Monday, 21 November 2011

Beware The Weird!

I really enjoyed this review of Ann and Jeff Vandermeer’s The Weird anthology, published on The Guardian site on Friday. It’s a skilled and sustained pastiche of the hyperbolic and adjectivally excitable style of HP Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith and others from the Weird Tales era, with its author Damian Walter adopting the persona of the doomed writer scribbling his final, half-crazed explanatory notes in some dank subterraenean passage before They find him once more. Unfortunately, its wit seems to have been rather lost on many of The Guardian readers commenting on it below, who dash off accusations of pretentiousness and obscurity. Actually, Walter conveys the fact that the anthology brings in authors beyond the usual literary suspects (‘weirdness I had not even dared to conceive’) such as Rabindranath Tagore and Eric Basso, and stories by those usually associated with the literary mainstream (‘the eruption of weird in the work of otherwise mainstream writers’) such as Daphne Du Maurier, Ben Okri and Joyce Carol Oates. There’s a subtle dig at the elevation of China Mieville to the status of The Guardian’s official advocate of SF, fantasy and the weird, the genre writer it’s acceptable to read (‘Bow now before the Mieville. BOW! BOW!’), and whose theorising gives it academic credence. Neil Gaiman is amusingly posited as the benign, genial force set in Gnostic opposition to the pitiless rigour of the Mieville’s ascendant demiurge. If you don’t comprehend the basis of the pastiche, there are plenty of links (or portals, to get in with the spirit of the thing) to get you up to speed. So ignore the carping voices, and enjoy the different approach of this witty and well-informed review.

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