How many of you have ever read Southern Weird? Probably more of you than you realize. There are a lot of books on the shelves right now that deal with Southern Weird, and I'm not talking non-fiction.
Southern weird is, of course, about the south, and they are filled with strange and slightly off-norm characters. Think Joan Hess for one.
Seems like all Southern writers know weird. We've been around it since the day we were born. Now I'm not saying weird is a bad thing. Some of the weirdest people I know are some of the nicest. They just look at life a little more differently than most people.
Here's a couple of Southern weird that I grew up with: The rich lady who would steal rather than pay and was too cheap to buy a good pair of underwear. The entire town got to see the elastic deprived, frayed and yellowed pair when they gave up the ghost and fell around her ankles while she was crossing the street. Without missing a beat, she stepped out of them and kept on going. Southern Weird. Or the man who, when drunk, which was most of the time, would get to feeling down. He'd come to my minister father and say, "Joe, you got to baptise me. I'm gonna die, tonight and I don't want to go to hell." Dad knew the man wouldn't remember being baptised the next morning, so he tried to discourage it. It didn't work. The man went to crying, begging Daddy to baptise him, because he was sure he was going to die. It was late afternoon and the only water around (the creek on the farm was dry) was the stock pond. The man said that was just fine. So, we all trooped down to the pond, through the chiggers, ticks and cow dung, to the pond where Dad did his duty as a minister. The man walked down the road, dripping water, singing, "Just As I Am." Of course, the next day, he was just as drunk. Southern Weird.
A few years ago, I was surfing the net and came across, "Dead Mule School of Southern Literature." Now, what southerner in their right mind (question mark here) could resist a name like that? I sure couldn't. I checked it out and the guidelines were so weird, I had to give it a shot. You had to write a letter proving you lived in the south or had at some point in time. I wrote something like: "Me and my hound, Blue, sit on the front porch drinking sweet ice tea while my daddy baptised a drunk in the pond. 'Nough said?" The guidelines also stated that if there was a dead mule in the story, you were more likely to get it published.
My story, "Delilah," was born and since Delilah became a dead mule in the story, and my southern credentials checked out, I made it in. Now you go telling someone that you've been published in the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and watch their reactions. It was worth it to be published there just to see the looks on their face!
Dead Mule, by the way, is still publishing. If you're southern and weird, go take a look. I think you'll like it. http://www.deadmule.com/
I'm working on my own Southern Weird novel right now--"The Cat's In the Cradle". It would be a shame to let all those "characters" I grew up with slip away without some acknowledgement. I'm also hard at work lobbying for "Southern Weird," to have its own genre. It's time.