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Christoph Paul Gets Serious with Max Booth III

Head over to CLASH MEDIA to see two grown men hurl words at one another like drunk jai alai players. Plus this gif!

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Show Me Your Shelves: Chris Kelso

Chris Kelso is one of those dudes who’s simultaneously likable and hard to love. Sure, he’s easy to get along with and always has a smile on his face, but then you read his books and you go “Fuck this guy, I wish I’d written this.” Oh, and he’s also ridiculously prolific and has a presence here in the US despite living in some faraway land known as Glasgow. In any case, he has a new book out, so I thought it was time to ask him some questions and get him to me me his shelves. Here’s what he had to say.

GI: Who are you and what role do books play in your life?

CK: I’m Chris Kelso, a dress-wearing polyglot savant who lives in the Highlands. Books play a crucial part in my life and have done since I was about 14. You can imagine how difficult it was for a remarkably unpopular teenager in parochial Ayrshire to find happiness and contentment. I started throwing myself into books – comics at first then I progressed to distinguished works of fiction soon after. It provided me with, and continues to provide me with, an extreme form of escapism – although my relationship with books, the role they play and the act of reading itself has changed slightly since I embarked upon a ‘writing career’ because recently I feel like I only read to learn my craft, to take notes and to develop as a writer. When I think about it, maybe I don’t read for just so much for escapism these days, which might be quite sad (not that I don’t still take some pleasure from reading).

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GI: You’ve published a lot so far and you’re still a young cat. Are there any other hungry youngsters out there who you’d recommend to folks who dig your work?

CK: There are a lot. Most of the writers I know are young cats, I mean Max Booth III is 21 or something! I mean Jesus Christ! I think Preston Grassman, Jason Wayne Allen, Grant Wamack and Michael Allen Rose are all great, Rob Harris is great, Gabino – you’re great. In the other European countries Konstantine Paradias and Michael Faun are both young and hungry and brilliant. Love Kolle can spin a cool yarn too. They write smart transgressive fiction and will, without a doubt, forge long, prestigious careers for themselves.

GI: Is it hard selling books to folks in the US when you’re all the way in Glasgow? How’s the beer over there?

CK: It’s hard selling books anywhere to be honest. People in the US are actually a lot more responsive to my style of nihilistic nonsense than folks in Scotland. I really don’t sell a lot – fortunately the beer over here is radioactive horse piss that gets you good and lousy drunk.

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GI: Best stuff you’re read so far in 2014, go!

CK: I’m enjoying Matt Bialer’s epic poem “Ascent” right now, but there are a dozen others I loved. “Time Pimp” by Garrett Cook is up there amongst my favourites with all the golden oldies I raced through this year, like Paul Auster’s “New York Trilogy” and Koestler’s “Darkness at Noon.” I also picked up Leopold Von Sacher Masoch’s classic “Venus in Furs” which I really related to. Actually, I had the pleasure of reading an early proof of Seb Doubinsky’s “WHITE CITY” which is coming out next year…but it’s a cracker!

GI: What’s in this new collection of yours and why should everyone go buy it the second they’re done with this interview?

CK: “Terence, Mephisto and Viscera Eyes is a collection of stories set within the Slave State. This is a much more measured and mature effort from me (at least I think so anyway!). There’s a story called ‘Baptizm of Fire’ in there that deals with a dystopian Lagos and the Slave State’s silent puppeteering of the Nigerian University confraternities. It’s much more melancholy than my usual stuff, it has much more heart – which was completely my intention. People should by it because I need to sell books…and I’m a real nice guy…

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Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author ofGutmouth and a few other things no one will ever read. You can find him on Twitter at@Gabino_Iglesias


Unearthly Sounds Volume 7: Seven Deadly Questions with The Slow Poisoner

The Slow Poisoner

“The Slow Poisoner (alias Andrew Goldfarb) is a one man surrealistic rock and roll band who hails from San Francisco and has been playing the devil’s music to audiences across America since 1996.”The Slow Poisoner Website

I’ve had a fondness for multi-instrumentalists and one-man bands most of my life. As a child my favorite scene in Mary Poppins was Bert busking and making up songs about his audience while he simultaneously playing an accordion, trumpet, horn, and drums strapped to his back that were triggered by strings attached to his legs. As I matured, so did my taste in music, but always I found myself drawn to the solo musicians who took it upon themselves to craft every shape in their sound. Even my first Unearthly Sounds article was about a one-man band.

