New Weird  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e



Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
21st century culture, New Weird America

The New Weird is an avant-garde literary movement or literary genre that began, nascent and unnamed, in the 1990s and culminated in a series of novels and stories published from 2001 to 2005. The writers involved are mostly novelists who are considered to be parts of the horror and/or speculative fiction genres. The author all critics agree on as a "New Weird" writer is China Miéville, who self-describes as such. Other writers who have been variously described as "New Weird" include Steve Cockayne, Storm Constantine, M. John Harrison, Mary Gentle, Ian R. MacLeod, K. J. Bishop, Thomas Ligotti, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Clive Barker, Richard Calder, Jeffrey Ford, Kathe Koja, Hal Duncan, Justina Robson, Steph Swainston, and Jeff VanderMeer — although some of these writers are more properly precursors to New Weird. Alastair Reynolds and Charles Stross have been mentioned as well, but do not seem to possess the necessary elements to be considered New Weird.


There is considerable debate about whether or not New Weird is a movement amongst like-minded authors, or merely a label that has been applied to them after the fact to describe perceived similarities between their works. Many of the authors who are associated with the movement either disavow belonging to it, or simply don't care what categorical labels their readers craft to name their work.

However, despite this confusion, the introduction to The New Weird anthology edited by Jeff VanderMeer and Ann VanderMeer, published by Tachyon Publications in February 2008, claims a specific definition for New Weird that clarifies the issue considerably:

New Weird is a type of urban, secondary-world fiction that subverts the romanticized ideas about place found in traditional fantasy, largely by choosing realistic, complex real-world models as the jumping off point for creation of settings that may combine elements of both science fiction and fantasy. New Weird has a visceral, in-the-moment quality that often uses elements of surreal or transgressive horror for its tone, style, and effects — in combination with the stimulus of influence from New Wave writers or their proxies (including also such forebears as Mervyn Peake and the French/English Decadents). New Weird fictions are acutely aware of the modern world, even if in disguise, but not always overtly political. As part of this awareness of the modern world, New Weird relies for its visionary power on a "surrender to the weird" that isn't, for example, hermetically sealed in a haunted house on the moors or in a cave in Antarctica. The "surrender" (or "belief") of the writer can take many forms, some of them even involving the use of postmodern techniques that do not undermine the surface reality of the text.

This definition presents two significant ways in which the New Weird can be distinguished from Slipstream or Interstitial fiction. First, while Slipstream and Interstitial fiction often claim New Wave influence, they rarely if ever cite a Horror influence, with its particular emphasis on the intense use of grotesquery focused around transformation, decay, or mutilation of the human body. Second, postmodern techniques that undermine the surface reality of the text (or point out its artificiality) are not part of the New Weird aesthetic, but they are part of the Slipstream and Interstitial toolbox.


Part of this genre's roots derive from pulp horror author H. P. Lovecraft, whose specific brand of story is often referred to as a "weird tale." Weird tale as a label evolved from the magazine Weird Tales which published most of Lovecraft's work during his lifetime, as well as numerous other works written in a similar vein. Lovecraft's stories often combined fantasy elements, existential and physical terror, and science fiction devices.

A further influence on the genre, especially in the case of China Miéville, is Michael de Larrabeiti's Borrible Trilogy. The first volume of the trilogy was initially published in 1976, and mixes realist and fantasy genres with the classic children's adventure story, such as Treasure Island, and action literature such as King Solomon's Mines, and subversive, pseudo-anarchist political themes.

In Italy the most important representative of the New Weird is novelist and historian Valerio Evangelisti, who has been developing his own fictional world, based on medieval history, science-fiction, fantasy, horror and gothic since 1994.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "New Weird" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools