Punk rock and weird fiction collide perfectly in the thirteen short stories collected in this book. It is clear that Agranoff has done his time in the pit. His characters are not the typical, one-dimensional walking mohawks that appear so often in books. Instead, he imbues his characters with depth. Punk is part of who they are, sometimes a big part of who they are, but it’s not their sole defining characteristic. This allows him show so many varieties of punks, from the naïve young band on their first tour to the idealistic anti-sellout to the scenester trying to climb the punk social ladder to the grizzled vet who has left punk behind.
Agranoff knows his weird fiction, too. He drags familiar tropes (zombies, time travel, aliens, demons, spies) into the pit, giving them new, sweaty, fist-shaking life. The variety is such that when one story wraps up it’s almost necessary to dig into the next one right away, if only to see what Agranoff’s going to do next with this punk rock/pulp fiction mashup.
In “Book Your Own Fucking Life,” an idealistic band steals mom’s van and darts off on a weekend tour of the Midwest. Things get weird when they arrive for a show in the middle of nowhere and there doesn’t seem to be much of a crowd. Then things get brutal. Really brutal. Backwoods punk rock cannibals brutal.
After Agranoff proves that he can do bleak, he proves that he can do funny. “Punk beyond the Red Line” posits a future where bands travel via spacecraft to distant corners of the universe, playing shows in front of all types of aliens, often with little reward. In the case of Transmitted Infections, they’re more likely to get chased off the planet than get paid. With little left to lose, bandleader Greeg decides to accept an invite to cross the Red Line and play a blowout with the ultra destructive Planet-Fucking-Beasts. Turns out they weren’t invited for their ragers.
Another standout is “Punkupine Moshers of the Apocalypse,” which was previously included in the Best Bizarro Fiction of the Decadeanthology. It’s a dystopian tale of a future world where punks alter their bodies with sharp spikes and go to battle in mosh pits. But one punkupine decides to look for a different way.
Story after story, Agranoff’s approach to combining punk rock and weird fiction never grows stale.Amazing Punk Stories should be on every book-loving punk’s shelf. –MP Johnson (Eraserhead Press, PO Box 10065, Portland, OR97269, eraserheadpress.com)