I’m a fan of the antho called “The Weird.” In fact, I think it’s a wonderful collection of stories featuring an impressive array of authors. But here’s what I don’t like: trying to pass off such a disparate collection of authors under one thematic heading, especially under a word as limp and ambiguous as the word “weird” is.
Depending on who you ask, there are fairly concrete definitions for what comprises a “weird” story. However, under scrutiny those definitions tend to peter out into utter uselessness. Ask VanderMeer why someone like Garcia-Marquez wasn’t included and he’ll answer along the lines that he belongs more to magical realism and that was a purely South American literary phenomenon. Yet there are other South American writers who appear within “The Weird,” who presage Magical Realism and draw extensively from symbolist or who belong only to their sui generis creations. I’m thinking here of Borges, who shares absolutely nothing with Lovecraft other than the abstracted fantasy of curators who project their own obsessions into their piggyback ride to fame.
The fact is, the collection of writers here are so diverse and extreme that one can come to a couple of suitable conclusions. One being that “weird” is a broad designation that represents a fortunate intersection in time, especially for writers who deserve exposure but for whatever reason lack it. The more cynical conclusion is that “weird” is a happy-accident marketing ploy and a way for the editors to attach themselves to writers of greater reputation and literary import. If the prerequisites to be weird mean that the story has an atmosphere of dread and often are thematic variations of metamorphosis, or the literalization of the relocation of ontological consciousness either to the inanimate or to the universe, well, there are thousands upon thousands of stories that qualify within the limits of those flimsy constraints. Even this voluminous anthology couldn’t contain so many stories. Only if there were more room for the editors to attach themselves to writers with whom they have precious little in common! Alas – there were multiple volumes of Dangerous Visions, so all hope is not lost.
You’ll have to check it all out for yourself. It’s definitely worth the affordable price, and if you’re broke, there are plenty of P2P versions of the eBook you can get yourself for free (it’s really worth it if only to send Jeff VanderMeer into an apoplectic fury that will cause him to egoistically boot fans from his FB page for even mentioning the name Marx, no matter how decontextualized the invocation might be – he’s a legend in his own mind and can only strive to be depthless when it comes to anything other than layman mycology, much less complex economics or political analysis). Honestly, the book can be had for dirt cheap at all the usual web outlets, used or new, so I recommend purchasing a copy. There are some outstanding writers in these pages.
But I’d heard that China Mieville actually headed up a symposium on “weird literature.” Let it be known that simply attaching extra limbs to characters may fly as innovation in the realms of fantasy, but does little to ignite the imagination of the cerebrally traveled. On the other end of the spectrum, you have Reza Negarestani, author of the insular and academic back-patting masturbation manual called Cyclonopedia. If you’re a student of theory, you can read this as an exercise of self-congratulatory theoretical gymnastics (although his ontological shifts are quite intriguing), but it is of little import outside the inbred walls of an academia madly enamored of its own reflection, so much so that its practitioners place a mirror not only in front of themselves, but also behind them so as to give themselves the illusion of infinity. Remember: jargon only passes for literature for the naive and/or uninitiated. Still, it’s worth a laugh and you can spend a good deal of time brushing up on your Deleuze and Guattari since you probably have nothing better to do anyway and need to remember the fancy words and phrases they substituted for more general, blue collar terminology like “groups,” (as opposed to “war machines”). Oof.