Consider the tentacle, the most nimble and erotic of all aquatic and semi-aquatic creature's psuedopodia. It prods, yet it is sucky. Consider the human form, one of the most squishy of all the creatures of earth. Fluids and solids exude from every orifice, salty moisture seeps from the skin. Oils accumulate on the cilia-like hair, snot accretes within nostrils, wax forms within the ears. Down below? Don't even get me started. There's semen and urine and taint lint and swamp ass and menstruation and good old fashioned poo. We marinade ourselves. Humanity is just one big platter of hors d'oeuvres for the evil entities waiting in the empty silences between the stars.
Enter Molly Tanzer, badass hors d'oeuvre.
Not only does she have a badass sounding, tough mofo of a Teutonic name, this delectable bit of homo sapiens hikes mountains for breakfast, swims miles of ocean as if she were some tentacled Leviathan, yet she herself consumes only 1240-1590 calories a day. Yet every one of those calories are bad-fucking-ass. In her spare time, she hangs out with the literati and cranks out deathless prose by the ream. She is an acolyte in the ancient martial art of "Virtual Boot Camp."
Please twine and twirl your sticky bits for Molly Tanzer, total badass.
JHJ: Why are you badass? Please explain your badassery.
MT: Why, when I went to see the Atlas Shrugged movie—a week after opening night, mind you—was I the only person in the (packed) theatre who laughed at the fedora-abuse, hilarious dialogue, terrible sex scenes, and grimly cheerful CGI train porn? Both your question and mine have rational explanations, I’m sure, but they’re also far better contemplated over a few drinks than actually answered.
JHJ: Wait, you mean you're not drinking right now? I am. See this Camelback? Full of scotch. Which is pretty badass, I must say. But back to you. What’s the most bad-fucking-ass thing you’ve ever done?
MT: I was recently invited to attend a week-long bachelor party for a friend, and over the course of those wonderful, debauched days, I personally punched the Dunwich horror to death whilst helping a team of investigators defeat Cthulhu; the next day I summited my first 14er. The Dunwich horror, though a total asshole, was nothing to that mountain: the last mile up or so had no trail, only alpine mosses and loose scree to scramble up. It was a grueling eight hour test of physical endurance and strength of will, but I passed, and stood upon the roof of the world as my reward.
JHJ: How did you manage to get the strippers and blow to the top of the mountain? Or was Mr. Bullington your mule and stripper both? No, don't answer. I don't think we want to know. Onward. How many weapons do you own (not including your hands)?
MT: Only one, a small skinning knife I carry with me hiking, but it is for eating apples in the most dangerous way possible and also deterring other hikers from talking to me about my Vibrams. Like MacGuyver, I eschew firearms in favor of creating napalm from scratch and charming my way out of danger. Ah, but perhaps I should consider listing my 15 lb. miniature attack tiger as a weapon. This marmalade-hued beast of legend has been described by veterinarians as “Cujo” and a “borderline animal” and routinely claws and bites the shit out of me for crimes such as “petting him for one second longer than he wanted” and “not feeding him early.” Come on over sometime!
JHJ: Vibrams are slightly tentacular, if you have long toes. But they are the most badass way of showing off your feet. Wait, did you mention your cat? What is it with cats? They're strictly geschmacken und verboten here on the WHY I'M BADASS. Cats. Sheesh. Please do not get me started.
JHJ: Okay. Nevermind. I'm over it. Next, even badasses have a soft side. A mark of a true badass is to be able to admit his love. What do you love without stint or reservation?
MT: Nutritional yeast, Jem and the Holograms, making fancy cocktails, the Sherlock Holmes reboot featuring Robert Downey Jr., the tattoo on the inside of my right arm I got to commemorate the wonderful life of my beloved cat Penelope after she passed on, my glow-in-the-dark tentacle dildo.
JHJ: Cats. Again with the cats. But I can - in an extreme effort of empathy - understand that other people have deep abiding affections for their cats and would want to commemorate that. Which is totally badass. Moving on. What’s the most badass book ever written? Hold up. Did you say "glow-in-the-dark tentacle dildo"? How awesome is that?
JHJ: Oh. Okay. A common theme in the WHY I'M BADASS interview series is that NO ONE wants to tentacle and tell. I shall say no more. So, getting back on track, what is the most badass book ever written?
MT: 15-year-old me answers Dune without a moment’s hesitation. 29-year-old me gives a high-five to 15-year-old me for having such excellent taste, then adds Imaro by Charles Saunders. Imaro also has the distinction of being a book where the cover is actually as badass as the content, which is always nice.
JHJ: What’s the most badass movie you’ve ever seen?
MT: Since I would have regrets about giving Dune as an answer again, I’m going to have to go with Conan the Barbarian, with Countess Dracula as a runner-up. Conan because. . . what is there to explain, actually? It takes itself exactly seriously enough, has the best soundtrack of any movie ever, and is full of awesome violence, deep wisdom, and good practical effects. Countess Dracula I just recently watched and feel the need to give it a shout-out for being apologetically fucked-up and tremendously entertaining, a combination I always enjoy.
You know, at first I was sad this question wasn’t just about “visual entertainment” but then I realized if TV series could be included, I’d have to decide among Berserk, the first Hellsing, the Pride and Prejudice miniseries, and what I’ve seen so far of Spartacus, which would be perhaps impossible.
JHJ: All of those have a goodly amount of T and A. You have impeccable taste as it coincides entirely with mine. Which is badass. So, when you’re out and about what music do you listen to?
