Dogme 2011 for Weird Fiction

One writer's manifesto for uncanny fiction...

I swear to submit to the following set of rules:

  1. The tale must contain no stock anthropomorphic monsters: no vampires, no zombies, no werewolves, no mummies, no ghouls.
  2. Although the tale may contain noir elements, it must not contain stock figures from crime fiction such as serial killers or hard-boiled detectives.
  3. The tale must not involve a post-apocalyptic scenario, zombie or otherwise.
  4. The tale must not contain any buzzwords from Lovecraft, Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Chambers, Frank Belknap Long or any other earlier authors of weird fiction. This means no Cthulhu, Arkham, Miskatonic, Necronomicon, Tsathoggua, King in Yellow, Hounds of Tindalos, Carcosa, etc. Distinctive vocabulary associated with the Lovecraft circle, such as cyclopean, eldritch, etc., is also forbidden.
  5. The tale must not contain elements of Judeo-Christian mythology as operational tropes, e. g. a crucifix warding off evil, conventional demons and/or demonic possession, Satan, angels, etc. It is acceptable, however, for characters in the tale to embrace these concepts as part of their own belief systems.
  6. Steampunk and all its tropes are forbidden.
  7. Place is essential. Setting must be as well-developed as any other element of the tale. Scout and employ real locations whenever possible.
  8. Atmosphere must be as well-developed as any other element of the tale.
  9. Leave bright lighting and CGI to the cinema: the tale must suggest more than it describes.
  10. The tale must follow Caitlin R. Kiernan’s dictum: “dark fiction dealing with the inexplicable should, itself, present to the reader a certain inexplicability.”

Furthermore I swear as a writer that my supreme goal is to force the truth out of my characters and settings; out of the universe itself. I swear to do so by all the means available and at the cost of any good taste and any aesthetic considerations. Thus I make my VOW OF CHASTITY.

_________________________________________________________________

The preceding manifesto and VOW OF CHASTITY is not intended to harm or insult any other writers, particularly established authors more successful and accomplished than myself. Most of all, it is not intended as judgment on existing work. It is an aesthetic statement of where I myself want to go with my own weird fiction. I believe that the true “weird tale” ranks, alongside noir, as a literary field that has produced, and continues to produce, genuine art, and I hope that these constraints will keep me honest in that quest.

I found the Dogme 95 manifesto for filmmaking by Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg to be a helpful model for clarifying and presenting my own ideas regarding weird fiction. However, just as not all films by these directors have followed all 10 tenets of the Dogme 95 manifesto to the letter, I must point out that not all of my favorite authors of weird fiction follow all of my Dogme 2011 tenets either.

Scott Nicolay first encountered the world of weird fiction over 40 years ago when he took the wrong fork at the junction of the Aylesbury Pike. After growing up in central Jersey, not far from the location of Poroth Farm, he relocated to New Mexico to teach on the Navajo Nation, where he now coordinates the Gifted program for a large public school district in the Four Corners. Hitherto his literary output has all been poetry, but he recently returned to his first love, and inspired by authors such as Laird Barron and Caitlin R. Kiernan, he now allows Jack Spicer’s Martian to speak to him of the Weird. His story “alligators” appears in the first issue of Phantasmagorium, edited by Laird Barron, and his novella “Ana Kai Tangata” is forthcoming in the Aklonomicon, edited by Ivan McCann and Joe Pulver. Both of these tales reflect the Dogme 2011 principles.

56 replies to “Dogme 2011 for Weird Fiction

  1. I’m all in for 8/9/10, my brother. Almost on board w/ 7 [depends on my mood] … As to the rest, well you know how much I like breaking rules.

  2. I tend to agree with no. 10. But is the effect to be achieved by understanding the story while keeping details from the reader? Or is it created when the author herself has tapped into some alogical emotional realm, which is not fully intelligible to audience or even creator? Does it matter?

  3. I think it’s wonderful that you’ve given writers some rules to thumb their noses at while in the pursuit of writing the weird.

  4. @Chris – Not keeping details from the reader, but pointing toward a universe that is not only as large and mysterious as this one, but perhaps IS this one. And not emtional, but irrational, as in reason ain’t got nuthin to do with it. In my reading, in my writing, and in my experience, the Weird is essentially Fortean in nature. It comes and goes on its own terms and its own timetable, and it never ties up its loose ends. What can be explained, is not the Weird. The Weird is as much or as little as we see of it for as long as it chooses to show itself. Usually, that is “the merest forepaw,” as in one example from Lovecraft.

