It’s the only time I’ve seen someone drinking a beer before 11 a.m. The only time I’ve witnessed such a deluge of imagination. The only time I’ve met such a friendly, cohesive group of people. BizarroCon is a four-day, alcohol-fueled whirlwind of creativity and bacchanalian insanity. I went for the first time this year.
I was terrified. So many of my literary heroes crowded into one place. For the first few hours, I hid in my hotel room, emerging that evening for the Opening Ceremony. I expected to be a wallflower, make my appearance, and then leave. How wrong I was.
In less than an hour, the group assimilated me. I was now one of them, an equal. Bert Stanton, Ian Kappos, Charles Muir (and later Andrew J. Stone) befriended me and took it upon themselves to perpetuate a feeling of welcome, to show me the ropes. I realized BizarroCon was a group of friends, sharing in creativity, not a clique of literary elitists.
I must admit, the bigger names intimidated me: Danger Slater, Carlton Mellick, Kevin L. Donihe, Brian Allen Carr. I gushed when I met Carlton (all that “it’s an honor to meet you” nonsense). The massive man with his signature sideburns quietly thanked me and went back to his cigarette.
After a day of workshops and readings came the Eraserhead Press Party with eight performances from various authors. Most notable: Andrew Wayne Adams as the “grindcore werewolf” pulling tissue paper entrails from his assistant’s chest; Carlton Mellick embodying the large-nippled barbarian Rocklar; and David Barbee’s sermon from the Church of Frog Ass.
Jason Rizos brewed his own bizarro beer, the dark stout going down easily—maybe a little too easily. Still, no matter how much you drink, you will not be the most intoxicated person there.
Saturday was a day of fantastic panels. At one break, I summoned the courage to talk to horror author Brian Keene, easily the most famous of the attendees. Of all things, I asked him about his arm that had been horribly burnt a year ago. Despite his reputation as a curmudgeon, he was more than amiable.
That evening was the big event. After an incredible lecture/performance by Grady Hendrix entitled “Paperbacks From Hell,” the Wonderland Book Awards were handed out (this year to Laura Lee Bahr and Brian Allen Carr).
Then came the highlight of the convention: the Ultimate Bizarro Showdown. Each participant was allotted six minutes to perform their weirdest story or sketch. These ranged from amusing monologues to such depravity that I dare not soil this page.
Cameron Pierce won, rapping humorous poetry under the moniker “Young Stepdad.” Danger Slater sang “Rainbow Connection” in a Kermit the Frog voice, wearing a green bodysuit and face paint and strumming a cardboard banjo, while Karl Fischer gave a pitch about teaching horses to ski, stopping here and there to moon the audience who in turn pelted him with oranges.
The final day was much slower as the entire convention recovered from one collective hangover. Indeed, I didn’t get to bed until 4 a.m. the night before. The renowned John Skipp (one of the nicest human beings on the planet) organized film screenings, showing a myriad of bizarre shorts, followed by Brian Keene’s feature length film “I’m Dreaming of a White Doomsday.”
I made so many good friends and experienced a sense of belonging that I hadn’t felt in years. From the panels and workshop, I gained a treasure-trove of knowledge and insights. The next BizarroCon is in November. I’m counting the days.
NOTE: For brevity’s sake, I left out lots of wonderful happenings and instead focused on my own personal experience. If you would like a Part Two, in which I delve deeper into the Con, let me know in the comments.
I meant to take more photos, but the excitement and busyness of the whole experience overwhelmed me. Here are some awkward selfies: