We’ve dealt with alien lizards invading earth before with V. This time, there’s a lot less peeling off human guises to reveal the ghastly lizard creatures beneath, and a lot more sex, drugs, and probably rock n’ roll in Ashley Christine’s Midnight 99, out today from NeoText.
Midnight 99 is the decidedly untraditional whodunnit story of disgraced journalist Tulsa Kalhoun, whose predilection for “perception-expanding herbal narcotics” precipitated an inconvenient spiritual awakening to the truth of her world—that is, that Earth is controlled by alien lizards who are terraforming the planet as their ultimate vacation destination. But when she awakens after a long bender to find a supposedly unkillable lizard overlord named Doug dead on the toilet, Tulsa needs to pull herself together to find out what exactly happened—and how not to get blamed for it.
There’s a whole lot going on in Christine’s outrageous debut novella, including detailed footnotes that are not to be skipped, so who better to give us some insight into all that than Christine themself.
The concept of this story is pretty out of this world and it begs the question, what was your inspiration? Were alien lizard pharmacologicals involved?
Actually, the opposite. Believe it or not, I actually started writing this when I was newly sober, and I’ve never done psychedelics of any kind. I’m a big fan of conspiracy theories, but the deeper you dig into most conspiracy theories they usually end in satanism and/or racism. Remember when conspiracy theories used to be wacky fun and not a threat to our fragile democracy?
What if Lizard overlords are obsessed with Miami Vice and boning an endless parade of human hotties? What if a grey alien was a mob boss? In most conspiracy theories, the people secretly in power, the Illuminati, the Lizard people, the NWO, are portrayed as these forces of dignified malevolence. But I think most people, if they had limitless power and riches, would do what everyone wants to do: have sex, get high and party like sloppy college kids on spring break. Which is much more fun to picture, and much more human.
What makes earth an excellent vacation destination for lizard folks?
Well, thanks to the terraforming project started by the Lizard Overlords in the late 16th century (when they convinced humans that digging stuff up and burning it was the best way to power a civilization), Earth’s base climate is almost perfect Lizard temperature. And all the fires and crazy storms due to climate change? Well, Lizards are suckers for drama, so they love all that natural disaster nonsense. (It should be noted that Lizards can’t be killed on Earth. Sitting in the middle of a forest fire or being blown around by a hurricane is like a spa day to them.)
Also, Doug and Terrence (our Lizard overlords) have steered human society to replicate the delicacies of their homeworld. I’m talking Twinkies, Cheesewiz, McRibs, discontinued ’90s sodas. You know all that processed factory food that’s really bad for human bodies? Well, that’s because it’s not meant to be eaten by humans. It’s been manufactured so the Lizards can get their calories when they come to Earth to take over.
Lizards also eat humans, but that’s more of a power thing as opposed to a nutrition thing.
Are there any important biology-class details we should know about lizard dicks in advance of reading Midnight 99?
Well, they are big and spectacular to behold, even in a flaccid state. It’s very tempting to poke one with stick, just to see what it does. Which is not recommended. The Lizards say it tickles.
Please explain your fondness for footnotes.
One of my favorite books is House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, which has an entire subplot that plays out in the footnotes. I really like playing with form in whatever medium I’m working in. With footnotes, the reader has to engage a more active part of their brain while reading and they can choose to go off on a number of quick side quests from the main story. I don’t want people just to read Midnight 99, I want it to be an experience that assaults their senses from all sides. The footnotes are a part of that.
Also, it’s a nice way to world build without having to interrupt the flow of the narrative.
You describe Tulsa as “the unholy spawn of Hunter S. Thompson, Grace Jones, and Tank Girl,” which creates quite an image in my head — but how does she look in your mind?
I’d say Tulsa looks like Grace Jones (with more piercings), dresses like Hunter S. Thompson, and moves through the world with Tank Girl’s chaotic cartoon energy.
Or, if you want a real-life person, I’d say comedian Amber Ruffin perfectly incapsulates Tulsa’s wacky, upbeat energy. And yes, I would LOVE to have Amber Ruffin play Tulsa if this crazy novella gets adapted into a TV series, movie, radio play, or avant-garde puppet show.
You also describe her as queer and a weirdo like yourself — a queerdo, as you say. Are you making t-shirts for your new branding? How would your younger queerdo self-have felt if you’d had a book like this to read?
Awww, dude, I should totally make T-shirts! Looks like I’ll have to fire up the old Etsy page…
Younger me would be psyched for this book. They would be so happy that there’s something out there with a female main character that’s as loud and as weird and as random as they are. Younger Ashley would also be impressed that I managed to write something other than Phantom of the Opera fan fiction.
Follow Ashley Christine on Twitter for more news and thoughts on their debut novella, and check out the interior art below!