My favorite book back in high school was The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. I’ve probably reread it more times than any other book. Working as an editor ruined the book for me. After editing for a while, I just couldn’t deal with reading the book anymore because the prose is a mess. Despite that, it has had a huge impact on my literary tastes. It started me out on a particular path in regards to my choice of reading. More importantly, it changed my life, significantly more than any other book that I ever read. It brought me over to an agnostic way of thinking, but not only in regards to the existence or lack of existence of God, but in all matters of thinking. For instance, my girlfriend during college once asked, “Would you still date me if I became a burn victim?” I responded something like, “I would definitely like to think so, but I wouldn’t truly know unless it actually happened.” Needless to say, that got me into a little trouble (I should have lied). In addition to provoking arguments with girlfriends, The Illuminatus! Trilogy caused me to think that ANYTHING is possible, and nothing has served me better in life than that.
Check out my TV Snorted My Brain review blog. It contains reviews of TV shows unlike any you have read before. If the idea of reviews of television shows doesn’t sound the least bit appealing, this may be the blog for you. It also contains guest reviews by other bizarro authors like Cameron Pierce, Mykle Hansen, and Andrew Wayne Adams.
Bizarro fiction books often use high-concept ideas, which help grab the interest of potential readers.
Marvel Comics is currently doing the same thing. You may be familiar with DC’s New 52 where they cancelled all of their comics, got rid of all continuity (well, nearly all) and started fresh, and came out with fifty-two new comics that all started with issue 1 (some comics were previously existing titles and some were entirely new).
Now Marvel is following in their footsteps with Marvel Now, which is slightly different because they’re not changing continuity. Also, a few titles were saved from cancellation. Basically, all the new titles got (or are getting) a new creative team and most of them are using a high-concept idea. Also, unlike the New 52, a few new titles begin each month rather than starting all at once. The Amazing Spider-Man is one that is getting the axe (after 700 issues)
So I’m going to give a quick overview of the high-concept titles. Some don’t really work as high concept unless you’re already familiar with Marvel stuff. I mention writers more than artists because I’m more of a “writer guy.”
I’m a big fan of writer, Brian Michael Bendis. A few issues have been released so far and this is my favorite Marvel Now series so far (so I’ll describe it in a little more detail than the rest).
This is what it’s about: Cyclops is now evil, sort of. Like Magneto-evil, although Magneto has been a good guy for a while, although no longer. Now he’s chilling with Cyclops and doing sort of evil stuff with other sort of evil mutants who used to be the good guys. Did I mention who Cyclops murdered? I probably shouldn’t mention who.
Basically, suddenly tons of people have mutant powers whereas previously there were less than 200 mutants. The new mutants are accidentally fucking up shit because they can’t control their powers, so cops and soldiers want to kill them. So Cyclops and his gang are swooping in and saving the new mutants with extreme violence.
The Beast is all like, “If Cyclops from the past could see himself now, he would hate himself.” So then he travels back in time to when Stan Lee was writing the X-Men comic in the sixties and recruits the original X-Men to take down Cyclops and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
What if the Avengers and the X-Men were combined into the same superhero team?
Well, Wolverine was already an Avenger, but the rest weren’t.
The comic is written by Rick Remender. I’ve never been crazy about his writing, but it’s been pretty decent so far. Also, John Cassaday does the art and he’s pretty great. The comic seems “important,” as if it what happens in it will have a strong impact on Marvel’s other titles.
What if Captain America got trapped in a crazy alternate dimension that’s all science fiction-y?
Seems to have a John Carter of Mars vibe to it.
It’s also written by Remender. I’ve only read the first issue. Didn’t care for it.
Having Captain America trapped in another dimension while simultaneously appearing in other titles, where he isn’t trapped, is a good example of twisted Marvel comic logic. It seems like he’s been appearing in almost every title since the Avengers movie came out.
