Gun Fag Manifesto, edited by Hollister Kopp

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book:  Gun Fag Manifesto

Author:  Edited by Hollister Kopp, foreword by Jim Goad

Type of Book:  Non-fiction, ‘zines

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Because it made me remember with fondness the old Loompanics Catalogue.

Availability:  Published by Nine Banded Books in 2013, you can get a copy here:

Comments: So, I read this a long time ago and somehow forgot to discuss it, which is a shame because I found it to be a funny and at times uncomfortable blast from the past.  I never read this ‘zine in its original format so this was entirely new to me even as it reminded me of the more humorous excesses of the old Loompanics catalogue and a bit of Paladin Press’ more gunnish releases.  God, I really miss the old days sometimes, wherein if you wanted to obtain and read really fucked up books you had to peruse a paper list of books that got mailed to your house and really alarmed postal officials.  I mean, I don’t miss it over much because it’s nice to hear about a book and be able to buy it immediately but sometimes I realize half the people reading here have only ever ordered outre books online and don’t remember the heady thrill of renting a post office box at a mail drop and ordering books that Focus on the Family insisted were occult and Satanic and also evil.  (Remind me to tell you all my “James Dobson mistook me for someone else and touched my arm twitch” story some day.)

Back to the book.  1994.  What a time for all of us who were alive! I graduated from college and started dating Mr Oddbooks.  OJ Simpson captivated us all as he engaged in a low speed chase in that white Ford Bronco.  Nancy Kerrigan got hit in the knee.  And Hollister Kopp edited this ‘zine.  This is a messed up ‘zine – completely politically incorrect, verging into outright sociopathy, and, in its own bizarre way, it is glorious.

Don’t get me wrong.  You all know that I am so liberal I should probably go straight to jail for stealing all your tax money to give to lesbian welfare crack babies.  I don’t get into racist propaganda and racial epithets make me nervous because I’m not wholly sure what my own ethnic background contains and what I do know is Irish and that’s almost never a good sign amongst Americans.  But I am also a pro-2A liberal.  We are rare, like white tigers, but unlike unicorns we really do exist.  I’m not a gun fag, like the editor of the ‘zine. And I really don’t miss the days when Mr Oddbooks would drag me to gun shows and I would end up listening to John Birchers explain to me why it is that blacks and women should never have been permitted to vote and that things went straight to hell after we started putting fluoride in the water, but there is something refreshing reading something so utterly unimpressed by basically everything that makes me who I am.

As we all know, Internet killed the Xerox-zine star.  I know the world seems really nuts because we have access to so much insanity online, but back in the old days you had to seek it out and when you found it you were less inclined to complain about it.  Were these zines online, the comments would have to be disabled.  I think part of the refreshing element of reading this zine compilation was the realization that I would not be expected, culturally, to engage in an argument when I was finished.  That having been said, this is an extremely hyperbolic collection.  A lot of really offensive content got crammed into three editions, and if you can’t embrace the weird when it is offensive, you will want to give this book and the rest of my discussion a miss. 

This Is Not an Odd Book Review: Biblio-Curiosa, No. 4 by Chris Mikul

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Title: Bibilo-Curiosa, No. 4

Author and Editor: Chris Mikul

Availability: You need to contact Chris directly at cathob@zip.com.au. The ‘zine itself is $5 Australian, so those outside of Australia need to get a quote from him directly. For Americans, if I recall correctly, it is $8 USD an issue, shipping included.

Comments: Last year was a complete waste for me. Dozens of books were left unread, dozens of discussions never happened here. Truly pitiful. But in the spirit of not dwelling on the past and various failures, I want to begin 2014 with a discussion that is long overdue and about a writer whose work inspires me. I’ve said several times that I really envy Chris Mikul’s writing style and research expertise, and his fourth issue of Biblio-Curiosa further cements my opinion of him (I also have two books of his I really want to read and discuss this year – fingers crossed).

For those unfamiliar with Biblio-Curiosa, Mikul’s ‘zine is part book review, part in-depth research. He reads genuinely strange and obscure books and writes about them, but he also engages in deep research into the lives of various writers, sometimes trying to track down authors whose names are very nearly lost to history. Every issue is a fascinating read.

