I've never read a story that navigates the complexities of post-divorce relationships better than this Strings cap. Sharp, acerbic, sad and funny. Honest too, whether or not it's true. Intelligent. Sexual but not salacious. Checks all the boxes. I'm even partial to its 1st person present tense, whatcha call the natural POV. Kinda refreshing too, something literary, something that isn't sci-fi or fantasy for a change. Usually it's my biases that see me Portholing possibly borderline ventures. But here it's my predilection for idea-rich prose and relationship themes that leave me no choice but to Terminalize this bad girl for further consideration.
[Rocks shoos the squatting cat and stands his giant boombox on end atop his litter-filled lift-top desk, and climbs like Jack on the beanstalk, pages in hand. It's wobbly up there, and the air's a little thin. All face masks do is collect germs and spit and leave more to the imagination. He resists the urge to peer down Carol's top. He wonders what she's reading. Like a city worker emerging from a sewer, Rocks stands Terminalward and waves Kraner's offering like a white flag. Any color but red. "Moo?" What sound does a fish make? He doesn't push it this time. They know the drill.]
[Carol leans back in the pilot's chair, and sucks deep of the weed in the joint held betwixt her index finger and thumb]
Yeah, okay. So we examined parkhurst's capital and we found it lacking, right? It's been tossed to the crap pile, cousins. Sons of bitches, and, Christ fucking jesus, sisters too, right? Sisters of bitches, cock suckers. Oh damn, wait. Twat lickers unite, fuckers. Right? It's a little confusing currently. I've a female cousin who deems herself a boy, and I've a pretty awesome girlfriend who "defines" herself as a fucking elf. An elf. A fucking elf.
[Carol sucks the shit out of the joint, and she holds it in her lungs, holds it, holds it, and then she ex-fucking-hales. She relaxes into the pilot's chair]
Bulldust barges in, drinking directly from a coffee pot.
Who the hell is cursing so motherfucking much?
So, what kind of elf? High elf? Pini elf? Keebler elf? Does she wear those little flimsy forest people dresses which the wind blows ever so suggestively as she casts her magic spells? Asking for a friend.
Hey Bully Baby. Happily, anosmia is one of Covid's primary symptoms. And since I scored the pot at the last party I crashed, I'm good down here in the stank. Hey, while I got you: check out this THE UNFINISHED NOVELS OF MANDRAKE FLUKE. [Too tired to climb up onto his boom box today, Rocks makes 29 paper airplanes, and lets fly.]
"Any language that doesn't change the way you think about programming, probably isn't worth learning." The same has become increasingly true for me over the years with regards to reading and writing.
But here we have an epistolary narrative well worth Terminal and, I would think, Simian perusal. Sci-fi and philosophical ideas abound. It's rife with metaphor touching upon the (fucked up) human condition and loaded with publishing hilarity, specifics, and either insider or very keenly researched knowledge. The voices are erudite and articulate. An experimental, fun, multilayered, metafictive work unlike any I have read, and, only once or twice, if I may boast, tried to write. Like my own erstwhile efforts at this form, the voices do have a tendency to overlap a little. But this I can forgive, and even understand. Having read some of the Monkey's work, knowing its penchant for Wolfe-esque prose, and gore, I'm guessing it's going to like this one should it ascend to that lofty level.
There's cap you just know the VC read over zillions times, honing and refining, researching and revising; tales that were mused upon, day and night for weeks if not months if not years by writers who know inspiration is malleable, needs to be formed. Crafted's the word we like to toss around down here. And isn't that the greatest thing about writing... any art: making something way better than yourself? Sure it takes effort. It's why Thomas Mann said: “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”
Then there's cap that reads like it wrote itself in a few, if not fewer, inspired sittings. The grammar's fine, punctuated correctly, word count's often generous. The characters are okay, dialogue's credible (though sometimes over-abundant, chit-chat being a good way to avoid doing research or having to really describe anything). There's nothing wrong with these stories. They're easy to read, even skim, seem like they were probably fun, and not all that difficult, to write. They can be, at times, almost engaging. Rachael’s week at that hippie commune struck me as such a story. So, despite a gal-on-gal almost sex scene, the Porthole beckons.
[doomey backs into the Floor through the alley door, and he drags a body bag. his attire is shit, like maybe he's been living under a bridge for a few weeks, and blood in freely flowing down his upper lip, dripping off his whiskered chin. a lit pall mall hangs from his lips like scaffolding in one of those old black and white (?) motion fucking pictures, Buster Keaton shit, friends. the thick blood sheen? broken nose, maybe? hotdog eating contest? he drags the body bag to the glass tiles mid-Floor, and he releases the bag, straightens, grabs the pall mall from his lips, and he leans back and yowls]
[boligard slips the cigarette back twixt his lips and sucks in a sweet lungful. he exhales luxuriously. he shrugs a shoulder. he looks around the Floor. he nods at Carol]
Well, we’ve got Bulldust, that’s always pleasant. And we have the absence of the big toothed Theodore. And fucking DePlancher is gone, damn it, fuck. And I am swearing waaaay too much, that’s a problem. And Rockefeller talks to his VCs all the time. I mean like fucking all the time. And DePlancher’s cat has disappeared. Bukowski occasionally hangs out, but rarely anymore, and when he does he’s always pissed off, the bastard I ask him questions about the afterlife 'cause, well, you know, the subject interests me, and he goes all diamond hard, ices me and that's total bullshit, man. But hey, the mirror ball still spins, cousin. At least we got that.
[Rocks glances over at Doomey's bag. Jesus! His body bag!]