  5. @Randy – Rules are only worth breaking once they’re written down. This is my roadmap to my part of the boonies, but others will have better luck finding the Weird down their own unmarked side roads…only they’ll probably see it first in their rearview mirrors.

  6. I don’t know if I buy this. What’s wrong with Lovecraft? What’s wrong with more Lovecraft? Nothing!

  7. I agree completely about vampires, werewolves, and zombies. The whole paranormal romance makes me nuts.

  8. Do you consider stories by Lovecraft, T.E.D. Klein that referenced other contemporary writers or other weird writers from earlier to be a kind of fan fiction, btw? Just curious.

  9. @John – Nothing. But what’s wrong with weird fiction that’s not Lovecraft?
    @Alan – As above, my statements are “not intended as a judgment on existing work.“
    @Rebecca – Amen, sister.
    @Ethan – My humble thanks!

  10. I’m most taken with Rule #10, which I translate as “things are because they can be, and they will be regardless of your ability to explain them.”

  11. No sparkly vampires, huh? I’m all for that. Ancient books in general, though, of arcane knowledge – are those out of vogue?

  12. I’m interested in how most of these are forbidding things, which is seems at first glance to be negative and restricting, but ‘weird’ can be so many other things. Only by excluding the surface layer with most easy to come ideas and concepts, can then a writer delve in the deep that is the weird.

    BTW it depends on the post-apocalyptic in my opinion. If it feels like a new world, then I’m all up for that.

  13. Scott: “Rules are only worth breaking once they’re written down.”

    Agreed because then they become challenges. I expect some young turk is even now turkey-stuffing a story with Lovecraftian bed-time reading and steam-driven paraphernalia and maybe even an Ia or two.

  14. Aren’t the whole idea of rules counter intuitive to the nature of the Weird itself? The weird isn’t about limitations (no matter how well meaning) but rather about breaking, about smashing, about the fragile broken pieces left over that don’t add up and can’t add up. It’s not about not doing, and it’s not about doing, but it’s about duende, and spirit, and being, it’s about what is there beneath the beating heart of things, all ventricles and bloody and waiting to be set free.…

    For example, if Angela Carter used your rules quite a few of her stories wouldn’t exist. Basically half of this is just “here’s some popular stuff that everyone is doing and has nothing at all to do WITH THE WEIRD and everything to do with genres the person who authored this article doesn’t read. So don’t do these things, cause the author of the article is too narrow minded to see how the weird can break and re conceptualize these things into something Other, something strange and wonderful.”

    It’s like a Linux user telling everyone else real writers don’t use Macs or Windows because it’s all cliche…hell this article is one step away from hipster irony waiting to happen.…

    Sparkly vampires in the right hand can be very weird and very strange and very disconcerting and not have anything at all to do with Twilight. The imagery and base conceptualization is not a thing in itself, and the real weird writer with real talent can take anything that’s cliche or over used or pulpy or any of that and fracture it, reset the bones and give it the sense of something far more haunting and unreal.

    You can’t just say “don’t write urban fantasy because it’s popular” because the weird isn’t something that is just set up in genre boundaries. It exists outside of these things…

    Rules are bad things. Rules make more cliches. Rules take the weird and push it into boxes, suck the weirdness dry and makes it into a boring bland paste you choke on in your sleep when you dream in beige and whisper about grandma’s frozen cookies. Rules are the antithesis to all weird. Weird is weird. It is under our thoughts, running like a current back to the beginning of time.

    Want no Vampires? Then no Orange Eats Creeps.

    Being weird really means taking every rule and discarding it. Rules are created as a sort of social control created by small groups to enforce rigid normality. The weird is all things outside of this.

  15. You ever read a real grimoire, Paul?

    These are just my rules. My route to clearing the ritual space necessary to open a window. Everyone finds their own way. That’s the point of the paragraph above beginning “The preceding manifesto…”

    Thanks for your response though. I am glad that I stimulated something.