I’ve seen The Slow Poisoner perform five times, five years in a row, at the five BizarroCons I’ve attended, and he never fails to totally capture and enthrall a room full of drinking and dancing weirdos. A quick look at his website’s tour date history will show you the hard working man has experience when it comes to entertaining an audience. I decided to probe his mind a bit and find out what lurks beneath the witchcraft and voodoo shenanigans:

J.W. Wargo: Tell us of your origin. Were you born in the swamp, under the swamp, over the swamp, or just near the swamp?

The Slow Poisoner: I was born into a metaphysical swamp, as are we all. The origins of my swamp obsession actually go back to a seedy carnival I passed through in the mid-1970s, when I was around seven years old. It was at the midway of a county fair; after looking at pigs and flowers all day my parents were trying to find their way back to the parking lot as night fell. They dragged my brother and I through what seemed like an endless corridor of creepy amusement park rides, most of them luridly-painted haunted houses, the kind of ride with little two-seater cars that go on a track through a series of black rooms with day-glow mechanical horrors. I was especially struck by one featuring an animatronic old man in front of a spooky bayou scene. He was gibbering about the demons that dwelled in the swamp, and warning people not to come inside, as glowing yellow eyes blinked from the sinister trees that surrounded him. It thrilled and unsettled my childhood mind, especially in conjunction with the carnies that I glimpsed in the shadows behind the dark rides, making out with their girlfriends… I figured that this was what the adult world was really all about.

JWW: Being in a one-man band, does your right foot ever get tired of the drummer jokes?

TSP: All those drummer jokes are true, which is why I became a one-man band. Collaboration (with other humans) can potentially be a wonderful thing, when you get artists that can harmonize together to explore further in creative directions than they would on their own. At other times, however, collaboration will just dumb ideas down to what all parties involved are comfortable with or understand – this is especially true of rock bands, who often have to find their secondary members through posting want ads. Inevitably, it’s the drummer that will suggest doing Stevie Wonder covers. One thing I like about one-man-bands in general (not just my own) is that there’s a singular intensity of vision that goes undiminished by other parties’ ungainly participation. That said, I make a happy exception whenever John Skipp can join me on bongos.

Live at BizarroCon 2013 with Skipp on drum. (Photo taken by Jeff Burk)

JWW: Describe your process a bit. How do approach your songwriting? What generally comes first, the words or the music?

TSP: I’ll usually get the title first, and then I have to wait around for some suitable notes and chords to come to me by night-wagon. Sometimes it’s a long wait. I had the title “Flaming Arrow” on my to-do list for a year, but none of the music that slithered out of my hands was quite flaming enough. Eventually, if I batter at my guitar endlessly while repeating the title like a mantra, the right melody will come along and I can then introduce it to the title. The rest of the lyrics then assemble themselves from there, like rats coming out of a hole in the wall.

JWW: I heard the last bottle of “The Slow Poisoner Genuine Enervating Elixir Miracle Tonic” was recently sold. Did you ever have to dodge any assassination attempts by the American Medical Association while you were still in the Magick Potion business?


TSP: I advertised it as being a cure for consumption, women’s troubles, gout, neuralgia, wandering limbs, stoutness, onanism, disinterested bladder, elephantiasis, cholera, barnacles, boils, the fits, excessive abscesses, necrosis, lavender fever and general wasting, but I also received a testimonial from the Midwest that it was effective in getting rid of whooping cough. I always found it to act as a mild stimulant, myself. I did get a warning from a guy that worked at the FDA, but it wasn’t an official thing; he just happened to be at one of my shows. After a few years I ran out of ingredients, and figured it was time to pursue other endeavors.

 

 

JWW: Your live performances incorporate your own beautifully drawn art/set pieces and you sprinkle amusing anecdotes between your songs, giving your shows a truly interactive feel. This concept came together seamlessly in your latest album, Lost Hills, an epic, 10 song Swamp Rock Opera complete with narration and illustrations. Musician, Painter, and Storyteller. Would you consider yourself a modern day Artistic Renaissance Man?

TSP: More of a jack-of-all-trades-and-master-of-some. My only ambition is to share a certain weird mood – a sense of surreality that appeals to me and that I believe will appeal to at least a handful of others. Using different mediums betters my chances of conveying this atmosphere, since art and music express ideas from different angles – like opposite walls of one crooked house. I’ve gotten interested in video too, plus a bit of acting and I write an advice column. Also, I think it’s important to stay productive and continually create new work. Having a short attention span, it’s easier for me to be prolific if I vary the format. I get bored of singing songs all day, so I go and paint a picture after a while.

