TQP 28: Welcome to the Jungle w/ Kris Saknussemm

Author Kris Saknussemm and Jeremy Maddux forego the typical interview format in favor of celebrating literature, i.e. books Jeremy would never piss on. Also covered are Kris’ thoughts on the closing of Lazy Fascist Press, the upcoming film adaptation of his book The Humble Assessment, what it’s like to live in the jungle with natives, an unusual practice called ‘shark calling’ and the time his friend shot him with a tranquilizer dart and bailed out of the helicopter on him.

Books mentioned, in no specific order:

A Fan’s Notes by Frederick Exley
The Humble Assessment by Kris Saknussemm
Blood Sport: A Journey Up the Hassayampa by Robert F. Jones
A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes
F250 by Bud Smith
The Tunnel by William H. Gass
To the Finland Station by Edmund Wilson
Requiem For a Dream by Hubert Selby, Jr.
It Couldn’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye by J.D. California
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Turtle and the Shark
Archipelagone by Kris Saknussemm (forthcoming)

How to Revive Bizarro Fiction

With the recent closure of Lazy Fascist Press and Bizarrocon seeming to draw less people with each passing year, it’s time to talk about what we can do to revitalize the genre of bizarro fiction.

When LFP announced earlier this year that it would be closing its doors, several reasons were given. The editor was too triggered by the name of the press given current social and political climates to continue operating a publishing imprint containing the term “fascist.” Understandable considering his compatriots’ enthusiasm and affiliation with the hard-left communist domestic terrorist organisation ANTIFA.

Another reason given is one that I’ve been warning against for over a year here on the pages of my website: A “market downturn.”

This is publishing-speak for “our audience evaporated and we don’t know why.” But we do know why. We know that years of capitulating to one alt-left moral hysteria after another and endless ugly in-genre witch hunts have reduced the readership of bizarro fiction down to only people who aspire to be bizarro fiction writers.

The alt-left progressive gate-keepers of the genre are a humorless bunch. They’re male feminists who spend a good portion of their online footprint being as white as milk while using the term “white people” as a pejorative, and lecturing the public about whatever nonsense neo-Marxist outrage topic is trendy on Twitter this week.

You’ve all seen those cringe-worthy Berkeley ANTIFA videos by now. The upper-middle class white kids who can’t answer basic questions about Communism or Marxism or what the hell they’re even there protesting about. These are the people who claim to be arbiters of bizarro fiction. But as Dr. Jordan Peterson would say, they can’t even clean their own bloody rooms let alone lead a contemporary weird fiction movement.

These dorks are about as cool and edgy as the rapping pastor from the 90s viral video and no matter how many articles they write on trendy lit sites trying to convince you otherwise, it only takes a cursory glance at today’s glut of bizarro books to see that, aside from a few mavericks who self-motivate to push the boundaries, bizarro fiction is in a state of stagnation that offers nothing remotely transgressive or counter-culture to someone searching for a “different” literary experience.

So now that we’ve established that modern bizarro fiction is about as cool as your mom trying to meme on Facebook, the question is, what the fuck do we do about it?

Bizarro is a genre. Albeit a genre that the alt-left gatekeepers have poorly defined over the years leading most people to believe it’s just a lazy goof-off comedy sub-genre of horror or worse that it’s just surreal or experimental alt-lit. But it’s not.

Or at least it shouldn’t be. It hasn’t always been. In its heyday, bizarro was truly transgressive, shocking, offensive. The point of the weird, gross or obscene titles and covers was to evoke a visceral reaction from the reader. “No way did they go there! How the fuck is THAT a book?”

When was the last time you can remember being shocked or offended by a bizarro cover? The trendiest bizarros of today act like moral church ladies. They’re too concerned about their online reputations on social media to dare shock or offend anymore. Bizarro has become milquetoast.

We have to take it back.

