Read The New Weird Online

Authors: Ann VanderMeer,Jeff Vandermeer

Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy, #General, #Science Fiction, #Fantasy fiction, #American, #Anthologies, #Horror tales; American, #Fantasy fiction; American, #Short Stories, #Horror tales

The New Weird

BOOK: The New Weird
5.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

The New Weird

Copyright © 2008 by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer

This is a work of fiction. All events portrayed in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.

Cover design by Ann Monn | cover image by Mike Libby of Insect Lab

Interior design & composition by John D. Berry

The text typeface is Kingfisher, designed by Jeremy Tankard

Tachyon Publications 1459 18th Street #139 San Francisco, CA 94107 (415) 285-5615

Series Editor: Jacob Weisman

ISBN 13: 978-1-892391-55-1 ISBN 10: 1-892391-55-4

Printed in the United States of America

First Edition: 2007

98 76543 21

Introduction: "The New Weird: 'It's Alive?' " © 2008 by Jeff VanderMeer. | "The Luck in the Head" © 1984 by M. John Harrison. Originally appeared in
Viriconium Nights
(Ace: New York). | "In the Hills, the Cities" © 1984 by Clive Barker. Originally appeared in
Books of Blood, Volume 1
(Sphere: London). | "Crossing into Cambodia" © 1979 by Michael Moorcock. Originally appeared in
Twenty Houses of the Zodiac,
edited by Maxim Jakubowski (New English Library: London). | "The Braining of Mother Lamprey" © 1990 by Simon D. Ings. Originally appeared in
36, June 1990. | "The Neglected Garden" © 1991 by Kathe Koja. Originally appeared in
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction,
April 1991. | "A Soft Voice Whispers Nothing" © 1997 by Thomas Ligotti. Originally appeared in
In a Foreign Town, In a Foreign Land
(Durtro: London). | "Jack" © 2005 by China Miéville. Originally appeared in
Looking for Jake and Other Stories
(Macmillan UK: London). Reprinted by permission of Pan Macmillan and Random House. | "Immolation" © 2000 by Jeffrey Thomas. Originally appeared in
(The Ministry of Whimsy: Tallahassee). | "The Lizard of Ooze" © 2005 by Joseph E. Lake. Originally appeared in
number 4, May 2005. | "Watson's Boy" © 2000 by Brian Evenson. Originally appeared in
Contagion and Other Stories
(Wordcraft: La Grande, Oregon). | "The Art of Dying" © 1997 by K. J. Bishop. Originally appeared in
#19, October 1997, as by Kirsten Bishop. | "At Reparata" © 1999 by Jeffrey Ford. Originally appeared in
Event Horizon,
February 15, 1999. | "Letters from Tainaron" © 2004 by Leena Krohn. Originally appeared in
Tainaron: Mailfrom Another City,
edited by Juha Lindroos and Kathleen Martin (Prime: Rockville, Maryland). | "The Ride of the Gabbleratchet" © 2007 by Steph Swainston. First appeared in
The Modern World
(Gollancz: London). Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins and Victor Gollancz. | "The Gutter Sees the Light That Never Shines" © 2008 by Alistair Rennie. Previously unpublished. | "New Weird Discussions: The Creation of a Term" originally appeared on
The Third Alternative
message boards at
; discussion currently archived at
| " 'New Weird': I Think We're the Scene" © 2004 by Michael Cisco. Originally appeared on
The Modern Word
| "Tracking Phantoms" © 2008 by Darja Malcolm-Clarke. Previously unpublished. | "Whose Words You Wear" © 2008 by K. J. Bishop. Previously unpublished. | "Creating New Weird to Work for Us," © 2008 by Martin Sust. Previously unpublished. | "The New Weird Treachery," © 2008 by Michael Haulica. Previously unpublished. | "There Is No New Weird," © 2008 by Hannes Riffel. Previously unpublished. | "Blurring the Lines," © 2008 by Jukka Halme. Previously unpublished. | "The Uncleaned Kettle," © 2008 by Konrad Walewski. Previously unpublished. | "Festival Lives" © 2008 by Paul Di Filippo, Cat Rambo, Sarah Monette, Daniel Abraham, Felix Gilman, Hal Duncan, and Conrad Williams. Previously unpublished.


| The New Weird: "It's Alive?" |
Jeff VanderMeer


The Luck in the Head |M.
John Harrison

In the Hills, the Cities |
Clive Barker

Crossing into Cambodia |
Michael Moorcock

The Braining of Mother Lamprey |
Simon D. Ings

The Neglected Garden |
Kathe Koja

A Soft Voice Whispers Nothing |
Thomas Ligotti


Jack |
China Miéville

Immolation |
Jeffrey Thomas

The Lizard of Ooze |
Jay Lake

Watson's Boy |
Brian Evenson

The Art of Dying |
K. J. Bishop

At Reparata |
Jeffrey Ford

Letters from
Leena Krohn

The Ride of the Gabbleratchet |
Steph Swainston

The Gutter Sees the Light That Never Shines |
Alistair Rennie


New Weird Discussions: The Creation of a Term

"New Weird": I Think We're the Scene |
Michael Cisco

Tracking Phantoms |
Darja Malcolm-Clarke

Whose Words You Wear |
K. J. Bishop

European Editor Perspectives on the New Weird |
Martin Šust, Michael Haulica, Hannes Riffel, Jukka Halme, & Konrad Walewski