JWW: Has Ogner Stump, the protagonist of your long running “One Thousand Sorrows” comic strips, ever made an appearance in your music?

TSP: Not by name, but the narrator of Lost Hills was a similar character, in that they’re both semi-autobiographical avatars. The setting for my comics and my songs is the same, though, in that it’s just an exaggerated and stylized (or maybe unfiltered is a better way to put it) version of the “real” world – a place of swamp witches and cosmic horror, where bizarre creatures of every stripe are engaged in sinister pursuits in murky places. This hollow planet that we live on is actually bursting at the seams with trolls and goblins, slinking across a shifting and exotic landscape of weeping foliage and sparkling elixirs. If you give the eye-window a quick wipe, the feathered beast is clear to see in all its speckled, scaly glory.

JWW: Let’s hold a seance: …..MMMMMHMHMHHMMMMMMNNNNMNMMHNMMHHMMM….. Tell us, oh great and salty snack-size spirits! What does the future hold for The Slow Poisoner?

TSP: In the next few months I’ve got a solo art gallery exhibit of my black velvet paintings happening in Hollywood, plus I’ll be putting out a new album, titled “Ever Been Chewed Upon By Teeth As Sharp As Knives?” I plan to do some touring in the summer, and new Ogner Stump strips will appear in the Magazine of Bizarro Fiction. In the greater distance, I have two more rock operas in development; I think the first will see the light of day in the 2020’s and the second sometime in the 2040’s. Both are based on real events, one of which is a secret and the other being a re-telling of the Air Loom Gang of the late 18th century. The Air Loom Gang (the Middleman, Glove Woman and Sir Archy) were pneumatic practitioners engaged in the nefarious psychic torments of political enemies by means of magnetized lobster-cracking, stomach-skinning and apoplexy-working with a nutmeg grater, not to mention sordid lengthening of the brain.

Don’t forget to check out The Slow Poisoner’s latest music video Hot Rod Worm!


How Lowe Can You Go: Interview with Steve Lowe

By S.T. Cartledge

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Steve was in with the first bunch of Bizarros I interacted with online. What I know of Steve I have observed through his online presence and interactions through social media. Late 2010, I started reading Bizarro fiction, and I had come across this thing called the ‘New Bizarro Author Series’, where, each year, a group of first-time authors would publish their first books with Eraserhead Press, and over the course of the next year they would try to prove their ability to sell books and make a name for themselves in the publishing industry.

It was in this proving period that I got to know Steve. My ambition at this point was to join the NBAS at some point over the next couple of years, so I was excited to get to know the 2010 NBAS authors and read their books. Steve was very approachable. I read his book, Muscle Memory, and another book he had published simultaneously; Wolves Dressed as Men. Since then, Steve has more than proven his worth, writing up a shitstorm and publishing a bunch of new books. And on top of that, he is a family man and a sports writer. He’s got his fair share of commitments, yet he still makes time for pesky folks on the internet.

S.T. Cartledge: Steve, what was the first Bizarro book that you read?

Steve Lowe: SHATNERQUAKE by Jeff Burk

STC: How did you come across the Bizarro genre?

SL: I was searching for a publisher that might be interested in this weird little story I wrote. Someone suggested Eraserhead Press, which I looked up and discovered the New Bizarro Author Series. So I submitted, and about a year later, MUSCLE MEMORY was published.

STC: Tell me about your New Bizarro Author Series year. What was that experience like for you?

SL: It was a long, at times difficult, but extremely rewarding year. I learned as much about what not to do as what to do when you try to market and sell yourself and your work. And I’ve made a ton of friends like Caris O’Malley, Kirk Jones and Andy Prunty thanks to that experience, so I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

STC: You had two books out in 2010, Muscle Memory for the NBAS, and another book called Wolves Dressed as Men. Can you tell us a bit about those books, and how they came about?

SL: Muscle Memory was originally a short story I wrote for a contest between friends over on Zoetrope. I believe one Shane McKenzie was part of that group as well. Once that was over, I knew I had to do more with MM, and I’ve since gone on to write a sequel/continuation of the story which is still available for free on Smashwords.

WDaM was my first attempt at writing a story longer than about 3,000 words. My first real go at a novel. It ended up being nowhere near novel length, and it’s not Bizarro at all, but it was a great learning experience and showed me I could tackle longer works.

