It’s been a great summer here at Weirdfictionreview.com so far. Earlier this week, we featured the work of writer/editor John Kessel, courtesy of his story “Buddha Nostril Bird” and my interview with the writer, both of which I hope our readers have had the chance to read already. Even before then, we’ve featured stories from writers like Eric Basso, Marc Laidlaw, Marly Youmans, and Bruno Schulz. This summer has also featured some of the finest installments of the 101 Weird Writers essay series yet, not to mention the continually excellent work of our regular columnists and contributors.
That said, we need to take a brief recess for the rest of the summer to take care of various projects. Rest assured, though: we will return with new material on September 2, and we’ve got some great fiction, nonfiction, and art in the pipeline waiting to be shared with everyone.
In the meantime, I highly recommend exploring the WFR.com archives and reading up on some prior material you may have missed. It seems strange to say it, but sometimes I forget just how huge WFR.com is, mainly because I manage the day-to-day postings of material and read everything as it’s prepped for the site. Once I zoom out a bit and look at the collective of everything we’ve posted over the past two years or so, it’s quite staggering. And, as a few relatively new readers have confessed to me at times, the prospect of digging through everything can be a bit daunting, understandably so!
To get everyone started, here’s a brief list of some of my personal favorites from the site. These are stories and standalone essays that have lingered with me ever since I read them, and I highly recommend them to any reader, let alone anyone interested in exploring the WFR.com archives.
“Where Dead Men Go To Dream” by A.C. Wise: Choosing a story from Fungi for sharing with readers was difficult, due to the overall high quality of the stories in that anthology, but I still look back fondly on “Where Dead Men Go To Dream” for its visionary, darkly horrific aesthetic and its soulful emotional impact.
“The White” by Berit Ellingsen: I love this story, a visionary journey into another world and culture, a zone of strangeness identifiable by means from our world and yet starkly different. What impresses me so much, in addition to all of that, is how optimistically the story reads, which can be a rarity sometimes in this kind of weird fiction.
“The Dead Valley” by Ralph Adams Cram: Of all the classic, non-contemporary stories we’ve featured on WFR.com since I started working as managing editor, this story is my likely favorite. The sense of menace that emanates from the landscape in this story is inexplicable and yet tangible and scary, placing it favorably alongside similar stories by writers such as Algernon Blackwood and H.P. Lovecraft (who was a fan of this story, by the way).
“The Dust Enforcer” by Reza Negarestani: This might be the most “difficult” text we’ve posted on WFR.com, a hybrid text of fiction, environmental science, philosophy, and demonology. It has always stood out to me as an example of new frontiers that can be explored in weird fiction when writers choose to pursue formal and thematic innovation, rewarding readers who are willing to train themselves how to read a new kind of story.
“Creature” by Ramsey Shehadeh: This was perhaps my favorite story from our 12 Days of Monsters special back in March 2012 (which also featured “The Dust Enforcer”). It’s a frankly bizarre story, with a kind of childlike simplicity in its details that somehow enables a mature, melancholy emotional impact. I think of it as a Miyazaki-like weird short story, in a way.
“Hunting for Stories in the Philippines” by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz: One of my favorite essays in the history of this site thus far. It functions so well on multiple levels: as an analysis of Filipino-language fantasy and horror versus English-language literature of the same; as a recounting of growing up in the Philippines; and as a story of a writer in the modern era and her quest to find and understand the folklore and character of her home culture, and the impact it has left on her.
“Stories in the Key of Strange” by Matthew Cheney: I’m quite fond of Cheney’s writing and regularly read his blog, the Mumpsimus. I find his insights into writers and stories stimulating and useful, by and large. Such is also the case for “Stories in the Key of Strange.” In and among these little vignette-like excerpts from larger reviews and essays, a larger picture coalesces in regards to fantastical and weird fiction that should leave readers with plenty to think about, as well as a formidable to-read list!
“It’s Not, Quite Frankly, A Wholesome Situation: Dr. Seuss’ The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T” by Sonya Taaffe: I recently had the chance to watch this movie on TCM, and it’s every bit as weird and baffling as Taaffe describes it here. It’s also the kind of movie that demands (and defies) analysis and curating for the viewership of others. Thankfully, Taaffe provides this excellent review that lends the movie important context while not spoiling the fun for prospective viewers.
“Ghosts, Fear, and Parallel Worlds: The Supernatural Fiction of Jean Ray” by António Monteiro: Like many readers, I was captivated by Jean Ray’s stories in The Weird, “The Mainz Psalter” and “The Shadowy Street.” I wanted to read more from and about this writer who I knew hardly anything about beforehand. Thankfully, WFR.com posted this essay by Monteiro back in the early days of the website, alongside two more stories by Ray (which are still online!). Between this essay and the additional stories, I gained crucial additional context about Ray and picked up a copy of his novel Malpertuis in the process.
“Caught In A Moment: The Poetry of Eric Basso” by Larry Nolen: One of my favorite pieces from Eric Basso Week, back in March 2012, and perhaps my favorite thing Nolen has written. In order to honestly write about Basso’s poetry, emotionally challenging and difficult as it is, Nolen confronts his own emotional traumas and memories head on, to conflate them with the conditions that drove Basso to write the way he did. By doing this, Nolen achieves a clarity of insight into Basso and his writing that I’ve rarely encountered elsewhere. I walked away from this essay with a new appreciation for both Basso and the man who profiled him.