CLUBHOUSE: Review: “Live Nude Aliens and other stories” by JD DeLuzio

Entertaining off-the-wall innovation ranging from the grim to the light-hearted in this collection from JD DeLuzio.
(Note: Some language in this review may not be appropriate for all audiences

OBIR: Occasional Biased and Ignorant Reviews reflecting this reader’s opinion.

Live Nude Aliens and Other Stories – by JD DeLuzio

Published by Brain lag Publishing, Milton, Ontario, Canada, March 2022.

Cover artby D.S. Barrick

NOTE: all stories by JD DeLuzio

Let There Be

Premise:

 Two intelligent races live on this alien world, and one feeds on the other, but in a useful and civilized manner.

Review:

 The Corboran, though not human, live much as humanity does, in cities and towns dependent on agriculture. They go about only in daylight. The Ghyel, on the other hand, shun the light, and can be found outside only at night, except on special occasions like funerals. There the deceased is handed over so that the Ghyel may feed, albeit privately and out of sight. It’s a very tidy symbiotic relationship.

Among other things, the Corboran provide the Ghyel with housing. In this story the young Corboran couple Lem and Athalie have a Ghyel living in their attic. Normally, individuals in both races never interact except on occasions approved by custom. But Lem is an oddball. He likes to stay up late. And the Ghyel upstairs likes to start off its night by dropping down for conversation. Not exactly forbidden, but not exactly normal either.

This is a quiet story about a quiet, even pleasant relationship that nevertheless exhibits undertones of tension and repressed fear. The underlying reality is horrible enough, but far worse is what could happen if the social system breaks down. Subtle, but powerful, there are reasons why this story made Ellen Datlow’s review of the best horror fiction of 2013.

I mean, how would you handle nightly conversation with a creature calmly anticipating eating your corpse? Is that a good enough basis to build a friendship?

Foundling

Premise:

 A young woman, too shy to form relationships, dreams of having a child. What luck to find one living on its own.

Review:  

There have been rumours and legends about feral children as long as people have listened to tales spun by firelight. Some modern accounts are based on fact, though often exaggerated. But what would it take to actually adopt one? When circumstances prohibit revealing the adoption? When the child is willing to have a mommy but unwilling to be domesticated? How far can fantasy mother-love protect a genuinely feral child? What are the likeliest consequences?

This is a horror story about motherly love. Rather gutsy, as it is a theme many might chose not to write about. And terrifying, in more than one way. Especially in light of a recent event which I won’t bother mentioning, except to say it led me to understand this story is fundamentally about something very real and very tragic. That’s why this story is so impactful and hard-hitting. Unnerving, in fact.

Space Comprimari

Premise:

 The aliens land and of course they are hostile, but why are they so incompetent?

Review:

 “Comprimari” refers to supporting roles in opera. So, as the author points out, this is Space Opera dealing strictly with minor characters. After all, should the aliens invade, all of us are going to wind up as minor characters without a great deal to say how things shake out. Nevertheless, I’m sure most of us would do our level best to survive, and maybe even help defend the human race, though no doubt in a very limited way.

What fascinates is that the human characters in this story are operatives experienced in human interactions of a hostile nature, secret agents basically, but here tasked with functioning as liaisons with one of the “good” alien races. There’s more than one alien race involved in the invasion and some are potential allies, in that they are at war with the invaders. The old saw “the enemy of our enemy is our friend” comes into play. Lucky break for us.

Except that these are aliens. None of their races are particularly interested in us, not even the ones bent on destroying us. We’re like ants begging the United Nations to protect our nests even though some member states think extermination is a good idea. Fortunately not every member state is as civilized as it pretends to be and is willing to eradicate other members. Problem is the ant delegation tends to be ignored as it not considered particularly relevant.

In short this is a comic exercise in miscommunication and misunderstanding. Yes the aliens understand plain English, but not the underlying implications, meanings, and attitudes, because their mindset is… well… alien. The author has a lot of fun with this. So does the reader.

Live Nude Aliens

Premise: 

 Two nerdish girls meet a young drunk who claims to have met aliens. They take him to a sports bar to buy him dinner to sober him up. His story isn’t nearly as good as their favourite graphic novels. Rather amateurish in fact.

