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.

I’m a collector. I’ve always been weird about keeping everything in mint condition in the hopes that someday it would be worth money. Unfortunately, none if it is worth money. Thankfully, I like to collect stuff that I can also use: books, comics, VHS tapes, etc. Even though I wasn’t able to buy a house with the proceeds from selling off my collection, I’ve managed to learn a lot about collectables along the way.

Since I’m pretty entrenched in the world of underground fiction, I’ve been thinking about the collectibility of bizarro books. Obviously, the books are collectible, and everyone should collect books like Dungeons & Drag Queens, because they’re fucking cool and they look rad on bookshelves. But will they ever be valuable?

Menstruating MallTwo key factors are required to make something a valuable collectible: scarcity and desirability.

Scarcity

Most bizarro books are published via print-on-demand. This is a new element, the likes of which has never been encountered by collectors. Gone are the days of first prints and set print runs. Instead, individual copies are printed out to order. On the surface, this may seem like it would make scarcity impossible. Not so.

First of all, scarcity can be dictated by the publisher. For example, Dynatox Ministries produces limited run chapbooks using POD technology. Most of their books are issued in quantities of 25 or 50. However, scarcity can also be achieved naturally in the world of POD publishing. The fact of the matter is that this is still the small press. It is volatile. Publishers may go out of business. Books may be discontinued because of poor sales or expired author contracts.

Then there is the issue of new versions. For example, the early books of bizarro fiction frontrunner Carlton Mellick III are being reissued with new cover art. He has such a fervent fan base that the early covers have already become collectors items and are changing hands at prices well above the initial cover price. Bizarro Pulp Press recently became an imprint of Journalstone. In the process, some of the first BPP offerings are being reissued with new cover art, such as Adam Millard’s Skinners. Others have moved to different publishing houses in different editions. Will the original editions eventually be worth more?

SkinnersDue to the nature of POD books, print runs are only known to the publishers and, maybe, the authors. So the true scarcity of a book will likely not be known until it becomes a sought after collectors item. However, it is safe to say that none of these books are being published in large quantities. Popular bizarro books may reach print runs in the tens of thousands. Most are lucky to crack the thousand mark. Many never pass the hundred mark.

Desirability

If 50 copies of a book are published, is it a valuable collectible? Not if nobody wants it. Right now, there are shit tons of bizarro books coming out every year. They are all competing against each other for the attention of a relatively small readership. Beyond that readership, these books currently have limited appeal, limited desirability.

Which is to be expected. The bizarro fiction movement is still on the upswing, despite being around for over a decade now. More and more people are catching on to it every day. The word is getting around. But Bizarro is always going to be a cult affair. From a collector’s standpoint, that’s definitely a strength.

Cult shit, weird shit, tends to fare better as the years pass. Look at the current boom in VHS collecting. It’s not copies of the Breakfast Club that are selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay. It’s flicks like Devil Story. Independent, cult films that were issued in small quantities and then made even more scarce because most of them went to rental stores, where they were trashed and eventually thrown away. I wouldn’t be surprised if, 20 years from now, collectors were approaching bizarro books – with their lurid cover art and sensational titles – with the same fervor.

The True Value Of Bizarro Books

So you’ve got an old school copy of Menstruating Mall, some Dynatox books, a copy of Szmonhfu and This City is Alive, and maybe a Jack Bunny Bam-Bam book. Maybe you’ll be able to eBay that shit someday. Of course, everyone knows that bizarro fiction is not meant to be stashed away and protected. The true value comes from buying books, sharing them with your friends, spreading them around and talking about how awesome they are. So do that.

When I first attended Bizarro Con a few years ago, I caught readings by heavy hitters like Carlton Mellick III and Kevin L. Donihe. The term “readings” didn’t even do them justice. They were wild, frenzied performances.

