Rare by design, the limited-to-300 first edition of meta-sci-fi collection Mecca | Mettle is handsome, to say the least. Beautifully bound, it wears an eye-popping, hand-screened dust cover utilizing the artwork of Hugo Award winner Tim Kirk, whose art also illustrates the book. Snuggled on the inside back cover, a CD features three tracks by co-authors and purveyors of educore, BlöödHag, with a humorous reading by Thomas M. Disch of his contribution, "Mecca: A Vision of the Next Crusade." This beautifully designed onslaught is the work of the "venerable" publishing house of Payseur and Schmidt, whose storied history is storied to the extent that it is a completely fictional account submitted by the real publishers, three unsung-by-choice associates of the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle.
The Mettle portion of the book, penned by the members of BlöödHag, has fun with the sci-fi genre, a cause proselytized by the band. Their contributions assert themselves as excerpts of their imagined "famous" works, each with an accompanying biographical note issuing enough hot air to float a Jules Verne story. BlöödHag's contributions are appropriately clever and leave the reader compelled to check out more of their work.
The Mecca section, penned by acclaimed author and poet Disch, borders on incendiary. Set in a not-so-distant future, Mecca chronicles the career of pop sensation Saddam X—a failed suicide bomber who spreads militant Islamic ideals through the power of hiphop. The feeling you get as you read Mecca is one of complete absurdity mixed with the eerie sensation that the events described could easily transpire tomorrow. Disch reinforces the unease by concluding the piece with Saddam X's call-to-arms single, "I am the War, I am the Imam," in its entirety.
Like a literary Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, Mecca | Mettle is a collision of things that are both attractively packaged and delicious, but leave the consumer with a longing for more. An obvious labor of love, Mecca | Mettle lends institutional science fiction, whose shores are too rarely populated with those who are hip and self-aware, two things it frequently lacks—a sound and a sense of humor.