Bizarro Fiction: Stout Hearts and Strong Stomachs

Eden Robins writes what she had previously decided should be termed “quirkpunk” but which she would now like to change to “quirkrock,” just to spice things up. She is also co-editor of Brain Harvest and lives in Chicago, dreading the winters.

Here’s the question that nobody is asking: Exactly how much do you love doughnuts, and what are you willing to do to prove it? Enter Cameron Pierce, writer of bizarro fiction and man of steely intestines. This past weekend, Cameron descended on Portland’s Voodoo Doughnuts for a three-day writing marathon wherein he promised to eat only doughnuts for the duration, freeze his hiney off when the shop closed from 3 am to 6 am, and complete a draft of the first in a trilogy of food stories entitled Die You Doughnut Bastards. Let it be known that bizarro asks the questions that the rest of us are afraid to answer.

I was lucky enough to attend Clarion West with one of the patron saints of the bizarro genre, Carlton Mellick III, and to befriend his wife, publisher Rose O’Keefe of bizarro imprint Eraserhead Press. Bizarro likens itself to the literary version of your video store’s cult section, and indeed you’ll find stories that range from surreal to gruesome, X-rated to quirky and whimsical. Personally, I love the genre for its unapologetic excesses, its focus on good storytelling, and its ability to reflect on everyday weirdnesses by exploring them to their illogical ends. Plus, it’s just a hell of a lot of fun.

Rose O’Keefe and Eraserhead Press are also masterminds of creative and guerrilla marketing. They are passionate about what they do and are eager to bring others into the big bizarro family, and they’ve devised some of the most creative methods of doing so that I’ve seen to date. For example — making a public event out of a writer’s new book, before the thing is even written. They also brew their own beer to celebrate the release of new books and pass it out to partygoers at cons (most recently World Fantasy) to get people talking more about what they do. They know that  readers often seek out the authors they like and not just specific books, so they spend time helping authors cultivate their public identities in a way that makes them more like celebrities to their readers, thus hand-crafting an audience that wants to read their work and building up from there. Bizarro readings also can be very theatrical and entertaining — complete with costumes, props, and, sometimes, raw meat — and all promotion is done with the idea of incorporating the authors’ non-writing talents and hobbies into the mix.

At a time when everyone seems to be scrambling to find their place in the publishing world, it seems to me that the bizarro folks have got the right idea — do what you love, use what you have, and have a good time doing it. Because really, isn’t that what we all should be doing?

Is your interest piqued? Lucky you — you can download some awesome Bizarro books for free until Thanksgiving! Do note that the content of some of these books (as well as the content at the authors’ websites) may be of an X-rated and/or gruesome nature, so keep that in mind if you are under 18 or have a sensitive stomach.

Comments

  1. says

    “At a time when everyone seems to be scrambling to find their place in the publishing world, it seems to me that the bizarro folks have got the right idea — do what you love, use what you have, and have a good time doing it. Because really, isn’t that what we all should be doing?”

    AMEN! Bizarro is a mind-bending and hilarious spin on things…like “Avant Genre” (or wait — I’ve seen them appropriate that already as “Avant Punk”) fiction. I love it, too. Great description of the movement, Jeff.

  2. Eden Robins says

    Well, Jeff didn’t write this entry, but I will humbly accept your compliment in his stead. :)

  3. says

    There is something fairly fantastic about bringing writing and donuts together with such purpose. Usually, I justify eating donuts while I write with some kind of lie about low blood sugar. Also, I like the cult section of the video store explanation of bizarro. I’m going to steal that.

  4. Hellbound Heart says

    i have no justification for eating donuts…..i just love ‘em!
    i’m going to open a hornets nest here and say that i don’t se the big deal about krispy kreme (sic) donuts……..bleurgh……

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