I think the only way to do that is to inject an entirely different culture into bizarro fiction. Can you name a single conservative or alt-right bizarro fiction writer? Even one? One of the guiding principals of modern bizarro is to capitulate toward progressive politics. The brain-dead gate-keepers will assure you that this is simply a matter of self-evident natural progression. That all subversive subcultures are left-leaning.

Except that they’re not and haven’t been for some time. The alt-left is as mainstream as mainstream gets. Eminem and The View share talking points with the alt-left. They’re cozied up next to the godawful late night talk show hosts and Kathy fucking Griffin. This movement completely lacks self-awareness. They’re trendy. Worse, they’re boring.

The only way to keep this amazing genre that’s circling the drain from disappearing forever into the blackness of post-modern neo-Marxism is to teach a new generation about its potential as an art form.

Modern bizarros will tell you that what’s bizarre is too commonplace now. That memes are more weird than anything an author can dream up. They’re half right. The memers of the new generation, the internet shitposters who draw shitty comics and create shocking, politically incorrect Pepe memes are the PERFECT heirs to bizarro fiction.

We need the 4channers, the meme factory workers, we need generation Z to pick up the ball the alt-lefters dropped somewhere back in 2011 or 2012. Will Amazon carry books with titles and covers meant to provoke outrage from normies? Who gives a fuck? Bizarro is dead as a door-nail as it is. In another few years, all the bizarro small presses will close up shop or be bought up by bigger publishers who will sanitize the genre even further.

There is literally nothing to lose. Bizarro is failing either way. Fuck Amazon. Fuck even putting neo-bizarro fiction into book form if none of the POD printers will fuck with it. We can publish TRULY transgressive fiction on our websites. On maverick social media like Minds or Gab.ai. Hell even 4chan has a /lit/ section.

Where bizarro goes from here is not up to the alt-lefties in Portland. They had their chance and they blew it. They’re just trying to figure out how to stay afloat in this “market downturn” era. There’s never been a better time to reinvent bizarro and return it to the spirit of what made bizarro so special to begin with.

The genre is yours. What are you gonna do with it?

Jeremy Maddux’s Bizarro Boycott

In this brief monologue, Maddux commits to his first boycott, of Bizarro fiction. He doesn’t care if you are vehemently against it, indifferent to it or even if you support it. This is not to impress anyone. This is to simply say that no more of his money will go to paying the overhead on a company that allows repulsive personalities that whine about an ‘evil white man conspiracy’. Maddux also touches on Lazy Fascist Press shuttering their operation, and Cameron Pierce’s sudden regret to have even given his press that name. Why? Because politics… Just like Maddux and Strange said six months ago. This is no different than football fans telling the NFL they’re no longer willing to fund their antics.

The following is a transcription of Jeremy’s monologue:

Jeremy Maddux here with a heavy heart on this Tuesday, October 3rd. Why do I have a heavy heart? Because I have to say goodbye to a literary genre that has been my passion for the last five years. For newer listeners who don’t know what I’m talking about, it was a genre of fiction called Bizarro. Though there are opposing viewpoints on where these stories came from, it’s pretty much understood that Eraserhead Press popularized it to legions of readers with disenfranchised reading tastes and fans of B-Movies.

I fell so in love with these books that I was motivated to go meet the authors, who are mostly based in Portland, Oregon. I saw a lot of good and a lot of bad in my 2 weeks among that crowd. More or less, I felt like I’d found an extended family. I wanted to believe.

Then, I got home. And I started to see more bad than good. Instead of knocking on every door they possibly could to talk about their books, their wares, their community, all they wanted to talk about was the evil white man, rape scenes in Game of Thrones and how Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver was a sleeper agent for male patriarchy. These mostly white people never missed an opportunity to demonize other white people.

