Bizarro Horror Fiction Author MP Johnson | Freak Tension Zine

Information about writer MP Johnson's horror fiction and bizarro fiction, Freak Tension zine and more.

This was the ninth Crypticon in Minnesota. I’ve been going since the first one (although I skipped a few in the middle to go on crucial punk rock missions). It’s always a blast. I’ve made a ton of friends there. I’ve met many fellow horror authors and other creatives. Many intense conversations with other horror geeks.

This year, the horror convention relocated to the Ramada by the Mall of America. I heard tales of the place’s previous incarnation as the Native American-themed Thunderbird Motel. Much of the hotel’s past remains intact, from room names to art. I arrived early on Friday and set up my table.

MP Johnson Books at Crypticon

I caught up with a lot of Crypticon buddies and sold a few books Friday night. Selling books isn’t my goal though. It used to be. But I eventually realized that’s boring, so now my priority is to geek out, meet other people who create horror art, and party.

There was a solid showing of authors tabling this year, which was great to see. Patrick Marsh, Kenneth Olson and Clinton Jordan were all slinging lit. Publisher Harren Press had a table. Other authors were wandering around. Sadly, Crypticon legend Joe Knetter couldn’t make it this year. Jay Hansen and Devin Francisco had a table full of their art and were launching Cesspool, a crazed book of gruesome art and stories that I worked on.

Saturday is always the big day. My table helper, Jeff Arndt from Mommy Sez No, found this guy to lend a hand:

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I don’t know what his deal is but he is covered in pubic hair.

Saturday night was party night. I fell into some sort of weird horror hotel warp. I remember walking around a circular corridor, trying to find room parties, but only finding the same room party over and over again. My buddy Lloyd gave me a rubber knife, and supposedly I was stabbing everybody I saw, but that just doesn’t sound like me.

I found a room full of alien dildos. Some friends had connecting rooms, and I partied there for a bit. Impromptu sex toy instruction reading, lube tasting (doesn’t taste like apples), stabbing? Went to my friend Brandon’s room and watched this short film he made. Got whipped by a tiny whip.

Later I ran some laps. Challenged a few people to race me through hotel halls. Nobody accepted the challenge because I am too fast. Lots of talk about “We’re going to the bonfire.” Pretty sure there was no bonfire. Felix Silla (Cousin Itt) was the hardest partying celeb (not Corey Feldman) and had the best jokes. I think I saw Elvira and some guy from Kiss. My armpits still smelled good at the end of the night.

Sunday is when everyone is stumbling around and hungover. Not me though. Ha! Finally cleared out most of the remaining copies of this fucking The Mutilation of Paris Hilton chapbook. If you want one of those, probably grab it now. Only a handful left. Only took like a decade to get rid of them.

Crypticon 2015: I am ready when you are!

Pretty fancy huh? I replaced my old homemade banner with some killer art by Bill Hauser. Coincidentally it is the same art I used for my bookmarks. I took some inspiration (and got some help on how to make functional links) from rad author Adam Cesare. Note that you can link out to a lot of free online stories from the biblio page.

Suggestions for improvements are appreciated! What would you like to see that isn’t here?

Crypticon is only a week away! Hope to see a lot of you there!

My stories have been published in a lot of weird books over the last decade or so, but this is by far the most absurd project I have ever been involved in:

Hamsters: A Fabulous Anthology

Hamsters! A Fabulous Anthology is a collection of stories about hamsters. What the fuck? It’s 300-plus pages long and includes stories by some of the coolest cats in the bizarro and horror fiction undergrounds. My story is called “Hamsters are for Pussies.” It’s about jackasses who use their pets to demonstrate their own masculinity. Or maybe it’s about brain eating.

Dynatox Ministries released this as a benefit for Raye Roeske, a bizarro fiction superfan who is going through a tough one. So you can read a bunch of fucked-up hamster stories and support a good cause.

New Chapbook Out Now (And Going Fast)

Speaking of Dynatox Ministries, the publisher also released my latest chapbook, Death Warp.

Death Warp

Death Warp is a doomed romance story, interrupted by a gross-out Wisconsin-style bizarro horror story. It’s unlike anything else I’ve released. This chapbook is limited to 50 copies. More than half are sold out already. You should probably get this, if only for the awesome Jay Hansen cover art. It’s like Lucio Fulci takes Wisconsin.

Twin Cities Book Festival This Weekend

I’ll be selling and signing books at the Twin Cities Book Festival this Saturday. It’s a free event. This is your chance to support the local lit scene and load up on books to help you through the impending bleak winter.

