Behind the Scenes of “The Pizza King”

A while back C.C. Finlay interviewed me about my latest story for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, “All Hail the Pizza King and Bless His Reign Eternal.” That interview is now available online, for folks curious about how and why stories like this get written.

F&SF: What made you decide to write this story right now?

DEN: I didn’t. I actually wrote this back in early 2018, completing the draft in just two weeks (which is maybe a record for me). But it didn’t really become the story it is now until late that year. I listened to every word of Christine Blasey Ford’s congressional testimony—which included her detailed account of being sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh (who now sit on the US Supreme Court) when they were teens. I was in the kitchen, puttering, and something she said somewhere in the middle of her testimony stopped me dead, because it was a near perfect poem just as she spoke it. A poem like that, one spoken accidentally, hits you like lightning. It stops your heart. I wrote it down right then…

…And that’s when I understood what this story was really all about. It was a different story after I heard that poem, and so I rewrote it to be that story.

…and it goes on that way. Read more: Interview: David Erik Nelson on “All Hail the Pizza King and Bless His Reign Eternal”

All Hail the Pizza King!🍕👑

The latest issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction is hitting newsstands, e-readers, and mailboxes, and I’m pleased to brag that the Pizza King himself graces the cover (and my story “All Hail the Pizza King and Bless His Reign Eternal” graces the interior).

Need your copy? Order online: paper or digital. Wanna review it on GoodReads? You can! (There is currently one review up, and the reviewer didn’t finish the story because it was “gross.” I respect that decision; it has a solid basis. Know your limits, my Dear Readers and Best Belovéds!)

THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION

July/August, 71st Year of Publication

NOVELETS

  • “Spirit Level” – John Kessel
  • “All Hail the Pizza King and Bless His Reign Eternal” – David Erik Nelson
  • “‘Omunculus” – Madeleine E. Robins
  • “The Monsters of Olympus Mons” – Brian Trent

SHORT STORIES

  • “Knock, Knock Said the Ship” – Rati Mehrotra
  • “Last Night at the Fair” – M. Rickert
  • “Bible Stories for Adults No. 37: The Jawbone” – James Morrow
  • “Madre Nuestra, Que Estás en Maracaibo” – Ana Hurtado
  • “A Bridge from Sea to Sky” – Bennett North
  • “Crawfather” – Mel Kassel
  • “The Staircase” – Stephanie Feldman
  • “The Shape of Gifts” – Natalia Theodoridou

POEMS

  • “A Quartet of Alphabetic Bubbles” – Mary Soon Lee

DEPARTMENTS

  • Editorial by C.C. Finlay
  • Books to Look For by Charles de Lint
  • Musing on Books by Michelle West
  • Film: Darkness Visible by David J. Skal
  • Science: What the Heck is an Analemma by Jerry Oltion
  • Curiosities: The Contaminant by Leonard Reiffel (1978) by Thomas Kaufsek

Cartoons by Arthur Masear, Arthur Masear, Danny Shanahan, Kendra Allenby, Nick Downes, Nick Downes

Cover: By Alan M. Clark for “All Hail the Pizza King and Bless His Reign Eternal”

Can’t Leave Your House? I’ve Got the Distraction for You—

—about some folks who really can’t leave the house:

I mention this now because I just learned that Audible is temporarily bumping artists’ royalties—which is nice, as I used their service to produce the audiobook of There Was a Crooked Man, He Flipped a Crooked House (voiced by the inimitable David Sadzin).

You can buy the audiobook directly on iTunes and Amazon, or get it as a freebie with a one-month Audible trial membership.

If you’ve never tried Audible before, it’s actually pretty sweet—I used it for years when I used to commute. These days, your monthly membership gets you a full-length audiobook and two Audible Originals each month.  The first month is free with this link (here’s a UK-specific link, for those who need one). The thing that astounds me: Even though I haven’t been a member in more than 13-years, I can still access all the stuff I got through Audible back in the day—i.e., you really do have lifetime access.