  16. I see a rule as something that 98% of writers are unable to ignore successfully, for whatever reason. A rule is therefore useful both as a reminder and as a challenge. A good example is Stepan Chapman’s The Troika, which violates lots of general writing rules. There are probably only four other writers in the world who could violate those particular rules and be successful. jv

  17. But I do think that vampires, werewolves, and zombies have been so assimilated by mass media/pop culture that writers should push against this not by trying to renovate them but by doing something different. (Writers being seething cess pools of hypocrisy, this doesn’t mean I won’t write a novel with one of those three in the next five years, and you shouldn’t judge me…:) )

  18. Jeff V.- I don’t know. Maybe I’m a pure dada-ist at heart, because my instant reaction to any list of rules is to throw them out the window, the whole idea of rules for writing is just so counter-my-thoughts that it gives me hives. Maybe it’s one too many bad writer’s workshops and critique groups for my taste? The whole confusing rules for the secret keys to being published bit that stirs around in that environment and makes into some sort of turkey lexicon cult…I don’t know.

    Werewolves, vampires, zombies, etc are a bit overdone, etc, but I think the whole things come and go and comes and go and are all done in cycles of interest and then boredom, etc.

    But genre writing (which is the nasty landscape we carve our words) does this all the time. It cycles about with hot objects and then a million writers trying to cash in (ka-ching!) on an easy way to get published. I don’t think rules or Hawt Genres should dictate what a writer writes, it should just be the writer’s inspiration and that’s it.

    So says the man with the werewolf book out.…

    Scott–
    Yes, I have read quite a few real grimiores. I hope, by those you mean some of the older ones (like Agrippa’s) and not some wiccan attempt at wish fulfillment.…

    I’m against all rules. I’ve always been against rules. It’s just the kind of writer I am. I think rules chasing and genre chasing are detrimental to most writers.

  19. @Paul – Then you should thank me, for giving you 10 rules to ignore all at once.

    For me, these are just constraints, which I use to help me target particular effects in my work. That’s just the kind of writer that I am. At the moment. I laughed when you called me a hipster. Maybe a generation ago…been a long time since I have been in a big city, unless you count Albuquerque. Now I’m a middle-aged guy living down a dirt road on the Big Rez. One reason I don’t want to write about werewolves is that I have to chase them away from my house at night. It gets old…

  20. Paul: Does it make sense to argue for the traditional as if that’s a stance for innovation?

    Dada called and it wants its descriptor back.

    But srsly – what Scott said.

  21. Jeff– I’m not arguing that. I’m arguing that rules are restrictive. All rules should be broken, all guidelines are destructive, and I don’t like the idea of restricting what someone works on based on some notion that X has become popular and everyone’s done it. So what? Popularity comes and go constantly in genre fiction, what’s hot is usually not very quickly.

    I’m not saying we should all write in genre X or use Vampires or any of that sort of thing. I’m just saying I think giving a list of rules is bad. Following this list won’t mean the end result is actually unique or interesting or even good. It just means the end result follows an X amount of constraints and is slightly less cliche than the already cliche stuff out there.

    In other words: laying down this list is no better (in my book) than chasing a hot genre to cash in on it.

  22. (note that subtext is hard to see in text, so picture this all like sitting around debating over a beer, and not some frothing mouth troll huddling under a bridge and eating goats)

  23. @Paul – Nice blog post. Lots of rules. Perhaps you’ll forgive me if I choose to ignore most of them…

  24. Scott–
    Actually those were all tongue in cheek. If you actually followed those rules, we would take away your textual anarchist card and ban you from the nonmeetings.

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  26. Paul: I just have to call bullshit on this. The main reason being that the specific reason that, for example, Scott is listing vampires is that by dint of being done to death (someone estimated 19 percent of all fiction recently features vampires) they have a kind of meta-presence in a reader’s mind that makes them un-weird because the weird in general requires an encounter with the unknown.…and vampires are Very Known. So unless you simply believe no taxonomy applies to any fiction and the weird isn’t a particular thing, the “rule” (advisory, suggestion) is actually pretty useful – for weird fiction. Vampires like anything else can be used badly or well. That’s not at issues.

    You’re using an antipathy to rules to actually support trad over non-trad, though. You are not in fact in allegiance with Dada by doing so.

    As for not being bound by rules…simply by putting sentences in a sequence you are indeed following rules. I find your assertion not supported by your fiction in any event.

  27. Snakebite serum is not prescribed for all.“
    –Ursula K. LeGuin

    …and what Jeff said. Vampires (and now zombies) are to horror what Star Trek and Star Wars are to science fiction, or dragons are to fantasy: cuckoo hatchlings that crowd the rarer birds from the nest, and it is the rara avis that I seek, the one that only falls to Earth in Fortean rains. For me, the Weird is not Chaos. It is a showing through of Otherness into our illusions of order. It is a part of my own experience that I attempt to translate into prose, not to explain or define or understand it, but to convey the frisson of the encounter to others.

