With the very idea of “reality” currently being hijacked by a pestiferous strain of low-brow entertainment called “Reality TV”—replete with Bible-toting, duck murdering hillbillies and wealthy, dim-bulb, selfie-snapping Armenian narcissists —it’s little wonder that we media-scat-spackled humans might run to works of fantasy for sanctuary, now more than ever. And who can blame us? This soul-sucking type of hollowed out “reality,” whether in the form of Manufactured-Reality TV shows or the plucked and propped-up “reality” presented in Facebook pages, seems to have attached itself to the faces of every man, woman, and child in the western hemisphere like itchy bee beards. If this shit is reality, then maybe even unusual forms of escapism like those enjoyed by paraphilic diaper-wearing enthusiasts of the adult baby syndrome stripe aren’t all that unreasonable after all.
Any fantasy port in a so-called “reality” shit storm, I guess.
MP Johnson’s latest surrealist-baroque fantasy, entitledDungeons & Drag Queens, is a warty, little psychedelic dwarf of a book, and one tripping on horse tranquilizers at that. Apparently this novella is classified among the eldritch tomes that make up the “Bizarro” genre, with its emphasis on oddness at every turn and its ever-shifting sands of absurdist phantasmagoria. Within its pages is a mushroom- and tumor-dotted mythology, crudely similar to something one might come across in Joseph Campbell’sHero with a Thousand Faces, just with more oozing orifices.
The hero/heroine of this medieval tale is Sleazella LuRuse, a drag queen originally from Green Bay who comes across as a combination of Lady Gaga, Wendy O. Williams, J. Edgar Hoover, and any number of rough’n’tumble roller derby dames. She is mysteriously snatched from the stage at the Bar Belle where she danced and lip-synched and suddenly awakes to find herself shackled in a cave in the realm of Houmack, where she is told she is expected to wed the Lord of the Sky and bear his children. Equipped with the wrong reproductive organs for the job and a generally bad attitude, Sleazella is determined to somehow jilt the Houmack King and make her way back to Green Bay and her life at the Bar Belle. Swashbuckling bizarro adventure then ensues.
Roaming in and out of Sleazella’s storyline is a wild menagerie of exotic and teratological creatures, both supernal and earthbound. Many—such as the slavwolves with their multiple nipple-mouths and the Nthvorians who fire roast and then devour their own penises—have a Dr. Seussian flavor, harkening back to the unlikely beasts that populate On Beyond Zebra.
Even what we usually consider to be “laws of nature,” like gravity for instance, are suspended or even reversed in D & D. Not only does it, in classic Fortean fashion, rain blood, but the blood “rains” upward towards the sky—leaving the landscape below littered with husks of the bloodless unfortunates caught in the “storm.”
It could be argued that the winding swords-and-sorcery storyline takes a deliberate backseat to a garish parade of All Things Odd, both creatures and events. In fact, with its over-the-top delivery, it’s very possible that this little book is a piss-take on the Dungeons and Dragons game and related wizardly entertainments. And though I suspect that’s the case, I can’t speak from any position of authority since my adolescent nerdiness never included Dungeon and Dragons parties and my adult nerdiness, as of yet, does not even include a single viewing the very popular Game of Thrones. So there could well be, scattered throughout this book, examples of bitingly clever parody that are simply failing to register with me.
What I am sure of is that Dungeons & Drag Queens is dribbling, burping, and smeared with more types of glop and slime than a Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Award show. Gunk, spew, oozing pustules, pink jelly, white pap, spider shit, and even lard from the gorpalfish—these are all but a mere grocery store food-demonstrator lady sampling of the viscous bodily fluids and excreta offered up on nearly every page of D & D.
I think it could be said that Dungeons & Drag Queens is a modern day, dildo-and-nipple-clip Alice in Wonderland—but one with a stunted, snorting homunculus eroticism and a case of crotch rot. It’s a geeky cross between Comic Con and RuPaul, and it is oozing with more bodily excretions than you could mop up from Charles Bukowski’s bathroom floor. Perhaps not meant for the squeamish or brain-numbed Reality TV junkies, it is a psychedelically charged headcheese sandwich that fans of Bizzaro Lit will most likely relish.
I only wish that the cross-dressing director and schlock fantasy auteur, Ed Wood, was still alive; no one else I can think of would be so eminently and queerly qualified to translate this epic tale of transvestitism to the big screen. –Aphid Peewit (Eraserhead Press, eraserheadpress.com)