by Chris Kelso
I take time over the stress of every word. Do you like to write? You like to read though…right?
To be an artist is to suffer.
The deliria can be rather disorientating, so I decide to connect the rooms in my house with lines of taut thread and then I’m is able to feel my way along each strand to the desired part of the house. I believe the reward of suffering is experience and that pain is the great teacher of mankind.
I pass through the door that connects the hallway to the kitchen and immediately hallucinate. A tessellation of colours set in viridian zig-zag towards me like lightening through fog. I forget why I went into the room in the first place. My mind is now brimming with brilliant ideas that I hope can be retained until I gets back to his study, but first I have to eat.
I go to the white rectangle that freezes my food and bring out a red, raw, rounded object, perhaps an onion or an apple. I laugh so hard at the pulsing fruit/veg heartbeat in the palm of my hand that I have to stop myself, as if suddenly surprised by, and aware of, my own mirth. I eat the fruit/veg.
I exit the blue lightening kitchen and re-enter the hallway that connects each room. I go back into the study fast as degenerate matter, full of renewed fervour and manage to type up some of my backlogged ideas. I believe there is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.
If you walk in on this stooped and mealy coloured man writing at his desk, you’ll notice a few things – firstly, when I masturbate I moves my penis in circular gyrations between the tight O of my thumb and index finger in a way that would suggest I have my technique down to a very fine art – hallucinations are at their most vivid when I’m at a climax, or so I would claim. I enter the vortex of my own hand and am frequently mesmerised by the subsequent pearlescent geyser. Masturbation is the only respite from my perpetual creativity which has devoured me like syphilis, and I masturbate a lot.
Secondly, I am a man who, unlike the rest of the Slave State émigré, am in possession of more than a little street-cool. My fix-up bildungsroman novels have gained a cult following amongst underground literary enthusiasts. A man of the picaresque, of the nouveau roman…One suspects that no one realises I am imprisoned in my own mind, in my own home, in fact! Where behind each door is a new ugly and visceral delusion waiting to set upon me…
I enter the hallway again and continue along to the door leading to the bathroom. A hallucination hits me the moment I drops his trousers. Although I feel intact and present, I am certain that the cortical stimulation I’m experiencing since eating the circular fruit/veg has left me foaming in the heart of an epileptic seizure. I remember that I believes we cannot learn without pain and that Man cannot remake himself without suffering, for he is both the marble and the sculptor.
I drop to my knees, void my bowels and feel the rest of my brilliant ideas leave my body in a jet of multi-coloured excrement. On my knees, I nurse my empty head and my empty stomach. I pull myself to my feet and feel around for the rope that leads to the sanctuary of my study, but my wriggling fingers investigation only fresh air…
‘Affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it.’ I mumble to myself and the redundancy of it all sears through me like a thimbleful of neutron star.
Henry Malkmus pops into my head. He has a concentration camp tattoo on his arm.
– Why did you make me the way I am? – He asks.
– Who would you rather have been? Ignius Ellis? Larry? Dan Smear? Denny Carr maybe? How about Kip Novikov or Big Sur? Isabella? The Black Dog virus perhaps? You already are all those people. My characters are so poorly fleshed out. You idiot, don’t you realise it doesn’t matter?
– It does to me. Why did I have to get stuck behind a drywall and get raped by shadow demons?
– The bisexual incubus thingy?
– I was actually running low on ideas…
– Well ain’t that just fuggin great?!?
– Listen, Henry…can I call you Henry? I’m not a bad guy, just a bad writer.
– I keep seeing silverfish…
– That’s my fault I suppose.
– No fuggin shit?
– I had a character in a book called ‘Transmatic’ called Ignius Ellis who discovered that the Slave State was run by extra-terrestrials who were closely sprung from Silverfish. Quite funny really…
– So I’m not even really….me?
– Fraid not, you’re kind of a cross between Ignius Ellis and a bunch of other McGuffins :)
– You can write in emoticon?
