The first Guardian blog post I wrote (just under two years ago…how time flies!) was titled The new world of the New Weird. I wrote the piece fully aware that the New Weird had already been and gone, but with the idea that it was none the less an interesting movement in genre fiction to highlight for The Guardian readership, who likely had no idea that genre fiction was capable of such literary experimentation. I also wanted to ask where the next wave of literary experimentation would come from. After New Weird, what would be the Next Weird?
(My mind is thinking all of this over as I recover from a weird 48 hour bug, so excuse me if I drift into a slight hallucinatory state as I type.)
I’m slightly disappointed that two years on I’m still waiting for an answer. Later this week I’ll be on The Guardian books podcast talking about, among other things, exciting new SF titles for 2010. Now, its not that there aren’t any exciting titles slated for 2010. But what I can’t see are any really experimental titles. It seems that in the wake of the recession and the titanic upheavals in progress in the publishing industry, genre fiction has entered a period of profound conservatism. Much of the new genre fiction to be published in 2010 seems to be very much ‘generic’ in nature, with very little that pushes at the boundaries of genre. I think thats a great shame, because without the new ideas and energy provided by more experimental writing genre fiction quickly grows stale. And without them the Next Weird might never arrive.
But maybe I’m wrong. Are there interesting and experimental authors set to make a mark in 2010? If so please tell me, so I can track down their work.
Thrin tells us all about her Yellow Wallpaper.
The Hugo awards are open for nominations, Electric Velocipede are eligible in a few categories.
3 thoughts on “Whatever happened to the Next Weird?”
This is something very different (even from her own last novel)… WALKING THE TREE by Kaaron Warren, a very unusual take on fantasy tropes – a Polynesian-style setting, strong female society, stories and rituals and cultural decay. Out from Angry Robot start of February.
If what I hear from my agent is any indication, the imploding economy took a huge toll on the willingness of companies to purchase anything that wasn’t simple and easy to sell.
If I was looking for experimental stuff, I’d look for whatever is coming out of Small Beer Press, or Apex Book Publishing. I’ve heard excellent things about Greer Gilman, and The Apex Book of World SF. If anything, the movement that is next might be the acknowledgement of non-male, non-Brit/American SF.
Also, as far as Next Weird goes, Felix Gilman, I think, does have a book coming out soon, and New Weird Noir seems to be all the rage with New Weird masters Mieville and VanderMeer both putting out astonishing titles in 2009. I expect 2010 will be a beginning of something very strange in murder mysteries.
I thought I should maybe respond here seeing as I had the honour of being touted in the New Weird anthology as an example of what the Next Weird might look like. So… as far as my own contribution is concerned, I’m working on it!
But, casting me and my immodesty aside, I simply wonder if the New Weird anthology has drawn a line under the New Weird phenomenon as it occurred throughout the early part of the decade, up to the antho itself, and that, now, we’re maybe seeing a stage of fermentation, or an absorption of the New Weird, that will lead to a proliferation of the Next Weird, whatever that might happen to be.
In general, though, I think what we’re seeing is an expansion of the things we associate with the New Weird into other areas and a burgeoning of Weird fiction that isn’t necessarily limited to what we now regard as the New Weird. In a sense, the New Weird seemed always to be snagged on matters of terminology (the fuss about whether it was actually “new” or not, albeit, I’ve always taken the “new” in New Weird to mean a contemporary manifestation of weird fiction rather than anything starkly original or never attempted before).
But a current example of what I mean about the expansion of the Weird might be Jesse Bullington’s exceptional novel “The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart”, which certainly demonstrates what I think is the defining characteristic of the New Weird, described by the VanderMeers as “a surrender to the weird”. (But under no conditions should we lumber “The Brothers Grossbart” with any kind of terminology that inaccurately describes the full scope of what it is. Primarily, it’s a great piece of storytelling that appeals on any level of literary taste or sensibility).
Weirdness, though, in Jesse’s novel is part of the whole fabric of the reality he creates, which is also modelled on our own Medieval world with a high degree of realism in the historical detail and stylistic qualities of the book; and, to an extent, it seems that Jesse has transposed a modern sense of weirdness onto a historical setting, and transformed its Medieval tropes into something that appeals to our visceral modern tastes. So it’s very much a modern novel while retaining everything we associate with historical fiction (the aura of pastness in its use of language and so on), unrelenting in its use of supernatural beasts and the refinement of its gore.
Course, it was published in 2009 and doesn’t qualify as a new title for 2010, but it was so late on in the year when it was released that 2010 is surely when it’ll make its mark. Can you use that one? It’s a tremendously impressive and inventive work.