Friday, June 13, 2014

Stars and Other Monsters is Out Now

Have a hankering for a novel about a paparazzo and his dog getting kidnapped by a vampire? Today is your lucky day! Stars and Other Monsters is out, on Kindle:

And in print:

I think a lot of you will enjoy it. It's no masterpiece, but a 3.5, maybe 4 star fast-paced bundle of cheap thrills. Not unlike this blog. If that's worth less than the price of a coffee, go buy it soon so I become rich and famous. Then I'll become corrupt. Just like in the book. (You'll see).

Thank you.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Stars and Other Monsters - A Novel by Phronk (Me), Out on June 13th

I wrote a novel. I've decided to release it to the world on June 13th (the only Friday the 13th in 2014). It's called Stars and Other Monsters, and it's a horror novel about celebrities and vampires. Here is the cover:

If you've been reading my blog, you might enjoy my novel. They are similar, in that I wrote both. So mark your calendar for June 13th and buy Stars and Other Monsters from Amazon, so that it climbs the charts and makes me famous.

More information about the book can be found on its Goodreads page, and I've given it its own little site at Or, if you find that offensive, try (but maybe you shouldn't read the book or this blog).

I'll be writing about Stars and Other Monsters quite a bit in the next few weeks, because I am excited about trying this whole publishing thing and sharing my not-bad creation with the world. Stay tuned.

P.S. Somehow wasn't taken either!

Update June 13: It's out now! Buy it on Amazon:

Buying my book is the only way I can guarantee not cursing you on this Friday the 13th and night of a full moon.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review: The Five, by Robert McCammon

I haven't been keeping up with my book reviews. Oops. Well, here's one I've been reading for months and only just finished: Robert McCammon's The Five. Only minor spoilers here.

The Five is the story of a rock band consisting of five people. They're called The Five. They embark on their final tour, first touring through the hell of knowing that the band's career is doomed, then soon realizing that their lives are doomed too. Ultimately it's a story about music's role in the eternal struggle between light and dark, life and death, good and evil. In that spirit, here's the good and the bad:

The Good:

  • The music. McCammon clearly has a passion for rock and roll. Not just the music itself, but the culture of it, the life of a musician, the meaning behind it all. That shines through on every page. From the dozens of fake band names to the cheesy lyrics of entirely fictional songs, The Five will make you love music even more.
  • The subtlety. Those expecting a balls-out supernatural horror novel will be disappointed. The supernatural is there, but barely; like a whispered background vocal that only comes through when all the other instruments momentarily fade. It comes dangerously close to religious mumbo jumbo at times, but never quite crosses that line enough to ruin it.
  • The ending. It just hits all the right emotional notes.

The Bad:

  • The omniscience. Maybe only because it's so uncommon these days, but I find omniscient narration jarring. One paragraph it's inside one character's head, the next paragraph it's onto another character's thoughts, not so much as a scene break between them. I thought the purpose may have been to emphasize that the whole band was the main character, all so deeply interconnected that the story was told from their collective perspective (there's a band name, Collective Perspective). Except then the point of view changes to a random character standing in the background, so, not so much.
  • The length. If The Five were an album, it would be half filler songs. The self-indulgent ballads that had to be there to get the album up to twelve songs despite only having six good ones. Except it's a book, so there's no hitting fast forward when you get to a whole page describing a minor side character's living room furniture. 
When it ends, The Five is, like the song that apparently inspired it, a bitter sweet symphony. It's ultimately satisfying, but there's a lot of boring making ends meet and being a slave to money before getting to the fun dying part.

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Ironic Pleasure of a Farting Baboon

I recently wrote a novel consisting of nothing but the word "fart" 100 000 times, then tried to sell it on Amazon. It was an experiment designed to provoke all points of view in today's book publishing industry, and it worked. I summarize the rest of the story of Baboon Fart Story over on Forest City Pulp.

I won't say much about what the success slash failure of Baboon Fart Story means for publishing. Like any Dadaist masterpiece, it speaks best through the reactions to it.* The reactions to my flatulent tale were overwhelmingly positive. Which brings up an interesting question: is it possible to enjoy shit?