Review:

Patti Washington and Chelsea Ashe are characters from the author’s novel “The Con.” I gather they proved rather popular and so they live again in this story. The young drunk is named Eoin Cornacchia. I thought at first this is a made-up name, a subtle reversal of the old pulpish tradition of nonsensical alien names like Tgatyubk or Thmlxyk, but as usual I was reading too much into what I was reading. Eoin is an Irish name and Cornaccchia an Italian surname. Makes me wonder how many of my brilliant critical insights are based on my ignorance? Hmmm.

Be that as it may, this story is loads of fun. Partly because the aliens are inspired by one of my favourite fossil critters from the local (i.e. found only in British Columbia) Burgess Shales, partly because it involves the mother of all conspiracy theories, but mainly because the girls’ ongoing critique, which is to say interruptions, of Eoin’s farfetched tale make perfect nerdish sense. Precisely the sort of thing pedantic Grognards overly-familiar with science fiction tropes and memes would point out.

Some readers might prefer a simpler version in which no story within a story is presented, Eoin’s experience being conveyed as the story, without Patti or Chelsea involved at all, but those characters are part of the charming ambience and have interesting stories of their own to tell. Frankly, I am reminded of some of the fannish gatherings I used to attend where one-upmanship in composing whoppers abounded. That fans are capable of spinning such stories is no surprise. That any of them turn out to be true would be a surprise.

Is Eoin telling the truth? Up to the girls, and the readers, to decide. Or is it? Like I say, heck of a conspiracy theory involved here. Double hmmm.

The Book of Den(n) is

Comment:

 This story is a novella nearly sixty pages long. My deadline is approaching, I’ve missed several Friday postings already (too ill, too busy, etc.), so I’m afraid I have to skip reviewing this one.

It does sound interesting though. In his introduction DeLuzio states it’s about two characters named Dennis and Denis whose “lives parallel each other, and… that something just beyond our understanding may be influencing our lives.” It’s basically slipstream, but also pop-SF, Fantasy, and myth. He further states “It’s a very Canadian piece. Sure, it lacks a bilingual Mountie feeding poutine to a pet beaver as they drive to Flin Flon on a Zamboni, but…”

In other words it promises to be original, complex, and challenging to read. I suspect it is well worth reading.

Robbie Burns Night

Premise:

 Robert attends the local church’s Bobbie Burns night every decade or so. The last thing he expected at the latest gathering was to confront his past.

Review:

 A slow, sad tale involving memories confused over time and a tragic situation that happens outside the events of earlier relationships yet complicates Robert’s later life much to his distress. Some people fear ghosts. Are not our memories our ghosts from the past? Isn’t this how we haunt ourselves as long as we live? An interesting phenomenon quietly explored. Fair to say I never viewed memory this way before. Definitely a thought-provoking story.

The Shade at Aseneith

Premise:

 Frat boys on a binge pick the wrong town to get drunk.

Review:

 A Lovecraftian story! I Love Lovecraftian stories. I love Lovecraft’s fiction.

As Deluzio points out in his introduction, Lovecraft was “a virulent racist and xenophobe, even by the standards of his time. His writing often reflects his views.” Having recently ploughed through some 2,000 pages of Lovecraft’s letters published by Hippocampus Press (with many more waiting to be read) I’ve got to say Deluzio is dead-on accurate.

The best defence I can think of is that Lovecraft thought the same way about race relations that Henry Ford and Adolf Hitler did. Which is to say, not much of a defence. I don’t mean to suggest Lovecraft advocated genocide like them, but simply that he echoed their belief that Nordics were the Master Race and ALL other “races” occupied a descending hierarchy of lesser evolution down to a bestial subhuman level. Not even modern Greeks and Italians made the grade in his view. He took for granted they were mere Mediterranean peoples, not to be confused with proper white people or “real Americans.”