Issue 4 has four articles, and begins with a look at what can only be called a lunatic book. The Werewolf vs The Vampire Woman doesn’t sound that loony on its face – just sort of pulpy. Written by Arthur N. Scarm (yes, Scarm, though it is spelled “Scram” on the title page) in 1972, it is a novelization of a Spanish film called La Noche de Walpurgis, released in the USA as The Werewolf vs The Vampire Woman or Werewolf Shadow. The movies, going by title, sound cheesy enough, but as Mikul notes, the novelization is… not entirely true to its source:

…the book bears only the most passing resemblance to the film. Instead, it takes off on innumerable mad tangents of its own, and brims with cartoonish sex and violence, ludicrous dialogue and scenes that border on the surreal.

The book changes the protagonist’s name from Waldemar to Waldo, changes his personality from a shaggy, animalistic creature into an urbane, sophisticated wolf-dude, and introduces all sorts of previously unknown and probably created on-the-spot werewolf lore. It is here I feel I should mention that Waldo can do all sorts of nefarious and odd things, like shrink boobs with his mind. Montague Summers would weep if he read this book.

Waldo ends up with a vampire woman, as described in the title, but before he does he engages in all kinds of strange seduction. Take this snippet Mikul shares from the book:

Handling the girls like toys, he planted them on their backs, one on top of the other, and with Elvira on top, got on top of her. Ruth was on the bottom and he made love to her through Genevieve and Elvira, with all three girls screaming because it was so uncomfortable.

Yeah. This hilarity aside, this article gets even more interesting when Mikul looks into who “Scarm” really was. 

Biblio-Curiosa Issue 3 by Chris Mikul

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

‘Zine: Biblio-Curiosa Issue 3

Author: Chris Mikul

Type of Book: ‘Zine about strange books and the authors who write them.

Availability: You have to get copies straight from Chris. If I recall correctly, he charges $8 USD for the ‘zine and shipping. You need to contact him at cathob@zipworld.com.au to place an order.

Comments: I did not intend for this to be a Chris Mikul mini-week here, but I needed something I could write about quickly and Mikul’s ‘zine fit the bill. I am writing like a maniac to get ready for my upcoming New Bizarro Author Series giveaway that starts next week and the Jim Goad ANSWER Me! week that follows soon after, so this issue of Biblio-Curiosa lent itself well to a quick discussion (well, quick for me).

Chris Mikul is a fellow traveller in the world of strange books, but he does it so much better than I do. When I grow up I hope to be able to dissect books as concisely as he does. He has a style that marries utter glee for and absorption in the weird books he finds with an investigative and succinct style that my innate verbosity makes impossible for me to imitate. The third issue of Biblio-Curiosa is a delight for anyone who lives for that moment when they find a strange or unusual book at a used book store or an estate sale. Mikul gathers as much information about the book, its author and any other details that will make the book or its author come to life. He finds amazing gems that my untrained eye would have skipped right over.

The first article in this edition discusses a book called The Ferocious Fern by C.B. Pulman. On a trip to a hotel on the Greek island of Rhodes, Mikul and his wife found a hotel library that featured some astonishing books, including a first edition of Animal Farm. Some of the extraordinary books had ex libris information from their previous owner, Archie Wilkinson, whose story is interesting in its own right so I won’t spoil it. One of Archie’s books that particularly interested Mikul was The Ferocious Fern, a collection of short stories with horror and fantasy twists. You need to read the article to get a feel for the book itself, but given what Mikul’s research reveals, this may very well be the only extant copy of this book.

This next article is a price of admission article and I will write just enough of it that hopefully you will feel the same way and will want to read it yourself. “Swastika Night by Murray Constantine” is Mikul at his book-loving, researching best. Swastika Night is an alternative history novel wherein the Nazis have taken over the world, women are less than second class citizens and keep themselves covered in a manner that modern Westerners associate with fundamentalist Islam. They are breeding stock and little else. Not too unexpectedly, this relegation of women to such a demeaned status has a perverse effect on the men. Mikul’s far fuller examination of the book has caused me to put this book on my wish list so I remember to buy it and hopefully discuss it on this site. There are two very interesting elements to this alternative history of Nazi occupation. First, it was written in 1937 and is both an alternative history for the modern reader and a fear of what the future was to hold for the writer and reader during the time it was written. Second, Murray Constantine was really a lesbian writer named Katherine Burdekin, who wrote more dystopian books. It seems very likely that Burdekin’s works, especially Swastika Night, written more than a decade before 1984, were an influence on George Orwell. This is a deeply fascinating look at a female writer whose legacy was almost lost to us.

