Necro Files, edited by Cheryl Mullenax

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: Necro Files: Two Decades of Extreme Horror

Editor: Cheryl Mullenax

Type of Book: Fiction, short story collection, extreme horror

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: This anthology contains some really rough content, content so extreme that one of the stories bypassed Ed Lee’s “The Dritiphilist” as the most disgusting piece of fiction I have ever read.

Availability: Published in 2011 by Comet Press, you can get a copy here:

Comments: Woo, boy, this is going to be a bumpy review. As I mention above, this extreme horror collection has a story that tops Ed Lee’s “The Dritiphilist” as the most disgusting, horrible, nasty, upsetting piece of fiction I have ever read. But unlike Lee’s story, this story is well-written, which, oddly enough, very nearly rendered it unreadable. When the worst is presented using the drek writing Lee employed, you can get through it because bad writing can render the nastiest subject cartoonish. Bad writing is a buffer, because bad writing makes you focus on the terrible style or inept usage. You don’t get a buffer in this repellent little story. You get the whole of the horror and disgust right in your face.

I’m going to discuss these stories in the order in which they appear in the collection. Given the number of big names attached to this book, I was expecting quite a bit more in terms of stellar content. There were a few stories I thought worth reading but, for the most part, the writing in the collection was mediocre. It happens. These are older stories that have appeared elsewhere and perhaps they just haven’t held up well. But whatever the reason, it’s never a good thing when someone who reads as closely as I do doesn’t remember so many stories in an anthology a month after reading it.

But that amorphous “I find the stories mediocre” aside, there were two concrete problems in this collection. First, there is no overarching theme in this collection other than extreme horror. Not a problem in and of itself, but in a book that has only extreme horror uniting the stories, when several of the stories take place in fringe sex clubs, there has been a breakdown in the editorial selection process because several stories that take place in a fringe sex club makes it seem as if the central theme in this book is bad or grotesque sex in thoroughly unlikely and generally unsexy settings (to paraphrase the awesome Dave Attell, air fresheners are the unsung heroes of the sex club). So that was a bit much, all the strange sex in sex clubs in one collection that supposedly had no unifying element other than extremity of content.

The second problem is difficult for me because I am not a woman who interrogates texts from a feminist perspective unless the book demands such treatment. For example, feminism came up hard in the discussion of the Norway shooter’s manifesto because the document was riddled with anti-feminist, anti-woman (and anti-human, really) assertions. When I read horror or raunch, I read it with a completely different eye than when I read political texts. But in this collection, there were so many times when the writing annoyed me deeply as a reader with two X chromosomes. Were I someone like, say, Requires Hate, this would, in fact, be another 8,000 word diatribe on why some of these stories are an affront to God and woman (actually, this clocked in at almost 5,000 words, so be warned that I will mock mercilessly anyone foolish enough to invoke tl;dr on this, of all sites). So while I will keep myself in check (to an extent), please know that as a woman who pretty much can handle a lot, there had to be lot of really shitty, woman-hating, misogynist, nice-guy stories for me to comment upon it. I can’t even imagine how the average man with any self-respect could read some of this and not want to burp with embarrassment.

I sometimes wonder if I am too light on egregious misogyny when it comes up. Maybe I’ve gotten used to it? If that is the case then what I encountered in this collection had to have been all the more egregious if I found myself disgusted.

The collection begins with “Meathouse Man” by George R.R. Martin. This is a “nice-guy” story. It is an excruciating “nice-guy” story. I don’t even begin to understand the mechanics involved but this story revolves around men who can control the minds of what sounds like non-rotting puppet zombies – humans who have some sort of chip in them that allows them to be controlled and a really good handler could control many of them at once, using them to do various jobs. Trager, the hero of this pathetic story, falls in love with Josie, but alas when he declares himself she is not interested. He then falls in love with Laurel. His love for Laurel is IMPORTANT because he no longer needs to have sad sex with skull-chipped zombies whose bodies he could control the way he controls the other dead meat puppets. Yay for Trager, he can have sex without resorting to a form of passive prostitution with human husks who cannot consent and have no will yet can clean his pipes six ways to Sunday because he controls them with his brain. But sad Trager, Laurel leaves him for his best friend in a particularly bitchy manner that makes absolutely no sense but is totally a good look at the fickle, wily, yet victim-like mentality of women. So Laurel splits and after loving and losing out a whole two stinking times, Trager retreats back to brain controlled zombie puppet sex toys and these musings happen:

Her name does not matter. Her looks are not important. All that matters is that she was. That Trager tried again, that he forced himself in and made himself believe and didn’t give up. He tried.

Yep, nothing matters about women except that they are there, y’all. Poor sad, Trager. It gets worse.

The words were the same.

How many times can you speak them, Trager wondered, speak them and believe them, like you believe them the first time you said them? Once? Twice? Three times, maybe? Or a hundred? And the people who say it is a hundred times, are they really so much better at loving? Or only at fooling themselves? Aren’t they really people who long ago abandoned the dream, who use its name for something else?

TWICE! THIS MAN LOVED AND LOST TWICE! And actually since Josie could not have cared less (though she was kind to him), he really only loved and lost once. This sort of entitled attitude of “WAH, the womens don’t love me the two times I actually tried. I don’t even care about them, I just need a hole that isn’t a puppet sex zombie and also I am so deep because I believe in the dream of love, love, lurve!”
This ridiculous story ends with this line:

Of all the bright cruel lies they tell you, the cruelest is the one called love.

It may seem like I am being hard on poor Trager, who fucks sex puppet zombies whom he can control and had one girlfriend leave him, but I pray that Martin wrote this when he was 19 and had no idea that one dates, one finds a potential mate, one dates some more and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but that when it doesn’t, one does not have to descend into back-patting, self-congratualtory deepness as one contemplates how it is women are just mean and destroy noble images of love with their utter perfidy. This also goes for women who pull this stuff on men, lest I get the usual cries of misandry. And far be it from me to say that creating a gross story around such teenaged-nice-guy-bullshit was an unwelcome degradation to a genre of horror that many find it hard to take seriously in the first place. (check out the comments for this entry – there is a pretty good discussion about this story that offer different and valid counterpoints contrary to mine and are worth considering)

Moving on.

Well, not moving very far. Next story is “Night They Missed the Horror Show” by Joe R. Lansdale. Dead dog, a tiresome use of racial epithets that were probably common for the time in which the story is set but still wore thin, and not enough people died, as in almost everyone died but everyone sucked so much that didn’t do it for me. Lots of people have recommended Lansdale to me and I will still read more of him, in the fullness of time, but this story hit almost every hate button I have. All that was missing was the rape of a house cat.