STC: You followed up with three books in 2012, two through Grindhouse Press, and one through Bucket ‘o Guts. I read, and loved, King of the Perverts. To those that don’t know, what is the story about? And what compelled you to write King of the Perverts?

SL: KotP is the story of a guy who’s down on his luck after losing pretty much everything in an ugly divorce. He needs money and agrees to take part in a reality show produced by a porn company. The premise is a sexcathlon – the first contestant to complete 10 increasingly disturbing sexual acts wins $1 million. I wrote this book, partly, to see how far I would go. It’s certainly nowhere near some of the extreme books out there, but when I got to the final act, called “A World of Shit”, I had a few moments of pause, to say the least. Readers always say how they love the part describing the Alligator Fuckhouse, but no one has mentioned the Alabama Hot Pocket yet. Like me, they might be trying to scrub it from their brain.

STC: Grindhouse Press only publishes a small handful of books each year. What was it like working with them on two books in the one year?

SL: I love Grindhouse. Everything about working with them has been exactly what I could hope for from a publisher. Timely responses to questions, excellent editing and layout, knockout book covers by Matthew Revert. Plus, they publish great reads, and have since the beginning, so I’m proud to be part of their lineup.

STC: You also write sports articles from time to time. What does that involve, how often do you do it, and how do you balance your time between reporting on sports and writing fiction?

SL: I’ve been covering sports for newspapers and the Associated Press since 1999. I’m currently covering a college hockey team for the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune, and covering a regular beat definitely takes up much more time than just doing games on a job-by-job basis. But covering sports is where I really learned how to write properly, the bare bones of what a story is. From your lead to grab attention, to your conclusion to tie everything up, I learned how to get in and get out in an economy of words, and still tell the story that needs to be told. You can see this influence in my fiction as well. I have yet to write anything longer than 45,000 words, which wouldn’t be considered a full novel length. But I’m working my way up to that, eventually.

STC: Do you have any writing habits (good/bad) that you’d like to share?

SL: I usually listen to music when I write, but mainly as background noise because lyrics distract me, so I prefer classical. Other than that, nothing specific. Usually, I write whenever I can find the time, so it’s more about losing myself in that zone and being as productive as possible when I’m there.

STC: What are your favourite books, and who are your favourite authors?

SL: I’ve been into crime fiction a lot lately, and my current favorites are Tom Piccirilli and Donald Ray Pollock (The Devil All the Time is a hell of book).

STC: Would you like to offer any tips for aspiring writers?

SL: Sure: write. Don’t aspire to write, just write. Even if it sucks at first, don’t stop. You’ll never learn things along the way if you don’t do it as much as possible.

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Steve Lowe is the author of Muscle Memory, Wolves Dressed As Men, King of the Perverts, Samurai Vs. Robo-Dick, and Mio Padre, il Tumore. Expect to see more of this guy in the near future.

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Interview: The Slow Poisoner

by Horatio Dark

111512introThe Slow Poisoner is a one man surrealist rock band based in San Francisco.  He travels the west coast with his guitar, bass drum and props, spreading his sly stories of the mysteries and horrors of the denizens of the fringe.  When not performing wherever he can, he is busy writing, illustrating, throwing hexes in the woods and spreading the word on his genuine invigorating miracle tonic.  I ran down The Slow Poisoner for some questions to get a grasp on his creative process and what it takes to keep him motivated.

Horatio Dark:  I first heard Run Rooster Run when was looking up the story of Miracle Mike, the headless chicken, after someone mentioned him at my local bar. Is Miracle Mike the inspiration for the song?

Slow Poisoner:  When I first wrote Run Rooster Run I was just thinking about the few minutes that your average chicken spends post-amputation, flapping bloody about the barnyard. At some point I learned about Mike the Headless Chicken, and became pretty obsessed. I started to tell the story before playing the song, as a kind of motivational speech about triumph over adversity. I even traveled all the way to Fruita, Colorado during a tour in order to see the town where the incident occurred. They have a statue of him in the town square, made out of rusted wrenches. The Chamber of Commerce sells a very strange DVD about it, called “Chick Flick,” and of course they have their annual headless chicken races – with people dressed as chickens. I was especially struck by the fact that after two years of exhibiting Mike, his owner got too plastered one night and left the feeding syringe back at the carnival, so Mike “the living miracle headless chicken” starved as a result of one man’s drunken failure. A strange, lonely death.

HD:  How’s the miracle tonic selling? Have you thought of branching out into snake oils, elixirs or other panaceas?

