A celebrated poet and novelist, Ron Koertge’s latest release, Vampire Planet, a collection of sci-fi and fantasy poems, has been enthralling readers since its release earlier this year. I know that if you’re an old school, comic book collecting, midnight release attending, anti-fluff sci-fi aficionado, your mouse has probably been hovering over the back button on your browser as soon as you saw the word “poet.” So before we get into the thick of this Vampire Planet review, I’ll leave it to the author himself to explain why you should let him entertain you (and Mrs. Frankenstein’s lingerie and cyborg cheerleaders putting pom-poms in unexpected places are only the tip of the hysterical iceberg):
“I write dialogue well, and I’m funny. I like iconoclasm and practice it in my fiction. I don’t like pretense or hypocrisy. I’m almost always irreverent.” Ron Koertge
Vampire Planet is packed full of short, to-the-point works, a mix of never before published poems, and returning favorites. As a writer/reader/geek, as soon as I saw the cover, I knew this book and I would be great friends.
Not limited to only sci-fi, there are many poems that draw upon fantasy or historical inspiration, such as “Charon,” which describes the mythical Grecian ferryman fishing with his dog in the River Styx after a long day, or Rumpelstiltskin’s neighbors smoking a doobie.
However, because this is SciFiAddicts.com and not NerdyPoetry.com, I’ll attempt to limit myself to the more classically science fiction poems.
The collection overall has a somewhat depressingly quirky feeling, in the sense that Koertge takes many of the most mundane and least talked about “normal” moments from the lives of very abnormal characters, and pulls back the veil on the reality of the situation. He writes in a very simplistic and accessible way so that you could hop from Vampire Planet to Planet Hulk and not be overwhelmed with flowery descriptions and over-the-top metaphors.
Koertge bottles the fear and regret bubbling beneath beloved sci-fi classics and smashes the reader over the head with it. When horror movie monsters and comic book heroes are your subjects of choice, bringing them out of their castles or Kryptonian lairs, and giving them very human struggles is effectively flipping the often preached poetic technique of making the usual unusual right on its head. Vampire Planet utilizes sharp wit and minimalist descriptions to create a collection that makes the abnormal, normal.
The highlights of the collection (and my personal favorites) are the poems that take characters you thought you knew and let you know how wrong you were. In “Dear Superman,” Lois Lane laments watching the stream of time rush around the immovable Superman while she herself is pulled under:
Pretty soon I’ll be too frail
to take aloft, and with all those
nick-of-time rescues you’re bound
to pick up somebody more tender
and just as ga-ga as I used to be.
I’d hate her for being seventeen and you
for being… what, 700?
In a similar vein, “Mrs. Victor Frankenstein” is written in the third person as a series of six tercets, telling the story of a failed attempt at seducing Dr. Frankenstein while he is only truly in love with his work. As “Lightning makes night into day,” Frankensteins’ frustrated wife unbuttons her sheer nightgown just a little too far, posing and primping herself for when her bedroom door is torn off its hinges by the uncontrollable lustful monster that stole her husbands’ heart.
The story acts as an unofficial conclusion to the poem “I Went to the Movies Hoping Just Once the Monster Got the Girl,” from earlier in the collection, which tells the story of a young man hoping for some self-validation gained through the monsters on the big screen, who he imagines just want to be loved:
There he stands in the rain peering through her bedroom
window, she in chiffon and dainty slingbacks, he looking
at his butcher shop hands knowing he could never
unsnap a bra
As the “hero” of the damsel’s story, Somebody Impossibly Handsome storms in and ruins everything. The young man in the audience asks himself, “Wouldn’t/ she regret not choosing to stay with someone whose/ adoration was as gigantic as his feet?”
As the lights slowly brighten, the young man is left alone in the theater, afraid for himself, and “lonely as/a leftover thumb.” The longing and unexpected sadness presented in an often comical way throughout Vampire Planet is truly the lifeblood of this collection, though the small details (such as the “leftover thumb” line) that remind the reader that Koertge is a lifelong sci-fi fanatic, bring a sense of genuine adoration for the genre to his pages that makes sappy nerds such as myself smile.
Koertge manages to create a thought-provoking collection of poetry that will bounce around your mind and bubble to the surface at the most unexpected times, in the form of a chuckle on the subway or a thoughtful frown the next time you’re ravenously shoving a Godzilla roll into your face. Overall, I would give the collection a four out of five, only lacking a star because of the random collection of themes and lack of categorical organization. You may go from a poem about Lois Lane washing Supermans tights to a poem about the soldier’s experience waiting in the Trojan horse with no bridge to guide you across the chasm-esque transition. But for some, that may add to the adventure. I’m just a little too “Type A” for that kind of thing. However, I whole-heartedly recommend the book, especially if you’re not really into poetry. It’s probably the least intimidating book of poetry I’ve ever read, so if you’re ready and willing to blast off to Vampire Planet, just remember to hold on tight-
“The sky’s the limit.”
Vampire Planet Review Score – * * * * / * * * * *
Picking up a Copy of Vampire Planet
If Vampire Planet sounds like your jam, you can head over to Amazon and grab a copy.