Wow. I am still processing last week’s trip to BizarroCon.
I had thought that I might have time to file a report or two from the convention, but that was a foolish notion. I was far too busy with the awesome to find time to write anything. But now that I have had a little time to jot down my thoughts…
I’m new to the Bizarro Community, so this post won’t be much about who’s who or what’s what but will stick to my personal experience at this small but powerful writing convention. As a newbie, I’m still learning about Bizarro and all it entails. In the future, I am planning to bring you along on my journey as a Bizarro author, reader, and fan. I’ll be using my blog to present great books, music, and art as I experience it.
So what is Bizarro? Its definition is somewhat wriggly, so one could simply say that Bizarro is Bizarro. That’s not very satisfying, though. Another answer is that it is a genre, just like westerns, romance, or science fiction. I think it’s best defined by exploring the books that comprise it.
A quick aside – here’s a few starter links that might help:
Bizarro Fiction (Wikipedia)
What is Bizarro Fiction?
BizarroCon is an annual event — this year’s was the seventh. I wanted to go last year, but simply didn’t have the budget for it. This year, I was going no matter what, as my new book, Pax Titanus, is a part of Eraserhead Press’s New Bizarro Author Series (NBAS).
It was my debut on the scene and also a handy icebreaker. For those that know me, it may come as a surprise that I don’t like to leap into a room of strangers and press the flesh. I’m actually pretty shy in a new environment. Once I am comfortable – sheesh — you can’t shut me up. Being able to say that I was one of the new authors gave me a way to introduce myself and made it considerably easier to navigate all of the new faces. There is a fair bit of excitement for the NBAS books (read more about it here) so many folks introduced themselves first, also nice for a shy guy.
Travel. It takes a full day to get from Florida to Oregon. Yes, it’s a modern miracle and all that, but still. Three-hour time difference, three-hour layover, and a delay in the flight made for 17 hours of travel. But I did arrive no worse for wear and I checked into the host hotel for BizarroCon, the Edgefield. If you come through Portland, you must stay here. It’s a unique experience.
It’s supposed to be haunted, but I didn’t see anything. That was LAME.
I caught up with some alumni of a Bizarro writing workshop I attended through LitReactor (which is how I ended up a published Bizarro author – more on this in the future), got settled, and made my way to the opening night festivities. Good stuff. What I was more excited for was the NBAS meeting, where I met fellow NBAS author Scott Cole and learned what was expected of me for the upcoming year.
In short: sell books, interact with the community, and don’t be a tool. I got the second and third all set, just have to sell the books! So yeah, pick up a copy of the ribald Bizarro science fiction that is Pax Titanus. Tell your friends. Like any author, if I can show that my books have an audience, they will be willing to listen to pitches for future books. This is a potential career maker. How much do you love me???
After the meeting, I made my way back to the room and promptly passed out.
Two exciting workshops – Plot Structure with Cody Goodfellow and Writing Dialogue with Brian Allen Carr. Both were very much worth my time, and I can’t say that about most workshops I attend.
Later in the day, I caught some great readings by Michael Allen Rose and Spike Marlowe.
It was at this point that I realized that I wasn’t suffering from allergies all day but in fact, I had a motherfornicating cold. AIRPLANES!!!! Hate those steel incubators.
I felt like crap but I soldiered on, undaunted.
That night was the 15th Anniversary Party for my publisher, Eraserhead Press. The Bizarro community is tight-knit and this was quite a bit deal. Being new to the scene, I could only appreciate so much, but the energy in the room was joyous and overwhelming.
I left on the early side in the hopes that a good night of sleep would kick the pain-in-the-ass sniffles I was dealing with.
Victory! I woke feeling much better!
This was a very good thing, as I had two readings to perform.
In short, the first reading was mediocre, if you are being nice. Utter shit, if you are not being nice. My second, well, that was a glorious redemption of the first and a proud and proper introduction to the Bizarro Family.
The first reading was just that – I read from a chapter of Pax Titanus and attempted (and failed) a prop joke.
The second took place during the Ultimate Bizarro Showdown – something between a talent show, poetry slam, and firing squad. (Actually, electrocution was the punishment for running over. True story. Fetish people will know the device used.)
The Showdown followed the Wonderland Awards Dinner. The Wonderland Awards are given to the best novel and best collection of the year. The winners were Garrett Cook’s Time Pimp and Brian Allen Carr’s Motherfucking Sharks. You should read both of them. Also, important to note: there was a full spread of Bizarro books for sale at the back of the room, including mine.
I had been strong-armed to participate in the Showdown and I was anxious. I had the whole convention for an audience. This would be the way most would get to meet me. What to do? I had never seen the Showdown before, so I had no idea what people do for this thing.
I was going in blind.
I decided to rely on my teaching experience and just tell a too-strange, real-life story. Best choice I could have made. If one thing my earlier “performance” had taught me – my days of reading off a page are over. I am just NO GOOD when I do that. I will have to stick with storytelling from the hip from this point forward.
The story? One from my college years, about a homeless addict friend. He had found a way to make money by letting himself be “used” by a pervert with a curious fetish. The guy liked to watch young men get perms at local Detroit hair salons. He REALLY liked to watch, if you know what I mean.
This story had been sitting in my mental archives doing nothing. It was time to release it! I could not have chosen better. In fact, they created a non-fiction category just so they could give me something. NICE.
Afterwards, all my books disappeared off the back table and I had a ton of new friends. Never underestimate the power of a great, effed-up story.
There was an after party and as I was feeling much better (sniffles be damned) I hung out and made an attempt to get to know as many Bizarros as I could.
Breakfast and the long flight home.
The convention rocked. Sure, having a book released at the event made it all that much sweeter, but as far as writing conventions go, I have not experienced better. I will be going back and back again. I’ve participated in other writing communities in the past, and none were as accepting, supportive, and friendly as the Bizarro community. These are, what I call, GOOD PEOPLE. So much talent. So much heart. You will learn much about them and their work from me.
Finally, my search for an artistic home has ended.
I AM BIZARRO.