–Who are some of your favorite writers of weird fiction, especially those who tend to be overlooked or are underrated in your opinion?
Your answers will help WFR determine who and what to cover in the coming months.
Oddkin, Weirdie, & Old Peculiar
Clarkesworld Magazine has hosted a roundtable with just a few of the contributors to our The Weird compendium, centered around the subject of “What is The Weird?” Their answers are various and fascinating.
Our own take on it is can be found in our intro to The Weird, where we cite Lovecraft’s classic definition as well as make the argument for the influence of Kafka, especially after World War II.
What was Lovecraft’s definition? In 1927, he wrote that the weird tale “has something more than secret murder, bloody bones, or a sheeted form clanking chains.” Instead, it represents the pursuit of some indefinable and perhaps maddeningly unreachable understanding of the world beyond the mundane — a ‘certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread” or “malign and particular suspension or defeat of…fixed laws of Nature” — through fiction that comes from the more unsettling, shadowy side of the fantastical tradition.
As we write in our introduction, “Because The Weird often exists in the interstices, because it can occupy different territories simultaneously, an impulse exists among the more rigid taxonomists to find The Weird suspect, to argue it should not, cannot be, separated out from other traditions. Because The Weird is as much a sensation as it is a mode of writing, the most keenly attuned amongst us will say ‘I know it when I see it,’ by which they mean ‘I know it when I feel it’ — and this, too, the more rigorous of categorizing taxidermists will take to mean The Weird does not exist when, in fact, this is one of the more compelling arguments for its existence.”
In Michael Moorcock’s foreweird to the anthology, he writes about the tension in weird fiction between an unwillingness to be pigeonholed and yet finding useful entry points for readers: “Generally the real tensions in literary forms come from that which can be readilycommodified and branded and that which cannot. Fritz Leiber, one of the best American stylists I knew, told me that he had talked about this with two Weird Tales contributors Robert Bloch (of Psycho fame) and Henry Kuttner (primarily an SF writer). All had begun writing unrationalised fiction, having much in common with surrealism or absurdism, to discover very quickly that literary magazines wanted an approximation of realism and commercial markets needed to know why, forcing you to cook up some sort of rationalization for the events you described so that you came to see your failure to rationalize as some sort of flaw or laziness in yourself.”
Among other fascinating ideas found in his idiosyncratic afterweird, China Mieville asserts that “The fact of the Weird is the fact that the worldweave is ripped and unfinished. Moth-eaten, ill-made. And that through the little tears, from behind the ragged edges, things are looking at us.” (Next week, WFR will post a substantial excerpt from Mieville’s afterweird.)
The idea of things looking at the reader from the story is deeply weird, and also hints at the sense in the best weird fiction of something beyond hidden in the paragraph, an almost luminous quality of meaning just beyond comprehension. The best weird tales also reward multiple readings and like the best fiction generally seem to change or shift upon re-reading.
Don’t forget to tell us about your favorite weird writers.