Terror, the Uncanny, Hugo Party, Podcast, and More

(Ann at the Hugo party, holding up a copy of the next day’s newspaper thoughtfully brought by Randy Fingeroot. Article and video here. Randy also brought Ann copies of the actual plates that the page was printed from…)

I’ve been sitting on some links, so here they are…

A few photos from the Hugo party here in Tallahassee, which due to a flickr burp you’ll just have to scroll down in the main feed to see.

Jon Armstrong did a podcast interview with me that turned out great, in that I wasn’t talking about the same old stuff. And since I’ve given up on having talking points, I can be a dangerous man in an interview.

I invited Matt Cheney to interview Samuel R. Delany about the re-issue of his classic essays on reading and writing SF, The Jewel-Hinged Jaw. It turned out great, and you can read it on Omnivoracious.

Jesse Bullington has a new website.

I don’t agree with everything in this review of District 9–I thought the Nigerians were presented in a stereotypical and uninteresting fashion–but in terms of a potentially smart SF movie being deep-sixed by the stupidity of the action elements…absolutely. All the action stuff was out of Hollywood Cliche Central.

Liz Hand pointed me to this cool article about a band tour created by her brother patrick, along with video.

The cover of the Polish edition of Veniss Underground, sans text.

K. Tempest Bradford’s posted interesting lists of POC and women who’ve written mindblowing SF. I wish the specific short fiction list were a little longer–at only 22 writers that’s a little thin.

Hmm. There’s a Voss Bender Memorial Blog.

Noticing “strange SF” doesn’t make it a movement–if anything Mr. Reynolds of space opera fame is the quintessential “strange SF” writer, and he fits nicely in terms of themes and certain aspects of his style with what you might call “New Weird,” which never limited itself to fantasy (we had to in the antho because so much NW SF is at novel length). So do certain aspects of Banks, especially in the earlier Culture novels, and there’s a ton of 60s and 70s SF that’s crazy-strange. What’s mostly lost here, though, is an understanding of how style and texture help determine the weirdness of a story. There’s nothing strange about Sanford’s story on a style level–the individual paragraphs are, if anything, straightforward, invisible, serviceable, and a little bit mundane. (The story’s better than the style used to tell it, but I still didn’t find it at all strange.)

Greenpunk fares a little better, except that you can easily see how stories with ecological concerns simply appear across all genres and types of fiction. Indeed, the most interesting rising component of new Steampunk fiction is a willingness to engage issues involving the environment and a sustainable future. I think it’s admirable to point out individual “Greenpunk” works, but laughable to think that an author would actually consider him or herself a “greenpunk.” There’s a limited range for you–something that after the first five years or so would be as interesting as growing your own chia pet.

In other, possibly related, news, I just turned in a Steampunk slideshow–text and images to Film In Focus, to coincide with the release of the animated film 9. I’ll post a link when it’s up.

As for where the terror and the uncanny in the post title come from, I just received by contributor copy of the Library of America anthology American Fantastical Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from the 1940s to Now, edited by Peter Straub.


  1. says

    I am mega ultra excited for greenpunk, especially Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Windup Girl.” It sounds just endlessly fascinating.

  2. says

    Like I said, anything that emphasizes stories that are trying to deal with ecological/global warming/what have you, because it’s part of our world, is a great thing. But as an organizing principle it’s a little…off.

  3. says

    Yeah, I agree it’s somewhat silly. I am just pumped for the new Bacigalupi book and if they label it “Greenpunk” than I’m excited for greenpunk too.

  4. says

    And me being the short story fiend that I am would have both the Greenpunk and Punkpunk anthos on preorder from a shifty UK site months before they were announced in the States.

  5. The Brucolac says

    I’m a big fan of A. Reynolds and of New Weird (thus the handle), but I have never thought of them as overlapping– until this past Sunday when I read JV’s intro to the NW anthology instead of writing a brief. And now he repeats the claim. I still don’t see it– what makes Reynolds more related to NW than to “hard SF” (a term rarely used without an implied sneer at everything else)? (Other, of course, than his good writing, which certainly relates him to NW and distances him from hard SF….)