What if the Avengers were the characters in Battle Royale (or The Hunger Games)? You know, they have to compete against each other. Winner is the last person alive. The prize is their life.
Obviously Marvel can’t actually kill off the Avengers because too many characters would need to come back from the dead. But if they kill off characters that are less significant, like teenagers who are training to be Avengers (and are also the same age as the characters from the books who inspired this comic), they don’t have to bring them back from the dead.
What if S.H.I.E.L.D. recruited the Hulk to work for them as an agent?
(In case you don’t know, S.H.I.E.L.D. is Marvel’s version of the C.I.A.)
Punisher War Zone
What if the Avengers decided they weren’t cool with the Punisher running around and murdering criminals anymore?
(This is a limited series, not a continuing series.)
What if America’s dead presidents start coming back to life with superpowers and totally evil? It would probably look pretty bad if a guy like Captain America beat the crap out of an undead Abraham Lincoln. So S.H.I.E.L.D. decides to recruit a total dick to take care of their dead president problem: Deadpool.
It’s co-written by comedians, Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan.
What if the first issue hints that it’s going to be a high-concept title and makes it seem like it’s a really big deal but doesn’t actually give the concept yet?
Still, it’s definitely worth checking out because it’s written by Jonathan Hickman. I’ve been reading his issue of Fantastic Four recently and they are FANTASTIC.
What if the Marvel universe’s most marketable anti-heroes were recruited for the same team?
(Deadpool, Punisher, Electra, Venom, Red Hulk)
Is the Red Hulk marketable? I’m not familiar enough with him. He’s Thunderbolt Ross: army general, the Hulk’s father-in-law (although I don’t think Bruce Banner is married anymore), one of the Hulk’s most significant antagonists over the years. He probably stopped being an antagonist when he started being a hulk (his daughter is a hulk now too, and she’s also red).
The first issue was fun. Steve Dillon, of Preacher fame, did the art.
And then there are a few new titles that aren’t really high concept:
The writer says, “If you were given the chance to reinvent humans into any other form, what would you do with it? In those first five issues, it allows me in each to show a different take on it.”
Basically, a bunch of different bad guys buy a technovirus in an auction. The virus reinvents humans. Iron Man decides to take them down.
Fantastic Four and FF
Both titles are written by Matt Fraction, who is one of my favorites. Mike Allred, of Madman fame, does the art on FF. He’s also one of my favorites and has a pop art style.
In Fantastic Four, Mister Fantastic discovers that the cosmic radiation that gave him and his family their powers is now killing them. He decides to bring them on a trip through time and space in order to discover the cure. He keeps the “killing them” thing secret, so he tells them it’s an educational journey for their kids.
As far as FF, the team is only going to be gone for 4 minutes because of time travel kind of stuff. But what if something goes wrong? So they recruit four heroes to take their place while they’re gone. I expect something to go wrong.
Thor: God of Thunder
A bad guy is killing gods. Thor has battled him before: when he was younger before he had his hammer. He also battles him in the future when he’s old and grey. So the narrative switches between the past, present, and future and does a good job at it. It’s also written by Jason Aaron, who writes Wolverine & the X-Men, which is one of my favorite comics.
So unless I missed something (with the exception of X-Men Legacy/Cable and X-Force), those are all the new titles so far. There will be more debuting in the future.
If Wolverine being the headmaster of the Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters rather than Professor X sounds appealing to you, you must read this comic. If you liked Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men, this is very much in the same vein, but it’s more comedic and fun. Like Morrison’s run, Quentin Quire is also a student at the school, and he’s probably my favorite Marvel character at the moment. And although he’s not the current artist on the title anymore, Chris Bachalo’s art on the title was just fantastic. He kind of has a pop art sensibility and people who are into traditional comic art seem to complain a lot about him.
If you don’t know who the hell Grant Morrison is, but just want to check out a Marvel comic, I strongly recommend this one. It’s one of the best that the company publishes at the moment and it’s only been coming out for about a year and a half, so it’s easy to catch up with if you read the collected editions.