– So can you, look…
– I don’t know if I can…
_ :) :) :)
– Hey, I’m sorry…Henry was it?
– What am I supposed to do with myself now?
– What’s cliché for you won’t go by you. It’s better to have clichéd and lost than never to have clichéd at all, right? Am I right? Plenty more cliché in the sea!
– God dammit! How does it end? Just tell me that much? Come on! Come on tell me! TELL ME! HOW DOES IT END? HOW DOES THIS FUCKING END YOU CUNT, YOU UTTER CUNT????
Malkmus starts to fade out as easily as he had appeared before me.
There is the sound of a younger man inside the hollowed concave of my skull – weeping. I am almost fresh out of ideas, almost free from the slavery of imagination. I cannot wait to be free.
I feel the loose, exposed circuitry as the brain tries it’s best to self-apply electrical tape, to twist naked connectors and achieve new voltages with frayed wiring. I know I will be fine eventually – until I walk into a different room of the house that is…
Malkmus stared at the concentric crater, observed its bowl shaped, low-rimmed hollows then stood aside so the nosegay of plant-alien scientist could get a better look. They had Slave State badges on their lab coats and t-shirts underneath that read YOYODYNE COMPANY
Chris Kelso is a writer, illustrator and editor. His books include – The Dissolving Zinc Theatre (Vilipede Publications), The Black Dog Eats the City (Omnium Gatherum), Schadenfreude (Dog Horn Publishing), Last Exit to Interzone (Black Dharma Press), A Message from the Slave State (Western Legends Books), Terence, Mephisto & Viscera Eyes (Bizarro Pulp Press), Moosejaw Frontier (Bizarro Pulp Press), Transmatic (MorbidbookS) . He recently edited Caledonia Dreamin’ – Strange Fiction of Scottish Descent with Hal Duncan and is the co-creator of the anti-New Yorker, Imperial Youth Review.
“BIZARRO ACROSS AMERICA” PROGRESSIVE BOOK TOUR BRINGS STRANGE NEW VOICES TO THE EAST COAST!
In September 2014, the writers, artists and co-conspirators of the Bizarro genre are coming to Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York, to spread the gospel of Bizarro Fiction to new audiences and die-hard fans.
September 1, 3pm: Bizarro Writer’s Workshop @ CHOP SUEY BOOKS — 2913 W Cary St, Richmond, VA
September 1, 8pm: THE WINGNUT — 2005 Barton Avenue, Richmond, VA
September 3, 7pm: THE COPYCAT — 1501 Guilford Ave, Baltimore, MD
September 4, 3pm: Bizarro Writer’s Workshop @ A-SPACE, 4722 Baltimore Ave, Philadelphia, PA
September 4, 7pm: THE FARM
September 5, 6pm: YORK EMPORIUM — 343 W Market St, York, PA
September 6, 7pm: MELLOW PAGES LIBRARY — Studio 1Q, 56 Bogart Street (@ Harrison, across from the L Line Morgan Ave station), Brooklyn, NY
ALL EVENTS ARE FREE TO ATTEND!
BIZARRO FICTION is a fast-growing underground genre of high weirdness, with over 100 titles in print from ERASERHEAD PRESS, RAW DOG SCREAMING, BIZARRO PULP PRESS and others. It’s been described as “the genre of Anything Goes” and “the literary equivalent of the Cult section of your video store, back when there were video stores.”
The BIZARRO ACROSS AMERICA TOUR will feature readings, performance and odd behavior from some combination of:
MYKLE HANSEN — Wonderland Award-winning author of “I, SLUTBOT” and “HELP! A BEAR IS EATING ME!”
