The headline kind of says it all, especially for those who already know what I mean by “pizza horror”, but for those not in the know, oh please, let me be the first to spin this amusing tale for you.
(If you already know about pizza horror and just want to sign up, scroll to the bottom of the page. You’ll get an unrelated short story when you sign up, and you’ll get the pizza one in your email on June 1.)
Back in 2019, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing had the idea of putting together Tales from the Crust, an anthology of horror stories all centered around that most delicious of doughy treats. With its fancy cover and its crazy/wonderful premise, it attracted the attention of a good many horror writers, and pizza-related tales of the macabre came pouring in like freshly grated parmesan.
The promise of pizza horror was inherently funny, but it became funnier in the aftermath. For the writers who made the cut, the story ended there. But as with any anthology, most stories didn’t. Now, when a story fails to get into the publication for which it was written, often a writer sends it other places to see if there is a home for it elsewhere. If the theme is “water” or “dreams” or “animals”, that it can happen with no one any the wiser. But when the theme is pizza, and scores of writers sitting on unfinished stories are sending them out at once, there’s no way to hide. It became its own subgenre of pre-rejected material. “Here’s what I wrote that they didn’t want for the pizza book. Do you want it?”
When publishers put out calls for short stories, their submission boxes were invariably double-stuffed. It got so many editors would include “no pizza stories” in their submission guidelines. And even if they did publish a pizza story (I don’t know of any publication outside of the original anthology that ever did), we would all know. All of us who knew about the pizza book. Who submitted for the pizza books. Who failed to to get into the pizza book.
How many orphaned tales of cursed crusts and evil anchovies are still sitting on the hard drives of writers the world over, rendered unpublishable by their saucy stigma? We may never know. But I know about one for sure.
It’s called One Star Rating and it’s about a group of obnoxious podcasters who give a bad review to the wrong pizza chef and live to regret it. I’ll even give you the first paragraph now.
There used to be a podcast called The Pizza Piecast. They did episodes every Sunday, ordering pizzas and criticizing ingredients, laughing like animals, starting hashtags and in-jokes that became nightmares for business owners. Fans would tune in by the thousands, especially when they heard the gang hated a place. They were at their funniest when they were disgusted, when they were savage. Behind the veil of anonymity provided by the internet, they broadcast opinions that you’d blush if you accidentally said with a chef in earshot. With a microphone and a wi-fi connection, even more than with a telephone, you can be aggressive without feeling confrontational. You can make believe you are among friends. The Pizza Piecast is still going, but they’re not the same these days. Not since they reviewed McGillicutty’s.
Other than the editors of the pizza horror anthology, nobody has read One Star Rating. I thought perhaps I’d see fit to put it in a collection one day, but barring that, it’s one of several stories that sits quietly on my computer, doing nothing and bothering no one.
As part of the newsletter I started last month, I’m thinking of putting out quarterly short stories, things that might never go out anywhere else. I send out the newsletter on the first of every month, so the easiest way to do “quarterly” is to just use months divisible by 3. For now, that’s what I’ll plan on. March, June, September, and December.
You can subscribe to my newsletter at the bottom of this post (or any post) for free. Signing up immediately gets you access to a different free short story (a quiet, somber bit of dark fiction called Lying Here with You), and One Star Rating will be emailed to you on June 1st.
Finally, after all these years, the world will meet Paddy McGillicutty and learn what happened to the Pizza Piecast.