“Diary” by Ronald Kelly was probably fresh when it was written over 30 years ago and it’s not a terrible story but I checked out when the killer remembered pushing a straight pin through a pet song bird’s eye. So it could be I just couldn’t take it but it could also be that the rest of the content was not strong enough for me to remember anything but the horrible bit. But I can also say that the diary of a reprobate killer as he recounts his deeds and awaits his just punishment is hackneyed these days. So there’s that.

Next is the story that is the roughest content I have read in a long while. I can take a lot of horrible stuff in my world. I’m to the point I can even take animal abuse if it’s presented in a manner that is not gratuitous. I still think we can all say that your friend Anita has read some shit and can hold her own. “Abed” by Elizabeth Massie is the single most horrifying piece of fiction I have ever read. I am sure someday someone will top this story but for now, it is the piece to beat in terms of sheer disgust and horror. I will not quote any of it but here’s a quick synopsis:  a young, recently married woman is kept locked in a room by her mother-in-law. The zombie apocalypse has come and the MIL wants grandchildren, but her son has become a zombie. There is forced heterosexual and lesbian sex, and zombie sex, all for procreation you see, and the details will never leave me. This is the story that is the price of admission for my readers. Gorehounds and those who just need to see how much they can take before they need to call their sponsor will want to read this story.

“I Am He That Liveth and Was Dead… & Have the Keys of Hell & Death” by Randy Chandler and t. Winter-Damon was one of the stories I simply do not remember. Sorry. I could reread and I would consider it if this was an otherwise stellar collection but I have a life to live, such that it is. If you read this collection and have an opinion on this piece, by all means share.

“Xipe” by Edward Lee, surprisingly, was not the worst story in this collection, despite the following:

The elevator hummed. Smith felt dreamy. “What hospital is this?”

“San Cristobal de la Gras, Meester Smeeth,” said the blurred doctor. “We are taking you to where you will be safe.”

Great, Smith mused. More Mexicans.

So, you know, there’s that but the writing did not suck the air out of my lungs in terms of sheer crappiness of word choice and words he just made up. I also had put a moratorium on discussing Lee in depth for a few years or so, so I’m letting this go. So should you.

“Bait” by Ray Garton is one of the better stories in the collection and it is made of sheer horror. Because of my experience in cat rescue, I unfortunately knew where this one was going. I’d never heard of such things happening with children and that makes it all the nastier.  Well-written, believable dialogue from the characters, even the children, and some really sickening horror. I cannot even discuss the plot without giving the entire thing away but when you know where this is headed, you will cringe, but Garton’s storytelling skills will keep you reading even as the bile rises at the back of your throat.

“Painfreak” by Gerard Houarner seemed utterly pointless to me. Lisa dumped Tony after initiating him into a life of weird sex at sex clubs, sex clubs as unfocused as the theme of this book. He stalks Lisa to a club called, wait for it, Painfreak. I can’t tell if the club was dedicated to gothic sensibilities, gang bangs, bondage, or snuff. Just know that you don’t give two craps about Tony’s plight, that the story did not age well at all, which assumes it was on the mark in 1994, and that this is one of several stories that takes place in a SEX CLUB, so outre, right?

“Lover Doll” by Wayne Allen Sallee was an unfocused mess, which, if I come to think about it, may be the theme of this book. Necro Files: Two Decades of Unfocused Messes. Anyway, the narrator and his friend Celly were born in 1959 with severe birth defects. Don’t remember what ails the protagonist, but Celly has a parasitic twin, its head and legs coming out from her torso in disturbing ways. This story was beyond upsetting because it involved a level of exploitation that in no way helped the story. The protagonist spent years with Celly in schools and (SPOILER ALERT) when she becomes involved in a degrading sex trade, the protagonist exploits her himself. Yes, the author puts the horrible exploitation of his drugged friend in italics so maybe it was a dream and maybe it wasn’t, but after you read it, you won’t care. You will just be angry that you read this terrible story. What really did me in was the fact that the protagonist not only assaulted his drugged out friend, but he also assaulted the non-sentient but still living head attached to her. I could quote passages and probably should to make my case but Mr. Oddbooks would be able to get a no-fault divorce in seven US states and Puerto Rico if I did. No sense tempting fate.

“The Spirit Wolves” by Charlee Jacob was another story that did not resonate with me enough to remember it but in a way that is a good thing. When I read This Symbiotic Fascination it was a mess, with plot holes, stupid imagery (lunar wine, anyone) and bad characterization. To go from that level of disgust for her writing to simply not caring enough about the story to remember it is a decent enough progression. One of the regular readers here likes Jacob and I can see reading more of her work if the trend is from horrible to middling. Plus she’s a Texan and she has cats. I sort of owe it to her since she is part of the Sisterhood of Too Many Cats.

I absolutely hated “Godflesh” by Brian Hodge. It was one of those stories filled with misogyny and questionable characterizations. And while I guess acrotomophilia was shocking and unheard of in 1995, it’s not so much now. The sexual desire for stumps, by the way, is not why I found this story so objectionable. Oh, and it features a secret sex club that meets in an old church. Yeah…

“Godflesh” features Ellen/Elle, a bookstore clerk and open-minded sex freak who, at the extremely advanced age of 35, is aging gracefully. But her coworker, Jude, who is much older, must be shamed for her facelifts. In fact, she is mocked several times in this short story for wanting to alter her face for her vanity while Elle (she drops the “n” when she goes to the extraordinary number of sex clubs that populate her city) decides to cut off her limbs for some higher purpose. Facelift bad, surgically becoming a stump good. Makes perfect sense, right. Jude and Ellen leave work one night and see a man in a wheelchair masturbating openly in the street. Facelifted Jude the prude is appalled but sexually liberated and far smarter Elle watches the display as a “Mona Lisa smile brushed her lips.”

But let’s discuss some passages. Jude is excoriated for having a facelift but Elle engages in all kinds of body mods including the removal of limbs and in the logic of this story, it’s supposed to make sense. Then there’s this realistic description of Elle:

She was almost tall, not quite. Her raven hair, when unbound, contrasted with her pale luminous skin and ripe lips in delicious nocturnal severity. She had a twenty-three-inch waist but could corset it down to eighteen. Men and women alike loved to wrap their hands around it, or nuzzle over smooth tight curves on their way to the drenched heat between her thighs.

A 23-inch waist is half an inch smaller than a size zero. More to the point, if Elle had corset trained her waist to the point that she could reduce a 23-inch waist by five inches, it’s suspect that the author doesn’t discuss the impact such continual tight lacing would have on her rib cage and hip bones. In other words, the male author seems to have no idea how tiny a 23-inch waist is in and of itself. Women that thin are not going to have that much in the way of curves and the results of so much tight lacing would show on their bodies. And yes, this entire passage read like a description yanked from a Victorian bodice ripper, and yes, as that last line should indicate, this page ended in a sex scene so bad your grandmother would have rolled her eyes. The phrases “musky dew,” “petaled cleft,” “feverish clits,” and worse are used.

