Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a belle lettristic rant, and I want to keep away from its taxonomy.
When I first started out writing fantasy, six or so years ago, it was an exciting period. Riding on the back of the New Wave, a whole host of names were writing challenging fantasy fiction – China Miéville, Jeff VanderMeer, Steph Swainston, K.J. Bishop. Fantasy suddenly started doing other things, started veering away from the traditional secondary worlds. Entertainment was still part of it, of course, but here were writers who also tried to do more with the genre, to use fantasy for various literary themes, to give extra credibility to people looking in on the genre. As a newbie to the world of writing, it helped me think of the layers and themes within my own work. Suddenly fantasy could do a lot more: it had political or post-modern or cultural influences. Fantasy fiction went out looking for some respect.
And then… the movement as a conscious collective (was it even that?) fizzled out. No sooner had it come then people were announcing it was over. For my part, you submitted a manuscript consciously saying those two words – New and Weird – and you were writing your own rejection slip. Of course, many of those writing such fiction are still writing fantasy fiction.
So what happened to the New Weird – or at the very least a conscious literary movement within the fantasy genre? Did readers not embrace it? Was it sucked into other sub-genres such as urban fantasy? I don’t buy the latter argument, because to me it was not merely a cheap aesthetic.
The last I heard of it was in Jeff’s anthology. I even feel vaguely nostalgic reading the product description: “a clear portrait of a multi-faceted and undefinable sub-genre and a statement that good literature has no boundaries.”
Perhaps I’m just a sucker for literary movements, because these things certainly keeps readers and writers on their toes. But anyway, if you see the New Weird, tell it I said hello.