Interview With Carlton Mellick III
This is the man himself. I stole the picture from somewhere. Check out his website: http://carltonmellick.com/
Adopted Fish-Boy, By Will Jacques
It’s my great pleasure to host an interview with one of the leading lights behind Bizarro Literature, Carlton Mellick III. Carlton is a true renaissance man, he’s a writer, artist, and somewhat of an elder statesman within the Bizarro genre. He’s like the go-to man for the extreme. Actually, I’m not really sure he’s human.
I’ve been a huge fan of horror literature all my reading life. I bought my first collection of Vampire stories when I was 10. I’ll never forget it, “Vampires at Midnight,” it was 1968. I was hooked, all the old masters, Blackwood, Lovecraft, Howard, Bloch, I couldn’t get enough. I’m sorry; I still love a good Manley Wade Wellman. Anyone remember the Playboy Book of Horror? Man, I was there.
Then came the ‘70s. For me, it started with Harvest Home. I read The Exorcist way before I saw the movie and yes, it scared the CRAP out of me. But it wasn’t until 1975 that the biggest event ever to hit horror, hit horror. Yes, I’m talking about Salem’s Lot, by Steven King. Younger people have no idea the impact Salem’s Lot had on the Horror novel. It changed me forever. All of a sudden, every bookstore had a horror section. It was like paradise.
Then came the 80’s, The Brooding, The Dreary, The Anguished, Foggy Bay, Drizzly Crap, who cares, move on…
Ah, the 90’s. I was in my 30’s, life was good and Horror was crisp and pulpy as a comic book. Who can go wrong with the Satanic Panic happening for real? Can you believe they actually dug up the grounds of pre-schools looking for huge underground vaults where Satanists held secret rituals? Black Metal Norwegians were killing each other and making charms out of skull fragments? Like heaven it was! I worshipped The Mammoth Book of Anything. As a matter of fact, The Mammoth Book of Werewolves helped make me into what I am today.
Those were the days, but they evolved into 00 Horror that seemed designed to give you a headache. I felt like I was back in the 80’s. Did everybody start doing cocaine again? I’m sorry, but those 00-10 Best New Horror collections were like getting drunk and watching a test pattern.
Let me solve it… “Everybody go out and buy all the shit they can and then commit suicide.” There, evolution adjusted.
You might ask where I’m going with all this. I’m going to the cutting edge… Bizarro Fiction. Why did it take me so long to find it? Well, I’m here now, so where am I?
Over-the-top to the absolute max, extreme to the point of comedy, everything being absolutely as bizarre, unexpected, and irreverent as possible, Bizarro Fiction is hard to define, so I’ll turn to the master himself…
Everybody on Earth should read this book. It will stay with you forever.
Interview With Carlton Mellick III, Article by Will Jacques:
So Carlton, tell us first about yourself. I also am “the III,” so I understand the burden there. What made you what you are? Where are you from, what was your childhood like? Were you a spooky kid, I mean were you scared of all the unknown “things” out there, or were you just…different?
It’s hard to say. A lot of writers have the same story as I do. I grew up in suburbia (Arizona suburbia no less), was writing since I was a kid, pretty quiet, not too popular, loved horror books and cult movies. Nothing special. I think the thing that really made me what I am is that I know how to get shit done. I’m not easily overwhelmed by ambitious daunting tasks. You’d never hear me say something like, “Some day I’m going to open a restaurant” or “someday I’m going to make a movie” or “someday I’m going to be a writer.” Because I don’t wait for somedays to happen. I figure out my limitations, make them work for me rather than against me, make no excuses and get to work. It’s why I was able to write 12 novels by the time I graduated from high school. It’s why I have been making a living as writer since my early twenties, even though I’m writing weird underground books that everyone told me would never sell. I have never hesitated to accomplish the impossible.
This is an example of Carlton’s excellent artwork, Girl 77.
How and when did the Bizarro Genre get started? Is there a “founding father” of any kind? It just seems like such an organized attempt to create a new literary genre, that it must have an architect. How much did you have to do with it?
I’m one of the main people behind the architecture of the genre. A lot of people have been involved in it from the beginning. The driving force behind the genres are the publishers, actually. However, most of the publishers are also writers in the genre. Rose O’Keefe, who runs Eraserhead Press, is the only non-writer who runs one of the companies. I don’t think there’s a founding father of the genre. Almost everyone involved has been writing this kind of fiction for a long time, they just didn’t have a label for it. We got together, called it bizarro, and have been working on bringing this fiction to the masses. But I don’t think any of us “found” this genre. It was something that’s pretty much always existed.