“Mykle Hansen has already proven himself to be one of the great new humorists of our time, in league with Christopher Moore, Terry Prachett, Robert Rankin, and Tom Robbins, only a hell of a lot weirder.” – Carlton Mellick III
VIOLET LEVOIT — Baltimore-based author of “I AM GENGHIS CUM”
“An amazing performer … also stunning on the page. The prose is fast and cruel, beating down all taboos. Go read. Don’t eat anything while you do so.” – Daniel Wallace
BRADLEY SANDS — author of “RICO SLADE WILL FUCKING KILL YOU” and “TV SNORTED MY BRAIN”
“There is no simple way to describe Bradley Sands’ fiction, but ‘superretardo anarchy awesomeness’ is a good start … one of the funniest authors you will ever read.” — VERBICIDE
WILLIAM PAULEY III — author of “THE BROTHERS CRUNK” and “DOOM MAGNETIC”
“THE BROTHERS CRUNK is a bizarrely imaginative blend of sci-fi, horror and fantasy adventure… creativity has never flowed so freely… a perfect example of bizarro fiction… every single line is littered with wild and imaginative ideas.” – FANGORIA
CHRISTOPH PAUL — author of “PSYCHOANALYTIC CELEBRITY POEMS” and “THE PASSION OF THE CHRISTOPH”
“Everything you were afraid to ask (or find out) about men and sex, toilet paper rolls, porn stores, teenage rehab, post-sex etiquette, being single, military school, and karma. Paul is now one of my favorite humor essayists; David Sedaris eat your heart out.” — INDIEREADER
G. ARTHUR BROWN — author of “KITTEN”
“KITTEN is bizarro written with sincerity… I’d call it slow-burning bizarro.” — S.T. Cartledge, House Hunter
CHRIS GENUA — author of “FOOP!” and “LICK YOUR NEIGHBOR”
“Chris Genua is one of our authentic literary lunatics…” – James Marrow
“..a new, innovative, clever author with a thrilling amount of potential: when he’s good, he’s so good that no one can touch him.” – REFLECTION’S EDGE
ERIC MAYS — author of “NAKED METMORPHOSIS” and “KARAOKE DEATH SQUAD”
“KARAOKE DEATH SQUAD is the book that secured Eric Mays’ place in my mind as one of the funniest guys in print.” — Joshua Myers
SCOTT COLE — author of VIOLINS FOR SALE and a top secret, forthcoming novella
“VIOLINS FOR SALE is weird, a little dark, a little violent, but more than anything, it’s fun, which is what bizarro fiction is all about.” — Cameron Pierce
PLUS: Brian Keene, John Lawson, Adam Cesare and more still confirming!
Bizarro is the genre of the strange. The stories and poetry of Bizarro are often provocative, usually funny, always outrageous. Even though the Bizarros are underground cult outsiders they still have gained great respect in the publishing industry, having been praised by the likes of Chuck Palahniuk, Christopher Moore, William Gibson, Jonathan Lethem, Piers Anthony, Cory Doctorow, Poppy Z. Brite, Michael Moorcock, and Charles de Lint, to name a few, as well as the publications Asimov’s Science-fiction, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science-fiction, Fangoria, Cemetery Dance, Publishers Weekly, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Details Magazine, Gothic Magazine, and The Face, among many others. Bizarro books have also been finalists for the Philip K Dick Award, the Bram Stoker Award, the Rhysling Award, the Wonderland Book Award, and the Pushcart Prize.
Follow all things Bizarro here: http://bizarrocentral.com
For press queries and other information, contact Mykle Hansen at email@example.com
Seeking Submissions for How to Win at Ultravision: A Strategy Guide for Video Games That Don’t Exist
Bradley Sands will be editing a multi-author anthology called How to Win at Ultravision: A Strategy Guide for Video Games That Don’t Exist. Eraserhead Press will be publishing it. The book is inspired by Jeff Rovin’s How to Win at Nintendo Games and Jorge Luis Borges’ reviews of books that don’t exist.
Submissions are now open. He is looking for mini-strategy guides for games of your own invention. They must be in the range of 1000 words to 5000 words long. Text only. Payment is $10 and a contributor’s copy.
