The Earworm Inception by Jon Konrath (Submission)
Genre: Bizarro fiction, short stories, humor, would much rather this world existed- minus the cannibalism
Rating: 4.66 out of 5 stars
Summary: Author Jon Konrath enjoys straddling the line between fact and fiction in this twenty short story collection laden with popular culture references. In this alternative history, cannibalism is all the craze, R Kelly made history by leading police on a high speed chase, kids are getting high on Metamucil, Crispin Glover is the president, everything is Julia Roberts fault, and zombies are just an everyday occurrence. It’s all normal in Konrath’s world.
The majority of the stories in this collection, which are written in super short flash fiction, feature strange characters in an even stranger universe intriguingly similar to our own. They also seem to revolve around author Jon Konrath, called Kon by his close-friend (in the novel) Rick Perry and the strange circumstances that revolved around his semi-fictional life. Everyone in these tales are marked with unique character traits, hilarity, and popular culture references galore. In a word: bizarro. (NOTE: The Earworm Inception is currently available for free on the Kindle!)
Half the stories are titled like “Big Bang Theory” episodes, from “The Chainsaw Baron Prophecy”, to “The Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test Manifesto”, “The Chapman Protocol Conundrum”, “The MovieFone Snuff Film Agenda”, and the titular “The Earworm Inception”. Still others read like newspaper headlines, such as: “Nancy Grace Shit-fits and why you should start learning how to make soap and ammunition” and “40% of all UFO sightings that lead to anal coring of cattle take place on a Monday or Friday”. The titles will have you laughing, and the stories will keep you reading.
We are initially introduced to this parallel world in “The Chainsaw Baron Prophecy”, which revolves around a copy editor who gets high on mass amounts of fiber (Metamucil, not a name for a fancy new drug) and builds robots. The goal is to build a robot who can play Ozzy’s “Crazy Train”, which is tied into a specific childhood memory of robots and Black Sabbath.
In “The Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test”, we get the distinct impression these stories operate in the same world, particularly because of a mention of fiber as a drug being treated by pharmacies like our world’s Robitussin or Claritin. The protagonist works in a fireworks store in the desert, and through his inner ramblings we learn about an Amish/Rastafarian cult that believes Jesus will return in 1987 to create a new TV network to compete with ABC, NBC, and CBS, a Boba Fett enthusiast making a replica Slave I, and a rise in cannibalism. After the cupcake and food truck craze went away, it was replaced by cannibalism, a telling story considering all the cannibalism in the news lately. Jon Konrath is obviously a psychic author.
“What We Talk About When We Talk About Canine Nutrasweet Poisoning” is the title of the story, but also the title of the story the story is about. Yeah, that makes sense. It’s a story in a story that shares the same title, much like Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin, but without the adultery. The author of the story in the story is obsessed with Nabokov and masturbation metaphors, and through it we learn all about President Crispin Glover. Celebrity is incredibly important in this alternate world. Yes, even more than ours, a world in which you can have no talent and still be famous.
“The Chapman Protocol” revolves ar0und a man being interviewed by his medical insurance company for a new diagnostic port on his liver to keep his “Check Liver light” from going on. The patients writes instruction manuals for Weapons of Mass Destruction, and once met the inventor of the lethal injection at an Evel Knievel themed Rosh Hashanah party. In the less strange story, “Nancy Grace Shit-fits and why you should start learning how to make soap and ammunition”, the news is peppered with stories like: “Children abducted for FarmVille related death rituals!”, and the motto of the world is: when in doubt, blame Julia Roberts. Particularly for the dumbing down of America and five Bring it On movies.
Since everything needs to have a zombie story these days (which I’ve discussed in other anthology reviews), “The 15-Minute Rule of Pizza No Longer Applies Post-Zombie Apocalypse” is there to fill in that gap. However, in Konrath’s world, zombies haven’t really stopped our flow of ideas, nor the world’s forward momentum. There is still the internet, pizza delivery men, and we still have our same old lifestyles, there’s just the added addition of zombies in the world. People will still mooch money off you, and “CSI” will still perpetuate the stereotype that zooming and enhancing on something will actually work.
“Dredging the Holiday Nostalgia” and “I Believe I Can Flee the State” are both pop culture-centric pieces, the former dealing with a school for gifted pyromaniacs who always watch the “Christmas movie”, Surf Nazis Must Die and the latter focused on R. Kelly. After stealing an Oscar Meyer weinermobile, possibly after peeing on an undercover officer, the world watches the high speed chase and our narrator auditions for a spot in Abe Lincoln and Hellen Keller’s speed metal band.
Anyone not a fan of former presidential hopeful Rick Perry will love this “humanizing”, AKA he’s your typical gun toting conservative, story entitled, “Ten Reasons Rick Perry Isn’t Getting the New Amazon Tablet”. In the tale, our author talks to his zine buddy Rick Perry who calls him late one night, having been doing drugs and signing death warrants all night. The story is an inner look at the life of the Texas Governor, who is looking for a tablet to store all his pornography on. Pornography, don’t leave home without it.
If you’re into time travel, “Bozo R. Budd John Wayne Gacy Dwyer and the Inevitable Meltdown of Mets Pitching” is the story for you. From the discussion of alternate universes and a time traveling tax, we get to wonder just what “Hitler’s Next Nazi American Hair Stylist” and “Nazi Youth Do the Funniest Things” would be like.
“Why I do not subscribe to Hallucinogenic Aficionado” brings back Dr. Doom (still not that Dr. Doom) and discusses the side effects of drugs. You know those commercials: may cause dry skin, constipation, stroke, or death- in this world, drugs side effects include killing the homeless and necrophilia. Don’t worry, it’s in all the commercials. Also, you may have inappropriate dreams about Tom Arnold after sex reassignment surgery.
Finally of note, is “The Earworm Inception”, which wins the award for best quote in the collection. “Dude, you took quite a blow there… You’re lucky you’re really an android and this entire existence is really an alternate reality for a Marvel Comics reboot that never happened.”
-The world Konrath creates is a fun, alternate view of our own world
-Popular culture references are fun, particularly for the not so celeb-obsessed
-The characters, some of which are reoccurring are unique and quirky
-One of those books you don’t want to put down (a quick, fun read)
-Not every story was a standout, but there were none I disliked
Bizarro often gets a bad rap for being not so grounded in the literary, but Jon Konrath’s collection calls all those beliefs into question with his vivid writing and intriguing story lines. He’s no one genre wonder, this is one bizarro collection that could be embraced by plain old fiction.