Gromagon Press is pleased and proud to announce the release in paperback of Atom Mudman Bezecny’s novella Operation Xanadu.
Atom is no stranger to Forbidden Pulp…she is the author of the Doc Talos story Silver Legacy, as well as a member of the Conseil du Mal modern pulp review/discussion team.
Her Operation Xanadu novella is a scathing, funny, insightful and intense exploration of hedonism (and its price)…
“In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree…”
Far more than nothing, the opening words of Operation Xanadu herald an apocalypse. And not just any apocalypse, but one ushered in by The Greatest Party of All Time. A group of high school friends from a quiet suburban neighborhood are ready to celebrate with plenty of sex, drugs and music…but their hedonistic dreams devolve into something that more closely resembles the end of the world.
Atom Mudman Bezecny’s searing vision of unrestrained pleasure and its consequences will leave you staggering…and amid the flames, questioning the sanity of society’s values and priorities.
Or maybe just dead. But what a way to go.
Here is Atom’s Foreword to Operation Xanadu:
I was never really a party girl.
Oh, there were times when I labored under the pretense that I was. I am and always have been an excitement-junkie, and a pleasure-junkie, but I’ve been recently informed that this is true of most humans. I suppose that makes sense. Most of us like to go to the movies, after all, or read books, or take drugs; whatever brings us in touch with a world more pleasurable and more dramatic than our own, and whatever kills the pain and tedium of a life under capitalism. Those of us who do try to live a life of adventure in “real life,” regardless of what that means in the moment, often learn that, as a famous Vulcan once sagely observed, “’having’ is not so pleasing a thing after all as ‘wanting.’” The element of risk grows more dangerous and less pleasurable the harder one chases a thrill.
But it is the nature of humans to court death, to court the threat of the law, and above all, to court that which is forbidden, for the sake of conquering those fearsome things. That is the psychological root of teen party culture.
I didn’t have to be a party girl to learn that. Excitement and rebellion take different forms for every teen. Some do go to parties, but others read horrible books or drive their cars really fast or steal things on weekends, or go to rallies that their conservative parents wouldn’t approve of. In my own rebellion, I’ve always felt like a sense of purpose is important; back in my teen years that always made me seem like something of a judgmental asshole. Since high school, I’ve learned to actually let people have fun. When people do stand up for the oppressed, I still always appreciate their sense of purpose—I’ve just gained an understanding that there is no resistance without an enjoyable life. There is no ground gained when we, the rebels, deny ourselves the humanity we’re fighting for.
Still, I’m far from free from oppressive beliefs, just like the rest of humanity. The traumatic nature of high school has made it hard for me to shake the popularity mentality. And yet there’s little wonder that this mentality persists into adulthood—high school is in many ways a model in miniature of capitalist society, in that intersectional privileges result in a de facto hierarchical caste system. One which affects people even when they try to ignore it. At times, life can be a popularity contest, if popularity is gained from being whiter, straighter, cis-er, richer, and more abled than everyone else. You get invited to more “parties” based on the nature of historically-rooted oppressive power systems. Nevertheless, it is worth pointing out that I was neurotic in high school, as I am today, and I had a tendency to take things too personally. That is a side-effect of trauma, but I still made my choices, independent of my own marginalization in life. Consequently I may have absorbed more belief in that popularity hierarchy than my progressive beliefs should let me allow. Or perhaps that absorption is simply a product of my own privilege.
What I’m trying to say through all of this is that when I watch trashy teen thrillers or party movies, there’s a tiny part of me that still wishes I could be one of the cool kids, even though I know that those cool kids were and are, more often than not, spoiled pieces of shit.
What I didn’t know as a teenager that I do know now is that these sorts of movies were always for the purpose of vicarious living. None of the sexed-up, drugged-out circumstances they depict are any more real or realistic than the ironic fate-prisons of film noir. At the very least, they capture reality in a way that is distorted by the filmmakers’ adult cynicism. But a lot of these movies do succeed in capturing the vibe of high school—the pettiness, the desperation, the confusion of nascent and collapsing emotional states. The love of eternal friendship frosted with the dangling knowledge that friendship is not eternal. What a miserable time! Why do we watch these movies? Why are we nostalgic for our teen years when they were so awkward and, oftentimes, so sad?
I guess because we like to gawk.
Project X was made for gawking. Made in 2012, this movie is a time capsule of millennial embarrassment. It is the story of a group of teens who decide to host the party of the century, which soon gets out of hand. There’s not much of a premise beyond that. The movie is rather notoriously stupid, being just a festival of drinking and sex talk, and that’s precisely why I watched it. I wanted to see what passed for “cool” entertainment at the tail end of my own teen years.
Project X is fundamentally an example of missed potential. It’s a movie that comes so close to criticizing the crude bigotry of its “protagonists” that its failure to do so crowds out any of its thematic value. It’s a movie that chooses to take the easy route of portraying hard drug use, bullying, slurs, and cheating on your partner as things that are ultimately consequence-free, as long as you’re young and white enough. Sure, it milks these things for conflict, but the entire thing is so lacking in plot structure that nothing comes to any sort of meaning, and not in the way the filmmakers probably intended.
But, there was still potential. And so as a writer, I got to thinking.
I’ve always been interested in the idea of pleasure, despite my non-status as a party girl. I’ve read a lot of the “horrible books” I mentioned above (and below), a great many of which deal with the nature of pleasure as a philosophy unto itself. I think that the study of pleasure is interesting on both a literary and psychological level, as it digs into the deepest layers of what makes us human. For this book, I decided to blend together what I’ve learned to create a retelling of Project X that not only tapped into my sociopolitical concerns, but also my own sense of the nature of pleasure—including the pleasure of off-the-rails storytelling. I hope you enjoy the resulting tale.
I do recommend watching Project X prior to reading Operation Xanadu, as I followed the movie pretty much beat-for-beat up to a certain point. I wrote this as what I’ll refer to here as a a “parallel work,” much in the same way that the 2022 Netflix series The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window is a parallel work to the 2021 film The Woman in the Window. As is my unquenchable habit, I’ve included a few nods to various other pieces of fiction along the way, including other teen movies.
From the moment I finished this project, I had R. Paul Sardanas’ Gromagon Press in mind for publishing it. I knew that a story centering on the exploration of hedonism and debauchery was exactly in line with what that esteemed house specializes in. Gromagon is the publisher of Mr. Sardanas’ excellent Doc Talos series, which was not a small influence on this book. One of the figures of this story who I drew from preexisting literature helps make this connection more appropriate; like Doc Talos, this character was the product of a social experiment conducted on him from birth, intended to shape him into a superhuman being. As Doc Talos is in many ways a dark reflection of the pulp hero Doc Savage (or is it the other way around?), having a figure who is a shadow-version of the Bronze God of Technopolis seemed fitting. My thanks to Gromagon for publishing this book; I am truly honored to join the ranks of awesome creators who have helped make it one of the coolest indie presses in the world.
I extend those thanks to you as well, dear reader, and I hope that the serving of hedonism I place before you more than sates your appetite. “Till the break of dawn, yo!”
Exclusive by direct order from Gromagon Press, Operation Xanadu is available in paperback and PDF download. To order, please send an email to email@example.com, and our administrative staff will respond with PayPal information for you to purchase this book.
Operation Xanadu by Atom Mudman Bezecny
6 x 9 Paperback, 90 pages
$14 plus $5 shipping and handling
PDF download is available for $8.00, and you will be provided with a download link upon purchase.
“Till the break of dawn, yo!”