Email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some links to examples:
A piece written by Albie about a game that doesn’t exist (I recommend cutting and pasting it into a MS Word document because it’s otherwise a bit difficult to read)
Here is part of Bradley’s pitch for the book. Perhaps it will inspire some of you:
I’m extremely fond of fiction when they’re told in different forms. The earliest example that I can think of is Jorge Luis Borges reviewing books that didn’t exist. This gave him the opportunity to write about a book that he was passionate about without having to devote months or perhaps years to writing them. He was also a prankster, so he would publish the reviews and pretend that the books existed.
A more recent example of telling a story in a different form is in Stephen Graham Jones’ Demon Theory and The Last Final Girl, where Stephen tells stories in the form of screenplays even though they’re intended to be read as novels.
I’ve also done this sort of thing myself. I wrote a story that’s a screenplay for a Rico Slade movie (inspired by my novella) and a story told in the format of a comic script about two giant monsters who are having a tiff about their relationship (while they are destroying the city). In each case, the script’s fictional author is the main character rather than any of the characters that they are “writing” about.
If someone were to actually make a movie using my Rico Slade screenplay, it would be awful. I feel as if telling stories in different forms like this works best when the “fictional” intended product would be a complete failure if it were actually made according to the script without any alterations.
The thing that excites me the most about stories told in different forms is reading a story that has never been told this way before. It’s new and unique even when it’s based on a preexisting form. I see it as continuing the legacy of Borges in the modern era.
I interviewed Kirk Jones when he was part of the NBAS (seventeen years ago according to my math). He was a cool guy and we quickly became friends. Since then, we’ve talked books on more than one occasion and I’ve bothered him about his next book from time to time. Now we have two reasons to celebrate: Kirk is showing us his stuff and he has a new book out. Also, you’ll get to read some cool words from a cool guy. Dig.
Who are you and what role do books play in your life?
I’m Kirk Joooooones! Books are an integral part of my life. I’m not very good at social interaction, so reading the books of fellow authors and complimenting their endeavors is one of the only ways I know how to interact with others. Sometimes I get free books out of the deal, so this is a win/win situation.
One would be lazy of you, so tell me the ten last books that impressed you and why.
Holy shit. Let me try not to be generic here. I will probably fail.
Venus in Furs – I have an un-struck reviewer’s copy of Venus in Furs from the 40s that I’m absolutely in love with. It isn’t just the book itself. It is the collectability factor. Venus in Furs is a bit pretentious and overblown in terms of style, but it contains a lot of insights.
Tertium Organum: A Key to the Enigmas of the World – there is a certain appeal when it comes to knowledge that can’t be fully comprehended, like the Voynich manuscript. Tertium Organum was my Voynich manuscript when I was a young teenager. It is a book I have yet to explore in depth since I was young. It is a tomb of mystery that I’m afraid to decode, because I believe we need some element of mystery in our lives. I’m afraid to find that, upon my next reading, it isn’t as mysterious as I originally thought.
Principia Discordia: one of the books from Loompanics that I bought when I was young. It is a book that reaffirms the fact that mystery is sometimes built upon non-sequitur and ultimately lacks substance. It doesn’t impress me anymore, but it used to. The idea of this book was more important than the content. What it represents is impressive, however.
Edgar Allan Poe: Miscellany – This book has a chapter on autography, and a chapter on spirituality (an essay called Eureka). Before the internet, this book was a huge deal to me. Folks could chat all day about detective fiction or Poe’s popular horror work, but this book was obscure in the print age, at least in my neck of the woods.
M Butterfly – I love this play. It deals with gender identity, conquest, imperialism, love & sexuality, and everything that was important to me as a young adult. Now if someone would write a play about kids driving you nuts and ear and back hair, I’d have something to relate to in my 30s.
Psychological Operations FM 33-1 – when I was in high school, my mother would buy me military manuals. One of the only ones I have left is “psychological operations,” which is essentially a manual on propaganda. It deals with broadcast and media operations. You know FOX News has a copy of this shit laying around. Actually, they probably don’t. They don’t seem to have to put much thought into brainwashing. Folks pretty much do it to themselves these days.