SP:  The patent medicine sales are good. Lots of folks are suffering from elephantiasis and disinterested bladder these days, not to mention lavender fever and wandering limb syndrome, so as long as folks are sick I think I’ll continue to offer it, though it’s been more of an under-the-counter item lately as I’ve had some warnings come my way. It’s dovetailed nicely with my advice column “Ask The Slow Poisoner” which is in a magazine called PORK, wherein I dispense with all manners of helpful information. My best-selling merch is my black velvet paintings, though.

HD:  In addition to being The Slow Poisoner, one man surrealist rock band, you are Andrew Goldfarb, author and illustrator. Tell me about the interplay between Andrew Goldfarb and the Slow Poisoner.

SP:  As for the connections between my writing, art and music – I see it all as being the same thing, really. I display paintings for each song when I perform live, or sometimes I use felt cut-outs to illustrate what I’m singing about. I act out my rock opera, “Lost Hills,” and recently I built a giant monster head that will swallow me on stage, so visual stuff is a big part of the music show. Some of the songs have become comics, like “The Hex”, which is an instruction manual to the black arts that appeared as a song on my 2nd album but also as a comic strip in various places. It’s all about getting a certain mood across, inviting folks into some weird place that I’ve been to on occasion and that I want to share with others. To that end, the more media that I employ the more effective it all is.

HD:  The life of a one man band has to get to be trying at times. What keeps you motivated?

SP:  Being a one man band is actually very easy, especially when compared to having drummers and bassists to contend with (although bizarro writer John Skipp has been joining me on percussion sometimes and he’s fantastic). There’s a law of physics that an element in motion with no opposition will remain in motion in perpetuity, so I plan to carry on ’til I’m 100 and go over Niagara Falls. As for motivation, I tend to employ numerical goals to keep me on track. I aim to do at least 31 shows per year, and I have 1000 episodes of my comic strip (“Ogner Stump’s One Thousand Sorrows”) to complete, so I stay busy and avoid staring into the endless black abyss.

HD:  With that kind of workload, you must need to keep a rather consistent flow of ideas.  How do you deal with creative blocks when they arise?  Any day to day habits that keep you focused?

SP:  I’ve found that napping is really important to my creative process. I got to sleep at least twice, sometimes three times a day. Perhaps it’s narcolepsy. But after I wake up, whatever my first idea is, I go with that. So when I get an idea for a song or comic, I run with the first fool notion that hits me, I don’t judge whether the idea is good or bad – I’ve learned that I don’t know the difference. I’m just happy that I have any idea at all. In a sense, I think quantity is more important than quality – if you make enough stuff, some of it is bound to be good.

HD:  All of your music is put out by Rocktopus! Records.  Is it a fair assumption that Rocktopus! is you?  What are some of the ups and downs of putting your music out yourself?  What have you learned that you would do differently if you could?

SP:  Yeah, Rocktopus! Records is my own label and it just has me on it. I believe in the Gideon Bible method of distribution – I slip CDs into hotel room drawers, under the windshield wipers of interesting cars, I tuck them into pamphlet racks at government bureaus. You never know who will come across it. I don’t have any complaints, though it is nice to be part of something bigger on occasion, as with Eraserhead and Bizarro, for the human interaction with fellow freaks – it’s always a pleasure to be among other folks treading the weird path.

HD:  Tell me about how fans and community have affected your process.

SP:  Audience reactions have definitely shaped my music performance – the difficulty of reaching into folks’ brains in dark bars has led me to become increasingly over-the-top musically. I used to perform delicate ballads of ethereal mystery, but I couldn’t hear myself over the sound of the bartender, so now I scream about cutting off chicken heads and throw eyeballs into the audience, and everyone has a better time, including myself.

HD:  Now that everyone is captivated by The Slow Poisoner, where can we find more about you and your work?

SP:  I’ve got a couple of Internet sites – my music stuff is at TheSlowPoisoner.com and my comics and art is at OgnerStump.com. I contribute regularly to the Magazine of Bizarro Fiction, and people in the Western half of the US can catch me on tour a couple of times a year – in only the finest lounges, cafes and laundromats.


