Editorial: Stalking the Weird

"The Weird...is deeply involved in finding the most unshakable mysteries and ideas of the universe"

When I found out I would become the new Managing Editor for Weird Fiction Review back in January, I felt a mixture of emotions: elation, nervousness, excitement. Above all, though, it felt right. It made sense to me that I should want a position like this, though I didn’t understand exactly why until recently. After reading about the experiences other writers and readers have had with the Weird, especially as it manifests in literature, I’ve realized that I’ve been stalking the Weird for almost my entire life.

I learned to read when I was about three years old. From the start, I had a vast hunger for knowledge and a strong imagination. During class Story Time, I would draft little sagas about traveling back in time and riding dinosaurs to fight aliens in flying saucers, making my own illustrations as I went. I craved weird, unrealistic, fantastical stuff. I devoured it all when I was a kid, without boundaries, whatever allowed me to imagine something else, something clearly not belonging to my native reality. I was not interested in reality one bit. I found it disappointing, dull, and – more often than I would have preferred – heartbreaking.

Fantasy and horror held a special place in my heart, and I think that was where the Weird first whispered its sweet nothings to me. Like Leah Thomas, my Weird compatriot and creator/illustrator of our featured webcomic “Reading the Weird,” I worshipped the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series written and illustrated by Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell. Especially those illustrations. I no longer have those books in my possession, but I still recall one picture in particular: a partially decomposed human head, twisted and gnarled, missing part of its skull and most of the bottom mandible, seemingly growing out of a tree in a leafless, foggy forest. That image jarred me for how it challenged my understanding of the human body and nature, and it made me want to write my own stories to meet that challenge.

Writers like Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft were instrumental in my early encounters with the Weird. Many of their stories unnerved me and instilled in me a deep sense of disquiet. It’s one thing to be presented with scary beings like the Man in the Black Suit and Cthulhu; it’s another matter entirely to look past those beings and realize that what lies beyond them, partially obscured, might actually be scarier.

I liked being freaked out, but why? I think it was linked to my personal quest to try and understand the world. I had this deep, abiding desire to know everything, to solve every mystery laid in front of me. I loved, and still love, a good puzzle. I was obsessed with understanding everything. Detective stories enthralled me; my personal idols were fictional detectives: Sherlock Holmes, Batman, and Encyclopedia Brown. (Quick confession: I actually tried opening a detective agency once when I was ten. It lasted a week. Business in my hometown was rough at the time.)

Leave it to someone like John H. Stevens, then, with his excellent essay on SF Signal, “Eight Weird Thoughts I Gleaned From The Weird,” to help connect the dots for me: “The power in weirdness is that it makes you ask questions, and then question the questions.” The Weird, in many ways, is deeply involved in finding the most unshakable mysteries and ideas of the universe and then presenting you with them, and then making you realize that you may never be able to solve them. If do you luck out and solve the puzzle (ha!), it leads to more puzzles. Understanding the nature of the question makes you both ask more questions and ponder just how shaky your grasp on knowledge itself is. So, for someone like me, the Weird represents the ultimate challenge, one that will always keep me involved in it because it will never end.

The Weird has persisted with me all throughout my life, even as my tastes have changed. I’ve dropped some old favorites (sorry Lovecraft, but I had to move on) and added some new ones, and I’m proud to say that many of them  have an undeniable streak of the Weird running through them: Ray Bradbury, Julio Cortázar, Harlan Ellison, Kelly Link, Haruki Murakami, Angela Carter, Jeff VanderMeer (not to be a suck-up, but…), and many others. Working on Weird Fiction Review and promo materials for The Weird also introduced me to writers I plan to pursue further, like Gustav Meyrink, Eric Basso, Bruno Schulz, Leonora Carrington, and Robert Aickman. Perhaps my personal figureheads of the Weird now are Jorge Luis Borges and Philip K. Dick, because they traffic in weird ideas that disrupt knowledge and reality, which still appeals to me to no end. Ideas are pure, potent imagination, and when weird ideas are applied to non-weird materials and essences, they can be contagious.

For this, and many other reasons, I’m proud to be the new Managing Editor. Weird Fiction Review has already collected and published a vast array of material devoted to the Weird and everything it touches. It has become an impressive storehouse for weird ideas and expressions of all kinds. And – being on the editorial staff and getting to see all of the articles and exclusives as we prep them – I can tell you we’ve got a surplus of fantastic content on the way. I think I speak for everyone at Weird Fiction Review, then, when I say we will continue to stalk the Weird for a long time to come.

3 replies to “Editorial: Stalking the Weird

  1. Pingback: Books and Words « J. H. Stevens: Writer, Erudite Ogre

  2. Great commentary on The Weird– takes me deep inside the passages of my brain to better understand the drifting and tangling angles the electrical currents travel in the invisible space of thoughts and questions. This is the first time I have stumbled upon the Weird Fiction Review; I look forward to getting acquainted!