I feel pretty strongly that punk rock and bizarro fiction share a lot of the same qualities. A big chunk of bizarro authors are into punk, but surprisingly few punks have heard of bizarro. I’m trying to change that. I wrote a piece called “One Punk’s Guide to Bizarro Fiction” for Razorcake #82. It’s about my discovery of bizarro, as well as a brief history of the genre and my opinion on what it’s all about. And it’s got some killer illustrations by Marcos Siref:

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I was a slacker on music reviews for this issue. Only one:

HECTOR’S PETS: Pet-O-Feelia: LP

Come Swim In The Cesspool

Available for preorder now is Cesspool, a book of horror art by Devin Francisco and Jay Hansen, accompanied by like-minded short stories. I have two stories in this book: “Leapfrog” and “Butterflies.” Don’t let the nice titles fool you. The first story is about monster sex. The second is about a demon baby who won’t stop crying.

I also sort of served as editor for this book. I helped to round up some of the other authors and I copyedited everything and made it all grammary.

Cesspool Cover

How Sick Can GG Allin Get?

Speaking of editing, I’m stepping into that role full force for the first time with Blood for You: A Literary Tribute to GG Allin. This will be an anthology of bizarro and horror GG Allin stories co-edited by me and Sam Richard. I have been dreaming about this book for years, but nobody else has put it together, so I decided to do what any good punk would do and do it myself.

Release date is a long way off, but writers can submit stories now.

Upcoming Appearances

Upcoming Books And Stories

  • Death Warp – Dynatox Ministries (Fall 2014)
  • Sick Pack – Bizarro Pulp Press (TBD)
  • “Hamsters are for Pussies” in Hamsters Anthology (Fall 2014)
  • “Letting Go” in Blight Digest (Fall 2014)
  • “Dead Diva Boogaloo” in Zombified 3 (TBD)
  • “Selling the Slicer” in The Gruesome Tensome: A Short Story Tribute to the Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis (TBD)

Every writer has a method. Mine has been refined over decades of writing weird stories. It begins with a stolen Meatloaf statue that I piss on and meditate in front of before I move to my computer to write.

The First Draft

No wait, that’s not true. The process of getting ideas is the easy part. I’ve got idea overflow. I’ve got lists of ideas. When one really grabs me, I crank out a first draft. My first drafts are fast and dirty. I might start with some outlining and character bios. That’s more common when I’m working on a longer piece though. The first draft is my draft. That’s where I get really sucked into the story. I let myself have as much fun as I want, knowing that I’ll add and cut a lot later. When I’m finished, I go through and do a quick copyedit. Then I put it away.

The Second Draft

A month or so later, I pull the draft out again. I print it and read through it. I do my first read through purely as a reader. I don’t have a red pen anywhere near me. I just want to experience it as a reader might. Then I go through it again, this time with the red pen. I mark up everything. If a page isn’t covered with red, I feel like I did something wrong. Check out this page of revisions from what I hope will be my fourth book, Hypnotized by Abs:

Hypnotized Edits

I beef up imagery that didn’t pop. I add scenes if I think of something weird and fun. I throw in jokes. I ruthlessly cut anything that bores me or doesn’t serve the story. When I’m done destroying the printout, I make the changes on the computer. After I’ve made the changes on the computer, I go through the draft again from top to bottom, basically doing the same thing over, but on a computer screen. I make sure there’s no big picture stuff that I missed.

I once read an article that examined the differences in the way the mind thinks when looking at printed matter versus when staring at a computer screen. Different parts of the brain come into play with each. I want to get as much of my weak little brain involved as possible, so I do edits on paper and computer. When I’ve done both, I go through and do another quick copyedit. I call this my second draft, even though there’s like three drafts in this part alone.

The Third Draft

Sometime later, I pull the manuscript out again and go through the same process. I actually have a lot of fun with these revisions. I like cutting the fat, but I also treat it like a jazz musician soloing over Begin the Beguine or some shit. The framework is there, but now I’m jazzing it up with more jokes or weird imagery or little nuances that bring the characters or the situations to life the way a little extra Artie Shaw clarinet might in that old Cole Porter song. Why the fuck am I using jazz references? Maybe it’s more like an Alex Skolnick guitar solo in a Testament song.

After that third draft, I ship it off to a publisher. “This is the real weepy and like tragic part of the story beginning.”

Upcoming Appearances

Upcoming Books And Stories

  • Death Warp – Dynatox Ministries (Fall 2014)
  • “One Punk’s Guide to Bizarro Fiction” in Razorcake #82 (Fall 2014)
  • “Butterflies” and “Leapfrog” in Cesspool (Fall 2014)
  •  “Letting Go” in Blight Digest (Fall 2014)
  • “Dead Diva Boogaloo” in Zombified 3 (TBD)
  • “Selling the Slicer” in The Gruesome Tensome: A Short Story Tribute to the Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis (TBD)

Last weekend, I participated in a reading called Weepin’ & Creepin’ with Darci Schummer, author of Six Months in the Midwest. The concept was this: I would read some really weird, creepy stuff and Darci would read some really sad, weepy stuff. No problem, right?

Owly Images

Except that my mom and dad were coming. They had never been to one of my readings before. In the past, I’ve kept them away from my stuff. I’ve told them my writing can get pretty nasty. But they wanted to come to this reading, which was also my first hometown reading in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. How could I say no?

