Written by: Tim Meyer
Just what is Bizarro Fiction? Well, it’s a term that was adopted by independent publishing company Eraserhead Press (and a few others) that comes to mean “a contemporary literary genre, which often uses elements of absurdism, satire, and the grotesque, along with pop-surrealism and genre-fiction staples, in order to create subversive works that are as weird and entertaining as possible”, according to Wikipedia. Pretty cool, right? For me, I try squeezing as much Bizarro into my reading regiment as I possibly can, without overloading my brain and turning it to mush. And that’s not because the subject matter is ludicrous and off-the-charts ridiculous, but because Bizarro is often thought-provoking and deeply rewarding, the way most literary fiction should be. Below, I’ve compiled a short list of my favorites.
5 – ALL YOU CAN EAT (Deadite Press) by Shane McKenzie – If you can’t tell by the title and the cover, this book is about a Chinese Buffet that turns people into cannibals. All You Can Eat follows the story of Juan and his illegal journey across the border, in hopes of making a better life for his family. Basically, the buffet Juan ends up working at has some very addictive meals on the menu, and when the kitchen runs out, the customers go berserk and look for other ways to satisfy their overwhelming hunger. I’ve read a few of McKenzie’s novellas and you better have a strong stomach if you plan on giving this one a try. It’s disturbing and at times, downright disgusting. It’s also awesome, which is why it made this list. It has everything you want from a Bizarro/Horror novel. Great character development, tight themes, and the pacing is unbelievably quick. It’ll definitely leave you hungry for more McKenzie an hour after you finish reading.
4 – BIGFOOT CRANK STOMP (Deadite Press) by Erik Williams – If the title alone doesn’t make you chuckle, than you probably won’t enjoy this. It’s off-the-wall antics and absurd premise will probably turn away some folks, but honestly—I never thought a story about a Sasquatch who’s addicted to meth would be so highly entertaining. But it is. Maybe not as thought-provoking as some of the other titles on this list, Bigfoot Crank Stomp will surely have you laughing, crying, and writhing your nose in disgust.
3 – APESHIT (Deadite Press) by Carlton Mellick III – Carlton Mellick III is probably the most notable Bizarro Fiction author. Apeshit was one of my first Mellick experiences and from then on, I was hooked. This book pays tribute to the classic American horror story about a group of teenagers vacationing in a cabin in the woods—but don’t forget, this is Bizarro. And that means you’re in for a little more than the typical horror story. A hideous mutant, strange fetishes, and a toothy vagina are just some of the elements you can expect from this title. If you’re looking to get into Bizarro, this is the perfect place to start. It’s as engaging from a literary perspective as it is from a horror one.
2 – HELP! A BEAR IS EATING ME! (Eraserhead Press) by Mykle Hansen – Well, the title about says it all. Yup. This book is literally about a man being eaten by a bear. Trapped beneath his SUV in the middle of an Alaskan Forest, Marv reflects on his current situation and blames everyone else in the world for his problems except for himself. I literally laughed out loud on every page. Hansen’s voice is sardonic and his prose hits with pinpoint accuracy. While this might not be a “horror novel” per se, it’s so damn enjoyable that it deserves to be on this list.
1 – THE CANNIBALS OF CANDYLAND (Eraserhead Press) by Carlton Mellick III – Okay, I couldn’t help it. I had to throw one more Mellick novella on the list. Remember that childhood game you used to play? Well, forget about that shit. Welcome to a different Candyland, one where the inhabitants food source is—YOU! I’m pretty sure I downed this entire book in one sitting. Maybe two. It’s easy prose makes for great pacing and the weirdness of the content fuels you to the end. Not to mention it has great, relatable themes. This book is chiefly why Bizarro works and if you’re skeptical about the whole thing—start with this one. You won’t be disappointed. Even if you don’t “get it”, I guarantee you’ll be entertained.
Tim Meyer lives near the Jersey Shore (but don’t hold that against him). He is the author of ‘In the House of Mirrors’ and several other horror novels. His new zombie novel ‘Less Than Human’ is now available on Amazon.