Saturday, May 17, 2008

The New Weird-- Ann & Jeff Vandermeer Editors, Review

Jeff Vandermeer's Cluttered Office

The New Weird is a collection of short stories and essays edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer. All of the essays are on the concept of the "New Weird." The book claims to be about a new genre of writing weird stories. I like to think of it as a style of writing in science fiction and fantasy. Most of the stories have a baroque, almost excessively detailed style of writing. Some of the best writing in this style occurs in cities that are a cross between a hallucinogenic dream and an odd mix of magic and technology. Places like M. John Harrison's Viriconium, Jeff Vandermeer's Ambergris, or China Mieville's Perdito Street.

I read anthologies to find new writers. I found a few writers which I had not read before. I enjoyed reading the Jeffrey Thomas story, Immolation and I thought the chase story by Steph Swainston, The Ride of The Gabbleratchet was superb. Her description of the vermiform creature in the story was fantastic.

There were a number of truly excellent established writers in the collection: Michael Moorcock, China Mieville, M. John Harrison, Kathe Koja, and Clive Barker. The stories written by these authors all had unique twists at the ends and interesting settings.

The last part of this anthology was a series of essays on what "The New Weird" was. This was mildly entertaining. It was at least partly a marketing effort to establish a following for the newly revamped Weird Tales Magazine who Ann Vandermeer is the editor of. I think it is too early in the attempt to create a literary movement to give a definitive answer.

A few of the stories were misses for me. This is true of most short story collections. One of the nice things about short story collections is that you can skip over the places you don't like. I did not particularly like the short story, The Lizard of Ooze. I thought the story The Gutter Sees The Light That Never Shines by Alastair Rennie had some very adult content in it. However, the story was still quite fascinating, even if it was a bit bloody, sexy, and scatological.

The back of the anthology had short one paragraph summaries on each of the writers in the book. There was some quite interesting writing in this short story collection. If you are looking for something different or unique to read in science fiction or fantasy, you might want to try out a few of the stories in this collection.

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