Miracle Mike, the Headless Chicken

I won't say that the story of CLUMP couldn't have happened without "Miracle Mike," but it would have been a lot less likely.

I was getting ready to write an entirely different novel when I chanced upon this picture of Mike taken in 1945. A miraculous ax-swing and fortuitous blood clot left the chicken headless...but otherwise alive and well. So remarkable was this occurrence that Mike became a major celebrity, whom thousands of people paid to see.

But "what if...?"

What if a similar occurrence left a human being headless but living in today's Internet-driven, celebrity obsessed culture?

Writers love asking questions like that. And CLUMP is my answer to that question.

Olga, the Headless Girl

Poor Olga. She was beautiful and in love with a brilliant young surgeon before they were involved in a terrible car accident. In the immediate aftermath, the doctor saw that his beloved's head had been removed, then crushed, by the tumbling automobile. But her body was almost untouched...

With strength born of love and desperation, he carried his lover's limp body to his lab and connected tubing to supply blood, oxygen, and nutrients...at which point the flesh turned warm and pink, and Olga showed no signs of pain or distress. Miraculously, and inexplicably, she could even carry out simple actions which she'd done before decapitation. Much to the delight of the young surgeon...and the hundreds of thousands of gullible people who have paid to see "Olga" (or one of her many, many sisters and cousins) in carnival sideshows.

Here's a modern version of "Olga" on YouTube!

A Little Off The Top

Sure, a lucky chicken can get away with losing most of his brain...and a sideshow illusion is fun, but it doesn't prove anything. Surely a human being couldn't lose most of his brain and live - right?

Not necessarily. The gentlemen above are only two of many you can find with a bit of searching on the Internet.

And an additional search would turn up interesting information about Hemispherectomy,  a medical procedure in which half of the brain is deliberately removed - frequently as a last resort in treating seizure disorders.

Is it really so hard to believe that a bit more brain...and a bit more...could keep being removed until we had the human equivalent of Miracle Mike the chicken? And if that human, like CLUMP, retained any ability to perform, is there any doubt that the Internet (our modern day version of Olga's sideshow) would make him a star?


There he is, in all his headless glory. This image was a key component of the book's original trade paperback cover. I really like the physicality and danger here. But...

The image just didn't really say "literature" or "humor" or "social commentary." And in fact, it at least hinted that the contents of the book might be Gay porn. Which could actually be a hot seller, but didn't represent the "truth in advertising" I felt that readers deserved.

I subsequently wrestled with a lot of images and ideas...and then, in an intuitive leap that I can't entirely explain, decided that the book absolutely needed an Art Deco cover. Something more colorful, more literary, more kinetic, and more fun...

Luckily, I found talented artist Rodolfo Reyes, who brought the imagery together beautifully. I created the word "Splatire" to make sure people understood that there was humor - and blood - in the novel. I'm really happy with the book's cover because the headless muscleman is impressive and iconic, he's supporting the huge weight of his name (not a bad metaphor for celebrity), and he's at the center of our media-obsessed society.