  28. Jeff–
    Sentences as rules– that’s very chicken v. egg, don’t you think? I mean, did we create rules to structure sentences, or did rules evolve to support an already existing structure inherit to a language itself?

    Okay, sorry that’s nitpicking. I’m not in allegiance with dada– that was more tongue in cheek, I was making a joke. I don’t think one can be a genre writer and be a dadaist…I just don’t think it’s possible for the two to mesh. Then again, the minute I say this I know someone on the internet somewhere is bound to prove me wrong somehow, so just consider that last statement a giant foot getting ready to be shoved into a giant mouth.

    Personally, I don’t think the fact an object has a presence in the reader’s mind makes it off limits for the weird– I mean, look at Surrealism (the movement). The whole point was to take the known, to take these objects with presence within the mind, and then combine it with other known objects in ways that shock the mind out of its staid existence. And surrealism was very very weird.…and also over 60 years old now. So I guess that it might be out of date? I don’t know.

    I’m not sure rules or advisory is good for weird fiction, but now we’ll probably just argue in circles over and over again.

    It’s interesting that you find my assertion not supported in my fiction…since I’ve never sat down and created rules or followed them. I’ve just written. That’s all, and maybe my just writing is a bad thing. Maybe I let all the television and movies and bad novels that I’ve digested over the years seep into my mind unknowing to me and give my works some boring structure or concept that is very anarchistic or experimental. I don’t know. I’ve actually been trying to break from this mode, mostly by using cut up engines and tarot cards and adding in other bits of randomness and the unkown into my writing. Hey it worked for Urusla K. Le Guin and PKD (both used the I Ching for plots, etc).

  29. @Paul – My own roots are very, very much in ‘Pataphysics, surrealism, dada, chance techniques, Marcel Duchamp, Cage, Oulipo, etc., in which I immersed myself through most of the ‘80s and part of the ‘90s. My little manifesto, which has irked you so much – though to be honest, I expected it would attract far more hostility, not that it was my intent – is something I wrote to serve as a set of Oulipian constraints for engaging what I feel is the true Weird in literary terms. It’s a way to scrape away a little of the filth from the window that opens on the Outer Darkness, get a peek at the shapes that roil and uncoil there, and report back in brief. Since I compiled the Dogme 2011 less than a year ago, it has served me quite well. I have revisited it many times, and decided that although there is much in it I could gloss – and I would very much like to expound further on the Fortean nature of the Weird, a simple and elegant truth for which I also credit Caitlin R. Kiernan – I would not change a word. It feels complete to me. Tight. For what I want to do right now, it works just fine.

    I would not presume to tell anyone else how to write. I have no interest in either attending or teaching creative writing, though I did coach one of the first high school poetry slam teams in the country years ago. I am VERY honored that Ann & Jeff chose to run it on this wonderful site, and in such wonderful company. Thank you again Ann, thank you again Jeff. If anyone else finds my Dogme 2011 useful, wonderful. I never intended it for anyone else to follow it, which I think Ann & Jeff recognized when they headed it “One writer’s manifesto for uncanny fiction…” (see above).

    Anyway, I’m truly sorry you lost so much sleep over it. But that’s probably better than losing sleep over the things I see when I close my eyes, and the things on the Other Side start crawling through the window on their own…

  30. Synchronistically, I just tonight encountered this link:

    http://www.cultreviews.com/articles/the-50-best-asian-horror-films/

    I was delighted, though slightly disturbed, to see the obvious parallels between the seven characteristics for which the author praises Asian horror films and my own Dogme 2011. And I immediately thought of Laird Barron’s excellent novella “The Procession of the Black Sloth”, which deliberately, and quite successfully I would say, captures the feel of Asian cinema…

  31. Paul: I didn’t mean anything about the quality of your writing. But it’s a serious mistake to think the surrealists were transposing *archetypes* like vampires with, say, a man walking a lobster on a leash.

    Scott: it’d be interesting to see how many weirdies know Oulipo, the Surrealists, and especially the Decadents and Symbolists. There are odd synergies btwn the islands in these here archipelagos.