By "shit" I mean: something that is both subjectively and objectively bad. Put to any known test of quality, artistic merit, or worthiness, it fails. Will people still willingly consume shit like that?

Of course. "The Bachelor is the downfall of humanity but I love it" could be stamped on the forehead of half the people watching it. Rebecca Black's Friday has 65 million views. Troll 2 spawned a legion of fans and a documentary called Best Worst Movie.

People enjoy shit. But the next question is: does that count as genuine enjoyment?

Of course. The English language doesn't have enough words to describe the wealth of subtly different ways in which we can enjoy something (although Mccoy and Scarborough, 2012, have labeled the enjoyment of shit I'm discussing here as "ironic consumption," "guilty pleasure," and/or "camp sensibility"). The end result is happiness though, and that's kinda the whole point of existing as bags of gas on this giant spinning rock, so maybe we should just roll with it.

People can enjoy a burrito for its spiciness, or a crunch wrap supreme for its crunchiness, or a waffle taco for its ... mmm ... Godliness.

Regardless of the route there, it gets you to a full belly, recharged vigour, spiritual fulfilment.

Which comes back to Baboon Fart Story. Reading the word "fart" for 200 pages may not be inherently enjoyable, but people liked it for a few reasons. They liked the ridiculousness of pee-pee and farts. They liked the contradiction of rampant ridiculousness living in a place where gatekeepers would typically kick it out. They liked what they believed that said about publishing in 2014. Best of all, they liked being a part of it all; the metadata for the book, rather than the book itself, was delightful. People's reviews (kindly archived by Kay Camden here) were the funniest part of the experiment.

Those are gone now. Which is ... hm ... okay, maybe I'll make one point about publishing: who the fuck is Amazon to provide a supposedly open platform for anybody to publish to, but also decide which kind of enjoyment is allowed to be derived from that platform?

Regardless of the experiment's result, I got a special kind of enjoyment out of seeing how much other people enjoyed it.

I'm not the first to tap into ironic enjoyment, or explore the implications of it. For example:

To summarize: if you force a fart, sometimes you get shit. Embrace the shit. Revel in the shit. Love the shit.

* For example:
  • You can see all the reactions on Twitter here (yes, I fed my hungry drooling ego with frequent Twitter searches). What weirds me out most is seeing some of my writing heroes react to my work. Except that work is fucking Baboon Fart Story
  • Chuck Wendig, who came up with the thought experiment, points out that it satirizes self-publishing while only existing because of self-publishing, but ended up saying more about Amazon than anything else. It's important to note, after all, that his premise was wrong; you can't just upload that cool motherfucker right to Amazon. However, his ultimate conclusion was that the goal of publishing is success, and as we saw, neither path will give that up easily.
  • Damien Walter emphasizes that casual viral dynamics are hitting ebooks.
  • Hugh J. O'Donnell used it as motivation: "I just want to do better than Baboon Fart Story."
  • David Alex Shepherd explored various lessons that could be learned from the farting baboon.
  • Fellow local writer James Shelley went further down the Dadaism path, exploring the role of rejection in art.
  • Edward Paul thought it proved that there will always be gatekeepers.
  • Misanthropology similarly called the death of the no gatekeepers theory.
  • Death is Bad went so far as to say that publishing to Amazon is not self publishing.
  • Venture Labs is the only place where you can hear the words "Baboon Fart Story" said out loud in video form.
  • Coventry Corner was inspired to dig deeper into Amazon's rating algorithm, and found that it is plagued with scams and fake reviews. And they're not even amusingly ironic.
  • Laura Roberts wrote SEX: A Saucy Baboon Fart Story Parody. You can probably guess what it's about.
  • Metro New York interviewed me to find out what I think of self publishing, and how to find a picture of a baboon drinking its own pee.
  • Charles Stross, as usual, took the story in a delightfully weird tangent; he proposed a method for adding meaning back into BFS by replacing all the farts with words, keeping only the punctuation and pagination, and wondered what that would mean.

-- R. Mutt


Friday, January 03, 2014

The Best Most Listened-To Albums of 2013: Top Ten

Every year, I use to track what I listen to, and at the end of every year I list the albums I listened to most. They may not be the best albums, or even my favourite, but something made me listen to them more than any others. Yesterday I counted down the honourable mentions, so today's the top ten.