Then we have this. The old man in the wheelchair who was yanking one out in the street came into the shop and flirted with Elle as they talked about their favorite Marquis de Sade novels, and at the end of the conversation, Elle, sexy, intelligent, mysterious Elle, feels the following sums her up:

Ellen’s laughter was soft, low, throaty, half-pleasure and half-challenge. Chocolate and sex. This man may have had no legs, but he most definitely had her number.

Get her chocolate if you want her to cut off her legs and join your sex cult. Bitches like chocolate!

Next is Every Last Drop by John Everson, which verged into cookie cutter misogyny with the caricature “bitch wife” but salvaged itself by being somewhat inventive and interesting. Basic guy who can’t get any from the bitch wife mentioned above seeks strange comfort when she leaves town. I won’t go into much detail but this story, written in 1998, has some serious body horror that resonates still. There was also what I think was an unintentional allusion to anonymous sex, reminiscent of darkened stalls and glory holes. It’s also a serviceable twist on vampirism.

“Blind in the House of the Headsman” by Mehitobel Wilson was a deeply upsetting vignette about abuse. Well-written and horrifying and deeply saddening, I can intellectually admit this was a good story but I never want to read it again.

“An Experiment in Human Nature” by Monica J. O’Rourke was one of the better stories in this collection. Three rich young men, each dreadful by varying degrees, conduct a truly foul experiment on a financially impoverished and misfit classmate. What happens in the experiment is foul beyond belief – gorehounds will want to read this story – and there is a satisfying moral dimension to keep it from being just some unholy romp. I have the same love/hate relationship with O’Rourke that I have with Wrath James White. When they are on the mark, they are some of the best extreme horror writers working. When they are off, they stink a’plenty. Luckily this story is an example of when O’Rourke is on the mark.

“The Burgers of Calais” by Graham Masterson was the best story in the collection. It wasn’t the grossest or most horrible, though it was pretty foul in places. It was simply the most readable. In this piece, a fat chef and restaurant inspector is down on his luck, on the run from Louisiana. His car breaks down in Maine and he has to get a job to pay for repairs. He ends up flipping burgers and runs across a mystery he and a woman who is strangely sweet on him work to solve. He is self-referentially fat, clever and is an unabashed foodie. Had he made fewer jokes at his own expense, this would have been a perfect story. I also just wanted to die when a black woman was referred to as “sassy.” Bleah. Still, as it is with its flaws, Masterson achieves a perfect balance between jokes and horror, a tension he maintains until the end. He has a finesse to his writing that is largely absent from this collection, an ability to tell a foul story without alienating the reader.

“Ecstasy” by Nancy Kilpatrick was another story that failed to resonate with me. Sorry.

“Pop Star in the Ugly Bar” by Bentley Little made me sick. Seriously. I felt nauseated in parts because even had the intro not made it clear this story is about the physical and sexual torture, rape and murder of Madonna, written in 1992, it would have been clear just in reading. You see, the denizens of the Ugly Bar resented that Madonna wasn’t as hard core as they were and they wanted to take her down a peg. How dare she have a sexual persona! How dare she slum in their bar (WITH A SEX CLUB/TORTURE CHAMBER IN THE BACK)? I don’t mind a good torture story. I don’t mind revenge stories. But in this piece Madonna is graphically harmed, including having her teeth knocked out so one of the rapists can enjoy fucking her blood-filled mouth, just because some hard core bad asses took exception to her. This isn’t one of Jack Ketchum’s lonely characters getting revenge on those who killed his dog, or his inbred homages to Sawney Bean who act out because they are atavistic throwbacks. This is woman hatred so foully reproduced that I need to avoid Little’s works for a long time after reading this.  This is revenge stroke porn, which often centers around raping and defiling (and in this case all that plus murdering) successful, famous women, especially women who have any sort of sexuality to their persona.  I recall reading better-written stories of this ilk on Usenet in 1993.  I cannot imagine why this piece of shit was seen fit to anthologize.

“The Sooner They Learn” by Wrath James White is an interesting, violent and gory retelling of the Boogey Man myth. Not his best work but certainly not his worst, this story is a violent romp with a strange morality, which can be problematic because White has a tendency to hold forth and lecture when he enters into moral realms. In this story, he keeps that tendency in check and tells a nicely gross, physically violent story about personal and societal madness.

“Addict” by J.F. Gonzalez filled me with existential despair but at least it didn’t feature an actual sex club. It had that going for it, at least. This was originally published in 2006 but it seemed strangely anachronistic. A man, whose addiction to pornography has followed the slippery slope path warned about by Ted Bundy as he took James Dobson for a wild ride, finds himself desperate to purchase necrophilia porn. He misses his chance and is hooked up with the man who beat him to purchasing the magazine he desperately wanted (it cost $1500, y’all). The story has a TWIST that ends in another TWIST and I was just filled with ennui when I finished. Not even the gore helped this piece. I will, however, admit that Gonzalez had the bad luck to come at the end of a shitty collection, so perhaps a better place in the anthology would have helped.

Still, Gonzalez’s writing included visual puzzlers like this one:

Carl was a huge fat man; he looked like a crowd of fat people squeezed into a tight suit.

A crowd of people, eh? So, like, he had several heads and a bunch of arms and legs? Fat people don’t look like crowds of people. They just look like large people.

Oh but wait! I almost forgot! There’s a reason that the protagonist, Dennis, ends up wanting to jerk off to images of maggoty old women leaving gore on cocks as they are defiled after death! His fat wife (who presumably did not have several heads and many sets of arms and legs like Carl) drove him to it!

Carrie lolled on the bed, her hair up in curlers. Dennis tried not to look at her; she’d grown increasingly flabby in the past five years. Her ass was a mile wide, the cellulite on her thighs quivered like Jell-O. Dennis tried to get his wife to accompany him to the gym, but she showed no interest. “I’ve got an early morning and late afternoon meeting tomorrow,” he said, flipping through the channels, “so I won’t be home till late. That okay with you?”

“Fine with me,” Carrie said, finishing her nails. “What’s on Channel Two?”

And that’s the way things went every night. It was the way things had been for fifteen years. The minute they began to have kids, their sex life took a nosedive. And to compensate, Dennis began to relieve his outlet through other means. Pornography.