  32. Jeff–
    Archetypes. Interesting choice of words. I won’t delve into it anymore than that for now– I just think the idea of taking known symbols (of language and reality) and juxtaposing them in odd, shocking ways is basically (IMHO) what the surrealists were attempting. Something that shows this thought is a movie like The Eternal: Kiss of the Mummy. Ignore the title. Ignore the stupid descriptions and taglines. Watch it. It takes the basic mummy movie and turns it into some weird, surrealistic myth that is more David Lynch and less Brendan Fraser. The use of the known (that is a symbolic part of most of culture) juxtoposed in strange, dream like ways creates a shocking sense of…I don’t know. Dreaminess? Hauntedness? Something I wish I could capture in writing!

    I think weirdies (from the conversations I’ve had with quite a few) are very open to other strange, experimental styles :)

    Scott–
    Oddly, when I first started clanging against this I thought maybe…maybe it would work in an Oulipian sense…but then again, how does this follow their tenets? I mean, their restrictions were extremely difficult to follow (writing without the letter e, for example) and not just something like “this is popular, so I must not do it”.

    What is interesting (in my book) is something more along the lines of Novel Roman (the french movement) which actually took genre (noir in most cases) and completely tore it apart piece by piece in a very experimental and limiting fashion. I can understand self-imposed rules to create an effect on the reader.…but I don’t know.

    But I guess this is all me, as a writer, all my approach. Maybe I’m forcing it on others, and I shouldn’t. I should go and stick my head in the sand for a bit. Maybe that will kill this writer’s block that’s been devouring me for the last two years…

  33. Damn, wish I could edit my comments.

    Anyway, Scott, I lost no sleep over this. A lot of my posts are to be take tongue in cheek.…I guess my dry jokes fall flat on the internet? It doesn’t irk me, it doesn’t anger me.

    The conversation it causes interests me. I’m probing the idea, so to speak, poking at it, prodding at it. Putting it under water for a bit, see how long it can breathe. I’m trying to check all the sides of it, see if it has some rust or tarnish in it.

    I love conversations like this. Again, less of a mumbling troll and more of a fun conversation of beer. Think of it that way, eh?

    Jeff–
    Sorry I assumed you meant that all about writing negatively, I’ve been very down on my writing lately. It feels all…well, it feels like it needs to break free.

  34. one last thing (I know! I know!) Eternal: Kiss of the Mummy’s original Irish name when it was first released was called Trance. It’s a more fitting name for the film, and it’s a shame it had to get a new “exciting” name to cash in on the US films when released over here.

  35. @Jeff – I have long felt that Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith in particular should be considered as a strange survival of Symbolisme in the New World. We know they read Baudelaire at least. Smith of course, was mentored by George Sterling, who had at least a foot in that tradition (and was himself mentored by Bierce). Lovecraft knew Samuel Loveman and Hart Crane, and Crane was a bridge between Symbolisme and Modernism. An interesting footnote is that Charles Olson traveled to Mexico in 1950 to meet Robert H. Barlow, who had once been Lovecraft’s literary executor, only to find that Barlow had committed suicide. Olson was interested in Barlow’s possible efforts at deciphering Mayan hieroglyphs. So there are connections.

    As for the current lot, you and Ann of course move seamlessly between all realms of literature. Beyond the two of you? Good question… Earlier this year, I sent copies of Jack Spicer’s complete works to both Laird Barron and Joe Pulver. I believe Spicer has much to offer the practice of the Weird…

    @Paul – I did not mean that my Dogme principles follow the tenets of Oulipo, but that they work for me in the same way. Constraints can be liberating; they involve a surrender of the ego…and notice, I chose no safe-word. The first six rules are my “not-doing” of the Weird, like Perec writing a novel w/o the letter “e”, something that is much easier to do in French than English. The rest lead onward. at least for me…

  36. @Paul – I’m OK with it. As I said, I expected genuine hostility. Your issue seems to be more with rules in general than with my short set, but have at it…

  37. Scott credited Dogme 95 as a source for establishing his own criteria. For those interested, Lars Von Trier made the three best examples of this film movement. Collectively known as the “Golden Heart Trilogy” they include: Breaking the Waves (96), The Idiots (98), and Dancer in the Dark (00). The Idiots maintains the strictest adherence to the Dogme 95 principals. For the past 20 – 25 years Von Trier, along with the Brothers Coen, Tarantino and PT Anderson, seem to have separated themselves from their brethren with their originality of vision.

