Why Has Bizarro Fiction Failed?


One of the first arrows flung at me when I spoke out about the gross censorship affecting small press genre fiction was that I’m perceived by my peers to be a commercial failure, and thus am reacting negatively toward my community because of sour grapes.

This could not be further from the truth. It’s not truthful because the entire premise of the accusation rests on the idea that ANYONE writing small press fiction is a commercial success. Because outside of a handful of writers who gained their success through mass market publishing, then later shifted to the small press, NO ONE is making money.

Then why bother writing it at all?

Commercial success is not what small press genre fiction writers are after, they will tell you. They’re writing for the purity of the art, they will tell you. So why were they so quick to paint me as a commercial failure when that’s not even a stated goal of the art form?

Because they don’t want people telling you what I’ve been telling you all month. Bizarro fiction (and extreme horror) have been co-opted by social justice, neutered, and put out to pasture to die.

If we hope to save these genres that I love, we must first identify what got them to this point to begin with. So, with all of that said, why has bizarro fiction failed us?

This is why:

If the function of bizarro is to act as the literary equivalent of the midnight movie, or the cult section of the video store, then it stands to reason that a primary component of that will be offensiveness.

Midnight movies became what they became because the John Waters, the Lloyd Kaufman, the Jodorowsky, the Ken Russells, they had an edge and a bite to them that acted as a cinematic step behind the curtain at the freak show circus tent.

Bizarro had that edge in spades when it rose in popularity in the late aughts. I think what killed its momentum was two fold.

First, the cult filmmakers, as they made these movies, were universally panned by critics and by the movie-going audience at large. That is by definition what a cult movie is. A commercial failure which gains an audience through other means over time.

In much the same way, when the first really popular bizarro books were hitting with a cult audience, the authors themselves were the victims of very harsh criticisms about not only their writing style, but about their ability to write prose in general. And as we all know, writers have the biggest and most fragile egos of all the creative artists. Criticism is a hard pill to swallow, especially when you think you’re a great artist intentionally creating low-brow art.

So bizarro was abandoned as it gained notoriety by the very authors who helped create its momentum. Those authors can be found today writing trout fishing anthologies and other high-brow literary books. You can see the overcompensation in their later works as they shifted focus toward gaining respect from the literary communities who to this day snub bizarro as juvenile garbage.

The other problem—the problem that affects me most greatly as I don’t give a single fuck what critics or the literary elite think of me—is the slow politically correct corruption of the genre that has authors afraid to be controversial, edgy or in any way disrupt the social justice narrative that’s found its way into bizarro (and every other fiction genre.)

There are plenty of authors willing to fill the vacuum left by the writers who ejected from bizarro in favor of critical accolades, but bizarro is no longer friendly toward real outsider perspectives. It’s been watered down to talking animals and household objects and really little else. There are few masters of the genre left who toil in bizarro exclusively or even competently.

The self-appointed genre policemen attack early and often on social media to make sure that the social justice narrative is understood and followed. If you expect to ever be published by one of the few bizarro small presses, it doesn’t take long to see which subjects are off limits and which perspectives are unwanted before you ever even type up a manuscript that you intend to submit. The social rules are well written. You don’t need a rejection letter to know what not to write about.

Unfortunately, the renegade, punk rock attitude that got bizarro to where it was at its height is non-existent in today’s social climate and that is why I think it is failing to provide most authors with even a modicum of success.

If we hope to get bizarro and extreme horror back to a point of viability, back to a larger readership and back to even minimal commercial success, we MUST reject the notion that social justice has in any way helped our community.

We must fire our self appointed genre policemen and we must not be afraid to confront the new social norms from an antagonistic stance without fear of social persecution from the so-called gate keepers. Even if that means self-publishing our work and totally abandoning the community in favor of individual success as authors in the science fiction and fantasy communities have done in recent years.

Being signed to a particular small press or attending a particular industry convention does not make you a bizarro or an extreme horror writer. Your renegade attitude and fuck the system mentality is.

If we hope to succeed, we have to summon up our inner John Waters and Lloyd Kaufman and not be afraid to get offensive again.

What Happens To Kevin Strange Now?


So what happens now?

I’ve been on a month-long assault on political correctness and public shaming inside the horror and bizarro fiction genres. For my troubles, I’m being publicly shamed across social media and small press publisher blogs. Close friends are asking me, “are you ok? What happens now?”

I’m 100% fine. I anticipated everything that’s happening to me publicly because it’s happened dozens of times before. There would have been no need for Kevin Strange to speak out if there wasn’t a dire problem within the internet writing communities. Everything that’s happening to me on social media right now proves that I’m right.

