lunes, 4 de noviembre de 2013

Bizarro Con 2012: A Chronicle of Weirdness

Humans are nothing without memories. In the case of writers, those little remnants of people, places, things, songs, and books come and gone are infinitely valuable. On a cold January morning, I pulled out a notebook full of scribbled annotations from a trip to Portland, OR, I took in November. It was the chronicle of a great time spent in the company of ridiculously talented individuals. Here are some of the highlights.
Friday, November 16, 2012 – 9:53 a.m.
Right outside the airplane’s window, the majestic Columbia river twists its way to the Pacific Ocean. The silver snake reflects the morning sun and keeps Washington and Oregon separated. In a few minutes the metallic bird will land in Portland International Airport. Then I’ll be on my way to Edgefield Hotel, a historic and very peculiar 74-acre parcel of farmland at the mouth of the Columbia River Gorge. There’s a lot to see in Portland, but I’m here for BizarroCon, the largest gathering of bizarro writers, artists, and fans in the world. It’s also the place to be for anyone interested in the goings-on of the top independent presses in the nation and the weirdest, craziest, most awe-inspiring party/get-together/family reunion you’ve never been to. Color me ecstatic.

Friday, November 16, 2012 – 11:14 a.m.
I leave my bags in the room I’m sharing with horror author and Sinister Grin Press editor Shane McKenzie. As a welcoming gift, Shane left a severed arm on the carpet. I’m not joking. I’m running down a hallway on my way to a workshop offered by the biggest name in bizarro fiction, Carlton Mellick III. Before I can make it there, someone calls out my name. I know a lot of people here, but haven’t met face-to-face with most of them. I turn around. The man calling me is Kevin Shamel, author of The Island of the Super People and editor for Eraserhead Press. He’s also the man responsible for most of the authors in the 2012 New Bizarro Author Series. Since I’m lucky enough to be in this years’ group, Kevin and I have known each other “digitally” for a while. We hug like good friends who haven’t seen each other in a long time. That might be strange anywhere else, but this is BizarroCon.
Friday, November 16, 2012 – 1:16 p.m.
I listened to Carlton Mellick talk about the ins and outs of writing for a cult audience. The experience is akin to learning a few blues licks from BB King. Now I’m sitting in the same room while horror author Brian Keene talks about the benefits and possible pitfalls of developing a persona. Keene is a knowledgeable man who’s gone through the best and worst the publishing industry has to offer. I’m taking notes.

Friday, November 16, 2012 – 2:49 p.m.
There’s a man kneeling on the floor with a flaming piece of paper in his hands. He’s reading a funny, dirty story. He burns his fingers a few times. As each paper burns, he throws it in a bucket and grabs another one. A masked woman keeps lighting them on fire. This is how authors Michael Allen Rose and Spike Marlowe entertain a crowd.
Saturday, November 17, 2012 – 3:37 a.m.
I’ve consumed unhealthy amounts of Bizarro Beer. The interesting concoctions, which ranged in taste from fruity to kick-in-the-teeth jalapeño, were brewed by Rose O’Keefe, publisher and CEO of Eraserhead Press. It’s cold outside as I stand there talking books with Andersen Prunty, a man whose work I admire. Although I’m tired, my mind is reeling. In the preceding hours, I watched great performances by Kirsten Alene Pierce, Andrew Goldfarb, Carlton Mellick III, Cameron Pierce, and Kevin L. Donihe. I also played a part in Shane Mckenzie’s performance, a crazy, redneck cannibal-infused, noodle-throwing bit of mayhem. I’m sure the stains will stay on the carpet of The Ad House for a while.

Saturday, November 17, 2012 – 9:33 a.m.
Despite last night’s shenanigans, we’re all up and enjoying a special breakfast. Sitting at the same table are the members of last year’s New Bizarro Author Series and us, the new guys. The veterans imparting hard-earned knowledge on the book business are Spike Marlowe, Constance Ann Fitzgerald, Justin Grimbol, Michael Allen Rose, Vince Kramer, and Troy Chambers. The new guys are Tamara Romero, Gary Arthur Brown, Shane Cartledge, Joseph Wargo, Andrew Wayne Adams, and me. We’re excited to be here and we’re soaking up what these folks are telling us. The NBAS is a competition, but it’s also something so special, everyone becomes one big, bizarre family.
Saturday, November 17, 2012 – 12:47 p.m.
Brian Keene, Robert Devereaux, Jeremy Robert Johnson, Mykle Hansen, and Kevin Shamel are talking about the writing life. Their words come with the sharp edges of honesty, but they’re neatly wrapped in humor. The fact that everyone in that room still wants to be a writer after the first twenty minutes is a testament to the power of what we do.
Saturday, November 17, 2012 – 1:39 p.m.
Robert Devereaux and Brian Keene stuck around and were joined by Shane McKenzie, John Skipp, and Jeff Burk. They’re talking about the current state of horror fiction. The title of their panel? What To Do With A Poo-Flavored Dick. Only at BizarroCon.

Saturday, November 17, 2012 – 4:33 p.m.
I took a red balloon filled with two cups of ketchup and bit into it. The explosion sent ketchup flying in every direction, including my nostrils. Despite the smell of the condiment fiercely sticking to my nose and face, it was a great experience. I read from Gutmouth, my book, and joined my fellow NABSers in what can only be described as a circus. From talking potatoes to the confessions of a twisted janitor, we made sure to leave a mark in the face of BizarroCon.
Saturday, November 17, 2012 – 9:41 p.m.
The Wonderland Book Awards were announced. Laura Lee Bahr took home Best Novel for Haunt and Jeremy Robert Johnson did the same for Best Collection with We Live Inside You. I’d read both titles, and they deserved to win. There were tears of happiness. Some of them came from Laura. Now The Ultimate Bizarro Showdown is underway. There’s music, props, singing, comedy, shaving, madness, and some reading. Mykle Hansen, who’s keeping things somewhat in order, is dangerously smart and really funny. This might just be the best entertainment on Earth.
Sunday, November 18, 2012 – 4:01 a.m.
I’ve been working really hard on assuring a hangover of epic proportions at some point on Sunday. For now, I push away the memory of that plane I have to catch in the afternoon. I’m happy. I swallow more booze and think about the things I’ve learned:
1. John Skipp is as cool as you think he is.
2. Justin Grimbol and Heather Hewitt are two of the coolest people you can ever hope to meet.
3. Rose O’Keefe’s smile packs enough wattage to light a small town for a week.
4. Jeremy Robert Johnson wants to marry himself. His intelligence and wit are enough to make you hate his guts.
5. Carlton Mellick is an affable man who randomly transforms into a reading/performing monster. He keeps the heads of alien babies in the pockets of his trench coat.
6. Kevin Shamel is my brother. He knows Bigfoot. His mohawk is full of magic.
7. There’s not enough time in the world to talk books with Michael Kazepis and Edmund Colell.
8. Robert Devereaux hides a pair of wings under his shirt.
9. Laura Lee Bahr’s soul is so sweet and kind, you’ll want to hug her for hours … and then murder a baby panda for the sake of balance.
10. Cameron Pierce is capable of force feeding tater tots to a man twice his size.
BizarroCon is about the best in independent publishing, bringing together folks from Eraserhead Press, Lazy Fascist Press, Deadite Press, Swallowdown Press, Grindhouse Press, Atlatl Press, and others. It’s also a gathering of people who love, admire, inspire, and respect one another. I went to present my book and spend time with a few friends. By the time I left, I was part of a tribe. That, even to a jagged cynic like me, is a very beautiful thing. If I were you, I’d try not to miss it this year.

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