The next article, “My Friend Froggy,” was written by Jeff Goodman and will be of deep interest to those who originally found out about F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre through the second issue of Biblio-Curiosa. Jeff Goodman once worked at an “adult fiction” mill, typing out very specific porn books, often in one sitting, for very little money. It was at this job that he met Froggy, as he called MacIntyre, and when he read Mikul’s examination of MacIntyre’s life, his strange stories about himself, and his suicide, he wrote to Mikul and revealed his experiences with Froggy. MacIntyre, even after reading a good friend’s examination of him, still remains a cypher to me, as I don’t understand why he created such a fabulist tale of himself when the real story was equally as interesting. I’ll stop discussing this now so as not to ruin it for those who want the details of Froggy’s life through the eyes of someone who knew him, but even as I know little about MacIntyre’s motivations, he was clearly an endearing, interesting, talented, deeply intelligent and deeply depressed man and I want to read his science fiction book The Woman Between the Worlds all the more.

Oh man, the next article is another “price of admission” article. “Tod Robbins, Master of the Macabre” is an amazing look at the life and works of Tod Robbins, who if he is known much by modern readers, is known for writing the book upon which Tod Browning based his movie Freaks. Strangely secretive about his many marriages, imprisoned in an internment camp in France during WWII, Robbins’ life was as interesting and strange as his fiction. Born wealthy, Robbins lived an enviable life during the day, but…

…when he took up his pen at night, his thoughts turned to crime, horror, madness and murder. To crimson thoughts, as he called them.

And indeed he turned to many crimson thoughts, writing novels and short story collections that seem quaintly horrific in a James Whale sort of way and strangely prescient to modern tastes in the deeply disturbing nature of some of his content. I hope it does not seem like a cop-out to say that there are two “price of admission” articles in this small ‘zine but there really are. This article is also worth reading just to be able to see some of the covers and illustrations that Robbins’ novels sported. An illustration for “Close Their Eyes Tenderly” initially seems very whimsical but the longer I looked at it, the more menacing it became.

The last article is “The Cardinal’s Mistress by Benito Mussolini.” I had no idea Mussolini had written books, but evidently in 1909 a socialist newspaper owner suggested that Mussolini write a book that would be defamatory to the Catholic Church. The novel ended up becoming a potboiler and though salacious was actually somewhat sympathetic to the Cardinal who took a poorly regarded mistress who ruined his name. This somewhat sympathetic portrayal is quite interesting when one learns how much the book would mirror his later life, as if he either predicted his own fate or reenacted it from his own book. Mussolini later thought the book he wrote was trash, but it sounds roiling enough that if I can get my hands on a copy, I may give it a read.

It’s probably clear by now that I am a big fan of Mikul’s but my fannish love of his works is born from a bit of envy. The books he digs up, the analysis he puts forth and the investigation skills he possesses are understandably enviable. For a 48 page ‘zine, this reads more like a book and the people and books it will show you are nothing you can find anywhere else because even the most extensive Wiki on interesting, bizarre and lost books will lack Mikul’s clear love of the topics. Highly recommended, e-mail him now and get your copy and if you don’t have issues 1 and 2, order those as well.

Biblio-Curiosa, issues 1 & 2, by Chris Mikul

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Zine: Biblio-Curiosa

Author: Chris Mikul

Availability: Chris is in Australia and does not have a merchant website, but you can contact him at cathob@zipworld.com.au – he charges $8 per issue, postage included.

Comments: This is not technically a book review, but my usual off-topic title of “This is Not an Odd Book Discussion” does not apply either. This is very much going to be a discussion of odd books. Chris Mikul noticed I had read his book about cults last year (and I still plan to discuss it here though it’s now been a year since I read it, and, also, fuck my life) and sent me the first two copies of his ‘zine Biblio-Curiosa. He later also sent me issues of another ‘zine of his, Bizarrism and a copy of his book, Tales of the Macabre and Ordinary. Please do not misinterpret my delight in receiving these items as a tacit admission that I am going to discuss a lot of Mikul in the future because I am easily bought. I read and eventually discuss everything people send me. But Mikul may have jumped the line a little bit because he is an incredible writer and I didn’t want to sit on these until they came around in the review queue.

I think Biblio-Curiosa is what I wish IROB could be when it grows up, if it grows up. Mikul’s analysis of the strange books and odd authors he encounters manages to be both scholarly and entertaining, a skill borne from years of authoring non-fiction books about the strange among us. I would do well to exercise some of his organizational skills when I write. I’ve always said I resent being inspired but there is something about Mikul’s ‘zines that make me want to be a better writer. I sense my innate verbosity and inability to focus will prevent any emulation transformation but I can always hope.