Here’s a preview of my favorite issue so far. Check it out to see why I’m so into the comic. (The art for the issue is awesome, but it was done by Mike Allred <of Madman fame> rather than Bachalo. Allred also just started working on a new Fantastic Four-related comic called Ff with Matt Fraction, who writes Hawkeye.)
Hawkeye is written by Matt Fraction, who is one of my favorite authors at the moment. David Aja provides the art, and never before have I read a comic where the art enhanced the storytelling to such a large degree. Usually, I don’t care much about artwork. For me, it just needs to be adequate enough to tell the story. And occasionally I’ll read a comic with art that is so good that it would be appropriate to hang up each panel in a museum, but that sort of thing still rarely enhances the story. If Hawkeye had been drawn by a different artist, it would be an entirely different comic. It’s like a cross between a superhero comic and an alternative slice of life comic such as Adrian Tomine’s Optic Nerve or Strangers in Paradise.
Marvel is doing something similar to DC’s New 52 called Marvel NOW! where they’re cancelling most of their comics and starting new ones in their place. Unlike the New 52, Marvel isn’t erasing all of their continuity. Hawkeye is one of the few titles that isn’t getting axed, probably because it’s critically acclaimed, a fan favorite (at least I assume), and hasn’t been going for very long (so it’s a good time to start reading it).
I’m the kind of comic reader who follows writers rather than characters. Ordinarily, I hate the character, Hawkeye, but I love this comic. (The comic also star Kate Bishop. She is a teenager who also goes by the Hawkeye name.)
I spend a lot of time, perhaps too much time, watching TV and reading comics. I’m going to talk about a some of my favorite comics during the next few days.
Batman is one of the best comics being released at the moment. I say “Batman,” I’m referring to the main title rather than the numerous others devoted to the character. It’s written by Scott Snyder, who is a graduate of the top creative writing grad program in the country and the author of a collection of literary fiction stories put out by a division of Random House (which I haven’t read). His current run on Batman began when DC did their whole “New 52” thing where all their stories started over from the beginning, although he also wrote it previous to the big change. Because of this, it’s really easy to catch up, starting with the first issue of the comic, which has been collected in a trade paperback. Snyder also writes a comic about vampires for Vertigo, but Batman is my favorite character; perhaps my favorite character ever from all works of fiction. Although this is the case, there are few writers who have written issues of Batman that I’ve been really into. Grant Morrison is one of these authors, but Snyder’s writing is a lot more traditional, which is a nice change. From the start of his current run, the primary antagonists have been an organization called the Court of the Owls. They sound pretty stupid, but the issues with them have been great. Also, he recently started writing his first story arc featuring the Joker, which has been a real treat. Check the comic out if you get the chance.
Author, Douglas Hackle, wrote this testimonial about my editing:
When I hired Bradley Sands to edit my collection of short stories, I did so somewhat begrudgingly, not sure the manuscript needed it. There just didn’t appear to be anything he or anyone else could do to improve a thing that was already damn-near perfect—this polished manuscript of overflowing awesomeness of mine. But I sent it to him anyway.
Then I waited . . . .
When an email from Bradley arrived in my inbox with his edits attached to it, I was seated at my writing desk squirming around in my chair due to some major discomfort in my gluteal region. Ignoring my butt pain, I opened the email and was startled to see an arm emerge from my computer screen like some ghost limb, an arm that presumably belonged to Bradley Sands. In the upturned palm of his hand rested a metal serving platter with a domed lid just like they use at fancy restaurants. Frightened but intrigued, I reached forward and gingerly raised the lid . . . and I was astounded to see a hairy, pimply, chalk-white ass sitting there on the platter.
Panic set in. I leaned forward, reached back with both my hands, and felt around my posterior to confirm my suspicions: My ass was indeed gone—and Bradley “The Sandstorm” Sands had just handed it to me on a fucking platter!!!