Sigh… One cannot relieve one’s outlet.  Porn is an outlet and you can relieve lust with your outlet, but you cannot relieve the outlet.  Back on point: Dennis is a degenerate asshole. He really is. And dumb to boot, which I will get to in a minute. There was no need for him to have an excuse to engage in his foul hobby because he is a disgusting human being. But no, that he is a repellent piece of shit cannot be the reason! His fat wife must have driven him to it! His fat lazy wife who bore his children and works a job and doesn’t nag him once is the reason because she has flabby thighs! How could we all have been so dumb as to think this man’s porn addiction was borne from his own vacant soul? This was so extraneous to the story that it is painful to wonder why it is that Gonzalez saw fit to include it.

I do not know when this story was written, but since it was initially published in 2006 it is strange that several major flaws were not addressed before it went to print. You see Dennis gets fired from his job because he cannot stop looking at the hardest porn he can find online, even while at work. Even if he has the laziest sysadmins on the planet working for his company, someone would eventually see what he was doing. Dennis was on a slow downslide. He was not a ravening porn fiend who could not control himself. He was not so far into the depths of addiction he could not see the end result of watching hardcore porn at work. Additionally, because he was still organized in his addiction, he had options. He was a man of enough means to spend $1500 on a porn mag with the sort of content that any pervert with a couple of hours could have found online for free. He could have afforded a separate laptop he could then set up so no one could see it, running DVDs. Or he could have used a tunneling protocol to prevent IT from seeing what he was doing. It also asks he question as to why a man with enough web savvy to find porn so nasty one report of it was enough to get him fired would get hung up on a specific magazine to the point that Dennis did. Again, he had options and was not displaying the symptoms of obsession that the protagonist in Every Last Drop. This really was a stupid, insulting story.

So here we are. Another Comet Press anthology that was a large waste of time and filled with enough misogyny it made a woman with no small experience in vile literature and with an even hand toward social justice recoil. The handful of good stories do nothing to outweigh the bad ones, and this anthology suffered because the editor allowed in too many stories with similar plot lines in similar settings. Do not recommend and if you ignore me and buy this book, skip to Massie, Garton, Masterson, White and O’Rourke and ignore the rest.

22 thoughts on “Necro Files, edited by Cheryl Mullenax

  1. Anita, it’s a rare delight when you review a craptastic book that I’ve actually read. Makes me feel less alone in my suffering.

    I haven’t read any “extreme horror” since I finished this anthology. This book managed to do what dozens of shitty Edward Lee stories didn’t — it killed my interest in this subgenre! As a sampling of 20 years of extreme horror, it falls way short of actually representing the best of the field, but it is (inadvertently) pretty representative of 99% of what you get when you venture into this alleyway. I probably liked it more than you did, but not by much.

    Re: “Meathouse Man”: It’s so funny to read your reactions to this, since I actually read it just yesterday in another anthology for probably the 6th or 7th time (this story gets collected A LOT), and I LOVE THIS STORY.

    The mitigating factor, I think, is that it was written in the 1970s (I checked, and Martin was 32 when this was published), and it’s so very much a certain kind of quintessentially 1970s SF story that I devoured in my mawkish youth. It reminds me quite a bit of Harlan Ellison’s stories from that period — all about MAN’S INHUMANITY TO MAN and technology as just another means of crushing the human spirit.

    As hamfisted and bathetic as the story is, what redeems it for me is that it comes from a humane, compassionate place, with a gentleness about people that’s in refreshing contrast to the hardened cynicism of most stories in the horror genre (or really, most stories in general). Yeah, Trager is a pathetic nice-guy, but the story is up front about that. He’s an emotionally underdeveloped, isolated, fragile character, and the relationships he ends up in with women do seem true to what that kind of person would experience.

    I saw Josie and Laurel as more emotionally mature, “normal” women trying their best to be kind to a vulnerable and sadly naive guy. I didn’t see Laurel as bitchy so much as a compassionate person driven to blunt harshness by Trager’s clingy neediness. The story also skims over a great deal and expects you to read quite a bit between the lines. The way I saw the Laurel relationship is that she and Trager got together primarily out of loneliness rather than true compatibility, and Laurel eventually grew out of that while Trager never did.

    I guess the aspect of the story that’s problematic is how much we’re meant to identify with Trager. The story is certainly true to Trager’s type of pathologically sensitive personality, but does Miller take Trager’s side? Or are we merely meant to pity the crushing of this hapless sad sack, while shaking our heads at the INHUMANE-ITY of our cruel mechanized society? I’d say the latter, but Miller unfortunately works here in blunt, simplistic extremes…the nicest, most vulnerable and naive guy who ever lived goes up against, and is crushed by, the most soullest, cynical capitalist dystopia ever.

    So…yeah…not a masterpiece, but well-meaning, and I’m just really fond of preachy, cornball 70s SF. There’s a mawkish but sincere humanity in this story that’s missing from the rest of this collection in a way that underscores how pointless and mediocre so much of the genre is.

    1. Okay, this is interesting. I looked up the date when Martin wrote this story and it was originally published in 1976 (which would have made this execrable collection THREE decades of extreme horror, but never mind). I think if I try to look at Martin’s story with an eye to Love Story and a sort of Alan Alda sensibility that permeated the 70s, a sort of mawkish reaction to the failure of the 60s love revolutions.

      I can see your perspective to an extent but I definitely read this as Trager, while perhaps being an obvious nice guy, having expectations of something he feels petulant at having been denied. Everyone else gets love so why can’t he? And the sexual use/rape of the zombie puppet women he can control seemed less like him assuming a loveless life than him just using the warmest hole available to him until he can get something better.

      But I can see that if I read this as a combination of a sort of Catcher in the Rye-sort of disillusion with the world with the whole sensitive guy shtick from the 70s, it is less an a homage to rapeyness (are the zombie meat puppets human? i tend to think they are) and nice guyism than a sadness that the world is so cruel and that the protagonist sees no way out. Were I not so burned out on this crap I would reread it and see what I can see from your perspective. I admit I could have gotten distracted from the dystopia as I read Trager’s emotional flailings followed by what read as rape of creatures not just unable to give consent but also controlled. I didn’t read Trager as being stunted by that world, made what he is by the dystopia, and perhaps at least emotionally somewhat superior because at least he was struggling against the dystopia. And that could be a mistake. I should think about it but I may not because… Yeah…

      And of course, by the time I was finished with this piece of shit collection, my opinion was truly affected by the rest of the horrible content. But I still think Trager sucks. B

      Not gonna pay another penny of my money for a Comet anthology. You may quote me on that.

      Which story was the worst for you? I have to know this, Ed!

      1. I have to warn you…it’s been an unbearably slow day at the office, and I took Modafinil this morning, which among other things makes me write…a lot…so you have a WALL OF TEXT coming at you presently. Apologies in advance!

