How To Grow Bizarro: David W. Barbee (2/6)

Welcome to Part 2 of 6 in our series “How to Grow Bizarro 3.” This series began on the Zé Burns Blog back in December of 2019. How to Grow Bizarro 1 covered ways the average reader could help strengthen and expand the genre, while How to Grow Bizarro 2 looked at the larger picture. This current series asks authors and publishers THEIR thoughts. This week: legendary bizarro author David W. Barbee!

By David W. Barbee

There’s the bizarro scene and the bizarro genre, and yes, they are two different things. You might say that the bizarro genre is a pirate ship, and the scene is its crew of pirates. And if we’re trying to make a bigger, stronger, faster ship… that’s right, we need a bigger, faster, stronger crew.

This isn’t a criticism of the scene itself. The scene is just a gathering of very different—and in this case, very strange—people. And these people all have very dynamic personalities. For a quiet and bookwormish people, the writing community has more than its share of quarreling and drama, harassment and mental illness. All of these things are in our nature as humans, but they’ll suck the air right out of the business of publishing.

This could be any group of people, representing any organization. Every political, religious, or social grouping can be undone by the individuals in that group. So how do you even fight a thing like that?


I think the more organized the scene can become, and the less chaos to occur within it, the more successful the genre will be. Maybe I think this because I am perpetually trying to organize and improve myself and my writing. And now I’m even putting together my own publishing imprint, which has really made me think differently about all this stuff. Keeping with the pirate ship metaphor, I’m building my own vessel, and in doing so I’ve become very practical.

The bizarro genre has very practical needs. Publishing, editing, marketing, promotion, design, talent relations, and probably a lot more I’m unaware of. If everything is considered, nothing is neglected, every effort is made and the hours put in, then all of these needs can be met. Probably with the deaths of only a few interns.

That’s hilarious. No, it wouldn’t be interns performing all this labor. It would be the scene itself. The people of the scene doing all of this coordinated work like so many army ants. And I’ve got no idea how they would do it, because all of us carry out these creative endeavors differently. Everyone has to make their own blueprint.

But if it was me?

I’d split the genre into a few constituent imprints again, each one presenting bizarro fiction in a certain way to appeal to certain readers. They used to do that, with Eraserhead putting out general bizarro, Deadite publishing extreme horror, and Lazy Fascist covering literary weirdness. If I had the data and research in front of me, I’d try to sort out what kinds of books the scene can provide to the most readers. That depends on both market demand and what bizarro writers want to write, but all that really means is that the scene would have to run a tight ship.

Which brings us back to pirates. I try not to think about how stylish and rebellious and punk rock pirates are. Hell, I don’t even think about the scurvy and rotgut. No, I think about the discipline. A ship full of drunken maniacs who are still highly proficient at sailing the seas and completely loyal to an intricate code that is the only thing keeping them from sinking into the abyss. They’re organized, like any ship would be, but since they’re pirates, they have to have their shit together that much more.

David W. Barbee writes weird fiction from a barn in central Georgia. Find out more about his books at