Edited by Sean Leonard
Publisher: Bizarro Pulp Press
Pub. Date: June 23, 2015
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Surreal Worlds is an anthology edited by Sean Leonard and published by Bizarro Pulp Press. It mainly but not exclusively includes contemporary writers who write in the more modern Bizarro movement. Bizarro is a close cousin to Surrealism. Bizarro is more closely aligned with Sci-Fi, horror and even the pulp comic/graphics madness of the last few decades. But as weird as Bizarro can get, it is usually still grounded in a world that we can identify. Surrealism plays with our mind with free association, a non-lineal process of descriptions and a weirdness that is set more in our quirky dream state rather than any reality we know. A good example of this is the very first story of the collection. Steve Rasnic Tem's "Paul Breaks" is only three pages long and is very much in the feel of a dream state not really making sense but latching on to a strong sense of human emotion. It moves us but we may not be able to verbalize why.
The 25 writers in the anthology range from the established (Tem and John Palisano), to talents quickly rising in notoriety (Seb Doubinsky, Max Booth III, Gabino Iglesia) to quite a few I am not familiar with. Whether they are regular writers of Bizarro and/or Surrealism or not, they all take on the challenge with a passion. Some of the stories have more grounding in reality than others and I must admit I am drawn to a little grounding. My favorite story in the book is one of those. John Palisano's "The BiPolar Express" is a retelling of the classic children novel The Polar Express except the train picks up a boy in a psychiatric facility and transports him to the Middle Pole. It is clever, funny and eventually very sad. Wol-vriey's "End of the World Pie" is also a story that, despite its utter strangeness, uses a metaphor that links us to a grim reality. "aaaaaaaaa" by Gabino Iglesia is somewhere in the middle. It is very surrealistic but in a other-world adventure sense, like a cross between Dali and William Hope Hodgson. I loved "House Party" by Dustin Reade because it almost reads like a parody of Surrealism. Much of the fiction here is best described as "Don't try to figure it out, just go with the flow" Finally of the ones I will mention, Carter Rydyr's "Pain Pig's Pilgrimage" is one of the longest and strangest tales. I cant say I liked it. It tended to be out of control much of the time. But it is certainly memorable especially since it is accompanied by equally surreal and troubling illustrations.
Surreal Worlds is ultimately an experimental collection and as such it doesn't always work. But the sheer audacity of the anthology makes it essential. It is a delight to read so it becomes a successful collection of strange ideas and creative madness. Equally impressive is the book itself with its odd cover and inside illustrations. Even if you consider yourself a mainstream reader, this is a great book for challenging your boundaries.