Weirdies, Weirding On…

Jeff VanderMeer • June 4th, 2010 @ 1:55 pm • Culture

Work on the book of weird, covering a century and clocking in at 750,000 words, continues apace. We’ve recently acquired stories from writers like Shirley Jackson, Merce Rodoreda, Jamaica Kincaid, Leonora Carrington, Angela Carter, Octavia Butler, Michal Ajvaz, Murakami, Joanna Russ, Bruno Schulz…well, the list goes on and on.

Some writers don’t fit, or their short fiction turns out not to be of the same quality as their novels. Some obscure writers do more than hold their own against the better known. Some classics continue to hold up and others don’t. For example, Robert Howard might’ve worked in his swords-and-sorcery mode but we’re not including that strand, and his real-world stories, the best ones, are, quite frankly, either too pulpy or too filled with the kind of reactionary elements that you can’t ignore.

Above all else, it’s important to note that this antho covers “the weird” and “weird”, not horror. Not dark fantasy. Not urban fantasy. And the only exceptions to needing some inexplicable/supernatural element are the threads we’re calling “weird ritual” and “SF weird” (Martin’s “Sandkings” is a good example of the latter).

Perhaps the most pleasure we’ve had in editing this anthology is being able to “rescue” a few writers who deserve to be better known and who, in the context, of our anthology can now hopefully be re-evaluated.

Not to mention, using chronological order really can be a powerful tool. This is by no means an antho of international fiction, but we do have some variety there. Just seeing juxtapositions like this from early in the antho makes us happy:

1912: Gustav Meyrink, “The Man in the Bottle”
1913: Georg Heym, “The Dissection”
1916: Rabindranath Tagore, “The Hungry Stones”
1918: A. Merritt, “The People of the Pit”
1918: Ryunosuke Akutagawa, “The Hell Screen”
1919: Francis Stevens, “Unseen—Unfeared”
1919: Franz Kafka, “In the Penal Colony”
1921: Stefan Grabinski, “The White Weyrak”
1926: H.F. Arnold, “The Night Wire”
1929: H.P. Lovecraft, “The Dunwich Horror”
1930: Margaret Irwin, “The Book”
1931: Hagiwara Sakutoro, “The Town of Cats”

This actually omits a couple of other stories from that time period that we’re including (but would rather keep as a surprise for now), but gives a good example of how these juxtapositions can give an idea of how writers in very different places were doing that might’ve had synergy, although the English translations of some of this material came later. It’s worth noting that Francis Stevens was the pen name of Gertrude Mabel Barrows.

10 Responses to “Weirdies, Weirding On…”

  1. Jason Sanford says:

    Can’t wait to buy this book. Everything I read or hear about it leaves me wanting more.

  2. Hellbound Heart says:

    ooooh!
    peace and love…

  3. Davide Mana says:

    Great selection.
    Consider two copies already sold.

    But, allow me a moment of nationalistic lobbying: any hopes of getting some Dino Buzzati in there?
    (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dino_Buzzati )

    For all I know, much of his shorter stuff might even be out of copyright…

  4. jeff vandermeer says:

    thanks! and he’s in there…full list not posted yet.

    (generally: we’re full up, so past point of lobbying)

  5. Davide Mana says:

    Well, it was worth trying ;)

    I’m particularly happy about the inclusion of the Arnold story, btw, and the Japanese authors.
    Great job!
    More, please…

  6. Ben Stanley says:

    I hope you’ll find room for short works by Bob Leman and Jean Ray.

    And I don’t know what your approach to contemporary writers of the weird is, but it seems like the work of any of the following would fit well into this anthology: Simon Strantzas, Adam Golaski, Mark Samuels, D.P. Watt, and Richard Gavin. While some of these authors’ works are best classified as dark fantasy or horror, each of them has written some stellar “pure” weird tales.

  7. Brendan Connell says:

    I have always liked the Akutagawa story.

  8. jeff vandermeer says:

    Davide: As I said, he’s in there.
    Yes, JR and BL.

  9. John C. says:

    Jeff,

    I’m curious to know if you’re considering the short fiction of the Yiddsh writer, Der Nister, for this antho. He’s most well known in the US for his epic naturalist novel, The Family Mashber, but his short fiction (well, the two stories of his that I’ve been able to find) are surpassingly weird (fabulistic surrealism is my word for it).

    If you’re interested, his story “Beheaded”, written in 1922, is collected in Joachim Neugroschel’s excellent anthology of Yiddish literature “No Star Too Beautiful” (Neugroschel did the translation); and the story “From My Estates” is collected in Joseph Leftwich’s 1974 “An Anthology of Yiddish Literature.”

    Best of luck with this antho – I can’t wait to get my hands on the finished product.

    - John

  10. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    At this point, it’d have to be public domain for us to consider it as we have to turn in everything ASAP. And it’s unlikely we’d have space.

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