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 outré, 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
2016: Berzerkoids – MP Johnson
2015: The Pulse Between Dimensions and the Desert – Rios de la Luz
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
2016: I Will Rot Without You – Danger Slater
2015: Skullcrack City – Jeremy Robert Johnson
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
Notable Bizarro Works
Most notable Bizarro works generally tend to come from the major Bizarro presses, most notably Eraserhead Press. Although there are many books that have qualities of Bizarro, such as William Burroughs Naked Lunch or Mark Z Danielewski’s House of Leaves, a Bizarro work tends to be defined by its publication inside of the Bizarro scene, from between the years 2001, when the first Carlton Mellick III book was published, to the present.
Although Bizarro is a DIY genre that gets little media attention, a notable Bizarro work is often one that has broken past the barriers of the genre and received wider attention in literature and media.
|Satan Burger||2001||Carlton Mellick III||Eraserhead Press||9780971357235||236|
|The Baby Jesus Buttplug||2003||Carlton Mellick III||Eraserhead Press||0972959823||104|
|Angel Dust Apocalypse||2005||Jeremy Robert Johnson||Eraserhead Press||0976249839||184|
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- Afterbirth Books
- Eraserhead Press
- Raw Dog Screaming Press
- LegumeMan Books
- Rooster Republic Press
- Orciny Press