New Weird Reading List

For those who might be looking for more strange books to read, Steven Klotz, who was kind enough to ask our permission, has posted the recommended reading list from our New Weird anthology, along with some other thoughts on the book.

Does New Weird still exist? Did it ever exist? Read the book to get the context to make up your own mind.

Situation on the ground: China Mieville still uses the term, and reviewers still use the term for his work and for the work of others.

Reality regardless: Works are New Weird, not authors.

Bottom line: New Weird looks like a more valid term now than it did even 18 months ago. Maybe in another 18 months, it’ll look like piss and vinegar again.

The Interrogation: Am I New Weird? Absolutely not. That’d be like saying I am completely made of fingernails or grasshoppers or bags of blood. Part of me is weird and part of me is new and part of me is transmutating into a thing even newer still, and the other 70% is…water. Or something like that.

All of this is true. None of this is true.


  1. says

    “Am I New Weird? Absolutely not. That’d be like saying I am completely made of fingernails or grasshoppers or bags of blood.” LOL

    “New Weird looks like a more valid term now than it did even 18 months ago. Maybe in another 18 months, it’ll look like piss and vinegar again.”

    Kinda curious as to what you mean by that Jeff: why now rather than 18 months or two years ago?

    I have to say btw, I’ve really gotten sick of people saying it’s “dead”, as if it were some dumb fashion trend rather than one of the most interesting movements to come out of SFF during the last decade or so. The New Weird will never be dead as long as there is still dull, embarrassing, generic, usually high-selling Fantasy for it to be a reaction against. To me that’s kind of the whole point, or at least a sizeable part of it.

    P.S. Three cheers for the anthology once again! I ended up referring to large amounts of the Introduction, Discussions, and European Editor Perspectives in a final year university project. It’s the only work I know of that covers the kind of material I needed, as well as being a great collection of fiction, and it was invaluable.

  2. jeff vandermeer says

    Because I think you can point to a semi-resurgence lately of work that roughly fits the NW definition.

  3. Hellbound Heart says

    oh man this is my kind of book (this and the other michael moorcock book, ignorant that i am i’ll have to check him out…)

    just one small problem…..ok, i looove to read books BUT the only time i have to have an uninterrupted read is when the fambly’s all a’sleepin’ and i catch a few pages before i turn out the light AND the ol’ eyelids start feelin’ MIIIIGHTY heavy after two and a half pages….what do you suggest….toothpicks holding my eyelids open? regular electrical shocks? what?????

    peace and love….

  4. says

    I loved reading The New Weird (the anthology, I mean, not the subgenre (if that’s what it is), though I also absolutely love the subgenre). That reading list lengthened my own “books to look for” list by several pages, and moved a number of books already in my library up the list of priorities. I’ve since read Michael Cisco’s The Traitor and Leena Krohn’s Tainaron. Lots of new stuff since then that fills the bill, too, I think, including Felix Gilman’s Gears of the City (I’d argue, in fact, that it’s more New Weird than his first book, Thunderer, was); Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente (an absolutely marvelous book) and The Resurrectionist by Jack O’Connell, to name just a few.

    These are my favorite sorts of books, bar none.

  5. says

    Maybe I think of the term way too broadly, but I generally consider any fantasy work that consciously works against a nostalgic/Tolkeinesque world view, and therefore has what I’d call a modern world view, to be New Weird.

    To me, the New Weird is an author’s philosophical view point that produces a certain kind of novel, in this case, what I’d describe as a modern world view (as opposed to the Tolkienesque nostalgic world view). For example, is it a coincidence that many of these novels are set in an urban/city space?

    To me, it’s an acknowledgement of the weirdness, almost the absurdity, of world around us and letting that be a major influence in the creation of a work, rather than longing for a rural ideal. It just strikes me that almost any work that isn’t Tolkienesque can be labelled as weird while still clearly falling within the realm of fantasy literature. There’s so many facets to what constitutes a ‘New Weird’ work that I really see it as the single major collective term that works against (or maybe alongside) what still constitutes the bulk of fantasy publishing. It’s obviously not stretching it to think of the New Weird as the antidote to that kind of writing.

    Whatever you want to call it, I think the kind of work that has/is being labelled New Weird still has an awful lot to offer – as Alex said, so long as the usual fantasy literature is being published, the weird will always be its antidote.

  6. says

    Here’s what I wrote in the introduction in terms of a definition of New Weird. I still think it’s valid. The problem, I think, is that almost everyone involved in the original discussion of the term has some vested interest in either stamping it out or promoting it. This blinds us to the real-world permutations of the term, and its value. Because I know so many of the initial writers involved don’t want to be labeled by it, and because I do so many different things I don’t want to be pinned down either, as a writer I’m leery of it. But in the wider context you describe, it’s a little less limiting. Anyway, it’s impossible for those who came up with the term to actually either shut it down or limit it to whatever they want it to be. The true indicator of a term’s worth is how it permutates and continues to take on additional life in the minds of new writers and readers.

    Anyway, here’s the relevant part of the intro:

    “Following the aftermath of all of this discussion, research, and reading, the opportunity to create a working definition of twenty-first-century New Weird now presents itself:

    >>>New Weird is 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. New Weird has a visceral, in-the-moment quality that often uses elements of surreal or transgressive horror for its tone, style, and effects — in combination with the stimulus of influence from New Wave writers or their proxies (including also such forebears as Mervyn Peake and the French/English Decadents). New Weird fictions are acutely aware of the modern world, even if in disguise, but not always overtly political. As part of this awareness of the modern world, New Weird relies for its visionary power on a “surrender to the weird” that isn’t, for example, hermetically sealed in a haunted house on the moors or in a cave in Antarctica. The “surrender” (or “belief”) of the writer can take many forms, some of them even involving the use of postmodern techniques that do not undermine the surface reality of the text.

    This definition presents two significant ways in which the New Weird can be distinguished from Slipstream or Interstitial fiction. First, while Slipstream and Interstitial fiction often claim New Wave
    influence, they rarely if ever cite a Horror influence, with its particular emphasis on the intense use of grotesquery focused around transformation, decay, or mutilation of the human body. Second, postmodern techniques that undermine the surface reality of the text (or point out its artificiality) are not part of the New Weird aesthetic, but they are part of the Slipstream and Interstitial toolbox.”

  7. says

    Thanks for letting me pull some more people (including myself) into this discussion. I’ll be able to contribute my own thoughts more once I dip a bit further into that list of books.

  8. says

    Jeff, I referred to your intro and Darja Malcolm-Clarke’s piece, particularly her reading of the grotesque, quite a bit in my Honours thesis. Basically, I came to the conclusion that ‘subverting romanticized ideals about place’ through urban, real-world models was emblematic of a broader shift in fantasy literature than something that could be limited to a niche sub genre we might label ‘New Weird’. As a mode of writing, New Weird is probably just the best, and certainly most commercially successful (if Mieville is anything to go by), example of recent attempts to move away from Tolkien mould. Perdido Street Station was such a breath of fresh air when I first read it. You gotta appreciate the fine line Mieville was walking with that one, because it could easily have been a flop.

  9. says

    I’m curious about how you would label fiction that is contemporary and strongly has the Weird aesthetic but is not in an urban setting and is not second-world. I love Weird and New Weird. The limitation of rural secondary world sequesters a lot of fiction that follows the tradition (without being slavish) of strange tales, which happen to be set in our world, in rural areas. If writers are sincerely working to continue the Weird fiction dialog through writing stories, in, say, a rural south snake handling church where the snakes are telepathic, would such stories be disregarded in the New Weird ethos entirely?