Walrus Wisdom: An interview with Kevin L. Donihe

By S.T. Cartledge

doniheKevin was one of the first Bizarros that I met. It was in Portland, in the days before BizarroCon 2012, and that first meeting involved 3D glow-in-the-dark pirate mini golf, Moroccan food, and Vince Kramer. To put things in perspective, Vince is the sort of guy you expect of Bizarro. He’s loud, fun, and totally outrageous. Kevin was much quieter, and behaved much more like how you would expect a normal author to behave. I later accompanied Kevin, Vince, and my first flesh-and-blood Bizarro buddy, Sam Reeve, out to Mt. Hood. This was a phenomenal experience for me, as I had spent most of my life to this point living in Sunny Western Australia. I had never seen snow before. The more time I spent with Kevin, I saw him as a creature of quirky mannerisms, and of a meticulousness that I felt matched his work quite well.

At BizarroCon, where weird comes full-force with a capital ‘W’, amongst all the many other outrageous Bizarro peoples, Kevin’s quirkiness was a spectacle to behold. He was the chaotic persona of Bizarro author Kevin L. Donihe, a mystical creature of profound knowledge and spirituality that the other Bizarros pestered constantly if only to bask in his divine wisdom, lest he revert to the quieter Kevin that played mini golf and danced in the snow like a mere mortal. Some people have told me that they can’t read any of Kevin’s work in any voice other than his after hearing him read. When he gets into that persona, there’s no holding back. To me, Kevin is at the same time a radical and entertaining performer (I was so thrilled when he performed select readings from his poetry collection), and the quiet oddball stomping through Mt. Hood and sharing my first snow moments with me.

S.T. Cartledge: Kevin, you were in with the original bunch of Bizarros. I only came across the genre in late 2010, so for myself and people like me, can you explain what things were like for you guys back then?

Kevin L. Donihe: 1999. The nexus was just forming. Bizarro wasn’t called Bizarro then. It was simply Eraserhead Press, and—following the initial chapbook series and Dream People webzine—the first six books were released. My Shall We Gather at the Garden? was one of those books.

Back then, it felt less like a community, but that stands to reason. Still, I was happy I’d finally found a publisher interested in the strange and unusual things I wanted to write. It gave me hope. It gave me confidence.

STC: What are your thoughts on how Bizarro has progressed, and do you have any thoughts you’d like to share on the future of the Bizarro scene?

KLD: Bizarro has progressed further than I thought possible, and I believe it will continue to progress. In 1999, I had no idea Eraserhead Press would still be operational in 2013. I never imagined there’d be yearly conventions in Portland, OR, or that we’d publish the number of books we’ve published, or that there would be multiple imprints. That sort of growth didn’t seem probable, as most small and independent presses wither on the vine.

Of course, on individual levels, we’ve all grown as writers and editors. We’ve also grown as a community, and it grows stronger as years pass and more and more people join Bizarro, thus extending the family.

STC: You’ve been editing the New Bizarro Author Series from the start, giving a whole bunch of authors their first start in the publishing industry. How does it feel to be involved with these first-time authors on such a level, and what does the NBAS mean to you?

KLD: I enjoy the author-editor interaction, and, of course, editing the works of others helps improve my own work. I enjoy showing writers their faults, not for malicious reasons, but to help them grow in their craft.

To me, the NBAS means the infusion of new blood, which is necessary for Bizarro’s continued existence.

STC: From the second year, I’ve been a big fan of the series. The first books in the series I read, I thought “Donihe really knows how to pick them.” What do you look for when someone submits a manuscript to you for the NBAS?

KLD: Ideally, I want strong-voiced writers who have a solid command of the language. I want unique, high-concept manuscripts that are weird to their cores. I also want to see real character development and real emotion.

Most of all, I want to feel that the manuscript’s weirdness is a genuine thing. By that, I mean the oddity isn’t forced and doesn’t seem shoehorned into the narrative.

Of course, I realize a new writer might require extra assistance, so if I feel that the author has good ideas, but some issues with prose, then I will work with that author, showing him/her the problem points and offering suggestions to correct them.

If I feel that the author has good prose, but his/her ideas could be more interesting, then I will work with that author to see if he/she can’t rethink certain elements in an attempt to better the manuscript.

STC: The Wonderland Award (for those that don’t know) is an annual prize chosen by the Bizarro community for the best novel and the best collection of the year. Tell me a bit about your Wonderland Award winning novel, House of Houses. How did it feel to win the award?

KLD: House of Houses is the tale of Carlos, who loves his house, Helen, as a man might love a woman. On the morning of their “wedding,” however, a structural apocalypse occurs. All buildings the world over collapse as though they’ve committed suicide en masse. Now, it’s up to Carlos to venture to House Heaven—which is overseen by a tyrant—in an attempt to rediscover the soul of the house he loves more than life itself.

