Alistair Rennie in the NW

Just as a brief follow up to the New Weird guessing contest…One person who was watching that contest rather avidly, and getting a big kick out of it, was Alistair Rennie. As person after person identified his piece as Moorcock or Mieville or Duncan, he was becoming more and more flattered.

Fact is, Rennie’s “The Gutter Sees The Light That Never Shines” is the only story original to the New Weird anthology other than our roundrobin, “Festival Lives”. He’s a powerful new writer you may not have heard of, but one I think you’ll know better in the coming years. Without having any wish to start a new moment or movement, I’d call him kind of “Next Weird”. His work is transgressive and hard-edged and yet sometimes also experimental, while the influences seem to be everything from, well, authors typified as New Weird to mainstream literary to graphic novels.

Here’s more of the opening of his NW antho story.

The Gutter moves among men like the waft of a deadly chemical that has assembled itself in human form. He stinks primarily of brine. But there are other smells that fortify his breath; and his body, too, reeks powerfully of dreadful odours.

There is no telling the liquids with which he has soiled himself, but the oddity of their collective hue on the front of his smock is as ominous as it is filthy. Yet it is more than repulsion that causes people to maintain their distance. His face is a living image of nastiness, with a perpetual scowl that could easily be mistaken for a deformity. And there is a hunger in his eyes–more feral than human–that betrays an insatiable need for satisfactions that lie far beyond the tastes of ordinary men.

The Gutter walks the streets of the City of Thrills, the second city of the Republic of Noth. On his back he wears some kind of apparatus: a leathern harness holding what looks like a milk churn. A thick, heavy slosh accompanies his steps, the sound of something fleshy and fetid. On more than one occasion a City Arbiter, tapping a studded cosh on the side of his leg, has thought about stopping the Gutter and investigating the contents of the churn. But the stench of the Gutter has convinced him otherwise.

The Gutter is aware of this, which is one of the reasons why he allows himself to smell so badly. The violence of his aroma is an excellent deterrent against the curiosities of linear men.

The City of Thrills is an aborted geometry of narrow streets, decaying arcades and dim-lit porticos. A shambles of buildings lean simultaneously in all directions. The mangled brickwork and shoddy masonry interact as if by accident rather than design. Depictions of naked revellers, cosmic symbols and chimerical beasts adorn the lower portions of each edifice, adding an unexpected life and colour to the amplitude of disrepair. It is the custom of artists that inhabit the city to embellish its walls with expressions of beauty over uttermost states of dereliction.


  1. says

    I agree wholeheartedly with Jeff. Alistair has a ton of talent. If you’re interested in seeing more from him, you can check out his story “Il Duca di Cesena” in Electric Velocipede #10. I’ve also accepted his story “A Doom of My Own” for a future issue of the magazine.

    If the better-known authors in this New Weird antho don’t draw you in, you should definitely check it out for Rennie’s contribution; he’s someone you’ll be happy to get in on early in his career.

  2. Alistair Rennie says

    Thanks, Jeff. And thanks to all the people who participated in the competition. It really was very flattering, and I admit to feeling a twinge of guilt about being a bit of a red herring. I think I might require some kind of ego reduction therapy to recover from this!

    John, thanks. The great thing about being in EV is that you know you’re going to be alongside some very exciting writers, like I was in EV#10 alongside Jeff Ford and Rick Bowes among others. Much looking forward to being there again.

    Alistair Rennie

  3. says

    I shouldn’t say “I told you so!” but I did. I’m delighted Alistair will feature here. Not only is he a major talent, but someone who really cares about every word and the relationship of those words to the world at large.