Living in a Dream

Or, Why I Love the Bizarre

sunset-brain (WILB)

“I believe in the future resolution of … dream and reality, which are seemingly so contradictory, into a kind of absolute reality, a surreality, if one may so speak.”

-André Breton, Manifestos of Surrealism

As I was planning this blog, someone on Twitter asked me why I found bizarre and surreal works so appealing. I realized then that I was so caught up with the “What” that I had neglected the “Why.”

It was a long journey. I started out as a fantasy/sci-fi-obsessed youth, morphed into a realist in my teenage years, before arriving at my current destination. My love of the bizarre began on a trip to Prague where I was first introduced to Surrealism. It appealed to me like no other artistic movement before. Figures like André Breton, Salvador Dali, and Guillaume Apollinaire became superheroes to me.

At the time, I did not know why it attracted me, but I soon found its impact in my writing. I left my stale realism and ventured into the bizarre. Why simply tell a story of a young man’s addiction when he can enter another dimension when he’s high? (The premise for my novel Zonk.)

I was not a hardcore Surrealist by any stretch of the imagination. I was something else. I found that “something else” in bizarro fiction. Here was a genre that not only encompassed what I wanted in fiction, but showed how far it could go. That there was a group of like-minded authors filled me with delight.

But why? I have always been a little off in the noggin. A diagnosis of mental illness at the age of 14 magnified this. It separated me from my social life, from the world really. This was only the catalyst.

In my late teens, I started a medication that gave me hyper-vivid dreams. For the first month, my dreams felt so real that I could not distinguish them from the waking world. (At one point, I truly believed I had telekinesis because I dreamt it, later inspiring my novel Snap.) This side effect lessened some, but I continued to feel connected to my dreams. They were as real as my waking life, and I accorded them as much respect.

This changed my worldview. Life could mean two things: either a world of monotony and predictability or a place where the familiar transforms into the bizarre, where the preposterous is prosaic. One needs the other. Together, they complete my reality.

I love the surreal and the bizarre because they’re part of me. I cannot envision the world without the surreal. I still enjoy realism. I enjoy sci-fi and fantasy and horror. But when the mind bends in a direction hitherto unimagined, I feel at home.


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