What happens next?

What happens next is I finish writing all the books for 2017. I’m anticipating a banner year for new releases. Six brand new horror and bizarro books is my goal. We’ll see if I get there. I’ll be doing conventions again, as well. My first show is Horror Hound Cincinnati in March 2017 with many more dates to follow.

What won’t happen in 2017? If I’m right about the self-censorship running rampant through genre fiction, then my newest bizarro fiction short story collection ALL THE TOXIC WASTE FROM MY HEART won’t appear on the preliminary ballot for the Wonderland award for excellence in bizarro fiction next June or July when the ballot becomes public even though I’ve had books listed on the ballot as far back as 2012. Even though I’m the only author to ever be nominated twice in the same category in the same year.

I won’t be on the ballot not because I’ve done anything WRONG but because I’ve been critical of the genre, which is the first rule you do not break in internet writing groups. You do not bite the hand that feeds, even when your criticisms hope to IMPROVE the artistic freedoms of the authors writing in the genre in question.

If I do make it onto the ballot, I’ll be surprised. Many other authors who have spoken out against the practices of the genre fiction police have been blacklisted for far less than my month-long diatribe against the self-appointed gate keepers of our beloved bizarro fiction.

If I do make it onto the ballot, I suspect that it will be precisely BECAUSE of this public prediction that I’ll be silenced and censored for trying to save the genre from social justice and cultural Marxism.

I doubt I’ll be asked back onto the popular bizarro podcasts to discuss my point of view and the points of view of MANY authors too scared to speak out about the problems facing our community even though I’ve been a guest on these programs multiple times in the past. Once you’re marked as a bad apple, you’re a bad apple for life.

What I’d LIKE to happen now? I’d like to be invited to Bizarrocon 2017 to talk about the danger of genre censorship, of letting so-called gate keeper editors at influential small press publishing houses bully and harass authors online for expressing political and social opinions that differ from the powers that be.

I’d like an hour on the podcasts to state my case and show other writers that they have nothing to fear from being black listed by internet writing communities. They can still write books. The self-publishing world is thriving and many authors have cut ties with not only legacy publishers but the small press as well. There is life (and much more likelihood of success) outside of facebook writer groups.

I’d like to have a sit down with the BWA and discuss measures that can be taken when an author or publisher becomes the victim of public shaming and witch hunting inside of our community. After all, what exactly is the point of having these associations if not to help our authors find success and protect them from harassment from within the community?

We dive on our women like live grenades at the slightest hint of a SINGLE WHITE MALE approaching them for conversation. Can we not provide the same type of help when we see an author witch hunted online?

In other words, I’d like my voice, or the voice of someone like me, to be heard and understood by those who have the real power to create REAL change, positive change within our community so that all voices are free to express themselves without fear of prejudice or harassment for not bending to the social will of the few very vocal social justice warriors at the top of the bizarro food chain.

But that probably won’t happen. I’ll probably just be silenced like everyone else before me.

5 Reasons Kevin Strange Spoke Out


The events of the past week, my behavior and the topics I’ve chosen to discuss were deliberate. Let’s get that out of the way first. I haven’t lost my mind, nor have I had any kind of break down and I’m not now any crazier than I’ve always been. In fact, my previous article on the topic outlines a lot of the reasons I DON’T have to be upset with my writing community.

These topics, if you’ve followed me even a little bit on social media, are always on my mind. This slow creep of political correctness into genre fiction. This self-censorship that’s ruining my favorite art forms. The hysteria of public shaming, witch hunting and call-out culture. I just chose now to get REALLY vocal about it.

Why now? Why like this?

First we have to go back to the very beginning. To my introduction into the online small press publishing communities. It was around the beginning of 2011 that I decided to shift my artistic focus from feature length films to writing genre fiction. I played with sci fi and horror a little bit, but I really wanted to write crazy shit. Troma-esque shock horror comedy fiction.

I’d never read anything like that. Didn’t even know if it existed. But I was determined to find it if it did. Long story short, I found bizarro and extreme horror and I fell in love. It was exactly what I was looking for. Except, unbeknownst to me, I was already several years too late. The PC social justice police had already infiltrated and neutered these genres, I just didn’t know it yet.

I was playing catch up. Reading books from the early aughts. I was falling in love with something that no longer existed. It was going to take a long time for me to come to terms with that, but it didn’t take long for me to get my first taste of it.

