AS A CHILD, John Skipp was a scaredy-cat. Stricken with a terrible fever as a two-year-old, he had vivid hallucinations of monsters and other creatures crawling over his walls to attack him. It left him a skittish and nervous kid who was afraid of the dark and would hide under tables when anything slightly spooky popped up on the TV.
Then, at age seven, he got fed up.
"I was really tired of being scared," he says. "I started aggressively watching the creature features with Dr. Cadavarino, the TV host in Milwaukee who would introduce the movies and had the fake tombstones and all that shit. He would show the really good horror movies and the really stupid horror movies and helped me tell the difference and appreciate them both at a really early age."
Those formative moments in front of the TV are a microcosm of what has inspired Skipp's career as an author, editor, and filmmaker. For the last 30 years, the Los Angeles resident has kept his work situated between high and low culture. While that brought him some enormous success in the early '80s with his bestselling splatterpunk book The Light at the End (co-authored with Craig Spector), he's been more prolific over the past decade since falling under the spell of bizarro fiction.
Bizarro fiction, the Gonzo literary movement which has thrived on the small press and e-book markets, aims to scratch as many genre itches as possible at once: the emerging subgenre is a fucked-up and funny amalgam of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, romance, and erotica. And their titles read like delicious clickbait: Trashland a Go-Go, Ass Goblins of Auschwitz, and Rampaging Fuckers of Everything on the Crazy Shitting Planet of the Vomit Atmosphere.
"Any kind of story can double as a bizarro story," Skipp says. "You're just looking for an interesting perspective. It's not like it has to have these plot elements. It just needs a unique perspective that you haven't heard before, telling you shit that you don't know in a fun and exciting way."
Since the publication of his first bizarro book, The Emerald Burrito of Oz, a novel set in a Mexican restaurant on the border of the fictional kingdom and Kansas, Skipp has jumped into the deep end of the genre.
He's now an acquisitions editor with local publisher Eraserhead Press, and a regular fixture at BizarroCon, the annual meet-up of writers, editors, and authors working in the subgenre. At this year's BizarroCon (Thursday, November 13-Sunday, November 16, at Edgefield), Skipp will be on hand to lead a writing workshop and judge a flash-fiction contest, and promises to give out writing advice in exchange for games of pool.
He'll also be introducing the next book to be published under his boutique imprint Fungasm Press: I'll Fuck Anything That Moves and Stephen Hawking, a short story collection from Violet LeVoit that includes the title tale about a suicidal gent who wants to have sex with a black hole.
"[Fungasm] is for books that don't fit any genre neatly but that I think people should pay attention to," he says. "It's like, 'What genre is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?' I don't know, but I know I love it."