Way, way back in 2011, I was having a bit of a creative crisis. I seemed unable to FINISH a damn story. I would start countless novels, short stories, plays… I’d start these things, but before I’d gotten much beyond the outline, I’d get bored or develop a more interesting idea or black out for a week and wake up having burned all of my notebooks again… You know, writer’s troubles.
In desperation, I told myself, “I am going to finish a story,” and I wrote the following:
“‘Tom’ by Richard F. Yates
Tom ate several things he found in a drawer at Kimble’s house. No one suspected that this was Tom’s plan from the beginning. Now Tom is dead.”
And having dispatched Tom, I decided to show this VERY, VERY, VERY SHORT STORY to some of my friends at the writing center where I was then working. Within a few hours, several friends of mine had written their own VERY, VERY, VERY SHORT STORIES, and we decided to make a BLOG where we could share these tales with OTHER folks. In a matter of weeks, we had nearly a hundred stories from TWENTY-ONE different contributors! At what I thought was 99 stories (it was actually 98), I officially called the project completed, and I started editing the tales into a book. (Josh Erdahl then resurrected the projected, took the reins, and kept it going for another hundred tales!)
This was back BEFORE the Primitive Entertainment Workshop, when I was still making zines and sending out postal art, and so I released the book under my BUNNYHEADSQUAD Productions label. (I had a blog back then called FEAR THE BUNNYHEADSQUAD. The “bunny” in the name is a reference to pop artist, Ray Johnson, who is famous for drawing simple bunny heads, and was made even MORE famous when the documentary, HOW TO DRAW A BUNNY came out, which was about his mysterious life and bizarre death by drowning… But none of this really has anything to do with the book I’m talking about, so forget I mentioned it…)
So we self-published a book of our little stories in January of 2012, 99 WAYS TO DIE (AND OTHER PARTY TRICKS).
When the book was completed, I order a couple dozen copies, and we had a grand RELEASE PARTY at the writing center, with drinks and junk to eat and good company, and we sat around and laughed and read some of our favorite VERY, VERY, VERY SHORT STORIES to each other, which were numbered, like hymns. Here are a few examples from the book:
#2 “Discovery” by Steffen Silvis
She had studied the life of Lana Turner, as mediated by Photoplay, and knew the importance of sitting at Schwab’s counter wearing her best sweater; her tightest sweater. And so she sat a full week, swiveling to watch the door for producers, while sipping a series of malts. He came on the seventh day, a Paramount executive, and as he left with his Orange Nehi, he stopped, momentarily, to wonder about the smiling blonde at the counter whose sweater front was stained with drips of chocolate, vanilla, and Rocky Road.
#5 “(untitled)” by Richard O’Brien
But where were the jewels?
#6 “The Boyfriend” by Richard F. Yates
The results were ghastly. His work completed, he blew her a kiss and slipped quietly out the backdoor. His whereabouts are still unknown.
#12 “Color” by Nicole Peterson
She had only just begun to paint when she stopped. Taking four steps back from the wall, she realized that fuchsia was very definitely the wrong color for her husband’s office. But it had seemed to complement the bearskin rug so well at the store! A flood of disappointment washed over her.
#25 “The Showdown” by Karl Langfield
“There ain’t enough room for the two of us,” he said. So I left.
#37 “Ghost” by Richard F. Yates
“It’s a ghost. What else could it be?” I said. She crossed the room to watch the rain fall past the window.
#43 “Altered” by Josh Erdahl
In the glowing embers of the fire, a masked shaman danced flickering through the shadows. A bullet barked into the night and bit into the mask, shattering and scattering flecks of painted wood. And the listless robes fell to the dark ground, empty.
And so on… 112 pages of irony, horror, humor, and weirdness.
I’m very, very, very proud of this little book (7” by 7” in size—the exact dimensions of a 45rpm record sleeve!), and the funny thing about it (unlike, say a bouquet of flowers or a package of sausages) writing doesn’t spoil with age, so a LOT of the writing in this book is still VERY, VERY, VERY GOOD! (As you can clearly read in the examples I provided above.) You may have ALSO noticed that several of the contributors to the VVVSS would go on to write and draw much of the material for the Primitive Entertainment Workshop! The VVVSS was kind of like our TRAINING GROUND!
In all truth, this book is a forgotten classic worth reinvestigation! (Or plain-old investigation, if you’ve never heard of it.) If you are a fan of flash fiction, micro-fiction, experimental fiction, prose poetry, or abstract obliqueness, then give this book a shot! (It’s cheaper than a large, blended coffee and a croissant sandwich, and it will last MUCH longer!) If you ENJOY the book, we’ve got a lot MORE fun stuff available. Just check out the BOOKS YOU CAN BUY page and see all the OTHER weird books we’ve made over the years!!!
—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Supreme Bunny Lord of The P.E.W.)
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