        But yeah…I wouldn’t claim that this is a GOOD story so much as one that I personally have a nostalgia-fueled fondness for. It’s a story of a failed human, basically, which I usually find poignant. And as a zombie story, I think the premise of dead humans being repurposed as mindless puppets really gets across the idea of a dehumanized society. (I’m positive that this story is where William Gibson got the idea for the “meat puppets” in Neuromancer.) But Trager certainly is not very likable…pitiable but not likable. He’s a classic faux-nice guy, the kind that’s always whining about how women won’t date them and only date jerks. So if I think about it that way, the story kind of turns into an apologia for this kind of male, which makes me like the story a lot less. So…hmmm….

        1. Wall o’ texts are what I live for, Ed. I wrote a nearly 5000 word essay on how much I hated crap. Walls o’ text are my favorite things.

          See, I think I have sort of nudged you into thinking about this the way a woman would. Which is neither here nor there – I am not married to the notion that there is a right way or a wrong way to look at literature. But I bet Trager would irritate the shit out of if not piss off completely most women who read him. But, at the same time it’s important to take this as a document of the time in which it was written. The 70s were the heyday of the nice guy. So I actually loathe this story less than I loathe the notion that it was included in a modern anthology wherein it was not meant to stand as a time past but rather as an excellent example of nasty horror.

          But I am still willing to entertain the notion that Trager is what he is because he is too broken to be anything else. Of some of the full frontal misogyny in this book, this is the only one I am willing to extend any reconsideration.

          Ed, the biggest question I have for you, as a fellow reader of this genre, is why it is such writing almost seems to be required to be terrible. I like the extremity of the subject matter but I also take ALL literature seriously. I am now of the belief that most writers of extreme horror just could not give a shit. Which asks the question of why they would want to write at all if they don’t care about language, characterization, or even plots. One of the reasons I like Wrath James White, even as he makes some despair, is that sometimes I get the feeling he is taking the piss, but most of the time I know he cares about language and about characters. Plots in extreme horror are often insane so I don’t hold bad plots against most writers in this genre, but after a while it just seems like I am permitting myself to be insulted over and over again.

          1. [Typing quickly before leaving the computer for the weekend]

            Don’t you wonder sometimes if there’s some kind of extreme horror version of the Dogme 95 manifesto, that requires authors to write as carelessly as possible, to demonstrate authenticity or something? (In the case of WJW, I think it might actually be the case that he sees grammar/spelling errors as part of the raw urgency of his style.)

            I really don’t know what the issue is with these guys, but clearly part of the problem is on the publishing side. Like with this mediocre anthology you’ve reviewed — I don’t know what’s happening in the minds of editors who consider J.F. Gonzalez worthy of inclusion in a survey of two(?) decades of great extreme horror fiction.

          2. Also…people who snark that Stephen King needs an editor need to read some of the stuff these small presses like Comet and Necro put out, if they want to see what it actually looks like when a manuscript gets minimal or no editing. As laudable as it is that these guys publish this very non-mainstream material, they do a disservice to the field by putting out sloppy writing that doesn’t even appear to have been proofread, let alone revised.

            But I guess “extreme horror” as a subgenre is a little iffy to begin with. To most, the “extreme” part refers to obscenely graphic violence and sex, a la Edward Lee. So authors who specialize in this stuff seem to mostly be interested in the gross-out, which makes for a pretty lame field. I’m drawn more to the idea of extreme horror in the sense of the extremities and outer fringes of human experience, and authors who are more serious about exploring experiences of people pushed to those extremities. Which is why I’ll always be open to reading anything Wrath James White even if he frequently exasperates me.

            Anyway…that’s my best guess as to why there’s so little really good writing in this area. I think most really talented writers generally avoid this disreputable backwater. And it’s revealing that most of the best examples of the form are by authors who usually write more mainstream stuff.

  2. “one of the stories bypassed Ed Lee’s “The Dritiphilist” as the most disgusting piece of fiction I have ever read.” – Words that will have tremendous import for a ‘lucky’ few.

    I’ve not read this anthology, but did read the first two stories when they were collected in ‘Splatterpunks’. It’s been years since I read them, but I still remember ‘Meathouse Man’ (surprised to learn it was written by George R.R. Martin, whose name meant nothing to me at the time).

    What I think resonated with me most was the scene in which Trager first has sex with one of the zombie-hooker-automatons, is briefly overjoyed when she responds with every loving touch he’s ever craved, then crushed when he realises he’s the one controlling her actions via the chip.

    It’s such a strangely specific world he created that I came away thinking it all surely must have been built around this one notion of a desperately lonely man thinking for the briefest moment he’s experiencing true physical love – a genuine human connection – then realising it’s just more masturbation. There’s a seed of a great idea there, even if Martin gets so waylaid with the curious novelties of his world that he can’t quite pull it off (evidenced by your reading of the story as a diatribe against fickle women).

    I could be wrong. It could be that Martin just snapped his fingers, exclaimed “ZOMBIE SEX PUPPETS!” and started writing. Either way, considerations of loneliness and the near-impossibility of making genuine human connections were what stayed with me after I finished reading. I certainly didn’t go: “Yeah, women be cold bitches. Tell it like is, man! I wish I had a sex puppet…”

    “The Night They Missed the Horror Show” I also enjoyed for various reasons, none of them terribly intellectual.

    1. What I think resonated with me most was the scene in which Trager first has sex with one of the zombie-hooker-automatons, is briefly overjoyed when she responds with every loving touch he’s ever craved, then crushed when he realises he’s the one controlling her actions via the chip.

      This is a good point, and one I had not considered. I think I was distracted by the whole zombie sex puppet getting wet on command and similarly lurid imagery. But you are correct – he was crushed when he realized the zombie-thing’s reaction was feigned in a sense, as he was controlling her and that it was not a real connection at all.

      Something definitely to consider.

      You really should read Massey’s story if you can. It contains a scene of such visceral disgust that I am still sort of numb after reading it and it is written from a place of immaculate love of language. So foul, John!

      Also, perhaps I should not mention it here, but your publisher contacted me regarding your new book. She was thrilled you had already sent it. Evidently you are a rara avis in that regard. 😉

  3. More responses, if you’ll bear with me…it’s a slow-ass slow day at the office and I’m really, really bored.

    “Night They Missed the Horror Show”

    Another story I liked more than you did. I’m fairly new to Joe R. Lansdale, but I’m becoming a fan. He reminds me of Edward Lee…if Lee were several times more competent, and cared more about crafting a solid story about actual humans than he did about cheap gross-outs. Lansdale is great with dialogue, and I think he’s a much more subtle and clever storyteller than his exaggerated redneck tone would suggest.