I knew I had to up my game. I learned that reading an ordinary 5,000 word short story was not likely to cut it with an audience of short attention spans. I started writing pieces with performances in mind. One of the first that I came up with was a crazy, yelling affair called “Berzerkoids are Here.” When I read it for the first time, I got the best reaction I had ever received at a reading. Since then, I’ve read it dozens of times to crowds that seem really into it. Now, for the first time, it has been published online at Drunk Monkeys. Check it out! IMG_2426 Do You Like The Razor? Do You Like The Cake?

New Razorcake is out now! It’s got a nice, thoughtful piece about the LA Zine Fest, which I want to get to one of these days. It also has a bunch of reviews by me, which you can also read online:

I also wrote an online-only interview with pop punk band Braver.

This Is The Last Mutilation

Way back in 2006, I published a chapbook called The Mutilation of Paris Hilton. It’s splatterpunk for sure. Gross and obnoxious. Nobody cares about Paris Hilton anymore, and I’m down to my last dozen copies. I’m reducing the price. If you want one, get one now. These aren’t going to be reprinted.

Bizarro Fiction Comes To Minneapolis

The AWP Conference & Bookfair is coming to Minneapolis in April. Eraserhead Press and bizarro authors from all over the country are coming to the event, so I set up a big bizarro bash at Grumpy’s Bar & Grill. This is the biggest reading by weird writers that has ever happened in the Twin Cities, at least as long as I’ve lived here. It’s going to be a party.

Within the bizarro and horror fiction communities, there is much debate over the value of poop stories. Some claim that the subgenre is all pooped out, that it has nothing more to give. While I agree that there are a lot of regurgitated poop stories out there, there is still room for innovation.

Which, coincidentally, brings me to this bit of news: I have a new story out at Feathertale. It’s called “First I’m Gonna Go Poop – Then I’m Gonna Go Crazy.”

Now, I’m not going to say that it’s an innovative take on the poop fiction subgenre, but it’s something, eh? Leave your thoughts about it and about poop fiction in general in the comments.

New Razorcake Means New Music Reviews

The first thing you need to know is that Razorcake is a nonprofit punk rock magazine. It is in the midst of its yearly donation drive. If you want to donate, you will end up getting your money’s worth of rad stuff.

The new issue is out now. Check out the cover:

Razorcake 83

I have some reviews in it, which you can also read online:

Death Warp Is Sold Out

I was feeling all cocky and thinking my new chapbook from Dynatox Ministries would sell out overnight. Well, it took a little longer than that, but not much. Thanks to everyone who picked up a copy. You’ve got a really rad collectible that nobody else is ever going to have a chance to get.

A couple weekends ago, I attended Bizarro Con in Portland. Bizarro Con is a gathering of bizarro fiction authors. It’s basically a big party for people who read and write weird books. This was my third Bizarro Con.

Day 1: Thursday

As soon as my plane landed on Thursday night, I met up with two authors who I have tons of respect for: Kevin Strange and Bradley Sands. Kevin is relatively new to the scene, but he’s already cranked out a ton of ridiculous and wonderful books. As the former editor of StrangeHouse Books, he published a bunch of my short stories. Bradley is a bizarro lifer.

So the party began immediately. We picked up my rental car and were warned of the freezing rain. In Minnesota, freezing rain is when rain turns to ice and forms a shell around you so you have to keep moving. Portland’s definition of freezing rain is a little looser. It wasn’t even slippery.

We cruised to Edgefield and I caught up with as many awesome writer people as I could. I met a lot of people who I had befriended online. Cool to meet people in real life. But that’s what Bizarro Con, and the bizarro scene in general, is all about. These are not just random writers putting out books. This is a community. Everybody supports each other and works hard. Creativity and passion inspire creativity and passion.

Day 2: Friday

Friday night was kind of life changing for me. I’ve been into drag almost as long as I’ve been into writing. I’ve always wanted to combine the two. Eraserhead Press boss Rose O’Keefe  asked me to do a reading from my latest book, Dungeons & Drag Queens, for the EHP fifteenth anniversary party, so the time was right! I donned my four-inch heels and my favorite skully dress and…

Yup, that’s me and my buddy Kevin Strange. Pretty fucking fabulous, right? I had so much anxiety walking into the party, but was greeted with total luv, so most of my nerves just drained out of me. Did I mention that I seriously love this scene? Everyone’s so open minded and supportive.