Festival Lives |
Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

1: Death in a Dirty Dhoti |
Paul DiFilippo

2: Cornflowers Beside the Unuttered |
Cat Rambo

3: All God's Chillun Got Wings |
Sarah Monette

4: Locust-Mind |
Daniel Abraham

5: Constable Chalch and the Ten Thousand Heroes |
Felix Gilman

6: Golden Lads All Must... |
Hal Duncan

7: Forfend the Heavens' Rending |
Conrad Williams


Recommended Reading

Biographical Notes


THANKS FIRST AND FOREMOST to Jacob Weisman and Jill Roberts at Tachyon Publications for making this experience so positive and energizing. Secondly, thanks to the editors and translators we met on our 2006 trip to Europe whose conversations helped stimulate our interest in doing this anthology, especially: Martin Sust, Michael Haulica, Horia Ursu, Luis Rodrigues, Jukka Halme, Sebastien Guillott, Toni Jerrman, Hannes Riffel, and Sarah Riffel. Thanks also to Cheryl Morgan, Jeffrey Ford, Darja Malcolm-Clarke, Konrad Walewski, Nick Gevers, Kathryn Cramer, David Hartwell, and everyone else with whom we discussed "New Weird." Finally, thanks to all of the wonderful writers in this book, who were all very kind in allowing us to print or reprint their work.

The New Weird: "It's Alive?"


THE "NEW WEIRD" EXISTED long before 2003, when M. John Harrison started a message board thread with the words: "The New Weird. Who does it? What is it? Is it even anything?" For this reason, and this reason only, it continues to exist now, even after a number of critics, reviewers, and writers have distanced themselves from the term.

By 2003, readers and writers had become aware of a change in perception and a change in approach within genre. Crystallized by the popularity of China Miéville's
Perdido Street Station
, this change had to do with finally acknowledging a shift in
The Weird

Weird fiction ― typified by magazines like
Weird Tales
and writers like H. P. Lovecraft or Clark Ashton Smith back in the glory days of the pulps ― eventually morphed into modern-day traditional Horror. "Weird" refers to the sometimes supernatural or fantastical element of unease in many of these stories ― an element that could take a blunt, literal form or more subtle and symbolic form and which was, as in the best of Lovecraft's work, combined with a visionary sensibility. These types of stories also often rose above their pulp or self-taught origins through the strength of the writer's imagination. (There are definite parallels to be drawn between certain kinds of pulp fiction and so-called "Outsider Art.")

Two impulses or influences distinguish the New Weird from the "Old" Weird, and make the term more concrete than terms like "slipstream" and "interstitial," which have no distinct lineage. The New

Wave of the 1960s was the first stimulus leading to the New Weird. Featuring authors such as M. John Harrison, Michael Moorcock, and J. G. Ballard, the New Wave deliriously mixed genres, high and low art, and engaged in formal experimentation, often typified by a distinctly political point of view. New Wave writers also often blurred the line between science fiction and fantasy, writing a kind of updated "scifantasy," first popularized by Jack Vance in his
Dying Earth
novels. This movement (backed by two of its own influences, Mervyn Peake and the Decadents of the late 1800s) provided what might be thought of as the brain of New Weird.

The second stimulus came from the unsettling grotesquery of such seminal 1980s work as Clive Barker's
Books of Blood
. In this kind of fiction, body transformations and dislocations create a visceral, contemporary take on the kind of visionary horror best exemplified by the work of Lovecraft ― while moving past Lovecraft's coyness in recounting events in which the monster or horror can never fully be revealed or explained. In many of Barker's best tales, the starting point is the acceptance of a monster or a transformation and the story is what comes after. Transgressive horror, then, repurposed to focus on the monsters and grotesquery but not the "scare," forms the beating heart of the New Weird.

In a sense, the simultaneous understanding of and rejection of Old Weird, hardwired to the stimuli of the New Wave and New Horror, gave many of the writers identified as New Weird the signs and symbols needed to both forge ahead into the unknown and create their own unique recombinations of familiar elements.


Nameless for a time, a type of New Weird or proto-New Weird entered the literary world in the gap between the end of the miniature horror renaissance engendered by Barker and his peers and the publication of
Perdido Street Station
in 2000.

In the 1990s, "New Weird" began to manifest itself in the form of cult writers like Jeffrey Thomas and his cross-genre urban Punktown stories. It continued to find a voice in the work of Thomas Ligotti, who straddled a space between the traditional and the avant garde. It coalesced in the David Lynchean approach of Michael Cisco to Eastern European mysticism in works like
The Divinity Student
. It entered real-world settings through unsettling novels by Kathe Koja, such as The Cipher and Skin, with their horrific interrogations of the body and mind. It entered into disturbing dialogue about sex and gender in Richard Calder's novels, with their mix of phantasmagoria and pseudo-cyberpunk. It could also be found in Jeffrey Ford's Well-Built City trilogy, my own Ambergris stories (
In Love
, etc.), and the early short work of K. J. Bishop and Alastair Reynolds, among others.

BOOK: The New Weird
5.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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