    This story (along with “Meathouse Man”) was in the seminal extreme-horror anthology Splatterpunks, and I guess I’m fond of it because it was the only story in that collection that genuinely scared me — I mean really horrified and chilled, in a personally relatable way. It brought to life, I thought, a very particular, vicious strain of racism — not limited to the South, but most visible there — that’s part of a larger culture of sociopathic inability to perceive nonwhite people as human.

    Growing up in Louisiana, there were times when I’d go into a gas station or convenience store, and there’d be some redneck dudes in there that would look at me in a way that was extremely scary — not hostile in any open or obvious way, yet threatening in a way I can’t define or articulate. Just really creepy. That’s the feeling that this story drags out of my subconscious and lays bare. Even the incongruously goofy tone perfectly conveys that scariness for me.

    I thought of this story when I read about the murder of James Byrd Jr. It’s ugly and brutal, but I think also truthful, which redeems it as a genuine piece of literature.

    “Diary”

    Yeah, hackneyed, and also fairly pointless — just a series of descriptions of depraved, violent acts, with no real sense of story or character to connect anything. There’s no reason for this thing to even exist.

    “Abed”

    Sadly, not a story about the guy on “Community.” For me, this was the finest story of the lot. It’s solidly constructed, without the dumb, sloppy writing that drags down most of the other stories in this book.

    It is really shocking and revolting, and I think it has the impact it does, not because it’s so “extreme,” but because the situation, the protagonist, and the setting are so richly and realistically drawn that the horrific elements are that much more vivid against that backdrop. Despite the outlandish “zombie apocalypse” premise, there’s nothing cartoonish about this story, no sense of authorial posturing or straining for effect. What would just be a routine gross-out yarn in lesser hands becomes genuinely sickening and unnerving. (Edward Lee could take a lesson or two from this story.)

    Also, I don’t recall whether it’s explicitly addressed in the story, but I liked that it dealt seriously and non-exploitatively with how poorly women would fare in a post-apocalyptic society. Meggie isn’t just trapped in that house because her bedroom door is locked — she’s kept there by the fact that her family is all that protects her from the horrors outside, and of course by the reversion of her small-town, rural community to a 19th century value system, with everything that entails about women’s freedoms. You could take out all of the supernatural stuff, and with minimal revisions this would still be a powerful, disturbing story of sexual slavery and subjugation.

    “I Am He That Liveth and Was Dead…”

    As soon as I see the words “bondage” or “S&M” in one of these stories, I zone out. The authors try so very hard to be arty and transgressive, and produce something that I would have to be extremely stoned to find anywhere near as profound and edgy as the authors evidently do. Also: demerits for use of the phrase “state-of-the-art collection of S&M, fetishist & bondage zines.” Zines! One guess as to what decade this story is from.

    “Xipe”

    Yeah, very much whatever. I cut it some slack because it’s a story from 1993, and the premise of American bad guys being sleazy and bad in squalid Mexican border towns wasn’t completely run into the ground yet. Still, it’s one of those lazily-conceived Edward Lee stories — he wanted to write a badass story set in Mexico, with a lot of badass exotic “Mexican” flavor, so you have a lot of Spanish words tossed in there for authenticity, as well as whores and “greasy” Mexicans saying stuff like “Good stuff, eh, Meester Smeeth?”

    There is a kernel of something interesting in the notion of a modern-day Aztec religion hiding behind a Catholic front, but as usual Lee does nothing with it.

    “Bait”

    Pretty nasty story in the “the world is even more despicable and vile than you could ever imagine” vein of feel-bad horror fiction. I’m not sure what it offers aside from shock value, but it is pretty cringe-y. If you really think about it, though, the operation makes no sense, economically or practically speaking.

    “Painfreak”

    Oh Lord. I think you said all that needs to be said about this one. I was looking forward to this story because over the years I’d heard glowing references to this as a classic of the genre, which, I don’t know, maybe it was in 1994. As a product of its time, though, I think it’s interesting how fascinated horror authors were in the 90s with the idea of “underground sex clubs.” I guess casual, anonymous kinky sex was a highly daring and scary/cool concept in the days of AIDS-era New Puritanism. When I think of “sex clubs,” though, all I ever imagine is a bunch of sweaty, paunchy guys with bushy mustaches, reeking of Drakkar Noir.

    “Lover Doll”

    I thought this was kind of okay in that it had the tone of a story I’d like — or at least, one I would probably have written in college — wistful, maudlin, melancholic, a story of doomed love between fucked-up outsiders. It could almost just coast by on that tone alone, except (a) it tries so very hard, so strenuously, to be “evocative of an era,” so you’ve got all these 60s/70s cultural references shoehorned into it, à la Forrest Gump, and (b) that repellent final passage, which makes me feel I’ve well and truly wasted my time with this story because (a) I regret whatever sympathy I had for this vile narrator and the time spent listening to him blather about his life, and (b) I realize that the author never had any coherent grasp of his own character. I thought I was reading a story about actual human beings, but, like so many horror stories in general and especially in this collection, instead I’m merely watching a writer masturbate to the sensation of a story about human beings.

    “The Spirit Wolves”

    I suspect I’m the one you’re referring to as the reader who likes Charlee Jacob. If so, I’d like to formally recant my position. I did admire her work at one time (though, I will say in my defense, not without plenty of reservations), but in retrospect I think it was like falling for the first halfway decent person you meet after dating a string of losers. Compared to the hacks that infest the horror genre (and especially the “extreme” end of the pool), Jacob I think deserves credit for attempting something more ambitious than cheap thrills. I appreciate the effort at artistry.

    Jacob writes a lot of poetry, and she brings that poetic style and imagery into her prose. Unfortunately, she’s a lousy poet. It’s okay — so am I. I don’t hold it against her. But it does cause her writing to veer abruptly, with wearying frequency, from competent to strange-and-not-in-a-good-way. And, like Wrath James White, Jacob desperately needs an editor. I do think she has a flair for disturbing imagery — she grosses me out in inventive ways — but yeah, on the whole her style is way overripe. Recently I re-read Soma (I’d read it before as Haunter, which I guess was an edited version), and it was just so overwrought and indulgent. So, I don’t know what to tell you. I was reading a lot of crap at the time!

    “Godflesh”

    Despite the “underground sex club” angle and the howlers you pointed out, I thought this one was kind of interesting. Admittedly, I know nothing about acrotomophilia, but the idea of amputation of flesh resulting in greater erotic pleasure in the remaining flesh is something I hadn’t encountered before in my reading. As a compulsive optimizer, I appreciated the depiction of pleasure seekers going to increasingly outlandish extremes to maximize their ecstasy. And I also kind of liked the absurdity of how the story starts out kind of light, almost comic, with a main character straight out of a rom-com, and the next thing you know she’s going on about De Sade and having her leg cut off.

