Snippets of the Hunt for Weird

Jeff VanderMeer • February 26th, 2010 @ 9:11 pm • Culture

Dear Diary:

Today encountered 77th supposedly classic iteration of the formula in which, on the very last page, the supernatural makes its entrance on the wings of the following:

“Why, I was delighted to meet and have a splendid conversation with your mother/ father/ wife/ son/ daughter/ brother/ sister/ gardener/ plumber/ consierge/ frog the other day in that little abandoned room far from all the light fixtures!”

“What? Why, my mother/ father/ wife/ son/ daughter/ brother/ sister/ gardener/ plumber/ consierge/ frog has been dead for years!” (Or, “What? Why I have no mother/ father/ wife/ son/ daughter/ brother/ sister/ gardener/ plumber/ consierge/ frog and have lived alone for years!”)

Ann: “Jeff, some writers are underrated for a reason.”

48 Responses to “Snippets of the Hunt for Weird”

  1. John Scalzi says:

    Wait. You can do that one with a FROG?

    Uh, excuse me. I have urgent business to attend to.

    (leaves, suddenly)

  2. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Oh, yes…*especially* with a frog.

  3. Gillian says:

    You’ve just started a trend for frog-shaped stories. Scalzi’s will contain bacon.

  4. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    well, my first book was The Book of Frog, after all:

    http://www.amazon.com/book-frog-Jeff-VanderMeer/dp/B000724WLO

    Nothin’ but frogs. 200 copies. First year of college, I believe.

    Jeff

  5. MarcL says:

    This original version is still sort of effective:

    “Sorry, God, Eve and I were just talking to this serpent… Wait, where’d he…?”

    “I NEVER CREATED A SERPENT!”

  6. Shane says:

    THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE.

  7. jeff vandermeer says:

    …AND IT’S THE FROG…

  8. Angela Slatter says:

    Not the Frawg?

  9. J. T. Glover says:

    …and that is why I still hear the ribbits. The ribbits in the walls.

  10. Kit Reed says:

    Whatever you do, DON’T GO DOWN THERE.

  11. jeff vandermeer says:

    JT–you made me snort coffee.

    Kit–i am convinced that some writers have evolved extra folds in their brains just from having to concentrate so hard on coming up with reasons why people should DEFINITELY GO DOWN THERE.

  12. Ennis Drake says:

    You have to GO DOWN THERE, if you don’t GO DOWN THERE, there’s no denouement! DON’T YOU WANT TO BE RESOLVED?

    PS: I resent this post, as I’ve fairly recently “done this one” with a chicken (http://www.greenpunk.net/?p=76), but now I see I could have substituted just about anything and the story would not have changed . . . however, I think we could, ah, better discuss the revelation of this tired plot structure if you could just COME DOWN HERE, Jeff. That’s it, watch that first step. Go ahead, it’s perfectly safe DOWN THERE.

  13. Larry says:

    I just want to know how many of the stories read involved a garden slug in a prominent role. Those are certainly some weird creatures.

  14. jeff vandermeer says:

    More salamanders than anything.

    On another subject, it’s also amazing how many people think just sticking a hunchback in a story makes it fantastical, but we see through that gambit.

  15. Nemone says:

    Crabs.There should be more stories about crabs.Specially the round ones that live in the sea and walk sideways( which just might be the best way to walk through life).

  16. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    We have found some interesting crab stories in some Tartarus editions.

    I’m afraid the staid ghost story isn’t finding much traction with us. We’re tending to define “weird” as more in your face than that but less pulpy, too. There’s an interesting intersection of stories from “literary” and “pulp” sources that display true originality and strangeness, with just the right amount of life, drama, imagination, etc.

    Jeff

  17. Nemone says:

    in a word, Alchemy, right?

  18. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Heh. It’s just interesting how it’s playing out. There’s a “know it when we see it” kind of thing going on, and then a more formal “these are the common themes/approaches we’re seeing”. It’s the opposite of taking a position or creating a thesis and then finding things that fit. We’re examining all of the evidence and letting it dictate, which is a longer and more grueling process but should result in a better process.

    One thing I have to say from our most recent reading: Caitlin R. Kiernan has produced some of the best weird fiction of the last 20 years, and it’s going to be a bear getting it down to just one story to represent that.

  19. Nemone says:

    Cheat.Take two of hers.I’m sure she has a handy pseudonym somewhere :)
    we’ll keep the secret.

    (note to self: must read C.R. Kiernan)

  20. J. Andrews says:

    Ghost frogs are my favorite trope!