After refastening my ass to my hindquarters using duct tape and superglue, I opened the attached file to discover that Bradley had handed me my ass editorially as well.
In conclusion, Bradley Sands is thorough, candid, timely, and highly knowledgeable about the mechanics of writing and the craft of writing stories. And he’ll hand you your ass if need be. That’s a good thing. That’s what you want.
Go here to find out more about my editing services.
My new novel, TV Snorted My Brain, was just published by LegumeMan Books.
Artie Pendragon loves anarchy, pee wee soccer games, and midget wrestlers. He really hates high school, but his plan to blow up his school is interrupted when he is declared the king of TV Land. After taking the throne, Artie’s pro-wrestling, non-midget uncle steals it from him and enforces a strict policy of censorship throughout the land. To defend himself against his uncle’s piledrivers and take back what is rightfully his, Artie must go on a quest for the Holy Grail, which is the only thing that will make his Excalibur 3000 remote control work properly.
TV Snorted My Brain is a modern-day retelling of the King Arthur myth that happens inside your television set. Come along with Artie as he journeys through the various channels of TV Land and recruits knights along the way to help him overthrow his uncle and bring anarchy to the land.
I occasionally work as a freelance editor. I’m looking to take on a project for the month. Do you have a book that you would like me to edit? If so, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we can discuss my rates.
Regarding my qualifications: I have an MFA in Creative Writing from Naropa University. While at school, I worked as an associate editor for Bombay Gin, the university’s literary journal. I also worked as an editor for their summer writing program’s magazine. In addition, I was formerly the Editor-in-Chief of Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens (currently, I am a contributing editor). I also used to work as an assistant editor for Weird Tales.
Last year, I edited the story collection, Hooray for Death! It was written by Mykle Hansen, who is also the author of HELP! A Bear is Eating Me! Mykle was kind enough to write about his appreciation of my work. I have included what he wrote below:
BRADLEY SANDS: AN APPRECIATION
I met Bradley Sands through the literary circles in which we both move. While he was editor of the small press journal BUST DOWN THE DOOR AND EAT ALL THE CHICKENS, he earned a reputation for thoughtfulness, frankness and uncompromising standards. My first piece accepted by that journal was much improved by Bradley’s feedback. When Eraserhead Press agreed to publish my fifth book, HOORAY FOR DEATH!, I asked Bradley to take on the editorial role for the entire collection, helping me to select the final list of stories and their order as well as to analyze and improve the individual works.
Bradley brought crucial conceptual clarity to the entire project. The book is far better for his involvement. In each story he was able to grasp what I was trying to accomplish, even when I wasn’t sure myself. With his sharp ear for voice and language he found many places where I had been sloppy, or had simply neglected to notice an opportunity to do better. His critiques of my story logic were occasionally painful but always thoughtful and intelligent, never capricious or random. Through patience, respect and eloquence, Bradley helped me overcome my typical writer’s ego, convincing me to adopt changes that I now know to be major improvements.
In short, I feel lucky that my book passed through Bradley’s hands, and I look forward to working with him on my next book. Every writer needs a good editor, and Bradley is the best I’ve found.
August 3, 2012
I’m teaching another bizarro fiction writing workshop with author, Garrett Cook. This time, Jordan Krall will be joining us as a teacher and the workshop will occur over 6 weeks, beginning July 6th. Slots are limited to 15 spaces and it’s on a first-come, first serve basis. The cost is $60. If you are interested, contact Garrett Cook at email@example.com and he will give you payment information (payment should be sent through Paypal).
About me: I am the author of Rico Slade Will Fucking Kill You, Sorry I Ruined Your Orgy, Please Do Not Shoot Me in the Face: A Novel, and My Heart Said No, But the Camera Crew Said Yes! I am the former senior editor of Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens. I have taught creative writing online, at a rehab center, a high school, The Public School New York, and Naropa University’s Summer Writing Program.