Contributed by Sam Knight
Bizarro is the genre of the weird, strange, grotesque, and bizarre, and it generally makes readers think, what the heck? (Though usually said in much stronger language.) While some authors write weird for the sake of being weird, most fans of Bizarro don’t consider those stories to be true Bizarro. They expect stories that make sense, at least within the story’s own set of rules, and resonate with the subversive, satiric, and absurd. That said, there really are no rules to the Bizarro genre.
The term Bizarro came into general use to identify the genre around 2006. There are several essays on the origins of the genre, but nearly all point to Eraserhead Press as the birthing place of the genre, though obviously “weird stuff” has been around a lot longer. In an interview with Fantasy Magazine, Eraserhead Press Publisher Rose O’keefe said, “It clearly wasn’t horror, science-fiction, fantasy, or even experimental fiction. The only real way to describe it would be: weird.”
What it boils down to is this: Bizarro is the genre of weird stories that don’t really fit into any of the other mainstream genres.
While weird, strange, grotesque, and bizarre naturally lead to horror, Bizarro is not necessarily a horror specific genre, so it does have a horror sub-genre. Unless, of course, it already pushed past what you were comfortable with, and then it is all horror—which makes it difficult to offer good examples of Bizarro horror. Not because the stories aren’t good, but because what delights one reader very likely will horrify, disgust, or seriously offend the next, and many things some would consider horror, others do not, and many things some consider horror, others consider beyond the pale.
Enter this genre, as a reader or writer, with your eyes wide open, otherwise, they may be forcibly opened for you.
A good place to start reading Bizarro, though it may not be to your taste, is The Bizarro Starter Kit, of which there are (as of this writing) four: Red, Purple, Blue, and Orange. Or try The Best Bizarro Fiction of the Decade. You may spot a reoccurring name of a prolific author in the genre: Carlton Mellick III, author of The Haunted Vagina, The Baby Jesus Butt Plug, and Warrior Wolf Women of the Wasteland among many others.
Examples of movies in the Bizarro genre are John Dies at the End, Eraserhead, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Swiss Army Man, and Donnie Darko
Examples of books in the Bizarro horror genre:
- The Drive-In by Joe Lansdale
- John Dies at the End by David Wong
- The Cannibals of Candyland by Carlton Mellick III
- Bigfoot Crank Stomp by Erik Williams
- All You Can Eat by Shane McKenzie
Bizarro Central, the home of the Wonderland Book Awards (for the best in Bizarro fiction each year), is a great place to find more Bizarro titles.