September 9: “Sex Devil” by Jack Pendarvis

Tonight, I ‘m going to get to the point, Story366. I just came back from a reading that Karen gave at MSU, her first reading for her first book, No More Milk. It was great, great fun—Karen rocked—and she also read with her longtime friend and mentor (from Morehead State, back in the day) Michelle Boisseau. Killer, killer reading and even more fun with drinks afterward. Michelle swore she wouldn’t want to go out , but a few sazeracs later, I’m scrambling to get this post up on time (made it!).

So into Jack Pendarvis’ fine collection The Mysterious Secret of the Valuable Treasure, out from Lawson, I go. I have to say, I really, really love Pendarvis’ writing. I’ve read stories in magazines and anthologies and have always enjoyed what I’ve read, but for whatever reason, never got ahold of a collection. So, I was pretty pumped to finally be getting to him for this blog.

I read several of the stories in The Mysterious Secret of the Valuable Treasure and enjoyed them all. But since I’m not above exploiting a title in exchange for hits on this blog, I’m going to write about the lead story, “Sex Devil,” which is pretty freakin’ awesome (and just might come up in random porn searches to boot).

“Sex Devil” is an epistolary, making it first person monologue by default, written by this person who would like a comic book publisher to start publishing a comic based on his creation, Sex Devil. That’s his salutation, expressing this interest in that first paragraph, and from there, we get the origin of Sex Devil, plus the launch of Sex Devil’s superhero career as Sex Devil.

Sex Devil, you see, was just an ordinary kid named Randy White who got picked on a lot by the bullies at school. He’s picked on so much, the ambiguously Asian janitor at the school takes pity on him, so he takes Sex Devil—even before he’s Sex Devil, he’s referred to as “Sex Devil”—to his shack, underneath which he trains Sex Devil in strange but powerful martial art that only he knows (he and Sex Devil, that is). The janitor and Sex Devil become friends, but soon, the janitor is killed by the bullies who’d bullied Sex Devil, making Sex Devil leave high school behind and become a superhero. He gets more training, from some Arab Americans who are wrongly imprisoned (again, by the bullies at Sex Devil’s high school, who are now a crime syndicate)—Sex Devil is at this point the psychiatrist at this prison—training that awards him great control over his body. This is topped off by an accident at a chemical factory, where Sex Devil’s genitals are mutated into something truly marvelous.

Okay, so that’s the origin of Sex Devil, how he gets to be, basically, this super-skilled lover, on account of his body control and chemically enhanced privates. From there, Sex Devil’s story takes some interesting turns, none of which I’ll reveal here. In the end, we loop back to that narrator, the letter-writer, Sex Devil’s creator, who signs off, basically asking, Eh?

While it seems like a simple story, some guy not knowing how publishers buy stories, there’s a lot under the surface. Not that it takes a genius to figure any of this out—really, my three year old could figure out that this Sex Devil creator is a high school kid, bullied a lot at school and not getting laid—but it’s the thought that counts here, Pendarvis never hiding that obviousness from his reader. It’s a fun story, the voice losing its grip on reality, and English, as it moves through different phases of Sex Devil’s story. There’s a lot of pent-up masculinity here, but that’s the point, this fantasy what Pendarvis is satirizing. Of course this kid is going to dream of being a bad ass. Of course he’s going to dream of being a football star. Of course he’s going to dream that he’s got an enormous, meta-human dick. That doesn’t make this stab and glory any less fun.

I love, love, love Jack Pendarvis’ work, in The Mysterious Secret of the Valuable Treasure, and everywhere. The nerd in me loves it. The writer in me loves it. It’s just good shit.