KERNPUNKT Press, 2020.
Marjorie Cameron Parsons. Famed occultist, Thelemite, strikingly Iowan, Navy volunteer, poet, artist.
This book has nothing to do with her. Or is it the key to the universe? You, reader, have summoned the Three, intertwining your fate with their own. Relationships are mutable and the world spins into another year.
We Were Called Specimens is Jason Teal’s first book of flash fictions. The collection centers on a mythical, supernatural Marjorie untethered to time and space. Follow her into the bleakest, harshest storms of humanity—and flee with her from the onslaught of dreamers and villains alike.
What makes debut writer Jason Teal's collection of speculative fiction work is the punchy writing that never veers too far from our own reality. —Wendy J. Fox, Buzzfeed Books
In Jason Teal’s wonderful, fugitive, and wholly singular new book, WE WERE CALLED SPECIMENS, formal refreshment dovetails with cutting social commentary, and the archetypal origin story is shattered into fragments more mystifying than any archetype should contain. In short, Teal, again and again, ushers forth an innate, but ever-unexpected light from the confines of what he may call “porcelain trinkets mislabeled as heirlooms,” and other detritus that attends humanity in this fever dream of a 21st century. In Marjorie, Teal has done nothing short of invoke a new American mythology—hilarious, heartbreaking, and raw—ever scored with the sort of surreal incantation that essentially disturbs, even as it delights.--Matthew Gavin Frank, author of A Brief Atmospheric Future
Jason Teal’s WE WERE CALLED SPECIMENS gives us a new way to think about and exercise empathy by allowing our whole selves to participate in his constantly shifting landscape. We view Marjorie, and we become Marjorie, and the people we become become Marjorie, so do the people we love. How do we empathize or heal or love when we are all at once the grotesque, the horrible, the perpetrator and victim, the hero and villain? I appreciate Jason Teal’s writing for giving me these large questions. --Steven Dunn, author of Potted Meat and water & power
Jason Teal’s WE WERE CALLED SPECIMENS is an astonishment, an inventive, thrilling, bright hysteria. I had a blast reading it even as my jaw ached from gaping. Don’t keep Marjorie waiting.—Lindsay Hunter, author of Eat Only When You’re Hungry
Jason Teal's WE WERE CALLED SPECIMENS is so many things - lyrical, at times wryly funny, angry and astute, and deeply heartbreaking. These so many things encapsulate the mess of our current moment, Teal's collection capturing the absurd horrors of capitalism, power and violence with surrealism and blade-sharp prose. These linked stories are essential reading. - Anne Valente, author of The Desert Sky Before Us
Jason Teal is an animal. Whether Marjorie is a platform, an alter ego, a would-be lover, or just product of his imagination, Teal finds a new way to define a character via these uncanny philosophies, experiments, and adventures. She is an indelible part of me now, having read her mantra. Thanks, Jason Teal, for this intrusion, this addition, this experience.—Michael Czyzniejewski, author of I Will Love You for the Rest of My Life: Breakup Stories
With WE WERE CALLED SPECIMENS: AN ORAL ARCHIVE OF THE DEITY MARJORIE, Jason Teal illuminates the contours of a new American mythology, built on gnawed bones and rotted skin. Across this book’s brilliant and weird tales, Marjorie is both haunt and haunted, consumer and consumed, destroyer and destroyed. These are anxious stories for anxious times, dizzying, metamodern explorations of a wayward America, soul-dead beneath the thumb of late-capitalism, and suffering from chronic indigestion. Teal’s deft eye for detail doesn’t pull punches, but even as a narrator urges itself to “Forget how our infrastructure began to crumble, how the ground opened up and swallowed nuclear families, the lost pets they loved,” the imperative, here, is survival—through forgetting, through embracing illusion, through sheer will—and in that survival, WE WERE CALLED SPECIMENS finds its power. You see, Marjorie may look like the end of all things, but she can also be a beginning."—James Brubaker, author of The Taxidermist’s Catalog
Jason Teal’s debut offering successfully breaks free from the detritus, and in the process, actively distances itself from a cycle of wretched cookie-cutter assemblage-based musings, doing away with cursed meanderings from a self-reflexive past while sensibly refusing to adopt the American standardised format of the book. Instead, we are presented with a full and original discourse on supermodernity, satirical prophecy and negligible senescence, through a series of carefully inter-linked meta-vignettes that follow the trajectory of one Marjorie (a super-deity), as she traverses through a multitude of (time-spanning) non-linear adventures. The ideas here are so good, that quite frankly, I believe we are not going to be seeing anything else quite like it, for a very long time. It’s akin to a sacred text containing the history of the entire world, as we know it, replete with masterfully-rendered metaphysical interludes and powerful (but very real) expressionistic dialogue moments (all of this, done to great effect). It’s amazing how, with seemingly minimal effort, Teal has conjured these fantastical and oft memorable tales, all the while, never losing sight of the wondrous scope and expansive power of temporal finitism. Truly, WE WERE CALLED SPECIMENS is on par with the warlock-suffused brilliance of Alan Moore’s Promethea, and even, the undying and palpable mystique of Neil Gaiman’s long-running epic, The Sandman. I believe this is Teal at his finest. —Mike Kleine, author of Kanley Stubrick and Lonely Men Club