I have always been a reader of science fiction and fantasy. I enjoy the books that take on the tried and true tropes, but are written well and involve such incredible world-building. When done correctly the fact that the characters and settings are typical of the genre don’t detract from the atmosphere and the ambiance created by the author. On the other hand I love when an author can take those same tropes and successfully turn them upside down.
There have always been authors that blur the lines of genre; pushing boundaries. In the last 20 or so years doing so has not only become more common, but when done well, it can draw significant attention in the literary and book communities. I recently read “The Sky is Yours” by Chandler Klang Smith. The world she creates, with the melding of flying cars dodging two dragons that fly above the city, is fantastic.
Along with that blending of genres has come a new “style” often referred to as the “new weird.” In many ways it is related to both slipstream and bizarro fiction. The whole point is to mash genres together with a literary bent. As of recently I’ve attempted a few works categorized in the new weird. I have finished a collection of short stories and two of three novels in a trilogy.
As a fan of things that stretch my imagination I had very high hopes for what I would find among the pages of these books. At this point in my reading journey, I have to admit at being disappointed. Not entirely, to the point of giving up on these authors or the genre, but unsure how much farther I’m willing to dive in. There are hints and glimmers of what I wanted to find, but apart from a few of the short stories in the collection living up to my expectations, my interest in waning.
It’s possible that I should have done more research about the new weird before beginning. I was expecting a wonderful blend of Joe Hill, Ray Bradbury, and Lovecraft. My overall impression so far is that these authors desperately wanted to create something as unsettling and unnerving as Lovecraft and the old gods, with skewed view of reality that comes with so much Bradbury, while upping the literary “chops” of the book. My opinion is that they haven’t quite done what they set out to accomplish. (My opinion may be incorrect, if not blatantly wrong to some people … and that’s fine. It’s just my opinion.)
Too much time is spent in these books and stories attempting to give eerie and analogous descriptions of creatures or creations that don’t belong in the natural world. In wanting to leave dark spots for the reader’s imagination to fill in, for me, they end up just being vague and not giving shape to whatever they’re envisioning.
Often, it also seems that these authors try to give sudden shocks to the reader presented as eye-opening revelations. A particular twist in the book I just finished was certainly meant to give the reader a jaw-dropping reaction, while for me it simply garnered a “I thought that guy was dead?” response. And did not generate a desire to find out where he’d been before being tossed into the story.
I will finish the trilogy. I’m two books in. I can hope that the payoff at the grand conclusion will offer some retroactive enthusiasm. For the time being, I’ll be happy with a generic explanation and a tidy wrap-up.
I’m not calling with quits with the “new weird” yet, but maybe it’s just a little too weird for me. I’ll take concrete descriptions and hair-raising situations over ambiguity.