From Hell – a few years ago, my wife found a feral cat and essentially replaced me with this fucking demon spawn. It pissed all over my comic books and chewed many of my DVD’s apart. From Hell is one of the only comics that survived. (It still has a bit of piss in one of the corners). I wrote a paper on it, one of the only graduate papers I am still proud of. I love this graphic novel.
A Song of Ice and Fire – yeah, I know it is “mainstream” and all that, but I really have fallen in love with this series. I’m on book four right now, and I love it. Jaime Lannister is currently my favorite character . . . because of his actions in the book, not the television series. Plus he’s a stud.
Fill the Grand Canyon and Live Forever – This was the second Prunty book I read, but I loved this one the most. The main character had this basic sense of purpose that took him to so many strange places. It was surreal, yet not too far removed from reality. It is so hard to categorize the book in terms of genre. I wouldn’t say it is bizarro. It was just one of those books that clicked for me and made me think, “Down the road I’d like to do something like this.”
The Greatest Fucking Moment in Sports – still THE BEST bizarro book I have ever read. The humor is top notch. The experiences are thought provoking. The characters are charismatic. I love this book. When I was first invited to submit to EP, I submitted to Rose mistakenly. She sent me to Kevin, which was the greatest honor in the world. Initially I had hoped to write something in the vein of this book, and while I’ve peppered my work with humor, I realize I’m not going to top this one and it is time to move in a different direction. Still, EVERYONE trying to get a gig in bizarro should read this. Hell, everyone should read this regardless of whether they’re into bizarro or not.
Not everyone knows you have a wonderful family and an academic career, so maybe they’re wondering something along the lines of “Why the hell did it take so long to get more Kirk Jones books?!” Could you explain?
Kevin Donihe accepted a pitch for Journey to Abortosphere back in 2011. I procrastinated on the book until pitch-a-palooza came around. As a result, I lost my spot for potential publication. During that time the whole Spectacular Productions mess occurred. I was really banking on one of those two books making the cut in 2013 at the latest. It simply didn’t pan out. Rooster Republic picked up Journey to Abortosphere in 2013 (for publication in 2014) and Masturbatory Entropy has yet to find a home. Frankly, at this point I’m trying to find a home for my next novella, which I discussed on Surreal Grotesque with Jeremy Maddux. William Pauly III is checking it out currently. I plan on sending it to a few others in the near future for review.
You were in the first NBAS group that had an impact on me. What does that experience look like to you now? What did you learn?
Being a part of the NBAS 2010 crew was completely wild. I remember getting off the plane and taking a cab to Edgefield. I met Steve Lowe first, and Caris second. I remember my mother bought copies of my book, but I was directed by EP not to look at the book until getting to Edgefield. That was incredibly hard, but I waited. We got in there and found out that Caris had already sold a shit load of books before we even got there.
I hit up a lot of high school friends and family members to pick up my book. Caris and Steve Lowe helped me market my book to a larger audience through Goodreads. It worked out quite well. It helped me grow as an author as well. My first book was a great start, but it was by no means great. Folks pointed out what they didn’t like. I was receptive to the criticism. You really don’t have a choice. If people don’t like your work, you have to take their viewpoints into consideration if you want to improve sales.
There were times where being published was kind of anti climatic as well. Once the rush wears off, you start to realize that we’re all just human beings doing our thing. Then you notice the typos you missed in the book, and things that could have been better. It really undercuts that fantasy of being a published author that inspires many people to write. If you can make it past that and you still want to write, I think that’s a milestone. That’s one of the big things I learned by being a part of NBAS.
You’re a really mellow/nice/cool guy who doesn’t like drama. What the fuck is WRONG WITH YOU?