1. The Christian Hanner Debacle 

I opened my publishing house and released my first anthology in early 2012. Right around the time one Christian Hanner was about to be burned at the proverbial stake. I don’t mention this unfortunate fellow to further shame or humiliate him. The fact is, he fluttered out of the community so quietly, so effortlessly that not mentioning him by name would be a missed opportunity to explain the PC phenomenon within the walls of genre fiction.

Christian made the mistake of opening a publishing house and taking submissions. That’s it. That’s literally all it takes to get your literary house burned down. He didn’t steal anyone’s money. In fact, he paid several advances to authors who never paid him back after releasing their books through other means.

What Christian did was get super in over his head, way too fast and then stopped communicating with the authors he’d made agreements with. And for that, he can go fuck himself into oblivion, come back and go fuck himself all over again.

I’m not kidding. The sheer celebration that was the Christian Hanner witch hunt sent chills down my spine. THAT’S all it takes for the whole community to dog pile onto you? Holy shit! The seeds were already sown all the way back then for what’s happening now. For me to take this stand and say enough is enough with the public shaming (which is getting me shamed all over writer communities without a shred of irony.)

Countless other author/publisher/editor witch hunts would follow, but Hanner’s sticks out in my mind as one of the worst. Not because he put up any fight, but because authors seemed to BOND over his reputation execution. Seemed to revel in it.

Another publisher even stole the stories meant to be published in a Hanner anthology and published it himself! For financial profit! And nobody gave even the slightest fuck!

No community leaders spoke out in this instance or ANY OTHER instance of public shaming among the ranks of genre authors. All it would take is a single public announcement that bullying and shaming members of the community will not be tolerated and it would stop. But never. Not once. In the six years I’ve been a part of these communities has one of the “powers that be” taken a stand to publicly condemn this behavior.

And that is as good as condoning it.

2. Duck Dynasty Fiasco 

What do hillbilly duck hunters from a stupid reality TV show have to do with genre fiction? Nothing, you would think. Except that I got my first personal taste of the politically correct left shoving their point of view down writers’ throats when I had the audacity to post my personal opinion about the ringleader of DD getting suspended in 2013 from his TV show for having the audacity to express his religious beliefs in a written interview with a magazine.

Silly me, here I come in defense of the Christian bigot. Look, I grew up in a church home. Had to go 4 times a week. Hated my life. Got away from that oppressive home in my teens and never looked back. I have a BIG ole grudge against organized religion.

But I have an even bigger grudge against those who would like to see it banned from public life altogether.

So I get back on social media and point out exactly that. That it doesn’t fucking matter what this dude’s religious views are, kicking him off TV for merely EXPRESSING THEM as an OPINION in an interview is a fucking MIND CRIME. Removing his ability to earn a living over words that came out of his mouth is a cultural Marxism tactic if there’s ever been one!

Imagine if the roles were reversed and a prominent author came out as an atheist in an interview and then was dropped by his publisher. Imagine the sheer OUTRAGE that would evoke from the left? It’s this double standard, this open and blatant hypocrisy and demand for selective censorship that enrages me so much.

So I say that on social media. And it isn’t enough that authors and small press publishers come to my post and disagree with me. They have to run my name in the dirt all over THEIR social media and block me for being, you guessed it, homophobic. Even defending a bigot’s right to express his bigotry gets you labeled a homophobe in the writing community.

This is the kind of thing that happens every day. So while these clowns are jumping up and down denying that there’s any kind of self-censorship problem in writing communities, understand that they’re lying.

They’re lying and they know they’re lying. What they MEAN is, they don’t censor their community for talking about ACCEPTABLE topics or agreeing with ACCEPTABLE points of view. And if you hold other points of view or try to express them inside the community, well, you deserve what you get, stupid. It’s not censorship. You just can’t talk about it.

3. Rebel Flag Censorship

I grew up around rednecks. I loathe rednecks. Nothing gets my blood pressure higher than the sound of a couple of back woods white trash good ole boys revving up their 4 wheel drive truck with rebel flags hanging off the back as they drive around town.

Nothing except the idea that they don’t have the right to do it.

In July of 2015, the South Carolina Statehouse caved to politically correct zealots and removed the Confederate flag from display after a gunman walked into an all black church and opened fire. He was found to be holding the Confederate flag in pictures on his social media.

This sparked a chain reaction that saw The Dukes Of Hazzard pulled from its long time syndication spot on TV Land, and Amazon.com removing not only the Confederate flag itself, but historical games displaying the flag on their cover art from its app store among other absolutely terrifying and ridiculous displays of misdirected virtue signalling on the part of the progressive left.