“absorbing horror novella” (Recommended Story)

Rich Horton, Locus, Sept 2017 

If audiobooks aren’t your thing, you can also, of course, get the book on Kindle or as a paperback.

Stay home! Stay safe!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING: “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!” #gobblegobblegobble 🦃💀

(Yeah, I repost this every year, because I love this gag, and because watching this on TV—and rehashing it with my mom and sisters each year—is one of my fondest childhood holiday memories.)

THANKSGIVING TURKEY GIVEAWAY! (WKRP in Cincinnati) from Tony DeSanto on Vimeo.

This is, in my humble, a damn-near perfect gag—which is saying something, because I find single-camera laugh-track situation comedies almost entirely unbearable to watch.

I hope your day is good and sweet.  Gobblegobble!

(If you wanna read more of my thoughts on this specific gag and what it can teach writers, you can do so here.)

I’ve got a story in NEW VOICES OF SCIENCE FICTION—and it’s available now! (UPDATED)

[UPDATE 2019-11-25: I just saw Paul Di Filippo’s review of this antho for Locus, and so added a snippet of that below, because it’s insanely kind and flattering and I wanna crow about it.]

It feels a little odd to be a “new voice” in anything with so little hair atop my head and so much grey in my beard—but I’ll take it!  The publisher has been kind enough to include a section of my story “In the Sharing Place” to whet your appetite (here’s a link to all five previews stories).  Enjoy!

The New Voices of Science Fiction (from Tachyon Press)

Reviews

“Reminiscent of the weirdness of Ben Marcus’s The Flame Alphabet, “In the Sharing Place” by David Erik Nelson chronicles in vivid surreal fashion a post-invasion, post-collapse world where psychological counseling takes on dire new facets.…this is a killer collection, full of top-notch stories beautifully written and invested with much care, compassion and thought …Deploying the toolkit and concerns bequeathed by their literary ancestors, they are extending the reach of the genre not by plowing under everything that was built before and salting the earth, but by erecting new superstructures on old foundations—or perhaps new eco-communes in the shadow of dinosaur cities. It’s the way the field has always moved forward, and this volume gives plenty of hope that the future of future fiction is in good hands.”—Paul Di Filippo, Locus Magazine

“While readers may be familiar with many of the names and individual works here, having them together in one volume creates a stunning set of sf shorts. Highly recommended for all collections.“—Library Journal

“There are also stories that present unique dystopias such as the mist-haunted New York in Jason Sanford’s ‘Toppers’ or the mysterious outside world in David Erik Nelson’s ‘In the Sharing Place.’”—Booklist

“After some kind of alien invasion/apocalypse, children try to come to terms with the loss of their families ‘In The Sharing Place’, a thoughtful and ultimately a chilling story by David Erik Nelson. Much of the narrative takes place in the therapy sessions that happen in the Sharing Place and only slowly are details of the apocalypse revealed. It’s a very effective tale.” SF Crowsnest

 

Emotionally Scarring Children to Help them Cope with Things that Never Happened #HappyHalloween!!! 🎃👻🍬

The images below are taken from Don’t Make Me Go Back, Mommy: A Child’s Book About Satanic Ritual Abuse.  This is a real book that was earnestly written and actually published, then presumably read to actual children (who, one presumes, were duly traumatized) in order to help them cope with having not endured fake things that never happened to anyone (see also “Satanic Panic”and D&D as thrill-kill gateway drug—and recall, these were current events, reported in the newspaper, recounted in measured tones on the evening news, endlessly explored on the afternoon talk shows I watched while my folks were at work. I was a fat, gullible, ill-monitored Jewish pre-teen at the time. These cases enthralled and terrified me.) "Don't Make Me Go Back, Mommy: A Child's Book about Satanic Ritual Abuse" halloween

The craziest thing about all this, to me, is that the author and publisher really did have their hearts in the right place, I think.  In contrast to most materials surrounding the issue of Satanic Ritual Abuse, this wasn’t an attempt to bait the hook of Fundamentalist Christian propaganda or Normative White bigotry with raw meat ripped from the tabloid headlines. 

