I got a chance to be around some of my favorite people on this planet, a “second family” as someone called it that weekend. I’m speaking of the Wonderland Awards that took place last week. The awards celebrate the best bizarro fiction novel and collection each year.
Thirty-some authors and artists converged at the picturesque McMenamin’s Edgefield Hotel in Troutdale, Oregon—some coming from as far away as Chicago. It was a small crowd due to COVID restrictions. For many, this was their first real social gathering since the pandemic began. The need for human interaction was thick in the air, the welcomes and reunions warmer than ever.
I arrived at the hotel that afternoon, and after dinner with some bizarro friends, we all met in the Ad House (our base of operations). Running the event was Rose O’Keefe (head honcho at Eraserhead Press) and Michael Kazepis (who runs King Shot Press). After a heartwarming opening ceremony, Rose invited others to share updates of their lives since the last BizarroCon over two years ago.
I said a few words about Babou 691 (more about that soon). Michael Allen Rose gave touching remarks about how bizarro fiction is “the scene for the scene-less” and Charles Chadwick spoke about his experiences with how welcoming this community is.
The next day came the brunch, followed by a series of performances and readings by past Wonderland Award-winners. And finally, the awards themselves. Andre Duza won best collection with Don’t Bleep with the Coloureds, while best novel went to Jeremy Robert Johnson for Loop.
A bizarro film screening followed, featuring delightfully weird and at times disturbing short films. These included the hilarious Hooky (written by Cody Goodfellow), Dar-Dar, the terrifying story of a finger-eating monster, and Doppelbangers, a film by John Skipp that featured several bizarro authors as actors.
After a satisfying dip in the famous Edgefield soaking pool with some of my fellow bizarros, we returned to the Ad House for music and entertainment. Kirsten Alene read random, disjointed snippets of a novel she wrote, putting the room in stitches. And Jeff Burk told the bizarre stories of running a cat grooming business and the peculiar people that show up at his door.
With Andrew Goldfarb (a.k.a. the Slow Poisoner) on guitar and John Skipp on bongos, we were treated to fabulous music, the talents of both on display. When their set finished, cries of “encore” rang out. Garrett Cook approached the musicians and a minute later he was belting out a song in an incredible voice I didn’t know he had.
The next day we packed, met at the Black Rabbit for breakfast, and then loitered around the Ad House that afternoon. I regretted leaving, originally planning to spend another night, but my exhaustion got to me—a lot of late nights and early mornings tugging at my eyelids.
To be honest, this was the most fun I’ve had in years. I knew most of the people there and had a chance to cement those friendships. To those I didn’t know, I made it a point to introduce myself and made some new friends in the process.
At the last BizarroCon in 2019, the community was as divided as ever, but after attending this year’s Wonderland Awards, I have newfound faith in the future of bizarro fiction. The genre is becoming reinvigorated, and the enthusiasm I witnessed over the weekend proves it is still very much alive and thriving.
Here are some pictures from the event. I meant to take more, but got caught up in the festivities.