    “Every Last Drop”

    Not much going on here, but I sorta liked this one because it reminded me of the infamous Harlan Ellison short story “How’s the Night Life on Cissalda?” about humans discovering these alien creatures that turn out to be mind-blowingly awesome sex partners, and eventually everyone on Earth does nothing but screw these aliens nonstop until humanity dies out. Just can’t stop fuckin’!

    “Blind in the House of the Headsman”

    A brutal, disturbing story of horrific abuse. This one was, for me, the roughest read of the collection, more than “Abed” even, because of the absence of supernatural elements and the agonizing level of detail in describing the woman’s ordeal. No relief whatsoever. A powerful story that, like you, I never want to read again.

    “An Experiment in Human Nature”

    I was actually a little disappointed by this one. The premise was interesting — basically the Hitchcock film Rope taken to a grotesque extreme — and the execution (so to speak) was fine, but I guess I went in hoping for a deeper exploration of what was going on in the minds of these horrid young men. The gore in this really is “foul beyond belief,” and there’s some imagery that is permanently branded on my brain, which I guess makes this an effective story, but I dunno. I guess it basically was, literally, a thought experiment about what would happen with these characters in this situation. But for some reason it just didn’t connect with me.

    “The Burgers of Calais”

    I don’t have a lot to say about this one, except that I agree that it’s well-written — lively and evocative, with a lot of personality — and offers an interesting perspective on industrial food production. I was vegan for a while, and one unexpected effect that it had on me was causing me to lose my revulsion at the idea of cannibalism. Once you look at all consumption of animal flesh as wrong, eating human flesh doesn’t seem that much worse than eating any other animal.

    “Ecstasy”

    I had pretty much the same response as you did to this one. Yet another “underground sex club” story, shot through with the same imagery and vocabulary as every other “underground sex club” story. Made no impression on me one way or another, and was immediately forgotten.

    “Pop Star in the Ugly Bar”

    I skipped this story. I guess I unconsciously avoid horror stories about rock stars, even more so than “underground sex club” stories. Rock stars are just not intrinsically interesting to me. Learning what it’s about, though, makes me glad I did skip it. Sounds like a foul story, with hateful motivations.

    “The Sooner They Learn”

    This was a story that stood out to me from Wrath’s Book Of A Thousand Sins collection, which was the one I threw across the room in frustration. Here’s a fortuitous convergence of a writer who’s a compulsively ranty sermonizer, and a story about a character who’s a compulsively ranty sermonizer. So it’s the rare Wrath tale where his worst tendencies actually mesh perfectly with the story (instead of derailing it). It’s still narratively incoherent and riddled with shitty grammar, but it works!

    “Addict”

    This is, without a doubt, the most inept and unintentionally hilarious entry in this collection. I dug up the book in order to verify my memory of it — yeah, it’s awful. Here’s a sentence I picked off of a random page: “A spike of fear dripped down Dennis’s spine as he took another look at the bodies.” A SPIKE OF FEAR DRIPPED DOWN HIS SPINE???

    “He visited ten porn sites that afternoon including his favorite: the rape page.” Gosh, I think the authorities need to shut down this, the one rape-porn web page — not even an entire website, but JUST THIS ONE PAGE — ON THE ENTIRE INTERNET.

    “Carl is a trusted friend and ally,” Harvey said, motioning for Dennis to have a seat. “I knew you were okay when you mentioned Carl sent you. I don’t trust people that are referred to me by people other than Carl.” People not Carl are not to be trusted by us. Only Carl can be trusted. Carl.

    The only other thing I’ve read by J.F. Gonzalez is Survivor, which is bumbling and obtuse in exactly the same ways as this piece of shit. Graceless, nails-on-chalkboard writing. Wooden, robotic characters who speak in stultifying generic sentences. Clumsy, cliche-ridden descriptions. Repeated use of phrases like “extreme hardcore porn scene” which strike me as hilariously square, like saying “marijuana cigarettes.”

    Gonzalez is that kind of exquisitely incompetent hack that makes any reader with a moderate sensitivity to good and bad writing wonder how the fuck he gets anything published. He’s seriously the most abominable writer I’ve ever read in something published by a non-vanity publisher. Even Edward Lee at his absolute worst is more readable than this — Lee at least puts some personality into his writing, whereas the twaddle Gonzalez churns out is just watery, insipid weak tea that could be — and may well actually be — created by some kind of extreme horror generator program.

    So, uh, yeah. Didn’t like it.

    This anthology is pretty much a failure and a waste of money. The good stories can all be found in other, better anthologies. Otherwise, I have no idea what the story selection process was that let some of this crap into a collection that purports to be a survey of the best of two decades of extreme horror fiction.

  4. You haven’t had much luck with horror lately, have you?

    Regarding Bentley Little. I read his novel THE ASSOCIATION about 2 weeks ago and it was a lot of fun. A bit cheesy and ridiculous (which I think was partially intentional, given the book has a satirical element to it), but it was difficult to put down. It isn’t really “extreme” horror, from what I’ve read in the reviews of his other books, he only dips into that occasionally. Not with great results, apparently.

    Like the Edward Lee books, I kind of want to read this based entirely on the subject matter. Though since Edward Sung just said the good stories are in better anthologies I may check those out instead. Do you have the names of those anthologies, Ed?

    1. I have had some decent luck with horror, but none of it bizarre enough to discuss here. It’s just that I think eventually I am going to have to give up on extreme horror as being anything more than a pile of crap from which occasionally a diamond emerges.

      After that assault/torture/rape/murder Madonna story, I am giving Little a wide berth. I have a book of his somewhere in the house but it’s gonna sit where it is for a long damn time.

      1. Ah. Okay.

        A bit disappointing to see that a lot of extreme horror falls flat, I had a pretty good first impression of the sub-genre.

        “I am giving Little a wide berth”

        From your reaction to the story, that’s certainly understandable.

    2. Ben — my apologies as I’m on the road and terrible at typing on my phone — the first two stories can be found in the excellent Splatterpunks anthology (which helped kick off the whole splatterpunk/extreme horror trend, for better or worse). “Meathouse Man” is pretty widely anthologized…most recently I ran across it in the Living Dead anthology, which is zombie-themed if you’re into that (I’m not, really, but the anthology holds up well as a collection of the better, more imaginative takes on the theme). And the Lansdale story too pops up in a few places, including his own “best of” collection, which I’d reccomend if you’re curious about his work.

      “Abed” shows up in the “Still Dead: Book of the Dead 2” anthology, which is also zombie-themed (I guess I do read a bit of zombie fiction for someone who claims not to be into the subject). And a quick Googling also reveals that “Abed” is available from Amazon as a standalone digital download for just 99 cents.