Some sort of court-ordered pitching in with the pandemic?
Full disclosure: I once told a therapist that I was a lesbian trapped in a man's body, evidenced by an aversion to any porn in which one or more parties are male, especially their cum shots.
But enough chit-chat. A decision must rendered on this Karmazin cap. It came with her cover letter stuck to its title page using some hard to identify, possibly bodily, substance. It's the best cover letter I've seen in my many years as a free-range slush reader. Maybe I'll send it up. As to the cap itself, not the best I've ever encountered, but a far cry from the worst. Indeed, I have reviewed considerably weaker works advanced to the Terminal where I was chained prior to my well-deserved demotion.
[Rocks adjusts his headphones.] Just a sec... Gotta sing along to this part.
Flies and rot and rats and snot and vomit on the floor...
Did Zappa ever work here? So who's that in the bag again?
The first question on some sponsored Facebook Covid-19 survey I never filled out the other day was, "Gender?" There were eight choices with a ninth being, "Other:" Does no one play the hand they're dealt anymore?
Sorry, I digress.
My favorite part of this intra-matrimonial gender reassignment piece was the MC's asking her husband how he'd feel if she were to surgically and hormonally transition into a hairy little scruffy-faced, big-dicked troll of a man. See, even though he still likes pussy, he's decided he's a woman (and gone to the usual lengths, including The Big Chop and an Adam's apple shave, to make it so) and feels she should be okay with continuing their marriage being he's still into her and everything. So this is a really tough call, a real fence-sitter. In the highly subjective and biased end, it just seemed to read a little too easily (and perhaps dispassionately?) written. If the MC wants to know how it would have fared, had I sent it upstairs instead of out the window, here: it would've garnered a split vote in the Terminal: Fish yea, Bull nay; then the Monkey would've passed. If you doubt me, maybe tighten and funny and philosophize and voice it up just a little. Then re-sub it under a different title in a month or two, and I will send it up, and you'll see. Promise.
[Carol's looking down on the wreck Bulldust left of the pilot's chair she'd just previously sat upon, prior. She toes the shrapnel]
[Carol pulls the fresh capital from her back pants pocket, unfolds it and scans the bullshit, the drivel. She waffles her weight from one boot to the other, and she purses her lips, glossed, watermelon]
Dudes, millennials excluded, we are not going to thrust upward Eat Your Heart Out, Albert Einstein. I feel bad, like I laid down with my girlfriends bestie and ate her pussy but forgot to finger her backdoor. I'll tell you, so many mornings I am ruing the day I walked into this house, this basement, this porno film...
[She looks over at Boligard]
Thank you for the rescue, cousin. Fucking cousin.
[Carol taps her lips]
Eat Your Heart Out has been tossed out the Porthole, Helen.
[Carol hangs her head, like maybe she's thinking about people close to her who have contracted the corona virus]
One of the most weirdly erotic things I've ever seen was on some nature show where a female wolf spider enters the den of and, by biting, paralyzes another female wolf spider, then chews off all her legs and carries her back to her own den in order to dine on her "succulent abdomen" at her leisure. Still almost gives me wood.
[Rocks takes a deep, calming breath, and pops another chocolate covered almond.]
Sorry, I thought that germane to this review. My bad.
Here we have a post-post-apocalyptic SF in which arachnids (spiders) have evolved to become the dominant species and humans into some sort of ground-dwelling grub upon which these new, larger, more intelligent spiders feed. We're delicious on the barbecue, and a good source of beauty products and pharmaceuticals as well.
Serves us fucking right, too, if you ask me. I mean, look how we treat pigs, our next most intelligent species here. Or chickens. Or mice. Or pretty much anything that thinks or procreates, or even just moves. We are the plague. So it's good some more evolved species has us under control.
I did a quick Bing search, and apparently:
During spider mating, the male spider deposits sperm into a sperm web then draws that sperm into his pedipalps. He uses his pedipalps to insert the sperm into both the female spider's genital openings, or epigynum. The female stores the sperm inside her body and chooses which sperm she prefers to use to fertilize her eggs, before laying up to a thousand fertile eggs into a silk egg sac.
Cool! Not one but two genital openings.
So it bothered me a little how much these new, improved arachnids have become like us. Like instead cannibalizing her mate post fertilization, laying zillions of eggs, which, upon hatching, often as not, cannibalize her, now female spiders seemingly give birth to the same small Leave-it-to Beaver-esque nuclear family units as non-Catholics did in the 60's. They've even stopped eating insects, and taken up alcohol.
A little dialogue heavy for my refined *harumph* literary sensitivities *sniff*. A bit too much beating of the horse pursuant to its demise, too, mayhaps. Most of the juxtapositions are clever, cute, gory. But it seemed odd that only humans are abused. What about other mammals? Is a big juicy cockroach no longer appealing? I wondered why the MC would comment on a human's nakedness. Aren't we all? If I saw a spider wearing clothes, now that'd be noteworthy, but hardly the opposite. And what about all the different races of spider? Do they all get along now? No Black Widows Matter movement?
Though other gatekeepers might feel otherwise, the excellent synopsis of the story provided by the author in her cover letter might have actually detracted a little from the read. For me, it was a bit of a spoiler, dampened the opening surprises a little.
So, even though I'm a vegetarian who agrees that, except for a few companion species, we treat animals like crap, I'm going to feed these 33 pages to the Porthole. If PETA has a zine, try them. Bet they'd go for it. You ought to at least get a free too-small t-shirt with Colonel Sanders gutting a chicken on it like I once did for some editorial I wrote for the local paper.