Margie and the Atomic Brain, by Zachary Tanner
A better image will soon be up (the colors are much more spectacular than the one I have up now). At the same time I am going to post here the authors comments on his book that are in the first leaf, frenchly flapped. His friend, the author Jonathon Trosclair found the book to have echoes of both Joseph Heller and Nabokov, given the scope and humor. It certainly is an ambitious project. One genuine aspect is the author's attempt to mine shlock of US culture and history for absurd and elaborate entertainment in a unique manner.
Exactly eight years after the novel’s conception, the first volume of the Margie and the Atomic Brain trilogy is here. In the way it embellishes the implications of quantum physics in a narrative context, I consider my trilogy to be literature’s first true multiverse novel, existing as a superposition of ever-bifurcating and contradictory moments lived and relived within a greater web of experience that, I hope, cumulatively suggests the macro-/micro-cosmic nature of our own universe. The story is also my attempt to situate fully-developed characters believably within a schlocky 50s B science fiction plot. I was inspired by movies like The Brain that Wouldn't Die (1962), The Brain from Planet Arous (1957), and Donovan's Brain (1953), which are all pretty campy looking back on them, but I thought there was this potent, untapped metaphor if one would use fiction to explore what exactly the consciousness of one of these villainous super-brains was like. It's a trope, sure, but one that has never been explored and drawn in its full poetic potency by cinema because of certain limitations of form and industry, one that I thought I might like to tackle in a serious way in a gigantic mega-novel. I've been writing it since March of 2015 and with this publication of the first volume in 2023, volumes two and three are largely unfinished. Featuring a cast of over 200 characters, the mise-en-abyme structure is sustained by a rich bricolage of subplots, among them the Nevada Test Site-born rivalry between a USAF Lieutenant Colonel and the German Marxist astrophysicist, Dr. Karl Bunsenberger, inventor of the time machine around which the narrative conditions are initiated, Bunsenberger’s midlife struggle to adapt to his wife’s open relationship with his future-self-come-back-from-the-future, a forbidden love affair between WAC cadets on the Boeing assembly line, an organist’s fifty-year struggle to perfect Bach’s Goldberg Variations (a metafictional element emblematic of the novel’s own structure as variations on a theme), and the unforgettably baroque eroticism of a band of libertine filmmakers on their quest to exploit the chaos unleashed by a giant brain monster, dubbed the Petacerebrum, as they shoot a monster movie within a monster movie novel. Though this grand tale in the ebullient manner makes use of a century’s worth of kitsch, I see the novel as having more in common with Marguerite Young’s Miss MacIntosh, My Darling or Joseph McElroy’s Plus than with a book like Stephen King’s IT or the vintage pulps I have mined for archetypes and thematic material. At first we talked about doing the six books in pocketbook, but ultimately it seems most feasible for the press to bring out a 725,000-word novel as three large-format paperbacks, so here we are with the first.
“I remember reading that first excerpt you sent me way back, and though obviously a lot has changed, the bubble-gum brightness (I seem to recall specifically cotton-candy clouds over the kids) and sinister sci-fi/horror promise is all still here. Going into Margie I was expecting some major references to Heinlein and Pynchon and no doubt many other writers I wouldn’t (and no doubt didn’t) pick up on, but I was very happy to find quite strong tones of Heller (both in how funny parts of it were and the WWII emphasis) and Nabokov (the time-bending and globe-hopping reminding me fondly of Ada). Lots of Austen as well in the domestic scenes revolving around Ellen and Yvette. Your rosy rendition of south Louisiana almost makes even a terminal excommunicant like myself want to repatriate for the steady rotation of indulgent swamp-heavy, boozed-out evenings among the azaleas, which says a great deal about the clarity and vivacity of the world you’ve evoked here.”
-Jonathan Trosclair, author of Purple West
Praise for other books by Zachary Tanner
“Also, I apologize that I'm inexcusably late, like well over a year late, in sending this, but I loved Oskar Submerges. It reminded me more of Burroughs (especially Wild Boy and The Red Night Trilogy...and obviously Naked Lunch) than anything I'd ever encountered -- only with more androgyny and my favorite Jovian moon. As you know, I have a deep and abiding love for transgressive literature, and you've very quickly become one of my favorite writers. It's been an honor to see your work evolve and you will always be able to count me as one of your enthusiastic readers. “
-Paul Albano, the author's undergraduate play-writing professor
Zach: I just finished reading your novella: that's an impressive piece of writing, my boy. At first the language seemed stately, Jamesian, as though written during the same time as the Kate Chopin epigraph, but the unexpected references to Mars suddenly propelled it into the near future, and it was a delight following the narrative thereafter, especially with the gender fluid characters and language, and cosmic view of things. It's all the more impressive knowing you dashed this off in a month or so.
-Steven Moore, author of The Novel: an Alternative History, Volumes I & II