The Kindle and paperback editions of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Saying Goodbye are now available.
Spaniels by Jukka Siikala
Jukka Siikala is primarily known as a visual artist. Throughout the years, he's done cover art mostly for black metal and power electronics artists. His work is wide-ranging, covering painting, collage, photography, music, and video. Spaniels, as far as I can tell, is his first work of fiction. The first few pages even includes some photographs by Siikala that capture the mood of the text.
This slim novella follows several days in the life of an unnamed man. He goes to the movies, hangs out with friends, goes on vacation, fails to get laid, fails to masturbate, and indulges in violent and perverted fantasies. He meets a woman at a flea market who he develops a fixation (it feels wrong to call it a "crush") on and fails to make a real connection with her.
The novella reminded me a lot of Michel Houellebecq. It's a bleak portrayal of masculinity in the modern world. The man, as the book calls him, is completely alienated from everyone around him. He believes himself to be unattractive and can't connect romantically or sexually with women, substituting with fantasy and pornography. His relationship with his friends is indifferent at best and antagonistic at worst. There are also moments of great dark humor, such as the man creating a rift with his aunt while fixing her computer because he accidently leaves behind a flash drive with porn videos on it
The deeper glimpses into the man's life reveal an even bleaker picture. At one point, he visits his father, only to find he's a drunk, non-verbal stupor and there's little he can do. One of the first things the man thinks about is how, years ago, a friend of his called his face "dog-like" and that he would never get a woman with it. This insult haunts him. The title comes from the man envisioning his superego as the face of a Spaniel dog; a whiney, submissive thing.
The man spends time with friends of dubious character, but seems to have no one else to go to. At one point he hangs out with another man who he describes as being so openly sexist, he's surprised women don't just immediately beat him with their purses. He insists on talking about immigration and how horrible Muslim men are to women.
The book switches from third to first person when the man indulges in his fantasies, usually of a violent nature. These often involve graphically murdering people in public for perceived slights and sometimes for no reason at all. At one point, he even replays a fantasy of beating two young men with how it would probably really go, ending with him bleeding on the floor.
At one point, the man sees a woman working in a flea market and is instantly attracted to her. His admiration of her is not at all subtle, and after to returning to see her again, it becomes obvious what he's doing. He does manage to strike a conversation with her when he offers to help with a printer the store is having trouble with. While the narrative doesn't state so, it's very likely this doesn't go anywhere.
The entire final chapter of the book is one of the man's fantasies. It's an almost pornographic description of an encounter with the woman at the flea market in the store's bathroom. However, the unrealistic fantasy is accompanied by the man nearly failing to have the encounter due to his own hesitation. It even ends on a sour note of the man's climax being ruined when her gaze reminds him of a Spaniel.
Spaniels is a dark, often funny, and often depressing look at modern life. It examines desire and how one is forced to navigate it with frustrating and unsatisfying results. Much like Siikala's other art, it's not for everyone, but it's a rewarding experience.
Sweet, Sour, & Spicy by Bridgett Nelson
This is a collection of three horror stories corresponding to the title.
"Sweet: Bark Off" - A young man fights ghosts haunting him and his family with the help of his pugs. This is a cute and fluffy story. Pretty sentimental, but still a fun read.
"Sour: Giggly" - A therapist finds her patients are being targeted by a serial killer who loves torturing his victims with a Gigli saw. Man, I did not like this one at all. It does have some vivid and brutal murder scenes that are well done, but I didn't buy the plot at all. Especially the final twist. It also, unintentionally, I'm pretty sure, plays into some very ugly and dated attitudes.
"Spicy: Rewards" - An erotic horror tale about two couples who go to a cabin for a weekend of naughty fun when things take a nasty turn for the worse. This one had some good build up and went in a different direction than I was expecting from the cabin in the woods set up. A much better extreme horror story that the previous one.
To nitpick a bit, there were also several word and dialogue choices I found awkward throughout all three stories. I did, however, enjoy this enough that I'll probably pick up one of Nelson's other books in the near future.
