Tag Archives: New Weird

At the Mountains of Weirdness

(I was too ill to link this from my blog when it was published on The Guardian online, so here it is now.)

 

 

I am forced into speech because men of letters refuse to act without knowing why. It is altogether against my will that I tell my reasons for opposing the publication of this tome – with its dangerous unearthing of such potent weird tales – and I am the more reluctant because my warning may be in vain. Doubt of the real facts, as I must reveal them, is inevitable. But the hitherto ignored evidence – the madness of the many authors contained in its pages and clearly inhuman determination of its “editors” – must surely count in my favour.

The Weird. The first intimations of the terror awaiting the unwary reader must surely be the inhuman scale of the tome itself. Seven hundred and fifty thousand words are contained in its pages. The Necronomicon itself has not half as many! A hundred and sixteen of the century’s weirdest fictions; the transcribed ravings of those lunatic creatures known in the mortal tongue as “writers”. Algernon Blackwood. HP Lovecraft. Franz Kafka. Ray Bradbury. Jorge Luis Borges. Mervyn Peake. Angela Carter. Michael Chabon. Through these its emissaries the weird has penetrated deep into the very fabric of our reality. And now it threatens to tear it altogether asunder.

Few are there, even among even the true adepts of the weird, that might gather such a cohort of its mouthpieces in one tome. Few with the singular willpower to perform such a fell deed of sorcery. And but one, Ann VanderMeer, the witch queen of weird herself, and the muttering curmudgeon she keeps as her familiar, with the audacity to enact such devastating events. But the blame must rest with those of us who divined their purpose but did nothing to prevent it. Long have the VanderMeers mustered their forces, honing their editorial craft in the pages of the New Weird and Steampunk anthologies, reopening the cursed pages of Weird Tales magazine that had been long forgotten. They have gathered to their banner a warrior cult of weird writers in preparation for their onslaught against reality.

Do not be fooled by the tome-like appearance of The Weird. It is a mere illusion, formed to satisfy the limited capacities of your simian flesh brain and memetic mind structure. Open your third eye, gaze into higher dimensions of the multiverse, and you will see its true manifestation. Its pulsing opalescent body. Its beaked, gaping, chewing maw as it feeds upon reality itself. Soon the chrysalid will form, and The Weird itself will burst into the the world as a radiant winged moth of metaphysical doom!

I meant only to pry apart the covers, to take the briefest glance, deluding myself that my long exposure to the weird would inure me against the tome’s most potent effects. But the portal opened vistas of weirdness I had not dared even to conceive. The Hungry Stones of poet and mystic Rabindranath Tagore and Eric Basso’s The Beak Doctor. I was shown the eruption of true weird in the work of otherwise mundane writers including Daphne du Maurier, Ben Okri and Joyce Carol Oates. And I could not ignore the ever more dangerous domination of the weird over the popular imagination of mankind through the work of its tireless servants Neil Gaiman, Stephen King and Haruki Murakami. I have no sense of how many were the days, the years, the infinities of time I wandered through the dimension of weird which this portal opened to me.

Above all else, I must warn you to fear the Miéville. His path has been prepared by the Moorcock and the Harrison and now he is among us, the anointed messenger of weird on earth! Until now he has been satisfied to bide his time, but in The Weird the full horror of his plans are revealed. For even as I record these words, the fragile tissue of fictionyou call “reality” is being eaten away by the weird’s greedy jaws and the ravenous hunger that it feeds, set free in our world by the VanderMeers through the portal of their giant tome. A sick fascination will lure the great minds of the literary establishment, wriggling and writhing like blind maggots to the brink of the portal, where the weird will infect them forever. The discourses of the academy will be replaced with insane rantings of the weird. The grand narratives of science, politics, history, that have for so long dammed the waters of reality, will burst open as the beliefs on which they were founded are undermined. And the Miéville will sit upon a throne of tentacles and look upon the the shivering masses of fandom in judgement. Only a few will be chosen to walk beside him in the weird realms beyond reality. Bow now before the Miéville. BOW! BOW! Oh help me Gaiman, my will has finally crumbled before the onslaught of the weird.

There is only one hope left for the billions who will suffer as reality collapses. Give yourself to the weird! Hurl your puny mortal body through the portal the VanderMeers have opened for you, join your lord the Miéville on the other side, give your heart and soul to the saints that stand at his feet, to the mad prophets that have prepared you for his coming. Open the pages of the new gospel of The Weird.

And for Cthulhu’s sake do not click this link.

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Is there any decent Bizarro fiction out there?

So the term Bizarro fiction has crossed my path three times in as many days. That trips my curiosity circuits, which in turn activate my data collection probes, which tell me that I need to read some of this stuff.

Bizarro fiction styles itself as ‘literature’s equivalent to the cult section at the video store’. To my outside eye it seems like literature much more influenced by film than by other literature, literature that wants the schlock and awe factor of cult cinema, rather than the deep immersion of good fiction. But it also seems like Bizarro might be a healthy and timely cure for the ever more burdensome seriousness of much genre fiction.

In this interview Rose O’Keefe draws a line between Bizarro and New Weird. It’s a line I somewhat agree with, with New Weird defined by its desire to present weird stories that please literary readers, whereas Bizarro is more likely to offend them. I’m tempted to like Bizarro for that reason alone, but fear it will all be as poorly written as the few examples I’ve found so far.

Sturgeons Law says 90% of everything is crap, I’m sure it holds for Bizarro. So what is the 10% of good stuff? Who is the ideal exponent of Bizarro? What is the best Bizarro novel? Are there great Bizarro stories to read online? Give me names and links people!

And also…

Michiko Kakutani’s review of the new Martin Amis novel is so virulent it has become the story itself.

Community, Copyright and IP. Richard Nash, founder Soft Skull Press on a new business model for publishing.

Whatever happened to the Next Weird?

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.

Elsewhere…

Thrin tells us all about her Yellow Wallpaper.

The Hugo awards are open for nominations, Electric Velocipede are eligible in a few categories.

The New Weird on Guardian Books

I’ve written an introduction to the New Weird and experimental SF for the Guardian book blog.

When M John Harrison started the debate that would crystallise definitions of the term “New Weird” in 2003, much of the creative energy that had driven the movement had already moved on. As editor Jeff VanderMeer says in his introduction to the first comprehensive anthology of the movement, the New Weird is dead. Long live the Next Weird.

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