    And while I’m asking questions, why is SciFi Strange a subject of mockery but NW is an acceptable category? (That is meant to be an information-seeking question, not an argument-baiting question– the geography of the sub-genres is still a little obscure to me.)

  6. jeff vandermeer says

    I am not mocking it–i am testing it in a sense. just as we test new weird in our antho, which ought to be clear: new weird is set up so each reader can come up with their own conclusion.

    at the core of reynolds’ best novels is an essential weirdness that comes more from horror and uncanny fiction than from hard sf. the best space opera is deeply weird, deeply strange. it is a high-octane, fast-paced delivery system that contains some seriously messed up stuff.

    Style is often a reflection of a shared view of the world, because it’s about perception–it’s the filter through which the reader sees in the story.

    I am skeptical of SF Strange because I don’t believe there’s a spontaneous uprising of work sharing a similar aesthetic that is *new*. And some will feel the same about New Weird. But I think there’s much more evidence for NW. and much more initial rigorous discussion. And i think NW would actually encompass Strange SF anyway. or you wld have to convince me of its extra special lineage.

    …and that’s all I can manage for this early in the morning…

  7. Ian says

    As someone who has read many of the authors of this so-called sf strange, the description you linked to rang a gigantic bell for me. I’ve never been a fan of the new weird because fantasy isn’t my favorite genre, having grown up on sf. But sf of late has grown stale, except for writers like Ted Chiang and Paolo Bacigalupi who are pushing the boundaries of what the genre can accomplish.

    I totally agree with this statement, “SciFi Strange also flirts with the boundaries of what is scientifically–and therefore realistically–possible, without being bounded by the rigid frames of the world as we know it today.” I love sf because it deals with the realms of the possible. I love this new type of writing and could see the term as a valid one, depending on where things go from here.

    It’s also interesting that many of these authors, aside from Chiang and Bacigalupi, are being published almost exclusively in Europe through Interzone and similar. Is it possible the aesthetic being described doesn’t appeal as much to those in the USA?

  8. says

    I like C and B quite a bit, but I don’t find them to be writing strange SF. Really excellent SF, yes, but not strange. Maybe strangeness and weirdness mean something different to me. The thing that’s funny about your statement above is that stories set in the future that are *really* strange are, in fact, using the approaches and tropes of horror and dark fantasy or fabulist fiction that, erm, the new weird fantasy also uses. Anyway, the most important thing here–and really the reason New Weird is still alive as a term–is that readers don’t really care about strict taxonomies. So if readers start identifying stuff as “SF Strange,” it will exist, whether there’s a good basis for it or not. I’d just like a little more memory in the field–i.e., not a kind of blindness to stuff that happened just a few years ago. Or even a couple of decades ago. In that perspective, I don’t find the representative example of SF Strange weird/strange at all, as I’ve previously said. If SF Strange is just gong to be a watered down version of the really visionary stuff Ballard & Co. did, I’m not onboard. Your results may vary, however, and I am not in any way the kind of person whose opinions remain the same the face of new, contra-indicating evidence.

  9. Nick Mamatas says

    RE: GreenPunk, the ebook publisher Ravenous Romance is launching a “Green Love” imprint. (The heroine has to be working to save the planet!)

  10. jeff vandermeer says

    Jason–thanks for that. am on my phone and can’t see any way to comment on your post so will have to do so tomorrow. what it probably boils down to is a difference of opinion on style–rather expected your response re style, actually, since it’s status quo in genre re thinking of a non-invisible style as somehow non-functional or experimental. what I would really like to do, but only with your permission, is to re-read your story and then do a review of it on this blog–first as a story and then as applying your SF strange criteria to it, etc. I honestly have no idea what I will think on a re-read, and this isn’t in any way an attempt to use the review to reinforce my position or do a hatchet job. just let me know.

  11. says

    Go for it. I will say, though, that I’m not an advocate of the non-invisible style. Instead, I believe style should be dictated by the story. In some stories, style is the overriding factor, and pulls together a story which otherwise wouldn’t have worked. In others, the style is more invisible b/c the story itself is front and center.

    Anyway, I look forward to what you have to say.

  12. jeff vandermeer says

    right, but I think I am not being entirely clear re the style thing. mostly due to typing on this tiny phone keyboard. more tomorrow.