Bizarro fiction is a contemporary literary genre, which often uses elements of absurdism, satire, and the grotesque, along with pop-surrealism and genre fiction staples, in order to create subversive works that are as weird and entertaining as possible. The term was adopted in 2005 by the independent publishing companies Eraserhead Press, Raw Dog Screaming Press, and Afterbirth Books. Much of its community revolves around Eraserhead Press, which is based in Portland, Oregon, and has hosted the BizarroCon yearly since 2008. The introduction to the first Bizarro Starter Kit describes Bizarro as "literature's equivalent to the cult section at the video store" and a genre that "strives not only to be strange, but fascinating, thought-provoking, and, above all, fun to read." According to Rose O'Keefe of Eraserhead Press: "Basically, if an audience enjoys a book or film primarily because of its weirdness, then it is Bizarro. Weirdness might not be the work's only appealing quality, but it is the major one."
In general, Bizarro has more in common with speculative fiction genres (such as science-fiction, fantasy, and horror) than with avant-garde movements (such as Dadaism and surrealism), which readers and critics often associate it with. While the genre may place an emphasis on the cult and outre, it is not without critical praise. Books by authors who have identified or have been identified as Bizarro have been praised by Lloyd Kaufman, Michael Moorcock and guardian.co.uk. Bizarro novels have been finalists for the Philip K. Dick Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and the Rhysling Award. A book of Bizarro criticism and theory was named Non-Fiction Book of the Year 2009 by 3:AM Magazine in Paris
Bizarro literature can trace its roots at least as far back as the foundation of Eraserhead Press in 1999, but the description of the literature as "Bizarro" is a more recent development. Previous terms used to refer to the burgeoning scene include "irreal" and "new absurdism", but neither of these was used broadly. On 19 June 2005, Kevin Dole II released "What The Fuck is This All About", a sort of manifesto for the then unnamed genre. While the essay does not feature the word "Bizarro," subsequent discussion about the essay led to the name as well as the inauguration of the Mondo Bizarro Forum.
In his essay, "The Nab Gets Posthumously Bizarroized", Tom Bradley traces the genre's roots back in literary history to the time of Vladimir Nabokov's "gogolization," and his cry of despair and horror at having his central nervous system colonized: "...after reading Gogol, one's eyes become gogolized. One is apt to see bits of his world in the most unexpected places." Bradley claims the Bizarro movement is continuing and fulfilling that gogolization process, under the name "Bizarroization": "...we have been completing the preposterous project which [Nabokov] took over from Gogol nearly a hundred years ago.." Bradley further asserts that Bizarro writers can trace their spiritual roots back to the letters which Ovid wrote while exiled on the Black Sea.
Author John Skipp and fellow small press author Eden Robins have written in praise of the do it yourself, self-promoting aesthetic. Thirdeye Magazine, an online zine, reinforces the perception of Bizarro writing as purposefully absurd. In the io9 article "Independent Publishers Who Are Reinventing The Future," co-editor Charlie Anders praised Bizarro publisher Eraserhead Press as one of their favorite independent presses.
- The Bizarro Starter Kit. Bizarro Books, 2006. p.5
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- Bradley, Tom. "The Nab Gets Posthumously Bizarroized". Bizarro Central. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
- Gogol, Nikolai (1995). The Overcoat and The Nose. Translated by Ronald Wilks. Penguin Books.
- Bradley, Tom (2008), The Dream People
- Bradley, Tom (2009). Put It Down in a Book. The Drill Press. pp. 3–19.
- John Skipp (21 March 2008). "BIZARRO-MANIA!!!". Internet Archive. Archived from the original on 21 March 2008. Retrieved 23 October 2010.
- Eden Robins (23 November 2009). "Bizarro Fiction: Stout Hearts and Strong Stomachs". Ecstatic Days. Retrieved 23 October 2010.
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- Dazed & Confused, September 2007, p. 64
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