So I thought I’d just write something that wouldn’t offend anyone. What came out of me was a flash fiction piece called “How to Make a Butt-Sweat Golem.” Fail. Then I called my mom and tried to prepare her for the worst. She said, “Oh, I used to love to gross out my sisters when we were younger, so I understand.” I’m not sure she understood, but I told her it was her fault then if she got grossed out, because any grossing out that I did was probably genetic.

I called Darci. We decided on a strategy. I would read one of my more somber pieces, a little ditty called “Necksnapper.” None of this made me less nervous about reading in front of my parents and, to make matters worse, I would be reading in front of Darci’s parents and much of her family.

So I went all in. I read “Necksnapper.” I watched some of the more conservative  crowd members shake their heads and frown as I told the story of a young woman who landed a gig making a very specialized kind of erotic film. Then I read “Butt-Sweat Golem” and I got a lot of laughs. Then, of course, Darci Schummer read and just killed it with style.

Owly Images

After the reading, I got caught up in the crowd and didn’t have a chance to check with my parents. The next day, they called and gushed about how great it was, how professional it was. They weren’t grossed out at all. My mom even mentioned that she read my first book, The After-Life Story of Pork Knuckles Malone, and it didn’t bother her. Maybe she skipped over the whole meat tenderizer penis mutilation scene?

I’m happy that my parents didn’t leave thinking I’m a total lunatic, but now I’m left with a new dilemma: What the hell will I have to write that will freak my mom and dad out?

How Much MP Johnson Can You Take?

The Driftless Area Review did a whole week of features about yours truly. If you want to see how much of my bullshit you can stomach, dive in:

Upcoming Appearances

  • FallCon – State Fairgrounds – St. Paul, MN – 10/4
  • Carnival of Souls Residency – Grumpy’s Downtown – Minneapolis, MN – 10/4
  • Twin Cities Book Festival – State Fairgrounds – St. Paul, MN – 10/11
  • Crypticon – Ramada – Bloomington, MN – 10/24-10/26
  • BizarroCon – Edgefield Manor – Portland, OR – 11/13-11/16

Upcoming Books And Stories

  • Death Warp – Dynatox Ministries (Fall 2014)
  • “One Punk’s Guide to Bizarro Fiction” in Razorcake #82 (Fall 2014)
  • “Butterflies” and “Leapfrog” in Cesspool (Fall 2014)
  •  “Letting Go” in Blight Digest (TBD)
  • “Dead Diva Boogaloo” in Zombified 3 (TBD)
  • “Selling the Slicer” in The Gruesome Tensome: A Short Story Tribute to the Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis (TBD)

Since the release of my latest book, Dungeons & Drag Queens, I’ve seen a lot of different terms used to describe the main character, Sleazella LaRuse: transvestite, crossdresser, tranny, shemale, etc. These terms are not interchangeable! To help readers get their vocab in line, I offer the following glossary of gender jargon:

Drag queen: Typically (but not always) gay men who don over-the-top female gear. Drag is an amazing, subversive form of self-expression that is also an intensely multifaceted form of art. Not only are these girls fucking with gender norms, they’re doing makeup, choreography, fashion design, music, comedy. Sleazella LaRuse from Dungeons & Drag Queens is a drag queen!

Dungeons And Drag Queens

Female impersonator: Someone who impersonates females, often professionally. Kinda, sorta the same as a drag queen. I’ve noticed that this term was preferred by professional drag queens of years past.

Transvestite: Guys, often hetero, who dress like women. The clothes are usually closer to a genetic female’s average day-to-day wardrobe than a drag queen’s. There usually isn’t a performance aspect. These ladies are often in the closet. Not the same as a drag queen, really.

Crossdresser: More or less the same as transvestites. This term tends to be preferred by some in that crowd, as it’s less clinical. Within this community, people tend to refer to crossdressing as just dressing.

Trans, transgender and transsexual: Okay, so there are distinctions between these terms, and the terms seem to be evolving. Trans and transgender are umbrella terms that cover transsexuals and more. Transsexuals are people born one gender but identify psychologically and emotionally with the other, and often use medical means to realign. Getting into the details on this is way out of scope for my silly blog, but it’s important to understand the basics. Know that these terms are not interchangeable with drag queen.

Tranny and shemale: Tranny may seem like a cute, short version of transsexual, but it’s not. Many consider it derogatory. Shemale is totally a porn word and seems unwelcome by most. My thinking is this: Life is fucking hard. If you can make it a touch more comfortable for someone else just by changing up your vocab a little and not saying “tranny” or “shemale,” it seems like a no brainer to me.

This is by no means an all-encompassing list. And also, I’m no expert. I can almost guarantee I’ve fucked something up in the above definitions. I’m just hoping to get people pointed in the right direction. Watch interviews with RuPaul. Read Kate Bornstein. Read the books Topside Press is putting out. Laverne Cox has been making the talk show rounds giving some interviews that will make your brain expand super fast. Youtube that shit.

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