Imagine my surprise when, after going on a social media tirade about free expression, I was verbally attacked by a prominent extreme horror publisher for “being racist.” As if being appalled at the ramifications of thought policing and self-censorship somehow made me hate minorities just because the flag in question is used by idiots to show racist pride.

What surprised me more was that this short-sighted and hateful rhetoric was coming from a press which peddles hardcore smut and violence (which I love, by the way. Don’t you dare get that twisted.)

Moreover, this was a respected leader in the community. One that other authors look toward for guidance. If public shaming, name calling and ridicule are good enough for the head editor of one of the biggest small press publishers in the world, then it’s sure good enough for everyone else.

The idea that an individual who makes a living off of extremely controversial content would be daft enough to celebrate ANY form of censorship was bad enough. But the way in which he gleefully took delight in the wholesale disappearing of the rebel flag, let alone how quick he was to verbally attack me for disagreeing with his elation, left me wondering if he was that brainwashed by progressive politics, or just too stupid to see how such a precedent would affect him personally and financially had the gunman held up an Edward Lee novel instead of a rebel flag.

4. World Fantasy Award Removes H.P. Lovecraft From Bust

I covered this one extensively in an article I wrote when it happened in 2015. I’m still pissed about it. The Lovecraftian horror literary community still stands behind it. I predict that the term “Lovecraftian” and any reference to the man’s likeness will be buried forever after one more blow from the social justice police.

Lovecraft’s literary legacy will be erased and replaced with a big fat “BIGOT RACIST” stamp across his forehead and my belief is that the Lovecraftian community at large will be perfectly fine with that. They’ll just re-brand their genre as “Mythos Fiction”, as they keep their heads down and hope the politically correct police don’t come after their sacred Cthulhu next.

5. Bizarrocon 2016 Aftermath 

Which leads us the final straw that broke the Strange’s back. There are MANY more instances of politically correct hysteria that lead me to the edge of this cliff. Many ridiculous private lectures masquerading as concerned friends just trying to steer me in the right direction.

Direct threats from authors to “act professional” when I’d made statements about my own personal relationships with people they’ve never met and never will meet, or else they’ll “show me what being professional means.” (Whatever THAT means.)

Many bizarre comments on my posts attacking me as a person for not strictly adhering to progressive liberal beliefs. Authors blocking me on social media for reacting negatively to calls for censoring or boycotting TV shows like Game of Thrones for promoting “rape culture.”

But the thing that finally snapped me, finally made me put down my last fuck to give, was an incident that happened just a few weeks ago when a socially awkward author in attendance at Bizarrocon 2016 was asked privately and then bullied publicly into editing and then deleting a series of blogs he’d written about his experience at the show.

Particularly about a crush he’d developed on a female author at the show. That’s a no-no. See, one of the bizarre things about progressive liberal dudes is they call themselves male feminists but never miss an opportunity to dive in front of a woman to protect her.

To me, as a staunch egalitarian, that behavior flies in the face of true equality. Are women not capable of handling their own suitors? How badly do male “heroes” reflect on the agency of our ladies if we don’t even have confidence in them to let them deal with harmless crushes and pushy flirting, however awkward those situations may turn out to be?

I know that my own experiences at industry conventions have been broadcast on the internet via podcasts and blogs. Once, I was reprimanded by strangers on a podcast because I was sitting at a table talking to friends and when they came up and sat down, I didn’t introduce myself to them. The segment was over 30 minutes long, if I remember correctly.

That podcast and the web forum posts that followed could have had a direct effect on my career. Did I demand the podcast be taken down? Or that the web forum posts be edited to remove references to me? Not a chance.

Did anyone stick up for me? Of course not. I’m a man. I got what I deserved.

It’s that double standard, that clear hypocrisy which finally sent me over the edge and motivated me to write a blog series dedicated to exposing the SJW progressive liberal nightmare that’s found its way into genre fiction.

For all of these reasons and many more, I stick my middle finger in the air and yell a big, “FUCK YOU!” to the liberal gatekeepers of genre fiction. You control the narrative for now. But not forever. And soon enough, you’ll have pushed out more people than you’ve let in.

And when the pendulum swings in favor of conservatives who employ the same exact tactics you do. Who try to suppress your right to speech and expression. Who’ll try to humiliate you and discredit you and banish you like you’ve done to them, you’ll look to people like me to stand up for you.

So be nice. Those of us you’ve tarred, feathered and exiled into the great literary wilderness to roam alone as vagrant wordsmiths and solitary rogues, we haven’t gone anywhere. We’re still right here fighting for free expression. And we’re always watching.