, I thought of them and then I thought about Hollywood and Islamic extremists and what I realized was that both A-list celebrities and terrorist converts are both slaves in a way that goes virtually unaddressed while we continue to categorize porn stars as victims. That is something I hope comes across in the book on some level. Regarding what you said earlier, I know just what you mean. (cat meows again and Freville mutters something unintelligible before continuing) Robotic surgery is something that’s still in its infancy. Back in 2011 or 2012, it almost killed one of my family members. She went in to have a nodule removed from her esophagus. The machine was called the Da Vinci System and it had just been introduced at the hospital in question. As such, she was basically a test dummy for this shit. The doctors pimped it like it was more precise than the human hand. The operation was supposed to take two hours. She ended up under anesthesia for seven hours after they nicked her insides and caused a massive leak that bled over into her lungs and led to pneumonia. So yeah, I’m with you in being more than a little hesitant about this kind of futuristic bullshit, but at the same time, I could see the utility to some of it. I’ve even got the fucker’s arm right here.

Me: I’m sorry, the what?

Freville: The fucking arm. The robot arm that holds the blades and shit.

Me: You… have the robot’s… arm? There, with you? How did you—

Freville (suddenly cold): We don’t need to discuss this further.

Me: Okay, well… awesome insight there, at any rate! Back to Sex Bomb, I was a little bewildered about how un-victimlike Priya reacts to her captivation. Is this pushing back on the victim stereotype?

Freville: Yeah, it was definitely a choice to push back on the stereotype because I didn’t think it was fair to portray her that way after all she’s been through, especially after her awakening. It’s clear throughout the book that she is being manipulated, that they intend for her to be a slave to their cause and a slave to the Hollywood machine. But the ending had to be kind of vague so that Punita-Lily Pushpa could still be Priya, her true self. I wanted an ending that felt realistic but didn’t rob her of the spirit she had earned. So, her attitude in those final pages can be read as her refusing to be a puddle because that’s what they would expect her to be and that’s not Punita-Lily. Punita-Lily is a stone with a rich mineral center.

Me: Don’t tell me too much about the ending! I haven’t finished it yet, ha ha ha! In Sex Bomb and in BTS, you play with stereotypes. Have you gotten any backlash for this? Resisting victim stereotypes, putting the reader in the shoes of terrorists, even an occasional “n” word: there seems plenty here for people to get offended by, particularly in the current political climate. Has this happened?

Freville: The backlash to the language and stereotypes has been surprisingly slim. With Battering the Stem, I remember rereading parts of it once it was in print (too late to do any further edits) and kind of cringing at some of the choices I made. The shocking part? Not one review bashing on me or the book for this or even referencing it. Ironically, one reviewer affirmed my theory that Americans are inherently racist by saying that the book was hard to read because it “made me feel so white.” Ha ha ha! I won’t be at all shocked if Sex Bomb gets tagged as an inappropriate book given the political landscape, but I think the PC movement needs to choose its battles carefully. (cat meows yet again) There’s a fucking vast ocean between a presidential candidate talking about grabbing someone’s pussy and an indie author using stereotypes and controversial language to make a point. Whether that message will land is the big question and I look forward to the answer. I have to say, anyone who reads the book and sees the stereotypes as bigotry is not reading the book that I wrote.

Me: I’m sorry, is your cat in heat or something? Ha ha ha!

Freville: Well, no, technically no. I’ve actually got the first transgender cat. She used to be my neighbor’s cat. They called her Eddie, but her balls are cute as a button.

Me: Ha ha ha! Seriously, man?

Freville (not laughing): Yeah. Seriously.

Me: Well, that’s pretty awesome, I think. Um… I was just gonna say that I was surprised at the lack of controversy surrounding Battering the Stem reviews myself on Amazon. The problem with PC politics now is that it’s all about trigger words and no one pays attention to context. That’s the only reason I think Sex Bomb could cause a stir. And I agree about picking battles carefully. Do you believe that things can be said in the name of art that can’t in everyday conversation? Is there a divide there?

Freville: Definitely. Art’s function is to explore the things we pretend to run away from. Art is confrontation. Even for those who don’t share their art and only create for themselves, art gives voice to parts of them that cry out from inside. It’s like the call of the void. Nobody wants to admit that they’ve thought of wrapping their car around a lamppost or drive off a cliff, but it’s in there. Art is a release valve that lets us ejaculate the stuff we don’t want to be honest about. The divide is one of denial, a clusterfuck of papier-mâché people who can’t admit their vulnerabilities and true feelings.

Me: That’s an awesome description of art. I like it. I don’t believe that art is supposed to be pretty. Cool man. So let’s talk about The Network People, which is coming out with Psychedelic Horror Press. I was surprised to discover you had another release so closely following Sex Bomb. What’s the story with that one?

Freville: The Network People is a triptych of short stories that are unified by a cabal of people pulling the strings behind the scenes and one very enigmatic man who calls himself Stan A. (Freville pauses for a moment. Middle-eastern music begins to play. A female voice wails over an oud and violin for the remainder of this interview segment) It’s a dark, fucked up little collection that’s probably bloodier and weirder than anything else I’ve written. It’s kind of a coincidence that it’s coming out so close to the release of Sex Bomb because it’s been with the publisher for about a year. For those who dug Battering the Stem, it should be a real treat because it works on the same sense of dread, but it ratchets up the tension and transgression. I think it’s gonna blow some minds and torment some others.

Me: Cool man. Well I’ve definitely been into BTS, even though I’m finishing Sex Bomb first. I have very odd reading habits. I start, stop, and read multiple books like crazy, although lately I’ve just been writing. What made you decide to go to Psychedelic Horror Press with Network instead of Bizarro Pulp, which seems to be your home base?

Freville: I believe I submitted to them before BTS came out, forgot all about it and then received this email from them after it came out. I had submitted this one long short story, “The Network People,” and the publisher liked it so much that he asked if I had any other stories I’d want to go along with it. So, I sent him “We Buy Souls” which is super-short and serves as a bit of an intro to the world of the rest of the book, and “Sex Toy,” a Stan A short story that had appeared in Deadman’s Tome. I chose to reprint that one because it felt of a piece with the other two. Psychedelic Horror Press differs from BPP in that they fully illustrate the entire book, so each short story has corresponding drawings.

Me: I noticed that they advertised it as featuring 50 full page illustrations! That’s fantastic! Have you seen a proof copy?

Freville: I have! It looks incredible! I was initially concerned that it was going to read like a graphic novel, but it’s not that. I’d say the drawings work in a similar fashion to Ralph Steadman’s work in Fear & Loathing.

Me: You’ve got Sex Bomb, The Network People and a secret project I promised not to mention in the interview. What’s next for Bob Freville? What can fans expect to see from you next?

Freville: You can’t expect anything; if I or you were able to anticipate what my next move was, the result would be some boring shit show. I prefer to surprise myself and everyone else. I can tell you that it will likely involve porn stars, cryptocurrencies and Big Pharma, but that’s just raw speculation. I don’t even know where I am right now.