Transcript of Open Letter to Bizarro Genre

On this week’s episode of my podcast, we discuss allegations of sexual assault involving Bizarro writer G Arthur Brown, and how the fallout from that, and other controversies, are impacting the Bizarro genre. Near the end of the show, I offered an “open letter” to all Bizarro writers and publishers. Some have asked for a transcript of THAT PORTION of the show, so I’m posting it below. To listen to the entire show, with context, click here.

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BRIAN: “So… this is my two cents. This is my open letter to the Bizarro genre. And when I say the Bizarro genre, I mean everybody. I mean the folks in Portland. I mean John Edward Lawson and the Raw Dog community down in Maryland. I mean Kevin Strange, and our detractors. I mean… you know, everybody, okay? My two cents.

The Bizarro community is very divided right now. You’ve got one camp — folks like Kevin Strange for example — who say this entire G Arthur Brown case is proof of double standards and favoritism among the mostly Portland-centric Bizarro community, composed of Eraserhead Press, Lazy Fascist, Deadite Press, etc. So that’s one camp.

You’ve got another camp, who don’t necessarily believe Kevin’s… I’m going to call them conspiracy theories, because that’s what this second camp views them as. But… the second camp do feel he’s raising a good point. They feel concerned and they don’t feel like their concerns are being heard by those at the top in Bizarro.

You’ve got a third camp that believe G Arthur Brown and are rallying to his defense — but some people in that third camp are rallying to his defense by attacking anyone who doesn’t believe him, or who questions his narrative.

And then you’ve got a fourth camp. And that fourth camp is the biggest camp. That camp are sitting, quietly watching all this transpire and feeling very dejected and demoralized about the whole thing. Okay?

Many people in all four camps are asking privately and sometimes in public, if this is the end of the Bizarro community. In fact I saw one quote… quote unquote, “Is this the end of the Bizarro community?” Well, here’s the thing, folks. Bizarro isn’t a community. Okay, Bizarro is not a community. It’s a genre label. Bizarro fiction is a category created for READERS. It’s a way to label things so that readers can locate them. It’s a marketing category. The Bizarro genre is no more a community than the horror genre is a community. Do you think that everyone in the horror genre likes everyone else, and that everyone agrees on what is best for the horror genre, and that everyone goes to World Horror Con or StokerCon and holds hands and sings Kumbaya? Well, they don’t. If that’s what you think, then you’re a fucking idiot, okay? They don’t.

Genres are not communities. Genres are marketing labels. Genres cannot be communities.

But writers can.

And that’s what what we’ve got now. As a natural output of Bizarro’s growth — and Bizarro has grown. I mean, think about when it started until now. As a natural output of that, you have a number of different communities, each of whom seem to be, from my perspective as an outsider, claiming to speak for Bizarro — not just in this matter, not just in the case of G Arthur Brown, but in EVERY matter. Anything that concerns Bizarro, you’ve got different communities claiming they’re in charge and they know what’s best for Bizarro, and it should be this way. Okay?

Now, in this matter, regardless of which camp you fall into – whether you believe G Arthur Brown is innocent of the charges and has just had incredibly bad luck, or whether you believe he is guilty of the charges and has just had incredibly good luck, or whether you don’t know what to believe – here’s what you need to know.

One person is not Bizarro and one person is not a community. Okay? G Arthur Brown is not Bizarro — he’s not the be-all, end-all. It doesn’t start and end with him. The Bizarro “Community” is not the Eraserhead group in Portland or the Raw Dog group in Maryland. You know? It’s not just Michael Allen Rose sitting in Chicago. It’s not Frank Edler recording Bizzong up in New Jersey. Hello, Frank! The Bizarro community isn’t a singular thing because there is no Bizarro community. Not at this stage. Now, there are Bizarro communities. PLURAL. And regardless of whether you like each other or agree with each other, you need to recognize that you’re ALL Bizarro.

Kevin Strange is Bizarro. Now, right now, we just lost half our listeners, Dave.”

DAVE: “Well, what else is new?”

BRIAN: “But fuck them. Kevin Strange is Bizarro. Jeremy Robert Johnson is Bizarro. Jordan Krall is Bizarro. There. We just lost some more, but guess what? Jordan Krall is Bizarro. Jeff Burk is Bizarro. Well, now the people that cheer for Kevin Strange and Jordan are tuning us out. We’re losing all our listeners, Dave, but Kevin Strange, Jeremy Robert Johnson, Jordan Krall, Jeff Burk — they’re all Bizarro. Laura Lee Bahr is Bizarro. John Edward Lawson is Bizarro. Carlton Mellick is Bizarro. Alex S. Johnson is Bizarro. Lisa LeStrange is Bizarro. Danger Slater is Bizarro. Kevin Donihe, Randy Cunningham, Cameron Pierce, Christine Morgan, Chuck Tingle, and Leza Cantoral are all Bizarro. If you are writing for that genre, or you are publishing for that genre, then YOU are Bizarro, regardless of who you consider your community to be. Everybody with me so far?”