A little drama is fine, necessary even, as long as it is under the table. When it goes public, it becomes problematic. I think we all get a bit paranoid as authors. We all deflect blame to a small degree if our material isn’t accepted. We all have the potential to take vague gestures personally. I know I’ve gotten unreasonably upset about small things in the past, but I also know it is irrational and that there are certain people I can vent to, and certain people who don’t want to hear it. What is strange is the dual standard when it comes to drama. Not just in small press writing, but everywhere. Folks seem to get uptight when things are said in public venues, then get equally pissed if they hear something through the grapevine and throw the whole “say it to my face” bit around. I think as a movement we have a responsibility to keep things behind the scenes. Confrontational situations aren’t going to help anyone.
It takes a while to grow thick skin. It’d be nice if folks could learn to keep their mouths closed while they grow that thick skin instead of lashing out at others. We all have the impulses the worst of us exhibit in the community, at least to a very small degree. A bunch of writers in a circle, all trying to get published by the same group of publishers . . . it is a volatile dynamic.
What’s your latest book about and why should we all buy it right this second?
The sci-fi elements tend to get highlighted in this work, but there’s so much more to Journey to Abortosphere than that. When it comes down to it the conspiracy elements are minimal, as are the science fiction elements. The book is just as much about the absurdity of small-town living, social norms, and the fact that we persist no matter how bleak and mundane our lives become.
Also there’s sex with shoe horns, gluteomancy.
Finally, it is not Frozen.
Preliminary voting has ended and the final ballot has been determined. Here are the nominations for this year’s Wonderland Book Awards:
Motherfucking Sharks by Brian Allen Carr
Basal Ganglia by Matthew Revert
Quicksand House by Carlton Mellick III
You Are Sloth! by Steve Lowe
The After-Life Story of Pork Knuckles Malone by M.P. Johnson
Zombie Sharks with Metal Teeth by Stephen Graham Jones
Clown Tear Junkies by Douglas Hackle
Time Pimp by Garrett Cook
DangerRAMA by Danger Slater
Hammer Wives by Carlton Mellick III
We’d like to give honorable mentions to the titles that came close to placing on the final ballot. These titles are: There’s No Happy Ending by Tiffany Scandal, Moosejaw Frontier by Chris Kelso, The Party Lords by Justin Grimbol, Death Machines of Death by Vince Kramer, Shatnerquest by Jeff Burk and The Last Gig on Planet Earth and Other Strange Stories by Kevin Strange.
Voting ends October 31st. Only BizarroCon attendees are eligible to vote. Send your votes (one per category) to email@example.com.
To register for BizarroCon 2014 please visit http://bizarrocon.com/registration/
Want to become a part of Eraserhead Press’s New Bizarro Author Series? We are actively seeking submissions and time is quickly running out for this year. The books will make their debut at BizarroCon in mid-November. You can read the detailed submission guidelines here.
We’ve asked our 3 series editors about the kinds of books that they are looking for. This is what they said:
I’m only interested in novellas, so no story collections please. Please keep the books under 30,000 words. Although it specifies that in the guidelines, most of the submissions that I receive are longer.
I like books that focus on language, meaning the author put a lot of effort into writing each sentence. But I don’t like style over substance. Form and content are of equal importance to me.
I have a weakness for books that are related to pop culture and are gimmicky. But a mediocre book with a good gimmick isn’t going to work for me. It needs to be a great book with a great gimmick.
I’m looking for books that use a central high-concept idea: books that can be summed up in a sentence or two. Also, the sentence (or two) should make a potential reader excited about your book and make them want to buy it.
I prefer pitches for unwritten books over full-manuscript submissions. Send me a whole bunch. If I end up liking one, I’ll ask you for a sample of your best writing. I know there isn’t much time left to write an entire book for this year’s series, so if that’s not possible, there’s always next year.
I’m looking for smart, entertaining, creative stories with strong plots and emotional cores. I want stories that are unique and personal to the author, stories that couldn’t have been written by anyone else. I’m open to looking at all types of bizarro, and am excited about expanding what fits under the bizarro umbrella. I’m especially interested in authors who represent diversity in their identity and within their stories.
I’m looking for character-driven work in which the oddity feels natural to the story, rather than forced and unnatural to the narrative.