If you Google “bizarro fiction” you won’t be far down the list of websites before you run into the name Carlton Mellick III. The Portland-based author began his career early and had completed twelve novels by the age of eighteen. Only one of those early novels has made it to print (Electric Jesus Corpse) but many have followed.
Carlton Mellick III
According to Mellick’s blog Bizarro fiction is like, “Franz Kafka meets John Waters, Dr. Seuss of the post-apocalypse, Takashi Miike meets William S. Burroughs, Alice in Wonderland for adults, Japanese animation directed by David Lynch.” I’ll give you just a few minutes to think about that.
Ready to go on? Mind-boggling isn’t it?
The first book of Mellick’s I read was “Sausagey Santa” – I found it on a list of “obscure and thought-provoking reads” – it was listed with books like “Lolita” by Nabokov, “Memnoch the Devil” by Rice, “Journey to the End of the Night” by Louis Ferdinand Céline and “Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death” by Kurt Vonnegut.
Mellick’s writing almost defies description. Voices emerge from deep within a woman’s vagina; butt-plugs come to life and form a miniature army, “war sluts” can take on the form of your fantasy, and a suicidal Santa Claus keeps offing himself in gruesome ways only to be brought back to life by his elves. It’s a beyond-cyber punk world where there seem to be no boundaries or hesitations and it’s refreshing. It’s gory, weird, raunchy and sometimes hilarious and well-worth trying to track down.
Recently, I contacted Mellick and he was happy to answer some questions for Affairs Magazine.
IMP: What are the influences on your work? Authors? Other genres?
CMIII: Children’s literature comes to mind first. Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl, L. Frank Baum, Maurice Sendak, and David Wiesner. “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery is probably my favorite book of all time. I’m more inspired by the simple, playful prose of children’s books, that can fully illuminate your imagination using only a few words. This style of minimalism is something that I usually focus on with my work. I wouldn’t compare my work with Kurt Vonnegut, but his child-like minimalist style is something I adore. Other authors that helped shape my work are the stylish urban fairy tales of Francesca Lia Block, the strange and complex prose of Kathe Koja, and the absurd prose-poems of Russell Edson. Outside of literature, my influences include cult film directors such as David Lynch, Terry Gilliam, John Waters, Takashi Miike, Troma, and pretty much every trashy weird b-movie ever made.
IMP: Does mainstream “critical” recognition matter to you?
CMIII: The success of Bizarro Fiction, the genre I write in, is more important to me than my own work. I would like the genre to receive mainstream recognition. I hate the word “movement” but it definitely is a literary movement at this point. There are dozens of passionate writers working to bring this style of strange fiction to the masses. We will not rest until it becomes a reality, because this kind of fiction is lacking in the publishing industry even though there are thousands of people dying to read it. But, for myself, I don’t really give a crap about mainstream recognition. I wouldn’t have written The Baby Jesus Butt Plug or The Haunted Vagina if I did.
IMP: Of your published works – which are you most pleased with?
CMIII: Tough question. I’m really pleased with the Egg Man, a story about what the world would be like today if humans reproduced like insects. But I also really love Warrior Wolf Women of the Wasteland, which is my werewolf road warrior story about gender separation, sexuality, and Mayor McCheese. Though Punk Land still makes me laugh. That one is like Vonnegut’s “Breakfast of Champions” for punks. It’s pretty retarded in all the right ways.
IMP: Your most recent novel “Zombies and Shit” is, obviously, about zombies and that’s not that first time you’ve written about them? What’s the attraction?
CMIII: Ever since Night of the Living Dead, there have been a large group of people obsessed with zombies. I’m one of them. For me, it’s the apocalyptic element of zombie stories that I like. The idea of living in a world of the dead. My book, Zombies and Shit, is set within a world of the dead, but it’s more of an action comedy designed after my favorite book/movie/comic Battle Royale. But it’s actually a Return of the Living Dead style zombie story, that isn’t meant to be taken too seriously. It’s one of my more trashy/campy books that would probably make a pretty good B-movie. Zombies are fun. They’ve always been fun. I can’t get enough of them.
IMP: In some of your books, like “The Menstruating Mall”, you seem to have a real disdain for some parts of the modern world – what’s your ideal world?
CMIII: Really, I think we are already living an ideal world. I might criticize or poke fun at modern society, but I’m not somebody who would ever want to live in an ideal world. I like conflicts, I like being at odds with the rest of the world, I like obstacles that I have to overcome. Sure, a world of artists and creative people sounds like a great world, but I like the challenge of living in a world that is inhospitable to creative types. I worked my ass off getting to the point where I could make a living off of my writing, and because it was so damn difficult (nearly impossible) made me work harder and I’ve become a better person (and a better writer) because of it.
IMP: I work part-time at a Library and we sometimes get complaints about books. Our Reader’s Advisor (Andre Beauchemin, Kamloops Library) says: “When an individual is offended by the contents of a book my response is bifurcated. The internal reaction, or inside voice, tells me that I am doing my job; a library should have ‘something to offend everyone’.”
What do you think about Libraries carrying books of all genres? Care to comment?
CMIII: I am completely against censorship in any form. If somebody doesn’t want to read something that is going to offend them then they should be more careful with their selections. Personally, I don’t think anything should be censored at all. Television shouldn’t be censored. Radio shouldn’t be censored. I don’t even believe that children should be censored, even from sex and violence. When I was a kid, there wasn’t any “bad information” that I was protected from. I never really understood what the big deal was.
IMP: What’s the history of bizarro fiction for readers who might not be familiar with it?
CMIII: Bizarro is the genre of the weird. It’s got a pretty big cult following at the moment, but it will grow larger. The genre/movement just kind of happened. I built up a community of writers since 1999, starting with writers like Kevin L. Donihe and D. Harlan Wilson, and over time the birth of the movement happened naturally. I don’t think any of us set out to start a genre. We just found more and more people writing this style of work, and more and more readers wanting to buy it. There are now dozens of writers specializing in it, and several presses putting it out. In my opinion, it’s the most exciting thing happening in literature right now.
IMP: The new book “Christmas On Crack” has just been published by Eraserhead Press and is on its way to my mailbox – sounds like the perfect gift for the insane folks on my Christmas list – can you talk about it? What’s the plot?
CMIII: Christmas on Crack is an anthology of strange, perverted Christmas stories. Most of them are over the top pornographic, yet they are also hilarious and the plots go in strange directions. One story is about Frosty working as a cross-dressing stripper, another is an S&M story about Santa being dominated by a peppermint woman while being hunted by elf hitmen, and another story is about a toy orgy on Christmas morning. It’s all a bunch of nasty, fucked-up, holiday fun.
Got someone on your Holiday list who’s creative and edgy or always willing to try new things? Introduce them to Bizarro fiction.
You can order Carlton Mellick III’s books at Amazon here
~ Charlotte Kinzie
Note: Originally posted here at Affairs Magazine in 2010 – I just LOVE this guy!
■ CKinzie||Kamloops, BC
Carlton’s a great guy. I met him in 2010 at BizarroCon and participated in one of his workshops. Steel Breakfast Era still remains my favorite work of his.