33 ⅓: Babes in Toyland’s Fontanelle by Selena Chambers

So…my 13-year old self just swooned through the future to fall into my 39-year old arms as a major dream has come true… 

I will be writing the 33 ⅓ series installment on the band that changed me forever–Babes in Toyland–and their seminal album Fontanelle! 33 1/3 Books made the announcement this afternoon, revealing their next 15 picks from an open call of 400 submissions earlier this year.

Coming Fall 2022, here’s a short summary of what you can expect:

Babes in Toyland was one of the most influential and forgotten bands of the 1990s. Despite creating a unique brand of sisterhood that inspired fans to create Riot Grrl and legendary bands such as 7 Year Bitch, Bikini Kill, and yes, even Hole, the Babes’ story seems to only exist as footnotes to other more famous figures. The all-girl band rode the wave of the Minneapolis grunge scene crafting a unique sound composed of self-taught instrumentation and unabashed banshee raging vocals. Their stage presence was enigmatic, their lyrics vitriolic, and their Kinderwhore fashion ironic and easy to emulate. But what made them most inspiring was their ethos. 

While all female, the band insisted their music wasn’t a political statement but a personal expression. They would dismiss labeling their act as feminist but their actions sent a positive message of what a matriarchal system within music could look like. But then they let the patriarchy in via their major label contract with Warner Bros., and the unique frission of the Babes would never be the same again. Now, almost 30 years after their most seminal record, Fontanelle was released, the legend of the band is being resurrected and respun to reclaim their proper space and context in the history of music and women in rock.

I’ve been a long-time fan of this series, and getting to share my love of the Babes with the series editors and readers is an amazing opportunity that has left me humble and excited to write again. I am so excited to see the other albums and the wonderful range on display–Maria Callas, Kendrick Lamar, George Michael, and Britney–and really can’t believe I’ll have a contribution among them. I can’t thank 33 1/3 enough for including me!

THE NEW GOTHIC Giveaway: On Nirvana and the Gothic

THE NEW GOTHIC among all my Nirvana swag from the Tallahassee concert in 1993. Took those photos in the corner with a really crappy $10 camera from Kmart. Oh, the 90s.
THE NEW GOTHIC among all my Nirvana swag from the Tallahassee concert in 1993. Took those photos in the corner with a really crappy $10 camera from Kmart. Oh, the 90s.

So, this week is a big week for Nirvana fans. Today marks the 20th anniversary of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s death and on April 10, the band will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I don’t know if y’all realize, but I’m really into Nirvana. IN UTERO came out just in time for me to throw my twelfth birthday money at it. It, along with BABES IN TOYLAND’s PAINKILLERS and Hole’s PRETTY ON THE INSIDE and later LIVE THROUGH THIS, was one of those albums that changed my life in the way that only music and books and arts can do. Nirvana even came to my town with the Breeders in December ’93, and being at that concert is pretty much on my list of life achievements.

Anyway, as has been mentioned here before, I wrote a short story with my inimitable friend Jesse Bullington that is in Stone Skin Press’ THE NEW GOTHIC: DON’T EMBRACE THE DARKNESS. FEAR IT.  Edited by Beth Lewis, this anthology reassess the Gothic legacy, and as critic Ed Grabianowski put it in a glowing review over at i09:

“I’m not too worried about whether this collection redefines the field. What I can tell you is that editor Beth K. Lewis and the team at Stone Skin Press have selected a terrific set of stories. They hang together, despite disparate elements; each tale hints at the darkness lurking in urban neighborhoods, in old houses, on desolate roads, and in our hearts. Cue Vincent Price’s menacing laugh echoing down a black corridor. There are no castles here, but there’s no sympathy for the devil either.”

Sounds pretty hardcore, right?

The story Jesse and I wrote is called “Dive In Me,” and is about three adolescent girls in the early 90s and their friendship that leads to staring into atramedous pits of both the literal and figurative senses.  Jesse has described it as “Daria goes to Hell,” and I’ve called it a “grunge-nightmare.” It is definitely a period piece, and that hasn’t been more apparent to me than today, on the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s suicide, in which I am definitely feeling kind of bored and old.

The title, of course, refers to my personal favorite Nirvana song “Dive,” which is on Incesticide, and provides something of the “soundtrack” to the ramblings, froggings, and chain smoking antics of the girls in this story.  As a Nirvana fan, I didn’t really want to do anything celebrating death or hype or whatever, I kind of wanted to celebrate how expression can lead to other forms of expression, and so because of the connection with “Dive In Me,” I thought it’d be fun to do a THE NEW GOTHIC giveaway during this big   Nirvana week.

Stone Skin Press is throwing in two copies to my one for a three book giveaway! Deets below.

THE RULES:  All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post about either Nirvana or the Gothic–it is entirely up to you. Comments will be open from now until April 10 at 12 EST.  I will choose the best three comments and announce the winners Friday, April 11th at 8 am EST.

I do have one tiny request. The kind i09 review aside, THE NEW GOTHIC hasn’t had many reviews on Amazon, GoodReads, etc.  Obviously, it’s a free country, but if the winners of this contest would be so kind as to give their thoughts, even if you hate it, at some bookish reviewer thing, even if it is your blog, that would be lovely.

Alright. Well, let’s dive in then….

io9 reviews THE NEW GOTHIC

io9 reviews THE NEW GOTHIC

io9 ran a great review of Stone Skin Press’ THE NEW GOTHIC, edited by Beth Lewis, and features a grunge-nightmare by Jesse Bullington and me called “Dive In Me.”  The reviewer Ed Grabianowski said this about our tale:

“Things get off to a terrifying start with Jesse Bullington and S.J. Chambers’ “Dive in Me.” It pushes so many horror buttons, from the crushing insecurity of youth to the simple fear of drowning, and it builds to a stunning climax, the kind where you’re sort of breathlessly turning each page as your eyes gradually get wider and wider. This one will stick in my head for a long time.

It’s no insult to say that no other story in the book quite reaches the heights of “Dive in Me,” because it’s that good.”

 

Dive by Post: Feature on Stone Skin Press for THE NEW GOTHIC

Sleepy Selena wants to share a thing before she slips off to miscount sheep.

Stone Skin Press is excerpting “Dive In Me,” a story Jesse Bullington and I wrote about growing up SO(thern) GOTH and grunge in the 90s. It is the opener to THE NEW GOTHIC, edited by the awesome Beth Lewis, and is on sale now.

Jesse and I actually grew up in the same small times town in Northern Florida, and shared a similar taste in flannel, boots, and mischief, if I recall. This story encapsulates a bit of that along with a composite of the adolescent girls we once knew.  The title, for reasons that will be seen in the story, was inspired by Nirvana’s “Dive.”

There are plenty of awesome authors in this collection like Ramsey Campbell, Damien Kelley, Lauren Ellen Joyce, Richard Dansky, and more.  I, personally, can’t wait to check out everyone else’s contribution.

Woo-boy. Neuron switches are being flipped one by one. Thanks for shutting the place down with me. I’m diving in and out. Good night, folks!