On April 29, 2003 in his TTA Message Board M. John Harrison wrote :
The New Weird. Who does it? What is it? It is even anything? It is even
Editing the anthology 'The New Weird', Ann & Jeff VanderMeer have
tried to answer these questions by assembling a number of samples of
so-called New Weird fiction, as well as some critical essays and comments
by writers, editors, critics.
It appears that the New Weird is just a form of speculative fiction
attempting to mix fantasy, horror and SF genres, and creating stories
set in bizarre urban spaces populated by physically grotesque characters.
Therefore the New Weird supposedly takes the readers in a world they
don’t expect, blending ancient mythologies and modern culture.
On the other hand the existence of The New Weird as a subgenre, a movement
or a school remains questionable. Most likely it is an argument between
a bunch of writers who read each other, who sometimes influence each
other, sometimes struggle against that influence.
I’m not a literary critic but a mere reviewer and I don’t
feel qualified to give a learned opinion about the existence of The
New Weird as a subgenre and to define its borders.
The only unquestionable common ground for the stories included in this
anthology is weirdness, no doubt about that. But, at the end of the
day, what really counts for the reader and the reviewer is the quality
of the fiction, regardless of genre labels or literary conundrums.
Thus, being aware of the risks I’m taking by saying so, I must
declare that some of the alleged masterpieces featured in this anthology
as fine examples of The New Weird are simply weird, nothing less and
nothing more, and often remain boring exercises in weirdness.
This is my feeling about pieces such as Steph Swainston's 'The Ride
of the Gabbleratchet' and Alistair Rennie's 'The Gutter Sees the Light
that Never Shines', to mention just a few, and with my apologies to
In Brian Evenson's 'Watson’s Boy' a young man is obsessed with
rats and dust and collects hundreds of keys. A weirdo, to be sure…
Nice prose, weird atmospheres but nothing happens throughout the piece,
there’s no attempt to build even the shadow of a plot.
Fortunately there are some stories with a head and a tail as Clive Barker's
classical 'In the cities, the hills' an original, imaginative piece
where a gay couple witnesses and gets involved in a peculiar, superhuman
battle between two villages in the former Yugoslavia. Weird indeed and
Another winner is Michael Moorcock's 'Crossing into Cambodia' a not-too-weird,
masterful war tale narrated in a superb style , depicting the horror
of the nuclear and the depths of the human soul.
'The Braining of Mother Lamprey' by Simon D Ings is a very weird, enjoyable
tale of witchcraft, oracles and necromancers.
In the cute 'The Neglected Garden' by Kathe Koja a woman dismissed by
her lover turns into a living garden. Isn't that weird?
Jeffrey Ford contributes 'At Reparata', where a weird kingdom inhabited
by weird people provides the setting for a delightful fantasy tale describing
how even well-meant magic can elicit disaster.
Some contributions are worth mentioning mainly because they provide
a faithful interpretation of one of the canons – or mannerisms
– of The New Weird, i.e. the creation of strange (meaning weird…)
imaginary cities such as M. John Harrison's 'The Luck in the Head',
Jeffrey Thomas' 'Immolation', Jay Lake's 'The Lizard of Oooze' and Leena
Krohn's 'Letters from Tainaron'.
The last section of the book, aptly named "Laboratory", is
represented by a Round Robin entitled 'Festival Lives' by Paul Di Filippo,
Cat Rambo, Sarah Monette, Daniel Abraham, Felix Gilman and Conrad Williams,
taking place – once again – in a weird city threatened by
The piece has a distinctly uneven quality, being remarkable only for
Di Filippo's excellent start describing the arrival of the terrorist
and for the splendid ending penned by Williams.
Incidentally those are the less "weird" portions of the collaborative
story. Just a coincidence?