And how did it feel to win the Wonderland Award? Well, it felt great to know that the community that I love had enjoyed the book and that my time spent writing it hadn’t been wasted.

STC: You have published three collections of short work to date: The Flappy Parts (poetry), The Traveling Dildo Salesman (stories), and your latest release, Papier-Mâché Jesus (stories). You’ve been writing short fiction since your teens. What do you like about short stories and poetry that keeps you coming back to them?

KLD: I prefer working in the longer forms; that is true. It takes me longer to write ten pages worth of story than the same number of pages in a novel. Still, I like the challenge, and that’s probably what brings me back.

I especially enjoy short-shorts. They’re so neat and compact. But they’re more challenging than short stories. So few words are involved… and, of course, every word must count.

Unfortunately, the time it takes to write short stories eats into my book-writing time. That’s why short stories are somewhat rare things for me.

Poetry, however, seems to come to me in floods. 2002, for example, was a big year for poetry. Many of the poems from The Flappy Parts hail from that time. At the moment, however, it’s been almost two years since I’ve written a single poem. The floodgates will reopen. Just can’t say when that’ll happen.

STC: Late last year you released two Walrus themed books. Your novel, Space Walrus, and an anthology called Walrus Tales. Can you explain a little bit about these books and/or Walruses?

KLD: Space Walrus might very well be my favorite book to date, so I’d be happy to tell you about it. Space Walrus is a tough and tattooed space-faring hero. Walter is a flabby, technologically enhanced walrus, a test subject aboard a space station. Space Walrus exists only in Walter’s mind… but he knows if he can go on space walks like the chimps he hates, he will win the heart of his trainer, Dr. Stephanie. Dr. Ron—master over the chimps—however, might have different plans, and eyes on Dr. Stephanie as well.

Concerning Walrus Tales: I can say, with total confidence, that it is the best damn walrus-based anthology ever published on this or any other planet. It will satiate the hunger for pinnipedal fiction that you never knew you had. Contributors include Carlton Mellick III, Bentley Little, Nick Mamatas, Rhys Hughes, John Skipp, Mykle Hansen and many others.

Read it, or get tusked.

And why so many words spent on walruses, you may ask? Because they’re awesome.

STC: What are your favourite books, and who are your favourite authors?

KLD: Honestly, I find this a difficult question to answer… so I’ll just list the last three books that I’ve read and enjoyed: Bigot Hall by Steve Aylett, Stories for the Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory and My Pet Serial Killer by Michael J Seidlinger.

STC: Would you like to offer any tips for aspiring writers?

KLD: Don’t grow complacent. Read a lot. Write a lot. Develop a thick skin and keep on going…

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Kevin L. Donihe is the author of Papier-Mâché Jesus, Space Walrus, and Night of the Assholes, amongst several others, editor of the Walrus Tales anthology, and editor of the New Bizarro Author Series.

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Firing up the Barbee: An interview with David W. Barbee

By S.T. Cartledge

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I first met David at BizarroCon 2012. This was the first day, when people were arriving and milling about and meeting old friends and getting to know new friends. This was my first BizarroCon, and David came with a reputation. Kind of. I had been informed about ‘the Barbees’, a package deal, the lovely couple from the South that make the convention all the sweeter. I recall numerous times seeing the both of them around the convention wearing their matching “A Town Called Suckhole” t-shirts.

So David comes in, excited as anything, and the room lights up. He comes straight in and picks someone up in a great big bear hug (I forget who, there was that much going on at the convention), mentions that he doesn’t just give those hugs out to everyone, then turns to the next closest person – which happens to be me – and gives another great big bear hug. I’d never met the guy before in my life, and there he was, sharing his special hugs with me. That, to me, is what David W. Barbee is all about.

S.T. Cartledge: David, what was the first Bizarro book that you read?

David W. Barbee: Satan Burger

STC: How did you come across the Bizarro genre?

DWB: Just looking for weird stuff to read, really. I just wanted weirder fiction, stuff that could break rules, that combined very strange genres and ideas, which is what I wanted to write myself. Then I discovered Carlton Mellick III and bizarro, and many of the books I read were so daring and so purposefully strange. And I mean that exactly. They were full-throated stories full of strange ideas, and those ideas weren’t there for no reason. They had purpose. Quality bizarro has weirdness that serves the story, affects the characters, and makes impossible worlds feel real. A good story that’s weird as hell. Nobody can argue against that.

