Edge of the Known Bus Line
A woman’s daily commute takes an abrupt turn when she’s dropped off in the grotesque shantytown of Out of Service. The townsfolk live in huts and tents scavenged from broken trinkets, eat dead rats and human flesh, and have developed cult-like religions about miracle bus routes that will someday set them free. In an attempt to maintain the normalcy of her original world, the narrator searches for a way out of this surreal hellscape while dredging up a few nightmares of her own in James R. Gapinski’s novella Edge of the Known Bus Line.
Disturbingly hilarious and weirdly affecting, Gapinski’s novella is a stunning fable about what it means to live in late capitalism, an answer to our great predicament: how, indeed, do we “carve something dead into something that matters”? Hallucinatory, savage, but ultimately hopeful, Edge of the Known Bus Line is a bloody bible for our times
Maryse Meijer, author of Heartbreaker
This is a bus we’ve all been on, and this is a town we all carry around with us. The only question is: will James R. Gapinski let us out where we want, or where we deserve?
Stephen Graham Jones, author of Mongrels
Part Kafka-esque dystopia, part Lord of the Flies, part modern allegory, James R. Gapinski’s novella Edge of the Known Bus Line takes us on a one-way trip to the end of civilization and the beginning of what it means to be human.
Melissa Reddish, author of Girl & Flame
The apocalyptic nightmare that James R. Gapinski conjures is unsettling from the start . . . We are led through this strange world by a freelance butcher who becomes an unlikely hero in a rotting state where dead ravens litter the landscape and starvation is endemic. This horrifying, bleak tale is also blackly comic. Swallow it whole.
Laura E. Joyce, author of Luminol Theory
Interview with the Author
Jessica Marvel: The premise of this novella is absolutely insane (in an amazing way)! Where did you get the idea for this novella from?
James Gapinski: I had been reading and absorbing a lot of Etgar Keret when I wrote the first draft. His work is absurdist and fantastic, and I was often doing these mental exercises to imagine the strangest possibilities in a given situation. While I don’t have a great answer for where the idea specifically came from, I’d speculate that I was waiting at the bus stop at some point, saw an “Out of Service” bus, and thought “Hey, I wonder where that bus is headed.”
JM: Throughout the book, no one really gets a real name. Why did you decide to have characters without real names? Not that Condom-Eye and Naked-Boy aren’t already great names.
JG: The lack of names better captures this character’s reality. She purposefully disassociates from those around her. She knows that naming things can create attachments. It also mimics that feeling of a daily bus commute. Unless you’re a chatty person, you’ll likely keep some emotional distance even as you begin to recognize the other commuters. You won’t necessarily learn their names or seek out personal details. They become the sum of their individual mannerisms.
JM: What’s a random fun fact about yourself that we wouldn’t read about in your bio?
JG: I used to build custom electric guitars as a hobby. My favorite one was a Stratocaster-style body, wooden pickguard, rail humbuckers with individual toggles for each blade, and a built-in distortion effect. I really enjoyed experimenting with different electronics, but I haven’t had time for it in a while. And these days, it’s more appealing to play some acoustic guitar or banjo to unwind after work.
JM: Do you have any advice for people looking to publish their own work?
JG: Make sure you have a reason for writing. If your one and only objective is to get published, then you’re going to get burned out before you reach that end-goal. You need something that motivates you intrinsically. Also, getting published is more about reading than it is about submitting over and over and over again. If you read lit mags and follow small presses, you’ll get a feel for which ones most resonate with your style. You can submit more deliberately and send submissions to venues that make the most sense for you. As an added benefit, all that reading will likely make you a better writer.
JM: Some of this novella revolves around the main character and others using items dropped off by passing buses. Have you ever left something important on a bus?
JG: Nothing too important. I habitually leave umbrellas on buses. This is problematic in Portland since it rains a lot here.