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 month marks the 10 year anniversary of my first published short story. “Retirement” appeared in Kopfhalter! #2, edited by Keith Gouveia and published by AP Fuchs. Kopfhalter! Magazine #2Of course, I had been publishing Freak Tension since 1998, and I had snuck quite a few short stories in amongst all that punk rock shit. Still, getting “Retirement” published was a big deal. It was proof that someone other than me thought my stuff was good enough to publish. And considering I had accumulated a few hundred rejection letters at that point, the validation was much needed. It kept me going.

Here’s some history: I started writing as soon as I figured out how to hold a pen. I’m not going to get into the whole “I had a rough childhood boo hoo” thing. Hospitals. Scars. Let’s just say I needed to spend a lot of time hiding from the world. So I hid in my room. Comet Avenue. Early eighties. Sprawled out on piss yellow shag carpet. Weird scrap paper with musical notation on the back. I scribbled out story after story. Monsters. Mutants. Dinosaurs. Slime. I hid in those stories. Those stories kept me safe.

Now I’ve had more than 50 short stories published all over the world. Last year I published what I believe is my best bit of flash fiction, “The Songwriter’s Fingers,” in Revolver, a pretty prestigious literary journal located here in my home base of Minneapolis. Just last month I got a shout out in Publisher’s Weekly for my latest short story, “The Strange Vice of ZLA-138,” which appears in Giallo Fantastique from Word Horde. I’ve got three books under my belt now too, with more coming up really quick.

I keep writing because I need to. I still need that place to hide. But this world is tough. It doesn’t always reward such behavior. Every day there are forces at work to crush creativity. I don’t know what I would have done without the little boosts from supportive publishers and from the people who read my special brand of nonsense. That still blows my mind. People reading my stuff? Writing is such a solitary thing. As a kid, I just sat there alone writing story after story, never even considering that they’d entertain anyone other than myself. Little me would have been sooo psyched.

So from me and little me, thanks for reading our shit. Thanks for keeping us safe.

I am super proud to be associated with Razorcake. Issue after issue, the zine is filled with thoughtful writing that goes way beyond merely talking about what punk bands are cool these days (although Razorcake has that covered too). The new issue is out now. This is the cover:

Razorcake 86This issue is worth buying for the interviews alone. Super intelligent people who are doing cool things that you should know about. Get your copy via Razorcake.

And I wrote some reviews that you can also check out online:

Sure, reading is cool and everything, but what’s the point of reading when you can have a story read to you by a beautiful burlesque dancer?

Sauda Namir has recorded a reading of my short story “Groupie” for the season finale of her Bizarro Bedtime web series. Check it out:

Bizarro Bedtime: S1 E5: MP Johnson from Sauda Namir on Vimeo.

“Groupie” originally appeared in the book Strange Sex 2 from StrangeHouse Books (publisher of my new gore-fest, Cattle Cult! Kill! Kill!).

I performed this story once in Green Bay. About halfway through, a girl in the audience started to look a little sick. Soon, she ran out of the room. After the reading, she came up to me and said, “That was so horrible, I couldn’t stay and listen.” And then she added the words that every writer is dying to hear: “I will remember it for the rest of my life!”

Sam Richard and I are co-editing a book of ultra-wild horror and bizarro fiction short stories that pay tribute to legendary punk rock scumfuc GG Allin. We are currently in the process of going through all the submissions and picking the ones that are juuuuust right. This book is going to be so messed up. Blood For You: A Literaty Tribute To GG AllinThat’s the cover for the regular edition. It’s by Justin Coons. We’re also releasing the book with a limited edition, too-sick-for-Amazon cover by Dan Wieken. We’re only going to reveal the whole thing to backers, but here’s a taste: Blood For You: A Literary Tribute To GG Allin Limited Edition CoverThis cover, which is all boobs and poop and wieners, is only going to be available online to preorder through the Kickstarter. It will not be available online after the Kickstarter. We will base the number of copies that it is limited to on the number of Kickstarter backers who preorder it.

If you want one, backing the Kickstarter is likely the only way you’re going to get it. So please back it. We have not inflated the prices like some Kickstarters. And U.S. shipping is included in the price.You can also get other rad limited edition stuff. Preorders will be mailed out in August upon the release of the book.

Holy shit! I have three books out now! Isn’t that nuts? Cattle Cult! Kill! Kill! was just released by StrangeHouse Books. Check out the cover art by William Broad:

Cattle Cult! Kill! Kill!Does that look crazy or what? You like crazy, don’t you? You can grab a copy on Amazon right now!

This book was actually more than a decade in the making. I began it one winter after getting into a rough car accident on Highway 29 in Wisconsin. It wasn’t the worst accident in the world, but my car was wrecked on a cold and desolate stretch of the highway. The experience got me wondering about some things, and I initially put those thoughts into a short story. That short story eventually grew to book length.

This is a bit of a departure from my previous books, which were more comedic. This one isn’t particularly funny. It’s much more mean-spirited. It has more in common with the splatterpunk genre than bizarro fiction.

Here’s the blurb from the back cover:

Strange things happen in the parts of Wisconsin where nobody is looking. Catspaw is one of those parts.

After his car crashes in Catspaw, Renny watches his girlfriend, Sera, dragged away by men wearing severed cow heads as masks. He follows them into the snow-soaked wasteland of Wisconsin and slips face-first into a sordid underworld of vicious farmers. He fights to overcome his innate inability to do anything right, but can only watch helplessly as Sera is eaten alive, the first sacrifice for the resurrection of a forgotten god of agriculture – Bovikraaga. She will not be the last…

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.

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