  5. Wow, thanks for another reminder not to get on your bad side.

    I actually like hearing a woman’s point of view of how women are portrayed in stories, especially horror and sci-fi. It’s made me a bit more self-conscious about it.

    Are you sure it really is misogyny, or just a case of a male writer too used to writing from a male perspective? Or does it matter…?

    1. It’s easy and cheap for some performance rage bloggers to say that a male writer too used to writing from a male perspective equals misogyny. Men have to write from male perspectives. If one fails to write from one’s perspective, one is probably going to write a crappy story.

      The challenge here is that the perspectives some of these men have of women are so deeply flawed that their perspectives could stand a bit of challenging (and how people respond when you tell them they have gotten something wrong, written something offensive or engaged in racism or misogyny, however innocent their intent may be, tells you a lot about them).

      I can give some ground on Martin because as John and Ed point out, I missed some perspectives key to understanding the piece. It still has the stink of the nice guy, the man who thinks his good behavior and deep love should be rewarded with a woman but that was one of the more passive pieces of misogyny in the book. Still, I wonder how men would feel about a story wherein fat and ugly men are mind controlled into fucking machines and are repeatedly fucked all day long by different women? Would that make them uncomfortable or would it even register because men are not as accustomed to being treated like mindless pieces of meat? Note that the male zombies at least get to do real work while brain controlled while the female zombies seem to be fucktoys.

      Hodge’s piece is more aggressive in its misogyny because it engages in some bad thinking that women encounter all the time but is so ingrained in our own thinking that many of us fail to question it. First, we are supposed to be impressed that Ellen has not been the recipient of plastic surgery (at age 35, she is younger than me yet that is a feat? that she has avoided the knife?) and sneer at Jude because she has decided to alter her appearance to appear youthful. Men do this the time – it’s a borderline nice guy trait. They pit the woman they want against other women in order to make the desired woman warm to them. “You’re not like all those vain women,” is the subtext. We are presented with these two dichotomies and the assumption is that we will reject silly, vain Jude for fearless, bare-faced Ellen.

      Except Ellen meets a man who masturbates in the open street, gets gang fucked by a stump and has an awakening wherein she begins to cut off her own limbs. Until she met the questionable man whose sense of propriety was so fucked he dragged unwilling observers into his sexual behavior, she had no desire to sever her limbs. She meets wheelchair guy and she’s game. And she’s somehow the heroine and not Jude, who altered her face for her own reasons.

      Hodge also writes about the female form from a place of ignorance. The whole 23-inch-waist is ridiculous and then the tight-laced 18-inch is even worse. It is an image that may mean something to Hodge but to the reader is the antithesis of carnality – a waist that small implies very little body fat and a waist that tightly laced is going to involve lungs that can barely inhale. One is not going to be engaging in repetitive group sex with a corset that reduces the body’s lung capacity. Hodge’s misogyny comes from a place of strange ignorance and from age-old rules of behavior that it often takes years of existing as a woman to pick up on.

      Gonzalez’s writing is misogyny. There is no way around it. A vile character did not need a fat woman as the scapegoat for his descent into grotesque behavior. He was craven and imbecilic enough on his own, yet Gonzalez just had to make it clear that if his fat lazy wife had just carved out more time to fuck him as she worked and raised the kids, all would have been well for old Dennis.

      And Little’s fucking story? There is no way that is just absent misogyny coming from a man writing from a male perspective. No matter what radical feminists say, the vast majority of men do not want to abduct, beat, torture, rape and kill women who have obviously defined sexual identities. This was not a writer unconsciously slipping into male prerogatives while writing. As much as this story tries to be tongue-in-cheek as the characters rape Madonna to death, no matter how one feels about Madonna personally, this was at best a shitty attempt at suggesting that it is funny that sexual outliers killed a woman they felt dared step unwelcomed into their realm. At worst it was just a glimpse at what happens to bitches who let themselves be defined by their sexuality.

      So it matters, I think. We’re all in this toilet of a culture together and we have all be hammered and harmed by it. All of us. But at the same time, I do hope that when writers see something like this, they do not think, “Oh look at the feminazi, it’s just a story!” Nothing is just a story.

      Look at your writing. Rape scenes make me uncomfortable, especially scenes of forced sodomy. But your use of this in your book was not to engage in othering, or some dude-bro elbow-rib chortle at rape. It was to show the utterly dehumanizing elements of the world your people lived in, wherein supervisors at Target repeatedly raped their employees to show dominance. You weren’t singling out hate for a specific person or sex, AND it was relevant to the plot in a meaningful, non-exploitative way. Compare that to Little and Gonzalez’s stories and hopefully it will be clear what I mean here.

      And this wall of text is just me going on at length – I’m just explaining myself to you. A lot of times explanations like this to honest questions can be seen as attacks. And I also hope anyone who reads this and may be new to my site understands that when a woman who reads as much horrible drek as I do, who has been pretty neutral in her discussions of many offensive texts, finally shifts into rant gear, it may be worth analyzing her perspective. We all have a point where we just say, “Fuck this shit” and rant a little. Or a lot, as the case may be.

      1. I think I asked because in recent months I noticed a distinct lack of female characters in my stories and I like to think it’s only because I haven’t really considered a female perspective that much, being single, male, and childless 🙂

        So I kinda figured maybe… just maybe the authors of those stories were in the same boat as I.

        Or maybe I just don’t want to believe men (especially published and respected authors) would actually hate women–AND write a story that so obviously announces it.

        From what you describe, it sounds like it stands out too much to dismiss as anything but exploitation.

        You’re definitely right. Nothing is just a story. Stories often show very clearly how the author thinks, and give insight into the collective consciousness as well.

        For example, it always does seem to happen in stories… The Beauty and the Beast motif: the woman is always beauty, and the man is always the beast. The implication being the woman is expected to adapt and fall in love with the monster that is the human male, while the man gets the hottie and doesn’t have to change his repulsive ways.

        Same with sitcoms. It’s always the ugly man somehow getting the hot girl. Always. Never the ugly girl somehow getting the hot guy.

        Our fiction subliminally showcases how we think, and even today there seems to be the subliminal idea that women are the victims, men are the heroes. Women are for prizes to be claimed, men are for work. Even the “hero” women are usually sexualized.

        It’s amazing how often things like this pop up. Once you see it, it cannot be unseen.

        …at least my rape victims were men. I like to think that balances things out a little 🙂

      2. Went back and read that Madonna story, and wow, yeah, what a nasty piece of work. It’s basically a hate fantasy about taking a powerful, famous woman who’s dared to exert control over her sexuality, and putting her in her place.

        1. Yeah…I expected more from the guy who wrote “The Washingtonians”, though maybe it was just that the screen version was better than the page, perhaps, and I’m remembering that one?

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