My debut short story collection, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Saying Goodbye, is back in print. It was originally published back in 2018 by a small Utah-based outfit called NihilismRevised. They were a press that burned bright before fading out.
Now, after a couple years out of print, this collection of weird, funny, depressing, and experimental stories is back through feel bad all the time, the same people who bring you the feel bad dispatch.
As of this post going out, it’s exclusively an ebook through Godless.com. However, it will be available on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon in about two weeks.
A special thanks to Drew Stepek for the platform on Godless and to Regina Watts for doing the interior layout and typesetting.
Here are my favorite books that I read in 2024. As usual, these are book I read, not necessarily books released in 2024.
10. Mother Howl by Craig Clevenger
A highly memorable crime story about lost identity.
9. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante
Elena Ferrante writes about the beauty and horror of life with one of the keenest eyes in contemporary literature.
8. Sea of the Patchwork Cats by Carlton Mellick III
One of Mellick's more dream-like stories, also one of his most melancholy. A depressed alcoholic finds himself alone after the entire human race committed suicide. It only gets odder and sadder from there.
7. Generation X by Douglas Coupland
I'd been pretty lukewarm on what I'd read from Coupland before. This story of disaffected Gen-Xers, however, very much lives up to the hype.
6. Marshal Law: Fear and Loathing by Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill
Before The Boys, there was Marshal Law. An early parody/deconstruction of superhero comics that holds up better than ever.
5. The Passenger/Stella Maris by Cormac McCarthy
McCarthy's final word to the world was amazing. The two books are companions, so I'm counting them as one.
4. Notice by Heather Lewis
A pitch-black noir story about addiction, prostitution, and abuse. I reviewed this one for my The Unreprinted column, and I'm happy to say Semiotext(e) is bringing it back into print next year.
3. The Works of Guillaume Dustan, Vol. 1 by Guillaume Dustan
Dustan invites us into his life in Paris, one haunted by the specter of the AIDS crises as a gay man in the 90's. The results captured in these three short novels are honest, fascinating, and gripping.
2. Haunter/Soma by Charlee Jacob
This poetic novel of imperialism and religious horror sets the bar for extreme horror and splatterpunk very high.
1. Your Dreams by Thomas Moore
Thomas Moore's work continues to simultaneously be some of the most disturbing and the most tender and affectionate that I've ever read.
- Spaniels by Jukka Siikala
- The Shards by Bret Eason Ellis
- The Enchanters by James Ellroy
- The Man in My Basement by Walter Mosley
- Neo-Decadence Evangelion, edited by Justin Isis
“What really killed Saturday morning cartoons?
For Caleb, dealing with puberty and all the changes that come with the raging hormones is confusing enough without also living in an America still reeling from the tragedy of 9/11. When his young cousin attacks him with a knife, seemingly without provocation, it turns his whole life upside down. Who would believe a middle school boy that something strange came from the TV that Saturday morning and made it happen?
Saturday Morning Mind Control is a mix of horror, mystery, and satire combined with a twisted coming-of-age tale in an America entering the new millennium.”
My newest novel, published by D&T Publishing, is now available exclusively as an ebook from Godless.com. Fans of my prior horror novel, Elaine, will probably really enjoy this one. I had a lot of fun writing it.
For those who want a Kindle version or a paperback, it’ll be available on Amazon 8/11/23.
Today, PsychoToxin Press releases the charity anthology, 666 Flags. It features the bizarro sci-fi story from myself, "The Sex of Tomorrow."
Recently, author C. Derick Miller was let go from his job at a certain amusement park franchise, essentially for being a horror author. PsychoToxin is responding to this by creating a legal defense fund for indie authors.
The paperback is available from Amazon, but you can also buy the eBook directly from PsychoToxin. In the case of the latter, 100% of your purchase will go to the legal fund.
Thank you to PsychoToxin for having me as a part of this.