This must be us in Brazil on a beach in the summer. We watch the sharkmen in their chains and the women with their tan lines hit crashing waves, splash tubes of water into the air, into funnels of cold, dark, wetness. We breathe in the wet. It makes us tick. And you’ve brought your cooler filled with popsicles and cards, with kittens and strings. Shall we drink, I ask, to the droogs of misfortune? Not yet, you say. We are waiting for the fire to come hard. The fire? I say. To kill the heat, you say. And all of a sudden, more have arrived on the beach. These Brazilians come in waves of skin and legs and small mustaches glued to the top their lips, black beards on their chins or long hair down to their butts, with music and fangs that glisten. You are not listening. You are playing Magic in the sand, gathering spells in your hand that we cannot use. This is when the fire bubbles up from the water. It has come from your cards and I will call you Pedro Proença of the Fireside Popsicles, Master of the Vertigo Schism. Please pass me a blue popsicle, Pedro, for the fire is licking my toes and it smells like salsa, smells like bubbly toes.
Three cards, you tell me. There must only be three cards. I do not understand this gathering, nor do I understand why so many have flocked to us here on the beach. Are they not scared of fire? They want to be cooler, you say. They want to feel Magic, you say. And with that, you fling a card to the sand and eight men melt into goopy piles of bone-wraiths and tree demons. Your smile is wide, your belly is satisfied. You burp. Three cards, you repeat. Three cards for our tongues. Three cards to be read. These cards are books.
Please, Pedro. Share with us your reads. The fire has licked my lap and I can no longer suffer myself to move.
Go, Pedro, go:
1 – American Gods (Neil Gaiman)
This was the book that opened my eyes to fantastic literature. I wanted to be a writer since I’ve read it the first time (and I’ve read it lots of times after that). It’s just the perfect example of modern fantasy writing, and Gaiman has a gift for creating emotional moments, which is something I think is lacking in modern fantasy literature in general.
2 – Shatnerquake (Jeff Burk)
My gateway drug to Bizarro. It wasn’t exactly my first Bizarro book ever, but it was the one that made me fall in love with the genre, and in some sense, it was the book that re-ignited my writing spark. I’ll always be grateful to Jeff for this book, and for Shatnerquest, that I loved even more (perhaps because of its Magic: The Gathering).
3 – A Lightbulb’s Lament (Grant Wamack)
This book packs quite a punch! I’m a fan of the Theatre of the Absurd movement, and this book bears a strong resemblance to those plays. The protagonist, Mr. Watts, is the archetypal Absurd Hero. Of the books I’ve read of late, this one is the one that made the biggest impact on me, and I strongly recommend it to everyone.
And this is all it takes for the chaos to come, for the crowd is a mass of howling skin and torn bikini bits. The beach is shaking and the artificial lights in this Brazilian sky have gone off. You keep dropping cards like a God, like a Brazilian beast in a pummeling bass guitar prayer. Why can’t you see that the flames are now dancing across my chest, Pedro? Why can’t you see that the water has risen to a tidal wave of blood? Where are the women going? Where are the men going? What secret card do you hold in your hand, Pedro?
But you do not answer, nor do you need to. Now I see the card you pull from your throat. It is yellow and wet and glows like a flame. Do not let the flames consume me, I beg. You do not listen. You rip the card into tiny pieces before me and laugh. I can still hear your laugh and it is the laugh of the entire beach being torn to mangled shreds by a dragon of your own invention. A Brazilian beach dragon if there ever was one. Lucky for me, it doesn’t like charred meat. Let me burn.
Shall we play again? I say. Of course, you say. The game never ends, you say.
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