"Don't Make Me Go Back, Mommy: A Child's Book about Satanic Ritual Abuse" ritual

"Don't Make Me Go Back, Mommy: A Child's Book about Satanic Ritual Abuse" cover This book comes from the “Hurts of Childhood” series, which honestly and directly tries to address real burdens that many children really face: parental alcohol abuse, sexual assault, traumatic family situations, and so on.  Yes, every single title in this series is just as maladroitly handled—but, jeez, at least they were trying.

"Don't Make Me Go Back, Mommy: A Child's Book about Satanic Ritual Abuse" bath "Don't Make Me Go Back, Mommy: A Child's Book about Satanic Ritual Abuse" doctor 2 "Don't Make Me Go Back, Mommy: A Child's Book about Satanic Ritual Abuse" doctor 1

Let me stress: This stuff looks silly and ghoulish and comically naive now, but we actually believed these things were happening back in the 1980s. Real people really went to prison—and stayed there for years—having been accused of heinous abominations and convicted of committing a type of crime that hasn’t ever happened:

The survey included 6,910 psychiatrists, psychologists and clinical social workers, and 4,655 district attorneys, police departments and social service agencies. They reported 12,264 accusations of ritual abuse that they had investigated.

The survey found that there was not a single case where there was clear corroborating evidence for the most common accusation, that there was “a well-organized intergenerational satanic cult, who sexually molested and tortured children in their homes or schools for years and committed a series of murders,” Dr. Goodman said.

Many psychotherapists who have been vocal about a supposed epidemic of sexual abuse by well-organized satanic rings have grown more cautious of late. “There’s clearly been a contagion, a contamination of what people say in therapy because of what they see on TV or read about satanic ritual abuse,” said Dr. Bennet Braun, a psychiatrist who heads the Dissociative Disorders Unit at Rush-North Shore Medical Center in Chicago.

So, anyway, that was life in the 1980s. It was legitimately fake news that led to literal witch hunts and actually completely destroyed people’s lives.

(image sources  here and here)

TREAT TIME! 🎃👻⚰️🍬 Free audiobook: “The Slender Men” by David Erik Nelson

Been casting around for a short-n-sweet Halloween read? The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine has just released their audiobook of my story “The Slender Men”—free download awaits!

Episode 209: The Slender Men by David Erik Nelson – The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine

slenderman(here’s a direct download of the MP3, if you prefer)

Rish Outfield—who produced this audio—was also the voice actor for the last story I sold to PseudoPod, “Whatever Comes After Calcutta.”  I love what Rish does for horror stories; it’s just so spot on.  This is basically as close as you can expect to get to what I hear in my head when I revisit “The Slender Men.”

This short film isn’t really all that disturbing…

…unless you’ve ever had or been a child or parent.  In that case, whoadamn!!!

This is from Ari Aster, the writer/director of Hereditary and Midsommar—the latter of which I loved, although plausibly for different reasons than most.  To me, it wasn’t a revenge film at all.  There’s a crop of female-lead horror films surfacing (A Dark Song is another that leaps to mind) that are tremendous explorations of how one processes trauma.  Midsommar is mos def one of these, in my humble—and, in a deeply morally ambiguous way, sort of an optimistic film, when all is said and done.  Highly Recommended.

If you want to understand the last three years in American politics, read Stephen King’s 1985 novella “The Mist”

This is, by no means, any sort of endorsement of any of the film/TV/radio-drama adaptations of this work—all of which either entirely miss what gives this story its lasting power, or convert a fundamentally profound work about kitchen-table American politics (i.e., the only kind that actually matters) to a moderately stupid and lazily nihilistic creature features.

Read the novella (which is also the first story in Skeleton Crew—a whole book of classic King shorts that costs just a couple buck more than the standalone novella—and is bootlegged here).  Ignore the monsters and the titular mist; watch the people.  And never lose sight of the final word in the story.