Biblio-Curiosa‘s subtitle is “Unusual Writers/Strange Books” and covers both with equal ease. The breadth of his interests and the scope of the topics he discusses puts to shame my passive procurement of odd books. Mikul has access to a huge mountain of strangeness most of us would never know about. I know when I see pulp paperbacks from the ’50s, I often look at the lurid covers and think, “I bet my dad would have read that and liked it.” Mikul’s perspective on the pulp paperbacks from before either of us were born showed me how very wrong I am to dismiss such books because even the pulpiest of them may have interesting mysteries behind them for those astute enough to look for them.

Shit Magnet: One Man’s Miraculous Ability to Absorb the World’s Guilt by Jim Goad

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book Title:  Shit Magnet: One Man’s Miraculous Ability to Absorb the World’s Guilt

Author: Jim Goad

Why I Consider This Book Odd:  1)  Jim Goad wrote it.  If you have been paying attention to fringe and ‘zine culture for the last fifteen years or so, this should be enough said; and 2) The cover sports a pic of Goad praying under a large, behaloed turd.   I love the cover.  A lot.  I have always had a healthy love of all things scatological.

Type of Work:  non-fiction, memoir

Availability:  This book is still in print.  Published by Feral House, you can find it in any number of places.  One of them is Amazon.  Behold:

Comments:  Jim Goad is a lord of political incorrectness and the mind behind one of the most infamous ‘zines ever, ANSWER Me! Though I was aware of ANSWER Me! when I was in college, I never read any of the issues until 1-3 were released in a collection.  Though ANSWER Me! only released four issues, this ‘zine landed Goad into all sorts of unintended consequences that cemented his position as a shit magnet.  Shit Magnet is Goad’s side of all the notorious and, frankly, bad things that have happened to him, it is compelling reading to be sure and much of it is directly related to or stems from ANSWER Me!

Like when women felt violated, or raped as it were, by the infamous “rape” edition of ANSWER Me! and when they could not get the ‘zine removed from the shelves in a Portland store, they went after the stores on obscenity charges.  The stores were found not guilty, but it seemed that most people missed the greater irony of the “rape” issue.  The intent behind issue four was to demonstrate, as Goad eloquently put it, that “radical feminism had become so lost in theory and drowned in self-righteousness that rape had become viewed more of a political idea than a physical act.  Feminism had grown unable to distinguish words from actions to such a degree that the two became switched:  Women felt literally “assaulted” and “violated” by sexist language and imagery, whereas actual rape was viewed as an ideological tool of the patriarchy, almost more of a statement than an act.”  By trying to convict book stores of obscenity because Goad’s language “hurt” them, members of the feminist camp just proved his point for him.

(As an aside, as I was reading Shit Magnet, a news story came on describing how a Habitat for Humanity construction site was robbed.  The woman for whom the house was being built said that the theft was an assault against her and that she felt violated.  This inappropriate use of words describing violence for non-violent acts is now firmly entrenched in the popular mind.)

But it got worse for Goad.  The 1994  White House Shooter, who discharged an SKS assault rifle outside the White House, evidently read ANSWER Me! 2 and found inspiration for his actions.  Francisco Martin Duran read “Can you imagine a higher moral calling than to destroy someone’s dreams with a bullet…?” and decided the way to do this was to shoot impotently near the President’s abode.  Luckily Goad was not used as a witness at Duran’s trial, but the tenuous connection between Goad and Duran was cemented in the media and Goad became seen as a terrorist force.

And then the suicides…  Three seriously disturbed young Britons took a bizarre inspiration from ANSWER Me!, came to the USA, and killed themselves.  These suicides were especially haunting for Goad because one of the girls involved called him shortly before the suicides in order to verify his address (she did not explain why she needed the address nor did Goad ask why but after she was dead Goad received a sum of money that he returned to her parents).  She was silent on the phone and Goad, unable to pull much out of her, eventually terminated the conversation.  Goad empathized with the girl to an almost unbearable level, understanding all too well the impulses behind suicide and wishing he could have done something to stop it.

But while all of this and more show Goad’s role as a shit magnet, the soundest argument for Goad as a weather vane for bad juju happened in the form of Anne Ryan.