Tuesday, March 20, 2007

THE NEW WEIRD
from Wikipedia

The New Weird is an avant-garde literary movement or literary genre that may or may not be presently in progress. The writers involved are mostly novelists who are considered to be parts of the science fiction or speculative fiction genres. The only author all critics agree on as a "New Weird" writer is China Miéville, who self-describes as such. Other writers who have been variously described as "New Weird" include Steve Cockayne, Storm Constantine, M John Harrison, Mary Gentle, Ian R. MacLeod, K.J. Bishop, Thomas Ligotti, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Jeffrey Ford, Kathe Koja, Hal Duncan, Justina Robson, Steph Swainston, and Jeff VanderMeer.

There is considerable debate about whether or not New Weird is a movement amongst like-minded authors, or merely a label that has been applied to them after the fact to describe perceived similarities between their works. Many of the authors who are associated with the movement either disavow belonging to it, or simply don't care what categorical labels their readers craft to name their work. Some also question how it differs, if at all, from slipstream. On a panel at the 2005 Armadillocon, writer and critic Lawrence Person, while denying it was a useful critical category, suggested that New Weird uses genre tropes but doesn't worry which genre it's pulling its tropes from, mixing together science fiction, fantasy and horror.[1]

The core idea most frequently ascribed to New Weird is that literature should transcend the genre in which it is written. Writers are encouraged to blur the borders between genres. The genres most frequently used in New Weird writings are science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Opponents of New Weird note that the divisions of genre are built for a reason and that the traditional divisions of genre are based on which types of ideas work best together. Other opponents claim the genres of horror, science fiction, and fantasy have always been one genre. Supporters speculate that the New Weird will become an important part of literary tradition.

This genre ultimately has its roots in pulp author and legendary horror icon Howard Phillips Lovecraft, whose specific brand of story is often referred to as a "weird tale." Weird tale as a label evolved from the magazine Weird Tales which published most of Lovecraft's work during his lifetime, as well as numerous other works written in a similar vein. Lovecraft's stories often combined fantasy elements, existential and physical terror, and science fiction devices. Lovecraft has influenced countless authors and artists including Stephen King, Clive Barker, Roger Zelazny (The Chronicles of Amber), Chris Carter, Anne Rice, Alan Dean Foster, Robert Jordan, the Wachowski Brothers, and even Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. Ghostbusters, for example, contains the monstrous Zuul and the "gateway to our world" (a fantasy element), proton packs (science fiction), and ghosts (horror). The interaction of fantasy-horror elements with science fiction technologies is a popular idea in a great deal of contemporary fiction.

A further influence on the genre, especially in the case of China Miéville, is Michael de Larrabeiti's Borrible Trilogy. The first volume of the trilogy was initially published in 1976, and mixes realist and fantasy genres with the classic children's adventure story, such as Treasure Island and King Solomon's Mines, and subsersive, pseudo-anarchist political themes.

Consider also Stephen King's mammoth Dark Tower saga. It is set in a parallel universe where Gunslingers are the last knights of a fallen utopia, and the last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain, is out to save Mid-World from the fall of the Dark Tower, the hub of all existence. He is beset by a demon called the Crimson King and his friends include a recovering drug addict, a schizophrenic civil rights activist, a reincarnated 12-year-old boy, and a hybrid between a raccoon and dog called a "bumbler", named "Oy," after his bark.

In Italy the most important representative of the New Weird is novelist and historian Valerio Evangelisti, who has been developing his own fictional world, based on medieval history, science-fiction, fantasy, horror and gothic since 1994.

The Television series Doctor Who has always contained a combination of science fiction, fantasy and horror. Other cited television examples include Farscape and The X-Files for examples of New Weird. Writer/director James Gunn claimed that his film Slither was a genreless return to the "weird tale" of Lovecraft. The film combined elements of horror, comedy, family drama, and science-fiction.

Consider also K A Applegate's Everworld series, which mixes high fantasy with science fiction.

A critical anthology on the new weird has been announced by Jeff VanderMeer, to be published in the Spring of 2008 by Tachyon Publications.

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