A Sure Sign Of Decomposition, By Will Jacques
Who decides what Bizarro Fiction is? Are there rules to follow? Obviously censorship is limited, but do you make an effort to create a certain “feel” that is definably Bizarro, or do you just follow your heart and that’s what comes out? We have a lot of aspiring writer’s here. What advice would you give them if they wanted to get published as a Bizarro?
There really aren’t rules to bizarro, I think…unless it obviously fits into another category. It just has to appeal to the bizarro audience. It has to appeal to people looking for something really different. A lot of bizarro tends to be dark and funny at the same time, with at least a few weird elements in there. There’s definitely a leaning toward crazy titles, high concept ideas, and pushing the limits of good taste.
A hundred years from now, someone is writing the history of horror literature. What do you think they will say about this movement?
Well, hopefully bizarro will become a genre just as large as horror. Although a lot of us come from the horror scene and quite a bit of bizarro fiction is on the darker side, I see bizarro as its own genre. If it’s a subgenre of anything it would probably be humor. But there might be a footnote about bizarro in the history of horror. I bet it would be something like: “What the fuck were they thinking?”
This is an actual unknown animal. It was caught in a pond in Utah. I had to put something like this in.
A lot of people look up to you, they really do. I heard your name mentioned on several horror forums before your books started to be recommended to me through Amazon. I don’t have to tell you how hard times are for aspiring writers (and illustrators). What advise can you give them? So many publishing houses aren’t accepting anything, what to do?
My advice to new unpublished writers just getting started would be: forget about getting published. Don’t put so much importance in seeing your name in print. Write for fun. Write the kind of books you want to write, that nobody else is writing. It might seem hard to get published, but it’s really not that big of a deal. You know what’s harder than getting a book published? Getting your book to sell. Most books just don’t ever find their audience. If you thought you were depressed because you haven’t been able to land a publisher for a few years of trying your best, then prepare yourself to be ten times as depressed once you get a book published and nobody gives a crap about it. It’s difficult getting readers to part with their money over something you’ve written. It doesn’t matter how talented you are. Many of the most brilliant writers I know can’t sell a book to save their lives. And I’m talking about masters of the craft who have been writing nonstop since they were kids, have won numerous awards, and have been praised up and down. Yet their books don’t sell for shit. The thing is there are tons of brilliant writers out there in the world. As a writer, you are competing with every book ever written, including the classics. Not only that, you are competing with movies, television, video games, music, and pretty much every other thing people can be spending their money (and time) on. Your competition is steep. You can’t just write books great books. In addition to being great, they have to be unique, addictive, fun, unique, smart, and unique. Did I say unique? The only way to really be successful these days is to be one of a kind. You need to write something that people aren’t going to get when they read other authors, or watch movies, or play video games. You need to give people a unique experience that only you can offer them. And the best way to do that is to just sit down and write A LOT. Have fun with it, try to improve with every story, and forget about getting published until you’re ready. If you aren’t sure whether or not you’re ready yet, try explaining your book to friends and strangers. If what you tell them gets them so excited that they are willing to pay you money on the spot just to be able to read it, even in manuscript form, then you’re ready.
Paternity Test, By Will Jacques
Thanks so much for giving us this interview Carlton. What does the future hold for you? Please tell us anything new you’ve got coming out, or whatever you want. It’s your chance to be a prostitute, so do a good job of it.
I’ve always got stuff coming out. Three of my books have come out so far this year: “Crab Town,” “Barbarian Beast Bitches of the Badlands” and “The Morbidly Obese Ninja.” Later this month, my book “Fantastic Orgy” should be out. It’s about sexually transmitted super powers and an underground sex culture that trade their STDs for body modification purposes. Coming next month is a bizarro parody of romantic comedies called “I Knocked Up Satan’s Daughter” about a guy who accidentally impregnates a succubus and is forced into marrying her by her demon family as well as his own conservative family who thinks he needs to do the right thing. It’s kind of like one of those crappy Seth Rogen rom-coms like “Knocked Up,” but with a lot of disembowelment and decapitations… not to mention an alcoholic sumo wrestler. It’s a pretty awesome book, if you ask me. Probably my best one since “Zombies and Shit.”
Here’s the Utah “Pond Devil”
The Target Fish, By Will Jacques
Come on, I’ve got to pump my drawings; The Pagan Musician, and Waiting For The Bus
© Will Jacques, Carlton Mellick III, 2011