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, weird, and entertaining works. 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.
Wonderland Book Award
The Wonderland Book Award honors the best in bizarro fiction each year. The award recognizes two categories: best novel/novella and best short story collection. The award is voted on by bizarro authors and fans, and presented in the fall at BizarroCon.
Best Short Story Collection
2014: I'll Fuck Anything that Moves and Stephen Hawking – Violet LeVoit
2013: Time Pimp – Garrett Cook
2012: All-Monster Action – Cody Goodfellow
2011: We Live Inside You – Jeremy Robert Johnson
2010: Lost in Cat Brain Land – Cameron Pierce
2009: Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars – Cody Goodfellow
2008: Rampaging Fuckers of Everything on the Crazy Shitting Planet of the Vomit Atmosphere – Mykle Hansen
2007: 13 Thorns – Gina Ranalli
2014: Dungeons & Drag Queens – MP Johnson
2013: Motherfucking Sharks – Brian Allen Carr
2012: Space Walrus – Kevin L. Donihe
2011: Haunt – Laura Lee Bahr
2010: By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends – J. David Osborne
2009: Warrior Wolf Women of the Wasteland – Carlton Mellick III
2008: House of Houses – Kevin L. Donihe
2007: Dr. Identity – D. Harlan Wilson
- The Bizarro Starter Kit. Bizarro Books, 2006. p.5
- O'Keefe, Rose (2 October 2005). "Bizarro FAQs – What is BIZARRO? – Discussion Areas – Mondo Bizarro – Message Board". Yuku. Retrieved 22 October 2010. Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "Bizarro_FAQs" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
- Randy Henderson (21 April 2010). "Fantasy Magazine » Bizarro Fiction 101: Not Just Weird for Weird's Sake". Fantasy Magazine. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
- Kevin Touch (21 May 2010). "Ass Goblins of Auschwitz at horroryearbook.com". horroryearbook. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
- Michael Moorcock (15 June 2010). "Curiouser and curiouser". guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
- Damien G Walter (16 July 2010). "Bizarro fiction: it's terribly good". guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
- "The Philip K. Dick Award – winners by year". Philip K. Dick Award. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
- "Steve Aylett Website - interviews section - WWW.STEVEAYLETT.COM". STEVEAYLETT.COM. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
- "Horror Writers Association – Past Stoker Award Nominees & Winners". Horror Writers Association. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
- Mike Allen. "Rhysling Anthology and Awards: 2007". Science Fiction Poetry Association. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
- Put It Down in a Book by Tom Bradley, The Drill Press, 2009
- "About « Eraserhead Press". Eraserhead Press. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
- Blu Gilliand (1 August 2009). "Dark Scribe Magazine – Feature Interviews – D. Harlan Wilson: Keeping It Irreal". Dark Scribe Magazine. Retrieved 29 August 2011.
- Stephen Thompson (19 August 2008). "The Specusphere – Irrealism and the Bizarro movement". The Specusphere. Retrieved 22 October 2010. Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "The_Specusphere_-_Irrealism_and_the_Bizarro_movement" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
- Kevin Dole 2 (24 August 2007). "So What the Fuck Is This All About?". Internet Archive. Archived from the original on 24 August 2007. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
- "Kevin Dole 2". Bizarro Central. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
- 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.
- Jeff Siwanowicz (3 November 2007). "It Came From Below The Belt". Thirdeye Magazine. Retrieved 23 October 2010.
- Charlie Anders (20 November 2009). "Independent Publishers Who Are Reinventing The Future". io9. Gawker Media. Retrieved 23 October 2010.
- Dazed & Confused, September 2007, p. 64
- "Wonderland Book Award – Final Ballot 2015". Bizarro Central. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
- "Wonderland Book Award winners announced!". Bizarro Central. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
- "2010 Wonderland Book Award". Bizarro Central. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
- "2010 Wonderland Book Award". Bizarro Central. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
- "House of Houses by Kevin L. Donihe | Odd Things Considered". www.oddthingsconsidered.com. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
- "D. Harlan Wilson". Bizarro Central. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
- "Steve Aylett". Bizarro Central. Retrieved 2014-09-12.
- "Tom Bradley". Bizarro Central. Archived from the original on 8 December 2009. Retrieved 2014-09-12.
- "Jeff Burk". Bizarro Central. Retrieved 2014-09-12.
- "Chris Genoa". Bizarro Central. Retrieved 2014-09-12.
- "Eckhard Gerdes". Bizarro Central. Retrieved 2014-09-12.
- "Carlton Mellick III". Bizarro Central. Retrieved 2014-09-12.
- "Cameron Pierce". Bizarro Central. Retrieved 2014-09-12.
- "Bradley Sands". Bizarro Central. Retrieved 2014-09-12.
- "Bruce Taylor". Bizarro Central. Retrieved 2014-09-12.
- "D. Harlan Wilson". Bizarro Central. Retrieved 2014-09-12.