And that’s the most stunning aspect of his racism. It was all very matter-of-fact and casual. Something he assumed was perfectly normal in polite society. One can read paragraph after paragraph of his erudite, logical and often witty takes on history, art, architecture, fantasy literature and so on, only to be struck in the face by a paragraph so gobsmackingly racist as to take one’s breath away. Racial slurs in his fiction are restrained and polite compared to what can be found in his private correspondence. I don’t dare quote him.

And that is what is so damned frustrating. If you were to read an expurgated version of his letters you would come away believing he would have been a delightful person to meet and know, an articulate, intelligent, insightful man of literature and not at all the people-shunning recluse of legend. He was generous with his time, maintained contact with dozens of friends, and spent his summers exploring cities as far apart as New Orleans and Quebec City. Despite a sickly early childhood he spent later childhood years discovering the countryside with buddies, enjoyed High School, and as an adult always delighted to meet with people to explore museums, art galleries, and obscure villages. For an introvert, he was incredibly gregarious. For an invalid, he had amazing physical stamina. In truth he was a man of fantastic energy, both physical and mental, a thinker’s thinker. No wonder people were glad to know him, either in person or through correspondence. He was exciting, uplifting, and inspiring.

And racist as fuck. Excuse the language, but he merits it. I still cherish him for all his positive attributes, but am bitterly disappointed to find out he was worse than his general negative reputation implies. He fully merits his literary reputation as the Edgar Allen Poe of the 20th century, gigantically influential, perhaps the supreme master of “Cosmic Horror” and darned good at “High Fantasy,” but man, talk about feet of clay… I admire and despise him. In a way, he is the very definition of indescribable horror he was always writing about. Impressive, yet terrifying.

So, why go into this? One can read his fiction and enjoy it for what it is, a historical construct no longer relevant to contemporary tastes. But what about modern pastiches? Should anyone even attempt such in these ”enlightened” times? (I’m being sarcastic since lately the pendulum of history seems to be moving backward towards racism.)

Well, “The Shade at Aseneith” is an example of Lovecraftian-style fiction being “owned” by the author and interpreted according to contemporary thinking. Forgive my ignorance, but I’ve heard there’s a TV show streamed somewhere or another with Black characters experiencing Lovecraftian weirdness. Why not? Rip that sucker out of a dead racist’s grasp. Explore the Cthulhu Mythos from a non-WASP perspective. Inject fresh life and original thinking into what was a brilliant but limited vision of cosmic horror (in terms of its protagonists) and open it up to the wide experience of humanity as a whole. Don’t imitate Lovecraft, go beyond his vision. Take it to the next level, such that his underlying racism is banished from the genre he largely created. Improve on what he began.

Deluzio’s story is part of that progress. The main character, Jacob Wu, undergoes a typical Lovecraftian exposure to madness-inducing other-worldly ritual, except that, well, he’s more concerned about sobering up and his response to what he went through is not at all post-traumatic-syndrome in nature. It turns out the traditional reaction is dependent on the mental baggage one brings to the event. Jacob’s character lacks the perspective of a Lovecraftian WASP hero/victim. His values are subtly yet refreshingly different. This renders an old story new and intriguing. And that’s what makes this story so enjoyable to read.

Crabbing in Worley

Premise:

 Every once in a while swarms of albino crabs hatch in the basements and cellars of Whorley Village.

Review:

 This is a monograph of sorts by a local describing a unique situation everyone takes for granted. The village must be special, considering what else was found in the soil almost beyond living memory, but the crabs, well, nobody cares. The unsettling aspect of this story is that it conjures up visions of things being taken for granted that shouldn’t be taken for granted in who knows how many out-of-the-way communities anywhere and everywhere. I know at least one person who was terrified to go down into the cellar of the house they grew up in. Perhaps such fears aren’t irrational after all, or so this story would appear to suggest. Creepy.

CONCLUSION:

 I’ve run out of time and energy. In addition to the novella there are three other stories I didn’t get around to reviewing. Apologies to the author.

I hope the reviews I did manage to write indicate the fresh originality and off-the-wall innovation JD DeLuzio evidences in his stories. Some of it is grim, some of it light-hearted, and all of it entertaining. Quite a find this book. You’ll enjoy reading it. Highly recommended.

Check it out at:     <  Live Nude Aliens >

 

 

 

 

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