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Author Topic: What is Weird Fantasy?  (Read 6854 times)

Offline Nighteyes

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What is Weird Fantasy?
« on: July 18, 2011, 06:48:22 PM »
I keep hearing this term thrown around, usually to describe Newton or Mieville. My guess is that it is fantasy which doesn't do one of the following:

1) use the conventional Tolkien races and fauna; humans, elves, orcs etc and dragons etc.  (Which weren't his creations anyway really but taken from fairy tales, myths, folklore etc) (Brooks, Paulini, Eddingsetc )

2) has humans but is set on another world with magic. (Abercrombie/ Martin etc)

or 3) urban fantasy. (Rowling/ Grossman etc )


So effectively by my definition could include Way of Kings which is set on a world resembling a dried out ocean bed. But surely classifying this type of fantasy as 'weird' is lazy? Surely this is real fantasy, a total leap of imagination? The other types of fantasy are almost half arsed fantasies, either borrowing the leaps of imagination from others, simply moving humans to another world which invariably resembles Earth, or just writing about our own world and throwing magic in? Something to think about, anyway. . .   
« Last Edit: July 19, 2011, 12:49:05 PM by the_hound »
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Offline Maxcat

Re: What is Weird Fantasy?
« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2011, 07:20:05 PM »
For me, there are three possible niches that could be considered 'Weird fantasy':

1. Surreal fantasy.  These were very popular in the 60's and 70's.  Kurt Vonnegut, Franz Kafka, Ursula K. Le Guin, HP Lovecraft, Alice in Wonderland, and Terry Gilliam movies are good examples. 

They don't follow conventional storylines, and in some instances can almost be considered Sci-fi, but the surreal-magical nature of the story brings them closer to fantasy instead.  These stories rarely explain themselves, often include experimental structures, and are often classified as 'Dream-like'.

2. Misc fantasy.  Weird fantasy can also be a catch-all for anything that isn't Tolkien based.  Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Piers Anthony, and anything more reminiscent of folklore or ancient legends would fall under here.

Lastly (and unfortunately)...

3. Perverse fantasy.  Sometimes, when people say 'weird', what they mean it's amazingly perverse and disgusting, but they don't want to describe it, so they just call it 'weird'.  It's funny how innocuous and plain the books may seem in the store, but eventually they include...well, I'd rather just call them 'weird', and not go into it. ^_^

Offline jdiddyesquire

Re: What is Weird Fantasy?
« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2011, 08:00:15 PM »
I would say weird fantasy (or weird fic as I call it) are books that don't fit into the other genre boxes.  Mieville isn't really fantasy or sci-fi.  It's both.  And it's odd.  Weird fic.

Jeff Vandermeer fits into that category too I think.
Justin
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Offline markaw00

Re: What is Weird Fantasy?
« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2011, 04:09:36 AM »
Weird Fiction originated before Tolkien. H.P. Lovecraft was one of the first writers of Weird Fiction. Lovecraft would probably be the best example of Weird Fic.

China Mieville would be classified as New Weird. The genre of New Weird began in the 90s. It's really not that different from what Lovecraft was doing in the 30s. Mielville has stated that his goal with his writing is to move fantasy away from the tropes and cliches of Tolkien-esque fantasy. Jeff VanderMeer, who considers himself apart of the New Weird genre, classifies it as, "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."

Another person classified New Weird as, "People buy New Weird because they want cutting edge speculative fiction with a literary slant. It’s kind of like slipstream with a side of weirdness."

Personally, I think both definitions are pretty confusing. ha.

Offline Ninevah

Re: What is Weird Fantasy?
« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2011, 06:00:37 AM »
Doesn't the genre 'Weird' connotate  a pulpishness having to do with the lit magazine 'Weird Tales'?

http://weirdtalesmagazine.com/

From their website:

Quote
Weird Tales is the place where two storytelling concepts meet: speculative and alternative. In 1923, when the magazine was originally founded, those two ideas amounted to the same thing. Weird Tales was launched to showcase writers trying to publish stories so bizarre and far out, no one else would publish them — stories of unearthly dimensions and dark possibilities, gothic seductresses and cosmic monstrosities. Today, Weird Tales carries that mission forward into the 21st century, finding the most talented new writers, artists, and creators whose visions are too incredible to fit within the comfortable little boxes of everyday experience.

I guess I'm phrasing this as a question, because I'm not positive. :)

Offline pornokitsch

Re: What is Weird Fantasy?
« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2011, 07:05:22 AM »
Weird Fiction originated before Tolkien. H.P. Lovecraft was one of the first writers of Weird Fiction. Lovecraft would probably be the best example of Weird Fic.

Definitely. I really like Weird stuff, but, as VanderMeer showed, there's no easy definition of it. Lovecraft, Miéville, MCN, Peake, VanderMeer, Ligotti, M. John Harrison are all definitely in.. but then you get a lot of "arguablies", e.g. Swainston (arguably), Kiernan (arguably), Powers (arguably), etc.

(Well, Lovecraft and Peake aren't New Weird. They're just Weird - not sure Weird became New until the late 1980s/early 1990s... but the Old Weird types are all fun as well. Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Chambers (still my favorite), Frank Long, Fritz Leiber...

ANYWAY, one handy definition (which stems a bit from Lovecraft) regards explicability. Is the system of the world/story explicable? And, if so, does it matter? A lot of Lovecraft's work is notorious for aggressively defying explanation. In more modern times, both Harrison and Mieville are passionate about their desire to confuse (or outright disregard) any sort of canonisation or systemisation of their work.