MT: Depends entirely on my mood! On a bright, crisp, early-fall afternoon, I’d have to go with The Pogues, The Legendary Shack Shakers, or some early Neil Diamond. But in terms of genres, my iTunes tells me the majority of my music is apparently classified as “folk,” traditional and new. As far as traditionalists go, I’d say the Okros Ensemble is at the top of my list. They’re hella fun to play when GMing a pencil and paper RP sesh, especially if vampires are involved. For a different sort of weirdness, A Hawk and a Hacksaw is probably my favorite all-time musical group, and one of the few bands I’ve ever seen live more than once. Another band with that distinction is The Widow’s Bane, a zombie polka revue I’m lucky to have as “a local act.”
JHJ: The Widow's Bane sounds quite fun. I must check them out. Okay, onto more morbid subjects. Describe how you’d kill your worst enemy. Make it good.
MT: I’d absolutely dunk them in that barrel of toxic waste from the end of Robocop because I cannot imagine a worse death than watching your fingers melt off while wheezing in that terrible fashion.
JHJ: How would you dispose of his/her body?
MT: I once had the opportunity to take a tour of the facilities at the Denver Natural History Museum where, in the name of science, strong-stomached folks strip down animal carcasses so that the bones can be cleaned by flesh-eating beetles and then preserved for future generations. One of the highlights was getting to smell the distinctive odor of a decomposing polar bear, which was at the time being consumed by the aforementioned flesh-eating beetles. While we inhaled the perfume of death, another tour-participant mused aloud on the subject of serial killers employing these tiny beetles to dispose of human corpses. Our tour guide scolded her thoroughly for not understanding that the beetles were used to preserve, not destroy. “If I wanted to dispose of a body,” he said, “maybe—maybe—I would feed the flesh to the beetles—if I had a private supply. Everyone around here can identify human remains instantly. The real problem, of course, isn’t the flesh, it’s the skeleton. To effectively dispose of a human skeleton, I would boil the bones, then burn the softened bones, then boil what didn’t burn, then burn it again, then boil it again, until there was nothing but ashes.” He seemed really serious and knowledgeable, so I’d probably just take his advice. He also taught me what “seal finger” is, and casually mentioned he’d contracted it more than once in the course of his job. You should probably be interviewing him for this column, come to think of it.
JHJ: Please put me in touch with him because daaaamn, that's badass. So, when you’re at the Badass Cave, cold chilling with your significant other(s) – and you guys are going to drink and feast and get freaky. Describe that badass night – your meal, your music, your drink. Getting your badass super-freak on. Don’t be shy. We’re all freaks here.
MT: Tricky! If I had just pulled of some sort of classy heist and/or nobility-sponsored pagan ritual along the lines of The Wicker Man, my ultimate night would involve a meal catered for me by the fine chefs at Millennium in San Francisco, with accompanying cocktails mixed up by the bartenders at Peche, in Austin, TX. For victories less cerebral, a heapin’ helpin’ of mashed potatoes, garlicy kale, and country-fried seitan all smothered in gravy would be my go-to; drinks, Dark n’Stormies made with lots of lime, the fiercest ginger beer to be found, and, of course, The Kraken.
JHJ: The haters got lucky and caught your badass self by the border. You’re about to be hanged. What are your badass last words?
MT: Hmm. Were I able to first seal away my soul so that I could get revenge from beyond the grave, then definitely “Now you will learn why you fear the night.” If not, probably thinking of my loved ones, I would request that my enemies “Tell them something pretty.”
JHJ: So, you write books, do you? What’s your work about and how is it badass?
MT: I am a writer and editor. In terms of editing, I manage the two badass publications Fantasy Magazine and Lightspeed. For whatever reason, when I write, I seem to write a lot about death, cannibalism, and incest, which are maybe not badass but definitely fascinating to me. Oh, and demonically-induced venereal disease, I have a story coming out about that in October. I feel extremely lucky that that what I’ve published so far has seemed to please many and only ticked off a few. I’m also currently wrapping up the first novel I think is decent enough to attempt to market, but until such a time as it may become (1) finished, (2) sold, or (3) published, I’ll be keeping it mysterious as to which of the above themes it contains.
JHJ: Where can we buy those bad mama-jamas?
MT: My story about knitting and lycanthropy, “In Sheep’s Clothing,” is in Running with the Pack ; my novelette “The Infernal History of the Ivybridge Twins” can currently be found in Historical Lovecraft and I’m incredibly pleased to say it will be reprinted alongside a metric ton of awesome Lovecraftian fiction in the forthcoming The Book of Cthulhu. In October, I’ll have a historical fantasy short, “How John Wilmot Contracted Syphils” in Lacuna, and I just received word I’ll have a piece in the new Future Lovecraft anthology the Innsmouth folks are doing as a companion to Historical Lovecraft. Finally, musically inclined individuals can find my account of going minigolfing with the abovementioned The Widow’s Bane up on Strange Horizons. Sundry other endeavors, including a series of fantasy film reviews I did for Fantasy Magazine with my friend (who is also a badass and author) Jesse Bullington, can be found on my site.
John Hornor Jacobs is a novelist, among other things. His novel, SOUTHERN GODS, will be published in August 2011 by Night Shade Books. THIS DARK EARTH will be published in July 2012 by Gallery/Simon & Schuster. The INCARCERADO TRILOGY, comprised of THE TWELVE FINGERED BOY, INCARCERADO, and THE END OF ALL THINGS will be published by Carolrhoda Labs in 2013, 2014, 2015 respectively.
Represented by THE Stacia Decker of the Donald Maass Literary Agency.