And that wonderful voice and Southern attitude has grown in her work, permeated it. Made it unique. It’s not just a pleasant echo anymore, it’s the whole voice, and it’s special. These stories will prove that to you. They are as varied and wonderful as they come. Some of them, even if they weren’t good, deserve attention just for their unique titles: “Binky Malomar and his Amazing Instant Pussy Kit”, for example.
—Joe R. Lansdale, introduction to Nameless Sins 13
There’s an art to a good title. The title is the first thing you see of any book or story, unless an author happens to already be so successful that they put their name in larger font than. When a reader runs their name over a book spine or a cover, down the table of contents, or increasingly in some digitally organized list, the title is the first chance to hook the reader in. A title is a promise to the reader about what is to come—and pulp writers like H. P. Lovecraft knew that. Which is why he famously wrote:
One thing—you may be sure that if I ever entitled a story The White Ape, there would be no ape in it.
—H. P. Lovcraft to Edwin Baird, 3 Feb 1924, Selected Letters 1.294
If your title is enough to get someone to read the story, to get eyeballs on it, you’ve already won half the battle as an author. For Lovecraft, what he was selling to readers was not the promise of the title, it was the twist, the surprise. Anyone looking for the rats in “The Rats in the Walls” is playing Lovecraft’s game, setting themselves up to be shocked.
So why did you want to read about “Binky Malomar And His Amazing Instant Pussy Kit”?
Prurient interest, scientific curiosity, maybe just a tingle of admiration at the pure audacity? Nancy Collins knows how to push buttons; just turning the page can be a transgressive act when your title is “Binky Malomar and his Amazing Instant Pussy Kit,” and the readers become complicit as they read the long title with the naughty word in it and still keep reading. If it feels not quite as naughty in the days when vast portions of cyberspace are devoted to pornography, then keep in mind that this was aiming for a market which is not quite extinct, but is in serious decline: the ribald story.
I first wrote this in 1983 and sent it to National Lampoon, which duly informed me they didn’t accept unsolicited manuscripts—no matter how much they liked them. The story was inspired by the classic NatLamps of old, William Kotzwinkle’s Jack In the Box, and the travails of a friend of mine (who shall remain nameless) who was actually desperate enough to send away for “instant pussy tablets” advertised in the back of Harvey.
—Nancy Collins, Nameless Sins 166
The ribald story has a lot in common with weird fiction. In both cases, the point is not exactly to scare or arouse the reader, but to stimulate the mind. Hints and suggestions are potent at building up atmosphere and exciting the reader’s imagination. They can be transgressive in ways that stick with the reader long after the story is over, explicit in some areas and deliberately evasive in others. Many of the classics of ribald literature have had a fantastical element: old fairy tales before Disney got to them, for instance, and Rabelaisian works like Béroalde de Verville’s Fantastic Tales, or the Way to Attain (as translated by Arthur Machen). The weird ribald tale, or a story that combines elements of transgressive sexual humor and horror, is a traditional mode—especially appropriate when after many ribald adventures, the protagonists come at last to a nastily moralistic end.
For most of the “Binky Malomar And His Amazing Instant Pussy Kit,” Nancy Collins delivers exactly what the readers might expect from the title: one 1980s teenagers sexual frustration made horrifyingly manifest. A Lynchian descent into the small ads at the back of comic books and skinmags, as dire in its way as some of the raunchy 1980s comedies. Binky himself is less sympathetic than pathetic; he evokes a degree of pathos, but there are no illusions that his character is any morally superior to any other in the story. We just spend more time with him and his troubles…and Nancy Collins is one of those authors that knows that while it may be wrong to go too far, it is always fun to go much, much further than too far.
“I’m gonna go to my uncle’s farm this weekend. My cousin Horace is gonna let me fuck one of the sheep. You wanna go?”
The thought of Skooky laboring behind the shanks of some poor, unsuspecting ewe was enought to make Binky want to barf.
—Nancy Collins, “Binky Malomar And His Amazing Instant Pussy kit” in Nameless Sins 173
It isn’t until almost the end that readers start to learn that, like Lovecraft, Nancy Collins knows better than to give the whole game away: the title is the tasty bait for the reader to nibble at, once they’re hooked, she reels them in…and the result is satisfying. The ending is absolutely what makes the entire story. It is that little step past over the edge from reality into the world of the fantastic, the Mythos intruding on reality, and the end result is quite literally climactic—this may be the best Cthulhu Mythos stories about masturbation that has ever been written.
Like Nancy Collins’ “The Thing from Lover’s Lane” (1996), “Binky Malomar And His Amazing Instant Pussy Kit” pulls no punches and is essentially a standalone Mythos story, a one-off which rewards a familiarity with the Cthulhu Mythos but doesn’t try to fit into any larger chronology or define some new corner of Lovecaft country of its own…but it works because it doesn’t have to do any of that. It is a relatively straightforward, punchy story with solid comedic timing that knows exactly what it’s doing and why…and it is kind of sad that it’s gone unrecognized as a really good weird ribald story, a much-neglected genre which might include stories like Karl Edward Wagner’s “Deep in the Depths of the Acme Warehouse” (1994) and Robert Bloch’s “Philtre Tip” (1961).
“Binky Malomar And His Amazing Instant Pussy Kit” by Nancy Collins was published in her collection Nameless Sins (1994). It has not been reprinted.
Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard and Others and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos.
Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein uses Amazon Associate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.