I've italicized albums that I'd consciously choose as my favourites. Consider them recommendations to listen to if you're using this as a way to find new music. Do what you want with my bloggy.

  • 10. Daft Punk- Random Access Memories: I found it strange how hyped this album was. Somehow, not doing anything for a while caused Daft Punk to suddenly be the band everyone was talking about. The talk stopped shortly after the album was finally released, but the hype wasn't for nothing; Random Access Memories is a decent balance of artsy bullshit and accessible horseshit.
  • 9. Tricky - False Idols: Tricky hasn't changed much. 1995's Maxinquaye and 2013's False Idols have a similar sound. Yet this type of trip-hop doesn't, to me, sound retro. I guess that makes it timeless. What a tricky trick.
  • 8. Anamanaguchi - Endless Fantasy: It took me like ten tries to write that name and I'm still not sure if I got it right. Anyway, this is another Kickstarter-backed album consisting of crazy-ass 8-bit video game inspired insanity. It's like Mega Man is jizzing in my ears.
  • 7. Lady Gaga - ARTPOP: What's with stylizing album titles with capital letters? There are like 5 of them on this list alone. STOP YELLING, MUSIC. Anyway, I'm still clapping for Applause, the first single off of ARTPOP. The rest of the album is an improvement over 2011's Born This Way, but still tainted by the bullshit of trying too hard ("I've overheard your theory, nostalgia's for geeks" ... what? Nobody has ever said that), but it's pleasant enough.
  • 6. CHVRCHES - The Bones of What You Believe: I've been anticipating this album since I first heard Recover, an unironically 80s-influenced bit of synthy loveliness. The full album lives up to the promise of that single, and like I said before, I think fresh sounding albums like this are really what pop was about in 2013. There's an emotional honesty here that's missing in the faux-depth of ARTPOP or the calculated shock value of Bangerz. 
  • 5. Arctic Monkeys - AM: I always dismissed this band as another critically-acclaimed bore. But something changed with AM, with its fuzzy guitars and weepy lyrics. It scratches the same itch that the Black Keys do, except the Black Keys didn't put out an album in 2013, so I just let those monkeys go nuts and now I'm hardly itchy at all.
  • 4. Selena Gomez - Stars Dance: After seeing Gomez starring in Spring Breakers, all I can think of when I see her is James Franco creepily growling "spring breeeaaaak" over and over. Regardless, Stars Dance is one of my favourite straight-up pop albums of the year. The title track is a highlight, though I'm skeptical of her claim to be able to make stars dance. Stars are non-sentient balls of gas and do not respond to music. 
  • 3. White Lies - BIG TV: Probably the best of the "still doing the 80s voice" bands. The songs here stand out even aside from the retro atmosphere. It's cheesy, but a little cheese never hurt anyone. I particularly like blue cheese, even though it's basically rotten food. Seriously, blue cheese is like eating gunk from the garbage. Delicious, delicious garbage. Wait, what are we talking about? Oh yeah, music...
  • 2. Tegan and Sara - Heartthrob: This could have been a disaster, moving to a slick mainstream pop sound. However, what's always made Tegan and Sara special is their raw emotional core, and that remains intact even if it's surrounded by synths instead of guitars. It still feels weird to see them go from little Canadian folk duo to full-fledged pop stars hanging out with Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, but I can live with it if they keep making ditties that give my tear ducts a workout. 
  • 1. Haim - Days are Gone: Gosh damn I love this album. I don't even know why; it's mostly unremarkable pop songs, but they are just put together so perfectly. Haim's influences are from previous decades, but have a sincerity that makes their songs sound fresh in 2013. Once in a while, it's nice to listen to a bunch of actually-talented people doing good songs.

IT'S OVER. What did you listen to in 2013? Tell me in the comments.

If any of you are still out there, that is. Apparently I only blogged six times in 2013. I guess blogging is...well, not dead, but frail. Only useful for certain purposes. I'll still blog on the rare occasions when I have a thought that exceeds 140 characters though. Happy new year 'n shit.