  21. brendan connell says:

    In reading for a book of old stories that I was proposing to a certain publisher, I also found that about 20 percent had the same plot line. Which is convenient, because usually you can just trash them right away. Occassionaly however, despite a bad plot line, the writing is so good that it is worth reading. The only ghost stories I have ever truly enjoyed however are those by Algernon Blackwood and Oliver Onions.

  22. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Ha! Julie, now I want to write a ghost frog story. I did have a kind-of ghost frog in the form of a Bloat Toad in my Vance story in that Songs from the Dying Earth antho, but it’s not really the same thing.

  23. James Kenyon says:

    The singing frog from Bugs Bunny was weird, immortal, and maddeningly shy. ” send me a kiss by wire,baby my hearts on fire”.

  24. James Kenyon says:

    Charles Fort’s falling frogs. Heleophrynidae?

  25. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Oh dear. Now we can do a three-volume set: Squidpunk, Sporepunk, and Frogpunk. Oh dear.

    Taking deep breath. About to dive into the entirety of Lovecraft’s short fiction. Ai ai shuggoth penguin!

    Oh dear. Squidpunk. Sporepunk. Frogpunk. Penguinpunk.

    Please, someone for the love of gawd email me with an offer to fund these projects…

    Jeffrog

  26. James Kenyon says:

    It begins to sound like Streampunk

  27. Peter says:

    there are no such thing as ghost frogs, they are the spawn of kthermit
    You couldn’t because of madness

  28. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Ghost frogs leave no sign of their presence. Ghost frogs exist in five dimensions at once and this is why they are so still. It takes so much concentration to exist in so many places simultaneously. But this doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking.

    James–snorted coffee because of you.

  29. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Ghost frogs have enormous eyes, eyes that are as large as their entire bodies, because they are looking so intently at the spirit world, and the more spirits they see the larger their eyes become. Eventually, their eyes grow so large and filled with spirit-sightings that they become like balloons and the ghost frogs float up to the spirit-world, their tiny bodies dangling below, gaze fixed on that which they will soon become part of.

    Ghost frogs form the firmament of heaven. You tread upon their eyes, but it feels like you’re walking on large, firm bubbles. And yet always the ground is watching you. You can do nothing in heaven without a ghost frog knowing about it.

  30. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Crap. Now I gotta go write a ghost frog story. Thanks a lot.

  31. James Kenyon says:

    It can also be enjoyed as a beverage

  32. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    If you’re talking about the honeygrass soda drink with what tastes like tadpoles at the bottom, I agree!

    Erm, it now appears the Ghost Frawg fragments will be ingested by my monstrous story Komodo. Komodos travel through all of the altworlds by means of the chemical in their poison glands. But they need sentinels at the portals…and for that they need the ghost frogs.

  33. Dr. Black says:

    To search for the Ghost Frog, or heleophryne (not to be confused with the 4th century BC prostitute of the same name), one only needs to pay a visit to the rivers and crashing waterfalls of Botswana.

  34. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Ha! That’s certainly one ghost frog. And if you’re not pulling one of my eight tentacles, I’ll check it out to incorporate some research, perhaps.

    Jeff

  35. Dr. Black says:

    “I would never do that,” as the marigold said to the elk when he suggested she drop her petals.

  36. Nemone says:

    It must be confusing, to blink in 5 dimensions at once.Or have they evolved eyeball-licking tongues?

  37. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Their tongues are made of eyeballs.

  38. Nemone says:

    And the spirit sightings are their nourishment? yummy.

  39. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    And their eyeballs are made of tongues. They’re multipurposing fiends.

  40. Nemone says:

    With multiforked eye-tongue-eyes?
    You are setting up quite a challenge for the illustrator.
    This frogs would have made Lovecraft queasy.
    But please write it.
    I can’t wait to hear about their frog poetry.

  41. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    There’s no poetry for the ghost frogs. But they are forever in mental contact with their many ghost tadpoles, and the gathering of the lines of inquiry from the tadpoles to the ghost frog form an incoming stream that’s like a continual recitation of a constantly changing sestina.

  42. Nemone says:

    It must sound like innumerable tiny uillian pipes playing in unison.Each to its own variation.

  43. Larry says:

    I wonder if there are any hunchback ghost frog-salamander-slug stories floating about, since apparently hunchback stories are so passé now…

  44. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Leonora Carrington’s quite interesting. Had only read her novels before.

  45. Will Hindmarch says:

    “I just read your story about the ghost frog. Twist ending. Good stuff.”

    “But I never wrote a story about a ghost frog!”

    [ominous music sting]

  46. Larry says:

    *waits for Dramatic Frog to turn its head*

  47. Julie Andrews says:

    Speaking of frogs. Here’s some frogs cakes for you, Jeff!

    http://cakewrecks.blogspot.com/2010/03/frogs-talk-back.html

  48. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    woot!

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