”I was having a hard time wrapping my head around...why I was doing what I was doing. And what exactly was I doing? Outlines softened. Surfaces went foggy. What was I supposed to be doing? I was caged in solid smoke, sharp smoke. I saw it settling in, filling the space. A skintight dream with hard corners, corroded metal defined space. I shaped the proportions when I could to avoid the spikes. The hard-beat of work. Pain and pleasure cannot be argued with. They demonstrate me. Touching is just electrons repelling. Nothing can touch. Ever. I passed my arm before my eyes and watched it skip past me like slowed frames in an old movie. Life was stop-motion. Realization: We render times by stitching together moments - flipping pages in the book of consciousness presents a continuous stream. Our senses too slow to realize the separation of moments, like a strand of pearls through eternity. Time is terrifying, time is unspeakable. Clock-time lies down between moments...but distance warps with velocity, time bends with velocity. Frames of Reference. Are not absolute. Are selfish. A private reality. Clocks have a life of their own. Framed by references.”
In “A Greater Monster” by David David Katzman
I was first introduced to Bizarro at The British Council when my English instructor, Vicky Hartnack, had us read a story by Carlton Mellick III. A lot of people in the class thought it was stupid, childish, and "weird for the sake of weird." Then the instructor broke it down and explained to us why it was actually an intelligent piece of writing. Those in the class that didn't get it are a lot like the people who dismiss Bizarro: they aren't as smart as they think they are.
Do Bizarro writers get six figure advances? Nah. If someone says they do, they’re wonderfully over-the-top. Most publishers would look at SF, satire and the generally weird as they would a two week old tuna sandwich. The money is in the masses--books one hears about on NPR and Oprah. Bizarro writers have to pay at vanity presses to get their stuff published and, well, yeah: they end up with a storage unit full of books. But with the internet and younger generations, there's probably a steadily growing market/scene for the genre. Nerdtastic books about aliens, robots and sex are not so far off from anime, manga, snarky blogs and the strange worlds of video games. And...seriously: the folks commenting about the lack of literary quality in the genre need to realize that whether or not they like a book is a subjective thing; a genre as it stands alone is a genre only. It's entirely pretentious to presume that one genre above others lays universal claim to the best wordsmithing. Sheesh. Some people watch golf and some people watch half-naked android chicks shooting up crablike security bots in a dystopian future Tokyo. That's just how it is. I won't take a prudish "it's bloody weird that Bizarro nonsense and I like me books linear and with a happy ending..." approach. I'm not really interested in what they do in their spare time though. They could snort ketamine off a dead hooker's back every night while playing SNES games with imaginary friends and it wouldn't make me appreciate what they've written anymore than what I do now. It's either good or it's whack regardless of how much of a frat pack they are. But Katzman’s novel has got me thinking over the weekend. While I hold dear that Bizarro, as a genre, is not for me, I got punched in the face by it; I must have a look to see if there are any *what I would consider* meaningful writers like Katzman amongst the skidmarks. Bizarro writers aren't trying to be Ed Wood. According to some statements made online, Bizarro wants to create the literary equivalent of the Cult section at video stories. The Cult section of a video store isn't simply filled with Ed Wood titles and other bad B-movies. It is varied, though a key distinguishing factor is "weirdness." Can be madcap weirdness. Surreal weirdness. Satirical weirdness. A mix of many weirdnesses. Book stores tend not to have such a section, so people who want truly weird fiction must search a bit more, unfortunately. And it's hard to judge a genre by simply hearing about it, or reading just a few titles. There are many Bizarro authors, and they have very different styles and approaches, not all of which are juvenile. Read “A Greater Monster.” I can guarantee you’ll re-read it like I did. What’s it about? Not sure. It's like jazz, free-forms, free-floating, riffs and fugues, a dive into unsettling textures and ideas. 'Experimental' it is, but not necessarily so far out that you won't find something of yourself in it. I’ll have to re-read it once again to find whether the Monster is within me.
David David Katzman has more imagination in one finger than the Bolex brothers could ever dream of. One of the main reasons SF is subjected to such universal disparagement is the preconceived notion that it is all badly written prose written by infantile minds obsessed with shiny things. So give them good prose (vide quote above). And no shiny things. Mr. David David Katzman please step up to the plate. Nary a spaceship/zap gun/shiny thing in sight (there might be the odd talking toaster). And such remarkable, fluid, humane prose. Although you've got to like your cup of tea dark if Katzman is going to be your cup of tea (and apologies for the pun).
NB: SF = Speculative Fiction.