The Bizarro Starter Kit (Blue). Portland: Eraserhead Press, 2007. 244 pp. $10.00. ISBN 1933929626.
Introduction, or, What Is This Book?
The first Bizarro Start Kit (Orange) was instrumental in introducing Bizarro to a wider audience. Combining eight of the top Bizarro writers into one volume, it was responsible for hooking many readers (this reviewer included) on these strange new authors. This year, Eraserhead Press, Raw Dog Screaming Press, and Afterbith Books have combined forces yet again to give us The Bizarro Starter Kit (Blue). This time we have ten different authors contributing novellas and short stories for our reading pleasure. Due to the nature of this book, let's look at each writer individually.
Fracalossy starts off the volume with twelve short shorts characterized by word-play and a strong sense of fun. These stories start the book off right, getting the reader into a strange and logically loopy frame of mind. "A Body in Motion" is the stand-out piece in which a man's body rebels in some rather creative manners.
Jeremy C. Shipp
Flapjack is a novella about two men in a prison with one recounting the strange tale of how he got there. The story floats along with dream-like logic as Shipp creates new language and cultural customs. The protagonist narrates with a sense of innocence and an ever present shadow of darkness. Tim Burton would be right at home directing an adaptation of this story.
Krall contributes The Longheads, the middle novella from his collection Squid Pulp Blues. The Longheads from the title are disfigured war vets that have some sinister plans for a small town. Meant to be read as a middle piece between two related novellas, The Longheads feels underdeveloped on its own. While Krall is a strong writer, one wishes he had submitted something more appropriately stand-alone for this collection.
Monster Cocks! is the attention grabbing title to this contribution. It is a novella about a man who gets much more than he bargained for from a penis enlargement system that actually works. Hansen tells a funny and thrilling story that in the hands of a lesser writer would just be juvenile. Instead, the reader receives an engaging tale that gets inside the head, and pants, of the main character.
Shell is a sort-of bounty hunter hired by The Rotting Man to go to Hollow City and bring back a woman named Pearl. So begins the surreal/horror/noir novella The Devastated Insides of Hollow City. Prunty has a talent for writing dark and enthralling tales and this is no exception. For horror fans, this is the stand-out piece of the collection.
Nin and Nan is the exceptionally strange offering from Gerdes. Nin and Nan live on top of a hill and when billboards and roads start to impede upon their space they are forced to take action. They embark on a journey that takes them to the very top powers of the government. Those craving the extremely bizarre will be sated with this story.
Cheesequake Smash-Up is the story of a place where buildings have the ability to levitate. To determine which fast-food franchise will monopolize the market, a race is being held with the structures themselves being used as vehicles. Sands has created a tale even weirder than the pervious two sentences suggest. He easily wins the award for strangest, balls-to-the-wall weirdofest.
Shamanspace is the metaphysical offering that Aylett gives us. Dealing with the role of history, books and selfhood, it is a complex and dense tale. Including a brief history of the story's world and a fictional bibliography, this is the most experimental story of the collection.
In The Order of Operations, several people lives intersect around a common payphone. In a book filled with outlandish concepts, Tebordo's story stands out as it is mostly based in reality. Where it is unique is in its presentation, skipping back and forth between several perspectives. This one is for the more literary-minded readers.
Rauch finishes the collection with seven short stories. The reoccurring theme of his pieces is how the average person is suppressed and crushed by the weight of the world. Of course, this is told via miniature people in ant costumes with enlarged craniums. This selection of stories is a thoughtful final contribution to the book.
One could call this the second generation of Bizarro writers inspired by authors featured in the first starter kit. But these authors' works are not rip-offs. Each of them stands alone aesthetically. With the shear amount of variety present here, any fan of weird fiction will find something they can love.