Discover more from Fiction for the Cosmically Disturbed
Less Than Pulp, Issue 49
Bearded Dragons, Ronald Malfi's Black Mouth, Bad Meets Evil, The Godfather of Gore, and New Book for Preorder
Meet the newest addition to our family. That's a bearded dragon! Our oldest named it “Wild Dragon.” It eats crickets and vegetables, is getting used to being held, and loves to people watch.
The trip to the pet store was prompted when our oldest captured a grasshopper he hoped to keep as a pet. We let him keep it overnight, but let it go the next day. This got him pretty upset, but instead of shutting him down, we listened to what was at the heart of his complaint. Because he has severe allergies, he can't have any pets with fur. Lots of his friends are getting their first dogs and cats, so he's been feeling left out.
Jean suggested going to the pet store the next morning to see what our options were. We knew we would be getting either a bird or a reptile. While hypoallergenic cats and dogs are advertised, our allergist said that nothing with fur can truly be so. That didn’t stop us from fawning over some ridiculously cute rabbits at the first store we visited.
That was at Gallery of Pets in North Austin. The staff member we spoke with all about birds was incredibly helpful. He displayed great knowledge and patience with us newbies, even as our toddler tried sticking her finger in every cage. We ultimately decided a bird might be a hard beginner pet for our oldest. He isn't quite seven and birds need a lot.
From there, we went to Petsmart, initially hoping to find a corn snake. Last time I was there, I'd seen one that was crazy active and seemed fun. There were no corn snakes this time, but there was a very alert scorpion. Arachnids aren't an option. Jean's got a phobia. I do, too, but scorpions are pretty damn cool. They glow under blacklight!
The staff at the Petsmart was also very helpful. When we started to show more interest in the bearded dragons (or “beardies”), a gentleman talked with us for a good hour about how to properly care for them. He was great with our son, explaining the responsibility of owning a pet and how to safely hold a beardie. They're fragile when they're young, but when full-grown, we can put it on a leash and take it for walks. That last detail sold us.
Because Wild Dragon was bigger than the others in the store, Petsmart adopted it out to us for “free.” The quotes are there because we still had to buy the right terrarium, food, and accessories. It was great, though. The kiddo is happy and excited.
Truthfully, so am I. When he was the same age as our toddler, he used to look at the bearded dragons whenever we needed something at Petsmart. This continued as he got older, but we sort of forgot until actually getting a pet became a more likely possibility.
I finished reading Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi this weekend. It was my second by Malfi and I'm still deciding if I like it as much as I liked The Night Parade. Both books were great, and Malfi has now made it onto my list of go-to authors.
In a message exchange with author Ryan C. Bradley, I described Malfi as early Stephen King, but with an MFA. The more I think about it, the more that description feels apt. Like King, he writes these sprawling supernatural tales that still feel deeply personal, but his prose has an academic slickness and arthouse musicality to it that King always lacked. Not a knock on King, by the way; he's just not someone who I read for stylistic prose. I go to King for his uncanny ability to go into a character’s mind and how his settings feel genuinely lived-in.
It's always exciting to find an author whose work I know I'll be returning to. What really sold me on Malfi, beyond the impressive prose, was how emotionally invested I was both novels of his I read this year. Also, the last hundred pages of Black Mouth move at a clip and it goes to some strange places. The book took some risks, but it did so with a classical discipline.
Up next, I've got Night Prayers by P.D. Cacek.
(I'm still listening to Imajica, but I didn't get out much this week, so I don't have much in the way of audiobook updates).
Last time I mentioned Yellowstone here, I wrote that Jean and I were enjoying it, but weren't fully invested. After finishing the excellent second season and getting halfway through the third, we're now all in. It's a compelling crime drama with well-drawn characters and resonant themes.
I've always appreciated “bad meets evil” stories, where flawed main characters square off against antagonists whose sins seem less forgivable in the eyes of the audience. Good examples of this type of narrative are From Dusk Till Dawn (murdering thieves vs vampires), Breaking Bad and Ozark (entitled and overambitious everyman characters vs large crime organizations), and The Devil's Rejects (actually, Rob Zombie's entire “Firefly Trilogy” is an interesting examination of what I'm talking about).
With the entire Beck Brothers storyline that unfolds in the second season of Yellowstone, the show enters the canon of great “bad meets evil” texts. The introduction of new antagonists in Season 3 also seems to be continuing the trend—though the season's primary concern is showing the minor characters just hanging out and having fun, which is always cool to see in a show or film. I love a good hangout movie!
“Bad meets evil” stories are interesting because they force audience to examine their own morals. What's beyond forgivable? How bad does an antagonist have to be in order for we, the audience, to align with people we've agreed already are “bad?” Can the menace of a worse antagonist prompt us to forgive the unforgivable?
Yellowstone was smart to take this approach in its second season onward. The first season felt soapy and melodramatic, and honestly, if the show wasn't so acclaimed, I can't say for sure Jean and I would have stuck with it. I'm glad we did—because of this, we appreciate the setup season even more.
On this week’s Make Your Own Damn Podcast, Jeff and I chat about splatter film Color Me Blood Red by cult director H.G. Lewis (aka the “Godfather of Gore”). You can listen wherever you get your podcasts or by clicking the video below.
Bladejob is now up for preorder at the Madness Heart Press store.
How far would you go to reset the course of your life?
After spending the last twenty-five years in prison, former professional wrestler “Bad Guy” Brian Hearns is willing to do anything for a second chance. Then he learns the truth about the dark circumstances that landed him behind bars, and an old acquaintance gives him the means to go back in time and set things right.
But can she be trusted? And is resetting the last quarter century really as simple as cutting open his skin and contacting the same demonic agents who ruined his life to begin with?
Bladejob is a novella of extreme horror and not intended for sensitive readers.
You can preorder it right here.