Intentionally Bad… Is Good?
Book Assigners’ Note (Dewey Booklover and Admiral Fartmore): Heyyyy, we liked one!
The idea of creating something intentionally bad is as old as time itself. Be it Chaucer pranking those courtly audience members with The Tale Of Melibee, anti-art movements like the Incoherents or Dada, the Fantastic Four 1994 unreleased film, the video game Don’t Buy This, music by Kanye West, paintings hung in hotel rooms, or literature like Atlanta Nights and The Little Ass-tronaut, there is something to be said for that which is created purely to be shat™ on.
The general consensus on intentionally bad art is that it fails; the creator has to be earnest in their attempt for something to be considered “so bad it’s good”. The Room, Eye Of Argon, Troll 2, the restoration of Ecce Homo, they were all brought forth unto this world with pride from their creator only to be smashed into the ground and rebuilt by a culture of schadenfreude. Their dedication and belief was what raised it to glory, and I accept that. But while they have all truly surpassed their ‘bad’ qualities and become greats, intentionally bad art can be successfully crafted too.
The secret, I believe, is finding the entertaining elements and taking them to the utmost extreme. And I say entertaining elements because it’s very easy to end up with something like Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus instead of Black Dynamite. Comedy shows like Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Is a prime example of successfully marketed “bad art” and does this wonderfully. They have taken the public access aesthetic and modernized it, exagerating the areas we laugh at when we go back and watch them now. The lighting, camera work, green screening, awkward dialogue and editing, are all a fantastic homage to shows created on low budgets in some stripmall’s make-shift studio.
The countless authors like Chuck Tingle who do the same, taking the extremes of romance novels and creating absurd pieces, manage to get past the “just plain bad” stage because they know it’s bad and take it as far off a cliff as possible.
Let’s not get caught. Let’s just keep going.
Which brings us to this utterly insane piece of shit, Atlanta Nights by “Travis Tea”. For those who don’t know a bunch of sci-fi authors got together and each wrote a chapter without discussing any details to each other (no idea of the chapter’s location in the book, time of year, background of the characters, or even what the complete plot was) and submitted it to a vanity publisher who denied they were a vanity publisher. This was because the publisher’s CEO talked shit about the sci-fi and fantasy genres. And wouldn’t you know it, the authors received a response from this publisher saying their book was accepted! A little while later the authors let the press know about the stunt and the publisher reneged on the deal.
I planned on writing a synopsis but gave up 60 pages in. Not only does it not make sense as you’d expect but it’s very difficult to follow. The characters not only change height, age, race, relationships, hair colour, vocation, but even gender and vital status, all the while the timeline is like listening to an alzheimer’s patient retell you a bad dream they had five years ago while they’re high on LSD. Events which happened at the same time, in the same scene, are later split up with one about to happen in the future and the other now happened to a different character who used to be a detective but is now an international stock broker. But within all this nonsense is pure fucking gold.
Each author has something special they bring to the table and the variety, if you read it as mere individual snippets or sudden fiction, allows you to enjoy their different styles in creating what has been dubbed the ‘worst novel of all time’. Although I dislike blocks of quotes there are just so many great ones in this book.
Unnaturally expositional dialogue —
Yes [I want a drink], then I want to get to my new computer so I can check on my hot stock options and write more on my best-selling software development.
Schemes that don’t make sense —
“I think it’s pretty cool what your company does. Transatlantic shipping is pretty interesting.”
“Yes it will be good to be merged with your software company. I know you make a lot of money with your Internet multi-level-marketing software”
So they went back to his place and hammered out the details of the merger and signed the papers. “Then that’s it. We’re all merged!”
That wasn’t all that got merged that night.
They had wild sex
Misinformed wildlife facts —
…he always came back, always came back for her athletic body and her wild sex and her Margarita and tequila sunrises and omelettes and steaks and chops and their video tapes, the ones recorded by the hidden cameras in the bedroom when they made love like wild beasts, like penguins of the Sahara diving into the sand and rutting wildly after feasting on sand sharks. She envied those penguins. All that hot sand to swim through, the raspy grains sliding over their feathers as they hunted in wild packs, baying at the moon, and diving deep, deep, down into the dusty depths of the dry smooth sand.
Confusing yet enjoyable run on sentences —
No Dopplering dotcom plummet to eat a terminal snack of pigeonflavored pavement after the dead cat bounce. No jolt of autocratic asphyxiation, wrenching the Apex Data Ruler the way he wrenched himself in the wee of the night when he lay prostate on his back and no one could hear him ejaculate Margaret’s name into the Sealy Serta mattress drenched with the carnal effluents of desire. No tragic grandiose flinging of the BellSouth fiber=optic wiring over the rafter beam since there wasn’t one, positioning the SemperFidic ergonomic office chair, looping the Jimmy Hendrix original hand-made collectable silk necktie neck, kicking the spinning chair across the anti-static mat cleated like Beckum’s soccer shoes to the migraine Millikin Carpet, kicking the climate controlled air with its direction adjustable hypoallergenic louvers, kicking the generic afterlife. There was always Valium.
Impressive purple prose —
It was as if a copious galleon of wintry water had been surreptitiously poured over his handsome head. He sat stonily and goggled explicitly and gaped impassively as if he were a fish precipitously extracted from its appropriately aqueous environment. He boisterously, wordlessly, softly sputtered like a boiling tea kettle. He stolidly sat like an ancient, moss-overgrown statue from the radiantly fragrant gardens that the noble city was plenteously, bountifully endowed with.
Composition which challenges poetic forms and subjects (written by a computer) —
He laughed, weakly. His sense of humor welded.
Then they reached under her medium-short brown hair.
Do you know true Even better, baby?
He paused for good. The rain didn’t look like it what it was.
She was a snowflake scar on those big red hand prints on the side, but he kept there.
And simply incredible analogies —
“He began to shape the hamburger patties, shaping the meat into round, circular shapes with his strong hands. Usually he caressed the hamburger like a lover, loving the way the soft red meat squished yieldingly between his hands and sensuous sucking sounds it made when he pulled his hands away once he got the round shapes just the way he wanted them, not too thick and not thin, not too wide and not too small, but just right, like the Three Bears, except it was hamburger and not porridge. He was an artist with hamburger, everyone said so.”
You have to admit that last one is fucking brilliant.
I think what also made this book so enjoyable was knowing the backstory. The book seems to start off just kind of bad and gets worse and more nonsensical as it goes. I can imagine a publisher reading the first chapter and thinking “it’s bad but passable”. Knowing that these guys and gals were writing this shit™ to call out a shitty™ publisher is humorous in itself, the PDF is even called “StingManuscript.pdf” (my favourite chapters were chapter 10, 39, and 41, in case anyone was thinking of reading a bit), but there are other tidbits which make it hilarious to read. Like taking all of the characters’ names and using their first initials to spell out “PublishAmerica is a vanity press”
Penelope Urbain, Bruce Lucent, Irene Stevens, Henry Archer, Margaret Eastman, Richard Isaacs, Callie Archer, Isaac Stevens, Andrew Venice, Arthur Nance, Isadore Trent, Yvonne Perrin, Rory Edwards, Stephen Suffern
All in all this is a fantastic piece of literature which will surely go down through the ages as one of the greats and the writers celebrated by all piece of shit™ loving fans. The writers had a mighty mountain to climb but they certainly managed to land on the moon. As one reviewer put it, “these writers engaged in public cacosyntheton, synchisis, acyrlogia, alleotheta, amphibologia, anacoluthon, and every vile cliche, transparent plot device, and literary offense ever to have thrived in the slush pile.” And thrived they did in this book. God damn did they thrive!