Bizarro Blursday: Cassie-la Reviews “Tall Tales with Short Cocks” from Etienne DeForest

Tall Tales with Short Cocks: A Bizarro Press Anthology [edited] by Etienne DeForest (Submission)
Genre: Bizarro fiction, short stories, anthology, zombies, satire, so that’s how FOX works
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Summary: A collection of nine bizarro short stories with genres ranging from satire to noir and written by a varied group of authors. Each story has its own theme, but don’t worry, as required by all anthologies there is a tale about zombies. Not to mention steampunk robots, diseased monkeys, dystopic world views, talking whales, angry squirrels and everything in between.

We’re very happy that in addition to reviewing Bizarro Blursday books for Eraserhead Press, we now get submissions from Bizarro Press. Long live the bizarro revolution! This anthology, whose title seems to hint that it will be the first of many sets, is a nice introduction for the new bizarro reader. While a bizarro novella can be quite daunting to the average reader, a collection of short stories is a lot easier to digest if you’re just entering the genre.

The anthology opens in a big way with the wonderful, “In the Flesh” by John McNee. It’s set in a dystopic, post-apocalyptic world that’s populated with robots. The story itself is narrated by a private eye hired by the infamous Clockwork Joe to find his lost love. Ultimately, it’s a cautionary tale about the reliance on machinery and our treatment of the earth. We learn about Grungehaven, a city with metal and wooden women and a part of town that’s called “damed” because a rush of water is being held back by an enormous dam. It’s also a story of love and redemption, but you’ll have to read it for yourself to see how.

Arthur Graham’s “Zeitgest” is another stand out piece, and the most involved. You may remember I also reviewed his fantastic story, Editorial on the last Bizarro Blursday. His story revolves around a man pitching his idea for a television series to the network BOX (there is a lot of punning here). BOX, which produces shows like “American Idle”, “Blind Mate”, “The Biggest Boozer”, and “Molested Development” are representative of everything that’s wrong with our choice of entertainment. The tale is peppered with fun little digs at real life FOX, like the cudgel toting eunuchs Hannity and Colmes and the yellow skinned cartoon creatures who live and breed inside a fountain. Not to mention the network wanting to take the narrator’s pitch and change it completely into a show called “Time Ghost”.

“The Zombies of Kilimanjaro” by Jon Konrath is the aforementioned zombie tale. Despite it being set during the rise of zombies, the world isn’t much changed, just full of zombies and a military tasked to deal with them. There’s still the internet and in turn Facebook and email, plus zombies have even evolved a little and occasionally ride motorcycles. The story itself is narrated by an ex zombie guard (now infected) who regrets not writing down all his life stories when he got the chance. Very sad, but very funny at the same time- especially when you hear the theory that the CIA invented malt liquor to sterilize you. They would do that.

The final story I was incredibly drawn to was Robin Wyatt Dunn’s “I Am a Whale”, which is a flow of conscious story from the point of view of an angry whale. It’s experimental, extremely different, and unlike anything I’ve ever read- even in this genre. The whale makes outrageous claims that it eats ponies and blonde daughters, created Hermione Granger, and that Harry S. Truman’s middle name is Chewbacca. I want this whale to be real so bad you have no idea.

As with other anthologies, it’s hard to like every single story found within. I preferred about four of the nine stories (above) to remaining five, but those I did like I enjoyed more than I disliked the stories that weren’t so entertaining to me. If that makes any sense at all. I have detailed the plots of these stories below on the off-chance that they speak to you more than they did to me.

“HELP! MY ASS HAS RABIES!” (no relation to Help! A Bear is Eating Me!) by Adam Millard is set at a satirical version of McDonald’s called simply, MacReady’s. A pair of bumbling FBI agents are transporting a monkey full of a disease known as ass rabies when they stop at this fast food restaurant and the monkey breaks loose. This immediately creates people with carnivorous ass butts (that’s not repetitive, that’s just what I wrote in my notes) and chaos ensues.

In “Yappy the Happy Squirrel” by Dominic O’Reilly, the plot revolves around a squirrel mansion/sanctuary run by some extremely intelligent rodents and one lonely janitor. In England. Despite housing 2,000 squirrels, two of which are Peruvian piranha squirrels, the Happy Squirrel Sanctuary Mansion doesn’t seem to be able to hire more than one man to clean up all that poop.

Wol-vriey’s “Mouse Trap” is set in a horrifying world where physics and the laws of nature don’t seem to apply. I would call it Pinkie Pie land, but it’s much scarier. And bloodier. In this world, parcels deliver themselves with their detachable legs and wings, wind up mice infest your homes, and bookworms that you put in your brains eat up knowledge for you and help you learn. All in all some interesting concepts, but it was a tad weird, even for me.

“Regressive” by Nathan J.D.L. Rowark was the story that I was torn on. I liked the premise and the overarching plot a lot, but I found it difficult to follow the dialogue and therefore separate the characters in my mind. It follows a wonder drug known as D.K. which was created by mixing the psychotropics found in weed, plant life from Mars, and the DNA of an African bear. Since there are no plants on Mars and the African bear (Atlas) went extinct a while ago, this is set in some sort of alternate reality and details the dangers of a drug which prolongs human life.

Finally, “Night of the Walrus” by Gabino Iglesias gives us televisions that work with smell-o-vision, beer that’s flavored like cheese, a cat that only sings Frank Sinatra Christmas songs, a talking walrus named Odobie, cyborgs, and the Church of the Super Mario Bros. It’s a lot to take in and is noir themed (not my cup of tea) which landed it as one of the less enjoyable stories in the anthology.

THE GOOD:
-“In the Flesh”, “Zeitgest”, “The Zombies of Kilimanjaro”, and “I Am a Whale”
-The strongest stories are high in humor, satire, and their messages

THE BAD:
– “HELP! MY ASS HAS RABIES”, “Yappy the Happy Squirrel”, “Mouse Trap”, “Regressive”, and “The Night of the Walrus”
-The weaker stories were too weird or too hard to follow

Regardless of my lukewarm feelings for one half of this collection, it’s nice to see another bizarro publishing company putting out books. There used to be a lot more, but over time they’ve shut down or merely stopped existing. And with so many extremely talented writers, it’s a company that has a lot going for it. Very excited to see what they come out with next.

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