11
Feb
09

The New Weird

I’ve just finished a book named The New Weird. It’s a compilation examining a recent literary sub-genre of that same name. I hadn’t heard of “New Weird” before reading a review of this volume. I was attracted to it because of the association of the word weird with the Weird Tales pulp stories of the ’20s and ’30s.

The New Weird

The book wrestles with the label of New Weird: what is it, where did it come from, is it useful? I think it is. It’s writing that contains portions of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. It seems to be a direct descendent of Lovecraft and Peake. It’s very often urban, set in cities, and looks at social themes. New Weird frequently includes corruptions of  the physical form. It’s very detailed, very specific in its descriptions. It seems to consider itself to be more literary and less clichéd than recent sci-fi or Tolkien-esque Nordic fantasy.

The collection, The New Weird, is broken up into four parts:

  1. Stimuli. Stories from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s by authours that are said to have laid the groundwork for more literary, less clichéd fantastical fiction: Clive Barker, Michael Moorcock, and others.
  2. Evidence. Short works from the ’00s by authours like China Miéville, Jeffrey Ford, and Steph Swainston that most people seem to agree qualify as New Weird.
  3. Symposium. Online discussions and essays about what New Weird is.
  4. Laboratory. A round-robin creation of a New Weird story by seven different writers.

Most of the stories are interesting to anyone who likes out-there sci-fi, or older writing – like Lovecraft – that had elements of what we’d now segregate as sci-fi, fantasy and horror. A few weren’t so hot. Overall I liked the mix of fiction and discussion of the genre although it might have been turned over a couple too many times. That analysis seems to have happened in other places too, though.

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