Friday, December 28, 2012

The Best Bizzaro Fiction of the Decade

The problem with an anthology like this is the name. Anything that claims to be the best of an entire decade sets up ridiculous expectations about how good it will be. It also creates problems for the editor--do you try to represent all sides of the genre? If so, will your anthology have any coherency, or will it seem like a grab bag?

In this case, editor Cameron Pierce has mostly represented what I would call the literary side of bizarro. Stories that stick to traditional narrative techniques based in some kind of "weird" element, such as all the characters being animals. There are a few that fall outside of this category, like Kevin Donihe's hysterical "Traveling Dildo Salesman" and a number of speculative fiction pieces, but this brand of story dominates.

My favorite in this ilk is Ben Loory's "The Octopus." The Octopus, who is living an average middle class man's life, is visited by his nephews from the sea and awkwardly interacts with them, eventually leading him to question his decision to move away from home. It's a simple story told in simple language--and its gorgeous in a Ray Bradbury kind of way.

Blake Butler's "We Witnessed the Advent of a New Apocalypse During an Episode of Friends" is as funny as it is strange. It's perfectly executed, with a standard, boring episode of this soul-sucking show becoming more and more disturbing, until it descends into complete chaos. Really, when you think about it, when else could the apocalypse take place other than during an episode of Friends? I first read this story in Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens, and found it even more satisfying on a second read. 

Garrett Cook's "Mr. Plush, Detective" is a hardboiled PI story featuring a man trapped in the body of a teddy bear. He's not the white knight type, but a lowdown, no-good, stab-you-in-the-back-and-take-your-stash PI. It's good, dirty fun and has inspired me to pick up the novel, Jimmy Plush, Teddy Bear Detective.

Anyway, The Best Bizarro Fiction of the Decade is a fantastic compendium that anyone who enjoys this genre should check out.  

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