By Zé Burns
Back by popular demand, I’ve enlisted four of my favorite bizarro authors to share with us their favorite bizarre books.
See Part One here.
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Recommended by Danger Slater, author of Impossible James
I don’t know if people know how weird Margaret Atwood can be. While The Handmaid’s Tale might be her most famous work, she has a decades-spanning catalog of titles that run the gamut from hyper-personal poetry, to the most-original, most far-out sci-fi satire you could imagine, the latter of which her novel Oryx and Crake falls under.
A character-driven love story that also serves as an anti-capitalist, environmentally-conscious apocalypse tale (my book Impossible James is partially inspired by Oryx and Crake) this novel never pulls it’s punches. The short chapters and rigid structure of the book help reign in a story so full of ideas that it could literally burst at the seams were it written by less-skilled hands, but Atwood is a master, giving just enough information to make the world feel real and surreal at the same time, all without distracting from the main plot.
For fans of weird fiction (and especially for writers of weird fiction) this book should be required reading.
Puppet Skin by Danger Slater
Recommended by Amy M. Vaughn, author of Skull Nuggets
“The wet squish of the world gone mad.”
We’ve all been there, on the verge of adulthood, dreading the day they cram a needle into your skull and turn you into a boring wooden puppet. It was the relatability of this theme and the versatility of this metaphor that got me immediately jazzed on Danger Slater’s Puppet Skin. But it was the attachment I felt to the main character and the wild horror and dark whimsy in the second half of the book that makes this one of my absolute favorites. Puppet Skin is surprising, disgusting, delightful, frustrating, and nostalgic, but most of all it is a thoroughly entertaining read.
Skin by Kathe Koja
Recommended by Sam Richard, author of To Wallow in Ash and Other Sorrows
In a sea of brilliant bizarre books that you should all read, I’m going to point you in the direction of one of my all-time favorites. Kathe Koja’s Skin. Written with a deft eye and an effective minimalist-meets-maximilist approach, Skin is a bizarre book written by a true master of writing.
Koja brings the philosophy and approach of transgressive literature to the horror genre in a way that hadn’t been done before; or since. The DNA of JG Ballard, Kathy Acker, and William S. Burroughs creeps through these pages as Koja weaves a beautiful, human, and ultimately sinister tale of artists reaching towards the abyss and bringing something back with them.
Kathe Koja is horror’s punk-poet and though the mind-blowing The Cipher may be the fan-favorite, Skin is the book I’d like to carve into my own.
Everybody Scream! by Jeffrey Thomas
Recommended by David W. Barbee, author of Laser House on the Prairie
No lie, I think Jeffrey Thomas is one of the very best weird authors living today. His stories are full of bleak existential despair, razor sharp cyber-commentary, or both, and my favorite of his books is the first one I read: Everybody Scream! Named after a carnival ride on Thomas’ story-spanning planet of Punktown, Everybody Scream! takes place at a fairground where thousands of people go about their day while Thomas manages a dozen or so plot threads while diving down to the very bottom of his characters’ souls. And because this is Punktown, it is WEIRD. Gangbanging teenagers, a has-been soul singer, a jock drug dealer, a crew of nefarious hippies in a hovering Winnebago, and an insect limb that’s been piercing our reality for decades. The future never looked stranger and yet completely, humanly familiar.
Thank you to these authors for sharing these great bizarre books!
To find their own work, check them out below:
Zé Burns is a Seattle-based author of horror and the surreal, an avid proponent of bizarro fiction, and a lover of all things weird. He is the editor-in-chief and owner of Babou 691. You can find him on Twitter at @ZeBurns or on his site: zeburns.com.