DAVE: “I’m following you totally.”

BRIAN: “Okay. If the Portland Bizarro “community” — and I’m making air quotes — and the Kevin Strange Bizarro “community” — air quotes again — don’t like each other or agree with each other regarding the direction of Bizarro, that’s okay. Neither group — neither group — should have the power to lord it over the other group, because at this point, Bizarro is too fucking big for that. Okay? If Bizarro publishers aren’t publishing the books you want to see, then publish your own. If you don’t like a certain Bizarro event, then start your own. If you don’t feel represented in the quote unquote community, then build your own community. Be a community of many or be a community of one. But don’t let your own egos and agendas and politics and personal vendettas get in the way of remembering what writing is all about. Okay?

And I’m here to tell you this folks. I know this from twenty years of experience. Learn from my mistakes. Writing isn’t about your social media platform. It’s not about going out on tour and meeting fans. It’s not about sitting here and doing a fucking podcast in your home every week. Writing is about sitting your ass down in the chair and putting words on the screen or the paper. Okay?

Can G Arthur Brown bring about the downfall of Bizarro? No. No single person can bring about the downfall of Bizarro. Kevin Strange and Jordan Krall aren’t going to bring it down. Jeff Burk and Cameron Pierce aren’t going to bring it down. No one entity can do that. However, take note, Bizarros. All of you can bring it down together if you don’t wake the fuck up and realize that this genre ain’t no little thing anymore. It’s not that little crazy literary offshoot that nobody else in publishing knows about, okay? It’s not taking place in a hotel conference room anymore. Bizarro is all grown up, and you’re never ever, ever, ever going to get the genie back in the box. There is room FOR ALL within its confines and boundaries, just as there is in horror or any other genre.”

DAVE: “Exactly.”

BRIAN: “Now, I want to make it clear. I’m not coming down on anybody. I’m not saying Jeff Burk and Kevin Strange need to shake hands and make up. I’m not saying Cameron Pierce and Jordan Krall should go fishing together and work their shit out. You don’t have to like the other communities within the genre. But you do need to recognize their right to be a part of it, as well. And that goes for both sides in this argument. There’s no love lost between me and the current Horror Writers Association. We talk about HWA all the time. But you know what you’ll never hear me say? You will never hear me say they don’t deserve to be horror writers or they’re not part of horror, because that’s bullshit. Nobody gets to decide that. Genres don’t need gatekeepers. Now, if your individual community wants to have gatekeepers, then that’s on you. But a genre doesn’t need gatekeepers, and a genre with gatekeeprs will, in fact, collapse and fold. Okay? So, yeah. If you want Bizarro to come crashing down, keep on gatekeeping, motherfuckers.

I’ve got no horse in this race. I’m not a Bizarro writer. But I am a fan of the genre, and I’m a fan of many of the writers in each of the communities. For example, I’m a huge fan of Carlton Mellick and Jeremy Robert Johnson and Kevin Donihe. Have been for years. And, you know, some of the new guys, like David Barbee, I really enjoy. Bradley Sands. But, I’m also on record as saying that I enjoyed Kevin Strange’s writing, despite what he’s said about Dave and myself. And I got a lot of shit for that, privately. ‘Oh, how can you say that you like Kevin Strange’s writing?’ Well, I don’t know? Because I like it? I don’t care which camp the writing came from or which community or which side, or what the politics were. And here’s the thing Bizarro writers — most of your readers don’t give a fuck about that either. The only people who care about that shit is you — the writers and publishers and editors who are doubling down and making this all about sides. Okay? My advice to you — and again, it’s advice based on watching the horror genre go through this same thing years and years ago — is to forget about what the other side is up to. Forget about the other Bizarro communities. Focus on your Bizarro community. Focus on YOUR Bizarro.

That’s my two cents. I’m sure that pretty much everyone in Bizarro will be offended by what I’ve just said, Dave. That’s okay.”

DAVE: “Well. you know…”

BRIAN: “Two weeks ago we were heroes for raising ten grand for charity. Tomorrow morning we’ll be villains for saying Bizarro isn’t a single community. Story of both of our careers.”

DAVE: “What else is new?”

BRIAN: “I’m okay with it.”

DAVE: “Yeah, I am, too.”

10 thoughts on “Transcript of Open Letter to Bizarro Genre

  1. Thank you for making a concentrated effort to infuse a bit of maturity into the genre. Bizarro needed a well-respected genre fiction author to come forward; this podcast achieved more in its entirety that I could have imagined anyone would have said with such clarity, and thus, I am hopeful.