One of the big parts of the Friday night party is beer. Certain books are selected to be the basis of a beer, and Dungeons & Drag Queens was one of them. Total honor! Check it out: Dungeons & Drag Queens Belgian IPA. I’m told it was delicious.

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Friday night is when the top names in bizarro books perform. Carlton Mellick III did a piece about the rules of fight club that cracked me up hardcore. Brian Allen Carr, Violet LeVoit, Bradley Sands and M.T. Granberry also blew minds. So much fucking talent. And me! I was nervous, but I didn’t wobble at all in my heels. I did forget literally every joke I had planned to tell. I just read the first chapter of the book.

The rest of the evening was a blur of fun and nonsense. Bizarro musical jam. I was on the receiving end of a motorboating. First!

Day 3: Saturday

I got up early on Saturday for breakfast and the traditional Saturday morning raffle. Prizes included cat testicles. I didn’t win anything, but I ate a lot of French toast. The rest of the day included readings and panels. I did not witness a bad reading!

Saturday night was the Wonderland Book Awards banquet. My first book, The After-Life Story of Pork Knuckles Malone, was one of the final nominees for best novel. I’m not going to be disingenuous and say I didn’t want to win, because I did, but between the emotions I was feeling from the previous night and just my general duh-ness, I kind of didn’t want to win because I would probably have nervous vomited all over everyone. But yeah, I wanted to win.

But I didn’t win. Brian Allen Carr won. And my heart didn’t sink when I didn’t hear my name. Here’s what happened: He gave a speech that started out poignant about just watching dust in the beams of light and ended with something about lotion and his dad, and I knew that destiny dictated that he had to win (and I read Motherfucking Sharks on the way home, and HE HAD TO WIN!).

Then I decided that I am going to win this award sometime, and I don’t care if that’s cocky. I’m going to work hard and it’s going to happen, maybe next year for Dungeons & Drag Queens? Who knows?

The banquet was followed by more partying. Stunt vomiting. Musical shenanigans. High fives. Stage dives. Actually no stage dives. Shit, writers party pretty hard.

Day 4: Sunday

Sunday I was going to leave early and wander around Portland, but instead I stayed and checked out more panels and stuff. I met with my editor at Eraserhead, the mighty Kevin L. Donihe, and talked plans for Dinosaurs & Drag Queens and world domination. Then thumb wrestling with Bradley Sands. Movie trivia. If you ask me to name the movie with poodles that turn into drag queens, yeah, I’m going to know the answer. People started to leave. Darkness fell over Portland. Shit just kind of ended.

Now I’m back here, alone, in front of my computer, but I know that I’ve got this whole badass community backing me up, and vice versa. It feels nice.

 

My 50th published short story just hit the streets! “Letting Go” appears in the debut issue of Blight Digest, a rad new horror fiction journal from One Eye Press. Check out the cover:

Blight

“Letting Go” is the tale of a struggling, exhausted single mom and her adult son battling a basement monster. I really hope it will freak you out and break your heart.

Speaking of heartbreak, there are still a couple copies of my limited edition chapbook, Death Warp, available from Dynatox Ministries. These last few are priced to sell.

Bizarro Con Is Next Week

On Thursday, I head to Portland for the 7th annual Bizarro Con. This is where the Eraserhead Press crew and the leading authors of the bizarro fiction movement gather to douse each other in creative energy and basically party. I will be nerding out and acting awkward the whole time!

If You Don’t Want To Buy My Shit, Buy This Shit

Justin Grimbol is a cool dude and his new book, Hard Bodies, is like Bukowski if Bukowski was a rad dude you wanted to hang out with and not an insufferable dickweed. I highly recommend it.

Hard Bodies

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!

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