  38. @Mark – I am glad you brought the conversation back around to Dogme 95. I deliberately chose it as my model, even to the point of creating parallels to some of its tenets and incorporating some of its language, and I included the idea of a “Vow of Chastity” because I aim for a stripped-down, back-to-basics approach to the Weird, with touchstones like “The Willows”, “The Dead Valley”, “The Swords”, or “Under the Crust”…to offer a few key examples that are close to my heart. I think works like these have a quality similar to some of the best of the Dogme 95 films, and I’m after a similar quality in my own work.

  39. I enjoyed this post, providing me as it did with pause for thought. I think Scott makes it quite clear that what he’s providing here is a set of guidelines he finds useful in his own writing, that there’s no real ‘dogma’ in the true sense of the word involved, and I think it really should be taken in the spirit in which it’s been offered. With that said, I’ll say ‘Thanks but no thanks’ to signing up for now — but you never know; it would be churlish to say these 10 points may not provide assistance to me at a later date. ‘Rules are for fools and the guidance of wise men’ and all that. As it is, like I suppose with a lot of other writers I keep a record of protean story fragments as they come into my imagination — little odd conceits, scenarios, characters — which I later go over when these ideas have percolated long enough in my subconscious mind and try to assize as feasible projects to be fleshed out into full-length fictions. I’ll admit it’s unlikely that anything to do with such stock motifs as vampires or werewolves will find their way into the record I mention, but if one does and I consequently weigh it up and deem that this small beginning might be worked into a strong story, it would then seem foolish to dismiss it out of hand for falling foul of a checklist of the tabooed. In short: if the story-concept feels interesting enough to me to explore as a writer, then by default it’s probably original enough also.

    I’d like to conclude by raising three points Scott’s manifesto suggests to me:
    1) It would be interesting to discuss whether any artistic manifesto has ever been more beneficial than detrimental to the movement it sprung out of. I suggest the issuing of such a document is certainly the defining factor in cohering a group of writers/artists/etc. into a readily identifiable ‘movement’, yet, aside from the convenience this label provides to those in posterity who would study their output, can it be said this actually exerted a positive effect on the work of the individuals who subscribed to it? It seems that the likes of Breton and Marinetti were egoists and petty-dictators who stifled and thwarted free expression, especially in those who broke ranks from the cults built around them who then became personas-non-grata to the rest, rather than nurturers of talent. (I understand Lars Von Trier is himself a difficult character to work with.)

    2) If art depends on operating within a set of self-imposed restrictions, and I’d argue that it does, then why not go further? Surely the biggest cliche of the so-called ‘Weird’ tale is that it is intended to evoke in the reader a fearful response. This is to say most Weird tales function at the moment as a sub-genre of the horror story when in actuality the term ‘Weird’ can, and perhaps should, mean so much more than that. The boomer generation of writers like Brautigan, Barthes, Coover, and Barthelme would, I think, fall under this wider definition of Weird, though I don’t know of many current Weird practitioners who bear comparison to them. (Maybe somebody can suggest some names?) Why not strive to avoid the effect of horror and aim instead to baffle, befuddle, awe and excite the reader? To unsettle and jolt in a ‘positive’ as opposed to a ‘negative’ manner? Maybe one rule could be to include at least one instance of humour or a delightfully strange and hitherto unimagined juxtapositioning (in the Surrealist sense) in the text? If the tone of horror/threat is an overfamiliar theme of the contemporary Weird tale, then a lack of humour is its corollary Perhaps, however, this as-broad-as-it-can-be definition of Weird is too open to be of useful purpose.

    3) I don’t really know very much about the ‘Twilight’ books. I’m familiar with the basic elements, they’re hard to avoid given their popularity, but haven’t read any of them. Where many appear to actively dislike Stephanie Meyer’s work, I learnt of the books, concluded that they weren’t for me, shrugged and move on. I can’t see how anyone can view them or their success as a ‘bad thing’ for the horror genre. They might not be my taste, but I suppose they’re more in keeping with my taste than a great number of other ‘teen bestsellers which could be clogging up the shelves of my local bookstore. However, when I heard all about this ‘sparkly vampires’ stuff a few weeks ago, which others have mentioned in disparaging terms above, I couldn’t help but find the notion an extremely ‘weird’ one.

  40. I can see Scott’s personal manifesto useful as landmarks or a skeletal frame. But another question surfaced in my mind as I read through the discussions of rules. How do you end a weird tale? Of course the answer depends on the individual story, and so there’s no one answer, but as a writer, how do you keep alive the mystery/otherness/inexplicability of the tale while also giving the reader some sense of closure? As Scott said, “…the Weird is not Chaos.” The tale must still follow some traditional structures, no?