They were quick to signal their acceptance of all other cultures no matter what misogyny or cruelty lurked in said cultures, so long as they weren’t white. Now that I had advanced through this fraternal order, I began to field requests from these authors to ‘keep an eye’ on a problematic author named Kevin Strange due to ‘bad intel’ about his personal life, which I strongly felt was none of my or their business. To this day, none of them have apologized to Strange for prying around in his personal life. These people maintained toxic social media presences far longer than I did.

Then Trump got elected. They lost their minds. They literally became ugly people with base, aimless vitriol. Then the gloves were off. I said ‘fuck these people and their disgustingly permissive attitude towards all things progressive’, even turning on artists, other writers and filmmakers who didn’t share their strictly progressive regimen. They turned on everyone from Steve Martin to Tim Burton to Lloyd Kaufman.

Fast forward a few months… They are openly insulting a man with stage 4 cancer and they come after me for taking exception to this. I’m the bad guy for defending an ill man who is not a physical threat to anyone.

Now, one of their own, Tiffany Scandal, responds to the Las Vegas massacre not with sobering thoughts but it seems she can only muster more hatred for the white male patriarchy. “White men are the worst terrorists this world has ever seen.”

This is someone selling you books, all too glad to sell you books about how oppressed modern women are, oh, but they’re just as capable as men while still being victims, though! All too glad to sell them to white men who hate their own color and gender. How do you not see the insanity in that?

So here it is: My first boycott. I never do these. I think they’re bullshit and the people are usually bluffing. I am not bluffing. All told, I have spent thousands of dollars on Bizarro fiction in the last five years. That comes to an end now. No more New Bizarro Authors Series. No new Carlton Mellick books. No more proofreading for Rose. Sorry, Rose. I won’t even buy my good buddy Kevin Donihe’s books any longer, which is a shame because he’s an actual author not a novelty act like many of the people over there who won’t be writers at all five years from now.

I see all this heinous behavior going on over there that they refuse to even see as heinous. All this lashing out at customers, fans and readers by Jeff Burk over stupid social media disagreements. Hell, he did it in person too! Over what? The color blue, comic books, some stupid Howard the Duck bullshit. I see them trolling people with cancer, organizing their temper tantrum anthologies to bemoan the inauguration of Trump and Tiffany Scandal goes and hammers the final nail in the ol’ Bizarro baby coffin with this verbal detritus about white men being terrorists, nevermind that she’s dating one. She took one of the biggest mass shootings in US history and tried to make it about her.

They think they ‘triggered’ me. They love to use that terminology from early 2016. I am not triggered. I am flat out pissed off. There is no happy ending for Bizarro. I quarantined both of the Tiffany Scandal books that I owned. I don’t burn books but I had to do something, so I tore There is No Happy Ending down the middle to symbolize my official break with everything Bizarro. As for her other book, Jigsaw Youth? I used it as a piss mat.

I mentioned Rose and Carlton earlier, and I want to once again extend my apologies that things turned out this way. But, honest to God, they didn’t leave me much choice. People like Jeff Burk, Garrett Cook, Tiffany Scandal, Nathan Carson, Michael Kazepis. They actively work to alienate people, whether they realize it or not.

Rose and Carlton, all you had to do was step in and squash these antics when they were happening. Are you not the bosses? Do you think they would have respected you less or more if you told these individuals to snap out of it and get back to work? Carlton, I want to draw a comic book analogy and compare you to Black Bolt of the Inhumans. He’s their king, yet he always worked in the shadows and he never spoke, even when pressed to. Then, one day, during a very intense battle, he feels overwhelmed and he screams at the top of his lungs. His voice is so powerful it shakes Heaven and Earth. Be like Black Bolt, Carlton. When are you going to use your voice to set things right? Do you honestly think these people would challenge you if you asserted yourself in a way they’re not used to seeing?

I understand there is something to be said for friendship. But I hope it was worth losing this long time reader who truly, passionately believed in the forces of weird, someone who once dreamed of becoming a contributor to this once mighty press. Now? Well, now quite frankly, most of them are beneath me.