The Newsletter of
The Council for the Literature of the Fantastic
Volume 1, Number 2 (Winter 1996)
HERE to return to the table of contents.
The Texas Hermes:
by Paul DiFilippo
The Fiction of
Copyright © 1996, Paul DiFilippo
This is an appreciation of the mysterious being visiting Earth in the
fleshly disguise of a writer yclept Don Webb
Of this enigmatic visitor, much can be said, but little known with any certainty.
He always refers to his mortal consort as "my sexy wife, Rosemary."
In this, he reveals that the tastes of the gods have changed little
since the days of Zeus. And in the best tradition of Bug-Eyed-Monsters
ever since Hugo Gernsback first opened up the cosmic flaw that allowed
them access to our planet, Webb can be heard to growl during his moments
of otherworldly tumescence, "Mars needs women!"
He lives in Austin, Texas. Actually, he maintains several residences
in that anomalous enclave of such un-Texan types as cyberpunks and
rockers. One is an abandoned zeppelin hanger, full of bats and
armadillos. Another is what appears to be a construction shack of
approximately one hundred cubic feet capacity, but which, Tardis-like,
opens onto much larger spaces. Yet a third home is an earthen burrow
shared with various unclean species never formally classified by
Webb spends relatively little time away from his comforting city.
Rumor has it that he must be within Austin city limits at nightfall
every twenty-four hours, or suffer the unspeakable consequences.
Alternatively, while elsewhere in the cosmos, he can derive the same
protection by watching the television show Austin City Limits,
which is why he vehemently supports PBS. Also, he is lucky in having
access to a network of ghoul tunnels (see above, under "burrow") that
allow him frequent visits to New England (the legendary
To extend the range of his mojo, Webb cruises the Internet,
frequently compiling the results of his digitally ectoplasmic wanderings
into reports that read like the newspapers in Prester John's kingdom.
Finally we reach the heart of the labyrinth around Webb, where a
runic message is spelled out with Minotaur piss in the dust, the gist of
which is that Webb writes like a goddamn magus who has swallowed whole
the entire corpus of esoteric knowledge which extends counterintuitively
backward from the era of the encarnadined Dying Earth to the misty
prehistoric rule of the Elder Ones. (The secret being--as Webb might
tell you if he is feeling generous, or drunk on absinthe--that these two
eons-separated venues are really contiguous.)
When you first encounter Webb's bewilderingly
enlightening, comically horrific stories, you will be reminded of other
writers in the great transgressive-outsider-surrealist-naive-experimentalist lineage. The
Four Killer B's, natch: Borges, Burroughs (Bill and Edgar), Brautigan
and Barthelme. Also Robert Graves, Howard Waldrop, Avram Davidson, H. P.
Lovecraft, Ishmael Reed, Jonathan Richman, and They Might Be Giants.
And when you are more closely acquainted with Webb, having
willingly submitted yourself to his brand of Mexican-Filipino psychic
surgery, you will forget all these comparisons (along with much else you
thought you knew), and just see the One Grand Truth: Webb Is All!
How can you, a humble seeker, set foot on this path?
Easily! By tracking down Webb's three books, and by attending to the
monthly SF magazines, wherein Webb surfaces from time to time, whenever
certain astrological conjunctions are propitious.
First in the doxology comes Uncle Ovid's Exercise
Book(Fiction Collective, paper, $8.95, 154 pages. Available from
FC2, Unit for Contemporary Literature, Campus Box 4241, Illinois State
University, Normal, IL 61790). In this remarkable volume, Webb first
revealed the depths of his insane creativity. Composed of nearly one
hundred disturbing "metamorphoses," this book truly manifests the
plastic, elastic nature of creation, as filtered through Webb's warped
erudition. The organic merges with the inorganic, and time and space are
abolished. Characters from myth and pop culture serve as psychopomps for
the mortal protagonists, all of whom undergo various regressions and/or
epiphanies as they learn Webb's one big lesson, borrowed from Willie
Don't mess with the messer!
The reader waits in vain for Webb to repeat himself
in this volume. But such is not to be. In stories ranging from
impressionistic vignettes to metafictional recursions, Webb delivers
laughs and chills in his allusive, lucid, deadpan style.
The one thing a reader might wonder, upon gingerly
unfastening the sucker-laden tentacles of Uncle Ovid's Exercise Book
from around his limbs, is: Can the Webbster pull this trick off at
longer lengths? Doubting Thomas, read on!
The Bestseller and Other Tales(Drumm Books,
chapbook, $3.00, 44 pages. Available from Chris Drumm, PO Box 445, Polk
City, IA, 50226) contains seven stories fully as weird and satisfying as
the tiny metamorphoses. Streetsweepers achieve mystic immolation.
Teachers converse with the Cosmos Itself, embodied in attractive
Lolitas. Winnebagos cross interstellar distances. In short, the Webb
weltanschauung, like the Sans-a-Belt pants of the Gods, easily expands
to accommodate any dimensions!
An even richer feast is spread in The Seventh Day
and After(Wordcraft, paper, $7.95, 78 pages. Available from
Wordcraft of Oregon, PO Box 3235, La Grande, OR 97850). This volume
contains two of my favorite Webb pieces: "An American Hero," in which
Webb lays the Campbellian template (Joseph's, not John's) over an
Average Guy. And "The Protocols of Captain Whizzo," which reveals the
subtext of the Campbellian template (John's, not Joseph's).
I feel you succumbing now to my Jehovah's-Witnesses-like
proselytizing and sales persistence, aided and abetted as it is by the
sleight-of-hand flourishing of the Holy Texts. Yet I detect a remaining
doubt or hesitation. "Sure," you say, "Webb has been subverting
consensus reality for well over a decade now. Yet what's he done for me
lately? Heck, the guy's getting positively ancient! I mean, he must be
almost thirty-five years old now! Can he still pull off the Roumanian
Sex Change Trick using only his elbows, a paperclip and two quarts of
Well, you big wussy, just follow me over here to the
January 1996 issue of Science Fiction Agemagazine. In its
pages you'll encounter "Out of Bondage," where Webb limns in rich detail
a stripmined future earth ruled by Chthulu-oid aliens, where humanity's
salvation lives in a talking stone.
Just your standard Star Wars scenario, right? Come off it,
friend, and get with the Webb!
If literature of the fantastic has any Secret Masters, then
Don Webb is
laughing at them!