Chuck Palahniuk’s “Guts”

Palahniuk’s “Guts,” originally published in the March 2004 issue of Playboy, is by no means an SF story, but I consider it worthy of sharing. Essentially, it’s a disturbing tale about the perils of male teenage masturbation. You could call it extreme masturbation, but without all of the cameras and sponsors. Instead, it’s matter-of-fact and honest about the subject matter presented. The story’s openness and candor along with the narrator’s sincerity make the story work.

I found out about this short story after reading Kat’s post on her blog, pink india ink, about her actually fainting while reading it on a subway platform in New York City. I knew then that this must be hardcore (i.e., not pornographic, but as graphically explicit and unpleasant as only Palahniuk is). Luckily, the story is available online here, so I eagerly indulged in my need to stare at the carnage long past the time it’s considered socially apropos. While reading it, I didn’t faint, but I’m certain that I made several faces and gestures that inadequately convey the unsettling nature of this story. I’ll make this warning: read only if you’re stout of heart and strong of stomach (no pun intended, and with meant with all weight on one’s ability to withstand nausea). You can also find the story collected in his book, Haunted.

Published by Jason W. Ellis

I am an Assistant Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology. Also, I coordinate the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, which holds more than 600 linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and research publications.