An Interview with Michael Sean LeSueur
Last February, I reviewed Pixiegate Madoka by Michael Sean LeSueur at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography (CCLaP). I had an email interview with Michael, where we discussed gender politics, bizarro literature, and pop culture.
Why did you write Pixiegate Madoka?
I grew up as a video game and anime nerd, but always kept a distance to the culture behind it. I was raised by my single mother and was instilled with progressive, feminist views from a young age, so I often felt myself at odds with so many of these kids shouting misogynistic/racist/transphobic/homophobic slurs and jokes over voice chat and would purposefully isolate myself from these people whose views and lifestyles I found absolutely appalling. I wanted to write a coming-of-age story inspired by the things I loved for the misguided kids I once knew in the form of a literary “OVA” [original video animation – Ed.]. Prior to writing Pixiegate Madoka, I had been attempting to write a series of interconnected dystopian short stories inspired by Animal Farm, Sin City, and A Clockwork Orange that dealt with race, gender, xenophobia, and equality…Along with elements of some things I adore, such as Japanese mythology, Italian giallo films, and drag. None of them really quite worked out, but many of the concepts and characters from those failed stories found their way into Pixiegate.
In the novella , you reference everything from anime and Reddit forums to Jennifer Lawrence. What’s your opinion on pop culture and social media?
Social media is the ultimate rabbit-hole distraction. However, it is a necessary evil. I wouldn’t be where I am today as an artist without the connections I have made via social media(and many authors will agree with me that they find out about many magazine and anthology submissions from editors posting open call guidelines on their timelines or in various groups and pages). I live for pop culture. Like many of my generation, I grew up watching shows like South Park and Family Guy. I loved how they would poke fun at recent topics and take them to their most extreme. I tried to do something similar with Pixiegate.
Julian “Julie” Argento is the hero of Pixiegate Madoka, although he dresses in a French maid’s outfit. In the prickly field of gender politics, where do you stand? Can you go into more detail about the concept “genderfluid”?
I found I connected and identified with women more and more as I grew and would frequently role-play female characters inspired by the smart, complex and fascinating women I saw and grew up around. Ultimately though, I came to realize that I didn’t fully identify with either side of the male or female gender binary. I felt I belonged somewhere in-between. Each person that identifies as Genderfluid is different. Some might identify more male one day, and then the next they may identify as more female. Some days they might not identify with any, and others they might feel a combination of the two! Shows like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and people like David Bowie, Prince, and the queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race were instrumental in my gender identity exploration. Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist issues will always be an important part of my work.
How did you become involved with The New Bizarro Author Series (NBAS) at Eraserhead Press?
I had been working on a novella concept with Garrett Cook(author of Time Pimp and A God of Hungry Walls, as well as the editor of The NBAS)during the summer workshop he ran last July, and after tinkering with a couple of concepts, we combined elements of a few pitches to come up with what became Pixiegate Madoka. Garrett then asked me to write a chapter, and he accepted it as a part of this year’s NBAS!
What is your personal definition of bizarro literature?
A key factor of bizarro literature is having a certain sort of “dream-logic” to its proceedings, which is why Bizarro books are often compared to psychedelic cartoons, anime, comic books, David Lynch films, and Adult Swim programming… but that’s just scratching the surface. Some also deal more with bizarre and weird sociological concepts.
Any new projects you can discuss at this time?
Currently, I am working on the first draft for an erotic-horror novella influenced by J-horror, yaoi anime, and “slash” fiction as well as doing some outlining for an old-school horror novella about a sleep study.
Do you have any advice for those seeking to enter the bizarro literature arena?
I stumbled upon Bizarro searching for “weird horror” books to read, and came across the works of Carlton Mellick III(author of The Menstruating Mall), Jeremy Robert Johnson(author of We Live Inside You), Cameron Pierce(author of Abortion Arcade and head editor of Lazy Fascist Press), Athena Villaverde(author of Clockwork Girl), Laura Lee Bahr(author of Haunt) and Jeff Burk(author of Cripple Wolf and head editor of Deadite Press). Many of the people working for and behind the various Bizarro publishers are on social media, and most writers crave conversation after being locked up in a room for hours on end… We can get lonely, so reach out and say hello! Get to know them, their works, and take a few workshops. Rose O’Keefe of Eraserhead Press and J David Osborne of Broken River Books(author of By The Time We Leave Here We’ll Be Friends and Low Down Death Right Easy) have hosted the Bizarro 101 workshop pretty frequently over at Litreactor.com. Garrett Cook also runs novella/bizarro writing workshops every couple of months via private Facebook groups. I highly recommend taking either workshop. I wouldn’t be where I was if it weren’t for Garrett’s and J David Osborne’s workshops. Reach out to Garrett at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info on his upcoming workshops, and pay attention to Litreactor.com for their upcoming workshops (all of which are fantastic).