Peter John McLean
The Bizarro Starter Kit (Orange) (Reviews)
I picked up a couple of the Bizarro Starter Kits recently. The Starter Kits are essentially collections of writing by the central writers in the bizarro genre, such as Carlton Mellick III, D. Harlan Wilson, Jeremy Robert Johnson, Kevin L. Donihe, and others (this is just in the Orange Starter Kit). There are three starter kits total, each showcasing writing from different authors.
I only recently discovered the Bizarro community and I couldn’t fucking believe I had never found it before. Stories range from Carlton Mellick III’s seminal classic, The Baby Jesus Buttplug (pretty self explanatory, it’s about an infant jesus [intentionally not a proper noun] that is adopted from a litter of baby jesuses under the assumption that they will definitely NOT use it as a buttplug, which they obviously immediately do), to stories like D Harlan Wilson’s Cops and Bodybuilders which is flash fiction that centers on an absurd shifts in social contracts – you think you can call the cops to get asshole bodybuilders out of your house, but what if the cops are bodybuilders and more importantly, u mirin bro?
There are lots of qualities of Bizarro fiction that I like. There are also lots of qualities of Bizarro fiction that I’ve used in my own writing, which is awesome, because it’s great to see other people use similar mechanisms in different ways. A particular example of this is the use of cinematic descriptions to help a reader understand what is going on without being needlessly verbose:
The killing took place in slow motion except for when the throwing star was just about to strike PB3 in the eye, at which point things slipped into ultraslow motion.
That is a quote from a D Harlan Wilson story.
In other cases, the scenario is broken down into intriguing (and obviously bizarre) imagery:
Death. Unrestrained and absolute.
Exposed finger-bones pointing accusations at the sky.
Baby replicas composed of ash, mouths still open in a cry.
The bodies of a man and his dog fused together, skin and fur melded. Nobody wanted to die alone.
That is from Jeremy Robert Johnson’s Extinction Journal and serves as a perfect descriptive mechanism by conjuring brief but vivid imagery that reinforce the hysterically disturbing post-apocalyptic world his cockroach suited protagonist wanders through.
This kind of cult mania is a staple of Bizarro literature. The stories usually have multiple truly absurd concepts to them: characters with bizarre characteristics, dystopias with cartoon logic, plot lines that get exponentially more bizarre with each step. Others are much more muted. I can’t believe I’m citing this as a more moderate case of Bizarro, but Jeremy Robert Johnson’s Extinction Journals is – by comparison – a more straightforward novella about the struggle of apocalyptic worlds where cockroach suits and Twinkie suits do battle and the president was just murdered.
However, it’s easy to misinterpret Bizarro if you haven’t read it and assume it’s just a circle jerk of weird shit being pasted together for no reason. This is not the case.
Bizarro is all about the story and honestly some of the Bizarro stories I’ve read were truly gripping reads. The Baby Jesus Buttplug reminds me of the film Bug, because it is slowly gets more insane as you read, with occasional swift changes in the story’s mood and tempo.
I’m not going to give a blow by blow of every single story and novella, but suffice to say I highly recommend the Bizarro Starter Kit (Orange) to anyone who reads. It’s an inexpensive and enjoyable foray into the world of Biblical fetus perversion, pedagogicide (a word I just made up), post apocalyptic protagonists who cast off oxygen masks that remind them of being ball-gagged by Icelandic mistresses, cockroach suits, the grieving process of losing fishbowl headed friends, and others.