Since I’ve been writing with a serious eye, I’ve been in a constant struggle to categorize the sort of stories that I produce.
Why the need? Shouldn’t you just write the stories you want to write and not worry about it. Wouldn’t that be great if I worked that way mentally? Wouldn’t that be great, too, if that’s the way the publishing indusgry worked?
First, I need to know who to send my stuff. There’s no more certain waste of time than sending material to the wrong publisher or publication.
Second, I can’t possibly be the only one writing the stuff I do and, frankly, I’m not interested in being the trailblazer of a new genre if I am. So, assuming I’m not alone, I’d love to read others’ works and chat with them about how best to proceed professionally.
The problem then is what is my work exactly?
Well, it’s two things — literary and weird.
I’ve got a story about a man whose head lives on a stump in a remote forest; one about a man locked in a giant sphere with thousands of semi-immortal flying demons; another about a fellow who mistakenly orders a bib so large that it stretches across a whole city. There are too many more to admit.
For our last critique, I submitted a rewrite of the first part of my nose-picking fetish story in which the lead impregnates his own nose. It seemed to be well enough received and, afterwards, Joe McKinney mentioned that all but one story that he could remember my having shared fit neatly into a genre I’d only heard of but hadn’t really paid too much attention to for its sounding like a dead-end, dadaist venture. Sanford Allen agreed and both began suggesting that I read Carlton Mellick III and Cameron Pierce, authors of “The Morbidly Obese Ninja” and “Ass Goblins of Auschwitz” respectively, among many others, if you can say respectively after noting such deliciously disturbing titles.
I listened, noted the authors and asked the probably obvious question — what is bizarro?
Instead of trying to remember the discussion from that point, I found this February 2010 thread in the Bizarro Mondo forum that does a terrific job of explaining it and the likely follow up questions that might arise afterwards.
So what is Bizarro anyway? (Didn’t I just ask that?)
Bizarro is a genre of film and literature.
Is Bizarro a new thing?
Bizarro isn’t really a new genre. Just a new term. For decades, people have been going into bookstores and video stores looking for the weird stuff. To them, “weird stuff” is a genre, just like horror or science fiction. But it has never been given an official name before. Until now.
What makes a book or film Bizarro?
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.
Isn’t this stuff just weird for the sake of weird?
The comment “weird for the sake of weird” is just empty rhetoric used to devalue work of this kind. Would you say punk bands are punk for the sake of punk? Or does Stephen King write horror for the sake of horror? Bizarro is a genre of the weird so it is weird. Sure, there might be some authors who puke blobs of nonsensical words onto paper and call it weird. But that’s not Bizarro, that’s just bad writing.
Are there any subgenres of Bizarro?
Bizarro encompasses a limitless number of styles and subgenres. From irreal westerns to romantic absurdism to surreal splatterpunk to post-apocalyptic avant-garde crime noir porn. There’s a wide range of possibilities.
What are some popular examples of Bizarro?
Eraserhead, Alice in Wonderland, Naked Lunch, Visitor Q, Bartholomew and the Oobleck, Tromeo and Juliet, Ichi the Killer, Fando & Lis, Tetsuo: The Iron Man, Dellamorte Dellamore, Uzumaki, Conspirators of Pleasure, Lost Highway, or anything described as Lynchian.
Why bother labeling this at all?
It’s all about the audience. A lot of people love this type of work but have difficulty finding it. They don’t even know what to call it. Well, by creating the Bizarro genre this just makes it easier for readers to find Bizarro books and films. It also makes marketing to the Bizarro audience a bit easier.
I left this last Wednesday critique hungry to read more about the genre and to read titles IN the genre. I’ll be damned if they weren’t right on the money. Everything I write is at least quite odd. I thought that too much of it was too odd. I guess there isn’t such an animal. And boy am I happy as a lobster to hear that is the case.
I’ve got Andersen Prunty’s “Jack and Mr. Grin” and may hit Pierce’s “Haunted Vagina” afterwards.
The book, btw, not his actual vagina.