  41. Well done, sir. You’ve encapsulated a weird aesthetic which I happen to share. I expect to print this one out and tape it in my writing studio. Or get a tattoo.

  42. Pingback: Moving Past Lovecraft | Jeff VanderMeer | Weird Fiction Review

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  44. Oh yeah smarty pants? Just for that, I’m going to write the story of a Vampire who takes a journey through a drab atmosphere in a victorian styled airship to find the pages of the necronomicon and try to avoid being crusified in the post war ruins, which I will refrain from detailing any further, by a gumshoe with a penchant for pipes and lusty dames.

    And what’s more, you’re gonna like, see?

  45. Pingback: Poetry, conversation, and more small appliances | LESLEY WHEELER

  46. The problem with this is that it is too focused on one mythos, while ignoring others as overused.
    So I have a short story that is cool by this list. But it comes from the furry fandom side, which has its own overused tropes. And can be dark without the usual dark fiction fan-service. And thus can fit this without giving much pleasure to the dark fiction editor/reader. My story got rejected once with a (welcomed) note: does not do anything for me. I understood that I was to do (dark erotic??) fan-service to get published there.

  47. When I was starting out (1970s), I read a lot of “how to” articles by writers and editors of fantastic fiction that cautioned one should never set a cowboy story in space and call it science fiction. There was a denial of the shiny rocket-ship and “sound in space” genres of Saturday afternoon serials (long gone by my time, but omnipresent during the pulp era). So, a year or two into this writing adventure, this little movie called Star Wars came out. It was exactly the kind of over-wrought, poorly thought-out twaddle that everyone was counseling against: a cowboy story set in space — passé among those trying to work in the genre. Um, it seems to have found an audience.

    Examining genre literature can produce college radio DJ malaise or hipster ennui — everything is going to seem cliche and overdone and so yesterday if you’re immersed in the genre, but to the larger public, that rediscovers vampires every twenty years or so, and has no problem with sound in outer space, these things can seem a revelation. They want to hear the hit, not the deep, obscure live cuts. It really depends who you’re writing for. It can be dangerous to your career to write for too narrow an audience. Every writer will carry a set of rules into his or her work (eg. Cut the adverbs and adjectives. No characters describing themselves while looking in the mirror. Etc.)These rules are no less useful if they help you produce good work. If they hinder you, they’re useless.

  48. I had this page set to send me updates when new comments were posted so that I could thank those who continued the discussion, but it must’ve been set to my old email, which I had to shut off abruptly several months ago. My apologies to those folks who have commented since I last checked, and my thanks again to Jeff and Ann for posting this in the first place.

    I want to reiterate one point which I tried to make clear in the original document and once or twice in the discussion it generated: I wrote this manifesto, or set of rules, as a HEURISTIC for myself, in order to focus my own writing on certain EFFECTS that were/are my goal. If others found/find it useful even in part, I am honored and glad. But I never intended to impose any of it on others – indeed, how would I? Nor am I seeking to found a literary/artistic movement as were Breton and Marinetti. I was seeking, and continue to seek, to isolate a particular strand of literary/perceptual DNA, to explore the manifestation of the genuinely Outer and Other in our world or a world that is just like ours in all other details, and to portray how real people might experience that manifestation.

    Much of the Dogme 2011 “Manifesto” came out of my work on a 20K novella which took me over half a year to write – I write rather slowly – and of the esthetic I worked to establish therein and of which I steadily became more consciously aware over that period.

    I am sure I will “break” some if not all of these rules some day. Technically, I have written at least one short piece during that time that does. And I will write fiction that has little or nothing to do with any of these in time. But I have stuck to them since I wrote them, with the brief exception noted above, and when my first collection of stories appears a year from now (titled _Tuckahoe_, from Fedogan & Bremer), I believe the eight tales in it, amounting to 120K+ words, will present a unified body of work that is consistent in its adherence to this vision.

    Whether I will employ this heuristic for my next book, even I don’t know now. I hope that I will always be evolving as an artist.

  49. I read Scott’s list as arguing not what you should do, but what you should avoid that doesn’t conform to the usual cliches or misreadings of those in the media who lazily confuse ‘the uncanny’ or strange with other neat or convenient genre headings. e.g. horror.

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