STC: What was the process like for you, going through the first batch of the New Bizarro Author Series?

DWB: It was equally exciting and terrifying. It was a learning experience; from having Kevin Donihe helping me through the editing process to networking with other authors and readers. When I look back on it, all I see are the things I could do differently. But at the time, I threw myself into it, which worked out pretty well. I also learned that being a writer can suddenly involve a lot of things that aren’t writing. Stuff that bears striking resemblance to work. But all that work was totally good for me. It’s a test for all the things an author needs: resilience, patience, humility, effort, immunity from personal embarrassment, and a little stubbornness. And if your everyday author needs those things, then a bizarro author needs them in spades. We are literature’s greatest freakshow, after all.

STC: A Town Called Suckhole was one of my favourite books read last year. I found the focus on redneck culture to be fascinating. Why did you want to write about rednecks, and why do you think people want to read about them?

DWB: There seems to be some special fascination leveled at redneck culture, doesn’t there? I can see the appeal. The whole way of life, especially here in the American Southeast, is a special balance of beautiful and ugly, wise and stupid. I wanted that to show through in A Town Called Suckhole because I grew up in this culture. I wanted it to be a simultaneous genre homage and vicious satire, like Blazing Saddles. I wanted to build a redneck utopia built entirely on their values (religiously, ethnically, historically, intellectually), and see just how insane that would be. Plus it’s a great setting for a detective story. I think the result is a story set in a hellhole populated by idiots and with a few decent folks sprinkled in. You know, just like real life.

STC: Tell me a bit about your latest book, Thunderpussy. Why should people read it?

DWB: Thunderpussy is an actiony bizarro spy adventure. There are conspiracies, sumo wrestling, evil corporate interests, velociraptor ladies, robot movie stars, voodoo zombies, sexy violence, violent sex, and the most dangerous vagina in the world. I’m really excited that I got to write a spy book with my weird tastes. Thunderpussy has all the things we love about a thrilling spy story, but set in a weird twisted world where the violence is harder, the stakes are absurdly high, and the sexual tension could power a chainsaw.

STC: What sort of research did you put into it, and what was your biggest source of inspiration for writing a spy novel?

DWB: When tasked with writing Thunderpussy, I wanted to avoid an annoying parody like Austin Powers. Sure there are goofy ideas in Thunderpussy, but I tried to balance that with coolness. The gold standard of spies is James Bond, and his appeal is all about being cool. I refamiliarized myself with the movies and the various interpretations of Bond, and much like Batman he’s a flexible archetype. I still felt I could do a version of this that was different. My spy would be an insane and twisted man whose reality is like that of a beer commercial. Women want him and men want to be him, to an absolutely ludicrous degree. The regular character traits of Bond (seduction, luxury, violence) are cranked up to eleven. He’s the most interesting man in the world. His superpower is being cool. From there the rest of the details came pretty easy.

STC: What are your favourite books, and who are your favourite authors?

DWB: I grew up on comic book writers like Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman. Garth Ennis was hugely influential to me in my formative years, especially Preacher. Flannery O’Connor’s stories always made more sense to me than the actual Bible (I was born in the next town over from hers). I really enjoy China Miéville, Cormac McCarthy, Douglas Adams, Joe Lansdale, and Jeffrey Thomas. There are tons of authors in and around the bizarro scene that I can’t read fast enough. Mellick, Johnson, Goodfellow, Pierce, those guys kill me every time. I try to read a wide mixture of things. It’s the rocket fuel my brain needs.

STC: And because I told you there would be multiple choice questions, if you had the power to make books essential reading on the school curriculum, which would you choose:

Ass Goblins of Auschwitz

The Haunted Vagina

Sorry I Ruined Your Orgy

The Traveling Dildo Salesman

DWB: The Haunted Vagina. That would be a good book for pre-teens to read and talk about. Virtuous parents across the country would die of heart attacks and we’d be left with an army of savage orphans, roaming the night and high on bizarro books. Sounds awesome.

STC: Would you like to offer any tips for aspiring writers?

DWB: If you’re a cult writer (which is what I am), then you have to play a long game. It’s about working hard at a steady pace. You always have to have a scheme in the pipe. It’s about working for your books, making your books work for you, and trying your best to not be jackass. That last part is really fucking hard.

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David W. Barbee is the author of Carnageland, A Town Called Suckhole, and Thunderpussy. Ask him about his turkey impression.

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