Creepy Reads: Hot Splices by Mike Watt

Creepy Reads: Hot Splices by Mike Watt


Synopsis

Hot Splices features eight interwoven tales about the Film Addicts, the flicker freaks, the Cinephages—they devour film for the high, to connect to the art on the granular level…the bleeding perforations in their skin are just part of the game.

There are five forbidden films, that when run together can induce madness or release the Dark Gods that created them, speaking through the psychopathic director.

There is a man on the run, with a lost movie that others would kill to obtain. He barely escaped with his life.

There is a tower, once housing for students, now a crumbling, rotting monument to film history, and the men and women who returned to the tower, to die watching their favorite films.

Beneath the tower, there lies something made of light and shadow. It does not love its worshippers…

If you do not love film…

If you do not wish to devour it as it devours you…

If all you seek from film is entertainment…

This is not the book for you.


Details

  • Title: Hot Splices
  • Author: Mike Watt
  • Cover Artist: Ryan Hose, design; Tom Bugaj, photography
  • Publisher: Happy Cloud Media
  • ISBN: 1951036069
  • Publication Date: September 17, 2018
  • Content Warnings: transphobia, sexual assault, substance abuse, ableism, suicide, Holocaust references

I’d like to thank Blackthorn Book Tours for providing a copy in exchange for review consideration.

NOTE: My review will feature extensive mentions of transphobia.


Review

Hot Splices is an intriguing, messily ambitious work of horror literature by, for, and about cinephiles. Unfortunately, it is also appallingly transphobic. The book has three main sections: a novel-length narrative followed by two shorter stories that take place in the same universe. The transphobic incidents occur in the first of the shorter stories and center on the character “Jack/ie.” Initially I was not going to post a review of this book at all, but after reading several reviews of it and seeing not one mention of the glaring transphobia, I decided I needed to post my own thoughts on the book. (Note: I am cis, so if there are any trans readers or reviewers of this book, please listen to them rather than me.) “Jack/ie” (as her name is styled in the book – henceforth I will use “Jackie”) seems to identify as a trans woman:

During her first year at Griffith Film Academy, s/he kept her career [as a drag queen] a secret. But after a drunken tryst with Darryl Wannamaker after an open-bar screening of The Wizard of Oz, everyone knew. Darryl denied spending the night in her room. Only it was his room, Jack’s room, at the time. Darryl followed Jack to his bed.

Based on this passage (which bizarrely conflates being a drag queen with being trans), Jackie seems to be living as a woman now. She is identified as being male only in the past (though this notion that she wasn’t female at the time is problematic in and of itself), implying that in her present she is female. But author Mike Watt uses “s/he” pronouns for her throughout the story. It is never established that Jackie uses those pronouns for herself; it just comes across as Watt othering Jackie and saying that she’s not really a woman. Watt comes out and explicitly states this belief later when the main character in the story (Joel, who is presented as a cis man) tells Jackie the following: “You’re not trans. You have a cock. Own your throbbing member.”

This is transphobic nonsense. A cis man telling a trans woman who she is and is not based on her genitalia is unacceptable. One could make the argument that Joel, not Watt, is transphobic. But Joel’s bigotry isn’t challenged in any real way. Jackie’s retort to Joel’s statement is this: “I am more woman than you’ll ever have and more man you’ll ever be.” But this quote (which Jackie falsely claims as her own, rather than attributing it to Car Wash) again paints Jackie as both male and female, rather than as simply a woman. If Jackie wants to make a point about destroying the gender binary, that would be one thing, but the story doesn’t seem interested in nuanced arguments about gender identity.

Instead, it wants to repeat misconceptions such as the idea that only gender confirmation surgery makes someone the gender they identify as. Jackie is beaten and raped by a cis male suitor who was “duped, deceived” by her appearance; the use of those specific verbs suggests that Jackie is not “really” a woman and was therefore responsible for her assault. She even says as much: “Problem wasn’t him. Problem was me.” She accepts all the blame for her attack. Jackie is world-weary and has a studied nonchalance as a character, so one could try to write this off as Jackie trying to wave off and thus protect herself from her trauma, but the surrounding story has not shown her enough respect to earn the benefit of the doubt.

Honestly, I should have stopped reading then and there. But I finished the book, and had this bigotry not been present, I would have posted a positive review with a 4-coffin rating. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel-length section. It is wild and messy and discursive, with obvious influences from Clive Barker and David Cronenberg. Self-aware in its pretentiousness and obsessed with the idea of being obsessed with movies, it is a Möbius strip of references and metanarrative that both lampoons and exalts film snobs.

The prose is highly immersive (despite being frustratingly filled with typos), plunging the reader further and further into a world where “flixing” is the drug/hobby/lifestyle of choice for film obsessives. Flixing involves placing a frame of film in your mouth to absorb the essence of a movie. It’s an intoxicating concept…imagine being able to feel the frenzied neon of Suspiria or the melodic, bittersweet candy of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg coursing through your bloodstream. It’s the ultimate dream for film-lovers: you can live inside a movie and a movie can live inside you. But a trans film-lover reading this book will likely not feel seen or welcomed as a fellow cinephile if in the next breath the author is invalidating their gender identity. This book insults and perpetuates harmful ideas about trans people, and as such I cannot recommend it.


Rating

I will not rate this book.


 

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