Author Spotlight – Gina Ranalli

Once again, I delve into the land of Bizarro with another talented writer in that oddball, new literary movement.

Gina Ranalli is a female presence in a literary genre that has not many representing it. Don’t get me wrong, Bizarro isn’t a boy’s club by any means; it is populated with a few bold women like Athena Villaverde, C.V. Hunt and Constance Ann Fitzgerald, but as of 2013, the ladies are in the minority here. So, to any of my fellow female writers following Royal Manaball: Write Bizarro!

I’ve been following Ms. Ranalli’s work for a while now and I can’t recall how or why I began reading her tales. Perhaps it was the cool cover art, or maybe just the Amazon synopsis, but after beginning with House of Fallen Trees, I was hooked.

Gina Ranalli: Bizarro Central

Gina Ranalli: Bizarro Central

There are many themes and idiosyncrasies that glue her catalog together. Sometimes they are subtle, other times they are quite overt, but any which way, these topics are always subverted.

Gina tends to examine feminism with a sober and somewhat detached style of writing, almost as if to say, “Yeah, sure, this is feminist, but do we have to focus on that?” I find it a bit refreshing that her ability to handle gender politics is subdued and, at times, lovingly poked fun at. This humor, and Ranalli is a master at crafting humor, helps normalize issues of gender politics and ultimately, makes the concept inviting and fun to outsiders – the way it should be!

Children are another one of Gina’s pet topics. For the most part, if you’re a kid in a Ranalli book – you’re evil. It’s true, kids can be cruel, but this author can take the concept of childhood cruelty and make it horrifying, even apocalyptic in some cases.

Ranalli’s books usually feature a protagonist who is somehow in a minority population, be it sexual orientation, gender, race, creed, etc. What is interesting to me is how we may not find out this information until halfway through the book. It’s a detail that is dropped casually and organically – again, the way it should be!

Bottom line: Ranalli doesn’t like preaching and she doesn’t like to do the preaching either. The aforementioned subtleties this author employs to convey her messages and subtexts take quite the skill to render in such a way. Sure her books may be loaded, what ones aren’t, but these don’t blow up in your face and get in the way of entertaining, scary, weird (and they are weird) tales.

Some highlights to Ranalli’s catalog include:

Praise the Dead: This is a zombie book, but zombies are just incidental here. The real monster is the evil, little sociopath who started it all. Andrew Perry is so foul and obnoxious as a child who can raise the dead – into shambling flesheaters. Gina illustrates him as this morbid, little Howdy Doody, who, ironically, is the puppet master here as he marches down the streets leading his cannibalistic horde. I think Perry is one of my top ten villains in books thus far.

Mothman Emerged: C’mon, you know I love cryptids – Mermaids, Sasquatch, the Mad Gasser of Mattoon. Here, Ranalli focuses not on the tired, old fare of vampires and werewolves, but the Mothman. Eh, not just a mothman, but more like an infestation of them. After a bit, no where in Lockwood, Washington is safe from these beasties, and let me tell you – they bite. HARD! Although it is gory, the language is kept to a minimum and any sexual content is “offscreen.” This book is fine for the YA market.

Mother Puncher: Once again, children are the villain here, but not any one child, just the concept of being born in an overpopulated world is shamed. In order to bring down that shame, “mother punchers” are employed to punch the parents of the newborn right in the hospital on the day of delivery. Problems arise for State-sponsored mother puncher Ed Means when professional rivalry threatens his very livelihood and family. This contest ends up getting out of hand – way out of hand.

Wall of Kiss: This novel features a woman who just can’t seem to get it right. Eventually she snaps and falls in love with a bare wall in her living room. No, I’m not kidding – and Ranalli makes this work! The featured woman’s descent into madness is so well-crafted and believable that you can’t help but turn the page to see what messed-up thing she’s going to do next. By the way, this character is seriously ill and does not hide her hallucinations from the general public. Just like Mother Puncher, what begins as a wee barleycorn of trouble blooms into an over-the-top hurricane.

House of Fallen Trees: God, I LOVED this! First off, it takes place on a pirate ship in the middle of a forest. How cool is that? As bizarre as that seems, there is a logical explanation to it which is the crux of this remarkable ghost story. The characters here are so naturally rendered, that I cannot help but think of mumblecore horror films like The Innkeepers or House of the Devil. Speaking of which, I loved this book so much, it would be a dream to see Ti West direct the film version. Subtle, quiet horror with a deafening ending.

Suicide Girls in the Afterlife: I enjoy any books that dare to imagine an afterlife. There is such a wellspring of imaginative options for a writer with this milieu at hand. So, what happens when you are a couple of emo girls who commit suicide (well, one kinda does, but didn’t really mean to)? I can’t give away too much here, but the Afterlife is a flying hotel and Jesus smokes a lot of weed.

These are just a few offerings from this prolific writer and she continues to produce on a regular basis. I’ll be sure to get Brainfused Colorwheel next.

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2 Responses to “Author Spotlight – Gina Ranalli”

  1. We’ve conversed about Gina before, and it’s great to see you’ve given her some love on your blog, Mark! 🙂

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