Monday, July 30, 2007

This Ain't Kansas Anymore

(I'm waiting to post a picture but can't since it's trapped in my cellphone. Anyone know how to download from cell to PC, aside from via texting to e-mail? In any case, here's something else I came up with instead while waiting...)

Noted fantasist Jeffrey Ford commented on the weird fantasy stuff thats been coming out appropriately entitled New Weird and it's interesting to see such analysis especially after my recent post on another kind of fantasy story, slipstream.

So what is New Weird anyway? Well, Ford cites Kathryn Cramer's New Weird discussions and they're pretty informative. However, Ford puts it nicely:

I believe the term was coined by China Mieville to describe his own fiction. And I know that one of its precepts is the refusal to “break the fourth wall.” What I’ve taken this to mean (and here I may already be in over my head) is that it refuses metafictional devices, self-referential devices, a certain inherent cynicism about the fictional world. In other words, Mieville’s writing is not hedging its bets, but forthrightly presenting a fictional world that the reader can, for at least the time it takes to read the work, put full stock in. I think the desired effect is that it would allow the fiction to retain its vitality and not have it mitigated by an authorial wink or smirk or misdirection that might allow reality to poke holes in it and let that energy seep out.

Of course, as always, definitions don't mean shit when one has a hard time trying to find the commonality in the writings of authors tagged as such, whether slipstream or New Weird. But in the New Weird's case, it's a relatively new field so-- unlike slipstream-- there's no definitive list of books that can be called as such involved***. I also think that New Weird is easier to describe as such, given its horror antecedents (especially H.P. Lovecraft). Another commenter quotes Steph Swainton in that it's the anti-fantasy fantasy.*

The way I understand it though, it does seem like that the New Weird is the opposite of any such fantasy writings that play with the tropes, styles, etc. of fiction-- whether these be slipstream, interstitial, or surrealism. It's the giant leap from genre to the bigger, wider world.** (Ironically, is it also me or are those who are regarded as slipstream writers primarily short fictionists whereas New Weird people are novelists?)

What do you think?

(And this is what I'm strongly recommending you try out if you want to see what the New Weird is all about: The New Weird anthology, edited by Jeff and Ann Vandermeer. Of course, you can also try out Mieville's books, which is chockfull of the stuff.)

*For those who can't be bothered trawling the discussions and are still asking, the New Weird are stories set on imagined worlds that are neither science-fiction nor fantasy-- or maybe a combination of both. Actually, like slipstream, the New Weird uses a lot of recognizable genre tropes and tries to spin them or break them apart to make new ideas. However, as Ford says, the New Weird assumes the strangeness is the part and parcel of the world, unlike slipstream.

**I read the above statement and thought, would people think that jumping from genre to the wider world means shifting to literary? Not necessarily. It's more like thinking out of the box and making something new out of the genre's tropes, which, given the meaning of the word "genre", says a lot.

***Because someone was persnickety about it.

12 comments:

Charles said...

Does your have Bluetooth? If yes, upload it to a computer with Bluetooth. =)

Your computer probably has one if you didn't convert the damned Mac into running Windows. ^_^

LiVEwiRe said...

What do I think? I think China Mieville could cut about 200-300 extraneous pages from his books if he would be less descriptive in his approach to so precisely defining, uh, drool. And other slimy stuff. ;)

Der Fuhrer said...

weird really, I was planning to take on New Weird for a blogpost having read that post on the 14thditch days ago.

skinnyblackcladdink said...

i'm staying out of this...except to say one thing: you're point about there 'not being a canon involved...'--very iffy, dude, as the so-called 'canon' which comprises the other thing you've been trying to dissect is also, well, iffy.

all i'm saying is: be careful how--and on what--you construct your points.

cat with the fiddle said...

hi banzai cat, would you happen to know the work "history of danish dreams" by peter hoeg? i've been looking for a copy for a long time now.

i didn't know of such a movement as slipstream until i read your entry about it, but i did a little research on the subject and found that it includes my favorite genre of magical realism.

does the term slipstream also apply to visual art?

banzai cat said...

charles: Alas, my phone is too low-tech to have bluetooth. :-(

livewire: Really? I didn't have too much problem with his verbiage. I suppose I've read other works also faulted with that same accusation that Mieville got a pass for me because he brought something new to the table. :-)

fuhrer: Hehe great minds think alike. And as for postin, you do know that you haven't posted since May?!? 8-O

skinny: Hahaha! Restraint from you, my friend? ;-D

As for my use of points, hey, I wasn't the one who used the term 'canon' in slipstream.

fiddle cat: Actually, the only book I've read of Hoeg is "Smilla's Sense of Snow" which was very interesting if I remember it rightly. I know I've been seeing "Danish Dreams" in 2ndhand bookshops so if you like, I can pick up a copy for you if I find one (or refer you to the shop if you're near the place).

On slipstream applicable to visual art, I think it's possible though I haven't heard it applied as such. (Interstitial, another term that's bandied around as much as slipstream in terms of writing, can and does seem to be applied to visual. Check out the interstitial website: http://www.interstitialarts.org/)

Der Fuhrer said...

not anymore :D

banzai cat said...

Ah, so you have. :-)

the cat with the fiddle said...

yes please, any which way to acquire 'danish dreams' is ok with me. i'm in the makati area on weekdays, BF homes paranaque/las pinas area on weekends.

since you also mentioned 'smilla', that one too, please... thanks!

banzai cat said...

Heh. Alright, will do.

So which ones of his books have you read?

cat with the fiddle said...

i have not read any of his books, unfortunately. that's why i've been hunting for his books for some time now.

if you find copies of 'smilla' and 'danish dreams', would it be ok if you could email me at dasein.tessa@yahoo.com? hope it isn't too much to ask.

thanks!

banzai cat said...

Not a problem :-)