One of my favorite books from last year was Leech Girl Lives, by Rick Claypool. It’s a wonderfully satirical and decidedly leftist novel about a safety inspector in the far-future who gets exiled from her bubble-city after being framed in a plot to create an unsafe environment. While in the wilderness, two symbiotic leeches devour her arms and latch on to her shoulders, and things only get stranger from that point. There’s a LOT going on with this book, the ideas it tangles up, and the surreal world it presents. Which means there’s a lot of possible angles from which it looks a little like other books.
So you enjoyed this bizarre romp of a book and are still hungry for more. If…
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I’ve just gotten a short story about incorporeal solidarity published in the magazine Speculative City alongside awesome writers like dave ring, Stefani Cox, and Robin M. Eaves! It’s a great magazine from some really sharp publishers, so give it a look!
“Oh Ghost of Mine” is a story featuring Decca, one of the characters from To Another Abyss. The plot is completely separate so you don’t need to have read the novel beforehand, but you can totally pick up a copy afterwards if you want more of her snerky socialist supernatural solutions.
I think what first kicked off this story idea was a couple friends of mine who were having a discussion about where modern freelancers and the self-employed fit in to traditional Marxist class structure, and what shape a worker’s “solidarity” can take when they don’t really have co-workers or managers.
I don’t have much background in political theory so the first and most amusing answer I could come up with was “choose a line of freelance work that will grift the rich.” Which I find satisfying on a visceral level, but it isn’t really practical career advice, so I was left to explore it in fiction. I couldn’t think of any stories where someone had actually turned that old line about “the specter of communism” into a literal specter, and what’s the point in a metaphor like that if you can’t literalize it every now and then?
Moreover, ghosts are a pretty good model for activism. If you look at any story from M.R. James all the way back to Hamlet, ghosts have always known that the only way you’re going to get results if you start pestering folks who are comfortable with the status quo. Loudly. In their own bedrooms if that’s what it takes.
Part of my day job entails coming up with Read-Alikes: little lists for popular books that can direct readers to other titles based on sharing similar themes, concepts, or aesthetics. For example, Laird Barron’s The Croning could be on a Read-Alike list for Jeff VanderMeer’s City of Saints & Madmen due to them both dealing with strange nonhuman entities and toying with the reliability of historical accounts. Diehard cosmic horror fans could probably quibble over the finer points of the comparison, but it’s a way of saying “if you liked X, try Y” for people who may not be that familiar with the genre.
And if there’s one thing common to the genres I like the most, it’s that lots of folks aren’t familiar with them.
So here’s a list of Read-Alikes for To Another Abyss. If…
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If the title and cover weren’t enough of a sign, punk music has been a pretty big influence on my writing. There was a period of a year or so in my teens where I’d spend afternoons laying face-down on my bedroom floor listening to a new (to me) Bad Religion album with liner notes in one hand and a dictionary in the other. But it goes beyond just the vocabulary and invective; I’m pretty sure listening to so many albums that blow through 14 songs in ~30 minutes is the reason my novel barely breaks 50k words.
A couple songs work as themes for specific characters, but most of them are just thematically-aligned with the book in general: songs about selling out, overestimating one’s own abilities, wails of existential despair, a psychobilly song about primordial sea-creatures. I guess the last one isn’t a theme so much as it is something that just plain appears in the text, but hey, what’s more punk than being too on-the-nose with your lyrics?
Dust off your checkerboard Vans and enjoy!
For those of you who don’t use Spotify, here’s the track list:
Mouthwash – Fool’s Gold
Strung Out – Mind Of My Own
Propagandhi – Anti-Manifesto
Osker – Ballad of a Traitor (Hiii Ian!)
Tsunami Bomb – Dawn on a Funeral Day
Bad Religion – We’re Only Gonna Die
Tiger Army – Nocturnal
Refused – New Noise
Sick of it All – Scratch the Surface
Minor Threat – I Don’t Wanna Hear It
Chelsea Wolfe – Advice and Vices
Chelsea Wolfe – Pale on Pale
Priests – Suck