Monster/Headless/Loop 12/06/20


Last night Rios and I watched Crawl. Extremely tight, effective monster movie about a father and daughter trapped in a crawlspace during a Florida hurricane, hunted by big ass alligators. After it finished, Hulu recommended a show called Monsterland. I let it play out.

The first episode is an extremely depressing (and slightly poverty-pornish) story about a waitress in a dead-end Louisiana town who has to deal with her troubled daughter, and also shapeshifters. Think The X-Files by way of True Detective.

Now I’ll admit, halfway through the episode I asked Rios to look up just what in the fuck we were watching. We’d seen a woman get beaten up by her baby daddy, her daughter drowned (not to death), and that same woman have sex with a serial killer. It felt dark and ugly.

She read from her phone: “This is based on a short story collection, North American Lake Monsters, by Nathan Ballingrud…”

I stopped her. Nathan wrote this shit?

Six years ago, maybe seven, before I left Oklahoma for Portland, I had just started Broken River. I’d been contacted by Nathan, who was interested in having me publish his follow-up to NAM, The Atlas of Hell. I read the first short story, which had hillbillies in a Louisiana swamp reading from a Necronomicon. It was ugly and depressing, but so fucking well written.

We talked on the phone, and because Broken River was so small, I couldn’t give him an advance. He moved in a different direction. And a good one, at that! TV show on Hulu, nicely played.

That’s something that’s weird about being in the writing world long enough, is that you come to know everyone who makes the TV shows, the people who make the big books. You know who’s an asshole, who’s not. Nathan is definitely not. Anyway, finding out that his book became this show made me happy. It is definitely dark, not for everybody, but I’m happy that his difficult stories made it to stream.


I got this by googling “monster headless loop”.

In the darkest ocean depths surrounding Antarctica lurks the majestic “headless chicken monster”. This swimming sea cucumber, Enypniastes eximia, was first caught on film in the Gulf of Mexico in 2017. Our researchers got a surprise recently when another one popped up on camera in the Southern Ocean for the first time, at a depth of three kilometres.


Then came this in the YouTube hole.


And then this…that’s enough internet for today.

Headless 12/05/20


I didn’t finish The Loop yesterday, because I became distracted. I really do need to finish it. I’m going to have Jeremy on the podcast soon. He was my very first publisher and one of my best pals. Looking forward to the ride ahead. It’s a lot of fun so far. Something I’ll never get tired of telling people is that a character in this book is based at least in part on me. When he is introduced, one of the first descriptors is that he has bad posture.

I will finish it…but first, I have to finish this one. I picked it up on Kindle after another rabbit hole. I found Goldin+Senneby (the Swedish artist duo behind the novel) through “The World for the Trees” article by Gary Zhexi Zhang, which details various new ways artists are reinventing the way stories are told. Interesting sync: the article first mentions the piece Crying Pine Trees (2018-present), in which Goldin+Senneby have attempted to send a genetically modified pine tree into sap overdrive, in the interest of investigating (fixing?) autoimmune disorders. Katie Kitamura will simultaneously write a novel (IIRC a chapter every year) as the genetically modified saplings grow.

What a coincidence then, that for the past week or so Ms. Kitamura has been staring at me from the back cover of A Separation, right next to a Jeff Jackson ARC.

Anyhow, back to Headless. It’s a mystery novel that was written in conjunction with several live talks over the course of 2007-2015. G+S (more on them at some point) were interested in “investigating offshore companies” in the Bahamas, etc. If something doesn’t exist hard enough, it begins to exist. That’s what the novel is: the existence of something that powerfully did not.


I will never not take an opportunity to shout out one of my favorite bands of all time. I used to spend summers with my grandmother, and on one of those summers I downloaded Napster on her computer. I was in a deep pirate fugue state, clicking everything labeled “System of a Down” (remember how you could find really, really deep cuts?), and one of those tracks, “Mushroom Cult,” was in fact a Dog Fashion Disco song.

It had Serj guesting on it. Remember though, how things would be intentionally mislabeled? You think you’re getting a Bloodhound Gang song, and you end up with something three levels deep into the Dark Carnival. What a time that was to be alive.

Anyhow, this isn’t their best song, even off of this album, but it reminds me of a different time. They hadn’t come for us, yet.