So.... a genre defined not because it is undefinable, but because it is about the undefinable.

That might be the least helpful definition ever.

Offline pornokitsch

Re: What is Weird Fantasy?
« Reply #6 on: July 19, 2011, 07:07:50 AM »
Oops...

@Ninevah: I think Weird Tales has a lot to do with it.

At the time, they used "Weird" just to mean, well... weird. Abnormal, strange, not-real... basically sf/f/horror! But the editorial decisions of Baird and Wright (publishing Lovecraft, Quinn, Long, etc) helped define this style and change the word "Weird" into what it now means (in terms of fiction).

Offline Bahl

Re: What is Weird Fantasy?
« Reply #7 on: July 19, 2011, 08:08:02 AM »
Robert Rankin is weird. You have to twist your brain into some funny shapes to follow his stories. Quite fun to read though.
Give a man a fire and he's warm for the day. But set fire to him and he's warm for the rest of his life.
Terry Pratchett

Offline Nighteyes

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Re: What is Weird Fantasy?
« Reply #8 on: July 19, 2011, 12:58:03 PM »
So basically we don't quite know? LOL

But some intelligent replies. 

Don't like how its being used as a catch all term for any fantasy that can't easily be defined, seems very lazy to me, but the Lovecraft definition makes a lot of sense. 



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Offline jdiddyesquire

Re: What is Weird Fantasy?
« Reply #9 on: July 19, 2011, 02:08:41 PM »
So basically we don't quite know? LOL

But some intelligent replies. 

Don't like how its being used as a catch all term for any fantasy that can't easily be defined, seems very lazy to me, but the Lovecraft definition makes a lot of sense. 


I hate "subgenre-ing" for that reason.  Steampunk is a particularly annoying one because it has no bearing on the kind of book it is.  You can have steampunk in the wild west, in the future, in an alternate reality... does the classification of steampunk indicate whether I'll like it or not?  Not at all!
Justin
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Offline pornokitsch

Re: What is Weird Fantasy?
« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2011, 05:49:49 PM »
I hate "subgenre-ing" for that reason.  Steampunk is a particularly annoying one because it has no bearing on the kind of book it is.  You can have steampunk in the wild west, in the future, in an alternate reality... does the classification of steampunk indicate whether I'll like it or not?  Not at all!

I'm with you on that... but I think Steampunk is particularly problematic. A few authors have done an amazing job transporting the tropes and subtext of the Victorian era into fantasy. And a lot of authors have written books that have airships and corsets.

Offline jdiddyesquire

Re: What is Weird Fantasy?
« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2011, 06:10:07 PM »
I hate "subgenre-ing" for that reason.  Steampunk is a particularly annoying one because it has no bearing on the kind of book it is.  You can have steampunk in the wild west, in the future, in an alternate reality... does the classification of steampunk indicate whether I'll like it or not?  Not at all!

I'm with you on that... but I think Steampunk is particularly problematic. A few authors have done an amazing job transporting the tropes and subtext of the Victorian era into fantasy. And a lot of authors have written books that have airships and corsets.

Ya, see when steampunk means VICTORIAN with steam technology then it works, right?  But it seems like the genre at large has taken anything with steam powered technology and called it steampunk (see Devon Monk's Dead Iron or Trent Jamison's Roil or the Griffith's The Greyfriar).
Justin
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Offline Nighteyes

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Re: What is Weird Fantasy?
« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2011, 02:12:53 PM »
Sam Sykes seems to slip into Weird Fantasy. FrogPeople, purple skinned long faces which are possibly aliens from another planet, inter dimensional travelers, or from another layer of the planet. Very odd!
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Offline pornokitsch

Re: What is Weird Fantasy?
« Reply #13 on: August 18, 2011, 05:10:34 PM »
Sam Sykes seems to slip into Weird Fantasy. FrogPeople, purple skinned long faces which are possibly aliens from another planet, inter dimensional travelers, or from another layer of the planet. Very odd!

That's a good discussion to be had there... he definitely has the cross-genre elements. But I think Sykes subverts canonisation rather than defies it. (Sometimes I write sentences like that and then want to slap myself.) BUT writers like Miéville and Harrison create worlds that are intentionally inexplicable and - often - logically inconsistent. Sykes is taking a very familiar system, the Super-Traditional Fantasy Universe, and toying with it. But I think he's still following the rules.

Offline jdiddyesquire

Re: What is Weird Fantasy?
« Reply #14 on: August 18, 2011, 06:04:31 PM »
Sam Sykes seems to slip into Weird Fantasy. FrogPeople, purple skinned long faces which are possibly aliens from another planet, inter dimensional travelers, or from another layer of the planet. Very odd!

That's a good discussion to be had there... he definitely has the cross-genre elements. But I think Sykes subverts canonisation rather than defies it. (Sometimes I write sentences like that and then want to slap myself.) BUT writers like Miéville and Harrison create worlds that are intentionally inexplicable and - often - logically inconsistent. Sykes is taking a very familiar system, the Super-Traditional Fantasy Universe, and toying with it. But I think he's still following the rules.

I just hope he integrates shots named after celebrities.
Justin
My reviews and other malarkey:
http://staffersmusings.blogspot.com
Twitter: @jdiddyesquire
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/1652081-justin