    I am not afraid to admit that I have often had second thoughts about the name of our press (Bizarro Pulp Press), because I often see too many negative behaviors that are seemingly associated by others (on the outside) as actions that represent “the bizarros” or “bizarro authors” or “the bizarro community.” Your reflections on what it means to participate in a genre is indicative of the genre’s growth; the goal of a publishing company is not to sell books to friends over social media, but rather, to find those readers who are looking for the type of good literature that our presses are publishing. I have been told that certain individuals wanted to “weed me out” of the genre, which is odd, considering it is the readers who decide whether or not a publishing company stays in business, and therefore, the quality of the press’s product helps determine whether or not it can remain a viable enterprise. Gatekeeping is a real problem in more than one genre here in the publishing industry, and many of those who claim they are not gatekeepers are very much the same people who demonstrate that they are nothing but. I am glad that you brought this up.

    It is important, going forward, to continue with the zero tolerance policy regarding any kind of harassment or bullying; I often see people wage wars for the sake of their own validation, not that they are fighting for an entire genre. While Kevin Strange may have a negative relationship with many people associated with the genre, the battles are doing nothing to help anyone’s cause, but rather, further selfish agendas. Strange has given voice to serious concerns, and I respect that you acknowledged that he is not some great villain to bizarro publishers everywhere. The rabble rousing from all parties involved is hardly what all the great artists and editors in the community should be concentrating on. As in a lot of situations, emotional reactions negate opportunities for meaningful conversation that can solve our concerns. (I should note that I am unfamiliar with any of the harassment controversies that Strange and other parties have discussed, and I know next to nothing about the gentleman you mentioned earlier in the podcast).

    Which, of course, leads me to applauding every person who came forward and provided meaningful testimony to Mr. Keene, particularly Ms. Guerlain. Harassment has no place in our world, and I sincerely wish the “people at the top” of the Bizarrocon event will eventually support Ms. Guerlain and do what is in the best interests of the community (communities). I have promoted Bizarrocon, have recommended that fans and authors visit Portland for the experience, and I think it would be remiss on the part of those who organize the event to admit people who have bullied/harassed others.

    I was told, when I was at the convention, that the community is a sort of fellowship for people who were not respected or well-liked, or were perceived to be “different.” How then, is such behavior tolerated? What is there to investigate when there is a screenshot of the allegation? I believe in forgiveness, and I do not believe in witch hunts; at the end of the day, I hope there can be reconciliation and sincere apologies. Most people would not be satisfied with that, and I cannot speak for anyone who deserves an apology.

    Lastly, I am also a father; two little girls and a son. I respect that the situation regarding Mr. Brown and Mr. Frye is extremely sensitive, but it is difficult to remove bias. I do not endorse any behaviors, but I know that I would react in a very negative way if something were to happen to my children. We are going to have our own opinions on the matter, regardless the judicial system’s determination…

    In professional sports, athletes who have been accused of crimes are nearly always given a chance at redemption. This chance at redemption usually involves a concentrated effort to participate in charities and outreach programs that are dedicated to solving the very negative actions these athletes have been accused of. A Federal crime is nothing to scoff at, and right now, only Mr. Brown can say for sure what the truth is (and Mr. Frye’s daughter); I suggest Mr. Brown make a concentrated effort to establish some goodwill for himself. Innocent or guilty, it is a statement. He is a free man, and he should use the power of his experience to help people, rather than focus on his own plight. I am not suggesting Mr. Brown carry the cross his entire life, nor do I think it excuses him if he is, in fact, guilty. But there is an opportunity here for something good to come of this. While it may seem a comparison between pro athletes and authors is stretch, there are many similarities–the image that a person projects to the world through their actions in an entertainment industry.

    Mr. Keene, thank you for providing a mature and refreshing perspective.

  2. Just a professional guy here, that happens to read bizarro books occasionally. I had no idea these issues were occuring. Great read. Your points regarding these controversies seem logical. This infighting must be having a negative impact on productivity in the industry. You keep up your good work, and thank you 🙂

  3. “Do you think that everyone in the horror genre likes everyone else, and that everyone agrees on what is best for the horror genre, and that everyone goes to World Horror Con or StokerCon and holds hands and sings Kumbaya? ”

    No, of course not. But agreeing on everything and liking every member aren’t what makes the horror genre a community. I don’t speak for everyone, obviously, but horror writers are amazing at coming together to help, inspire, and when necessary–critique each other. That’s out of love, love of genre and respect for those who work in it. I’m Jack-Sprat-Nobody in the genre, and I’m continually bowled over by how welcoming and encouraging other horror writers are.

    Having said that, I fervently agree that no one has the right to tell anyone else that they don’t belong in a genre community. Tell them they’re a vile human being, that you’d never want to associate with them personally or professionally. That’s within your control. But nobody gets to say “You don’t belong in [genre]” for reasons that have nothing to do with the genre itself. That’s as dickish as the “real American” nonsense people throw around these days.

  4. Thanks, Brian. That’s a hard lesson for these people to hear, because they’re millennials, and they don’t listen. Thanks for having the balls to tell the babies to grab their nuts and act like they have a pair. The sad thing is, most of them don’t…

  5. I loved bizarro since 2008. Portland houses ruined that. Done with stories about pancakes and spaghetti and haunted vaginas and captainkirkquakes. Time to grow up as a literary element and write something profound. See me if you have.

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