Evil Monkey: Steampunk and New Weird


(Hawk Alfredson)

Evil Monkey:
How many Steampunks does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Jeff:
Oh no.

Evil Monkey:
Just guess, dude.

Jeff:
I have no idea.

Evil Monkey:
Two, one to change it and a second to glue unnecessary clock parts to it. (Thanks, James Burnett.)

Jeff:
Sigh.

Evil Monkey:
Now. How many New Weirdies does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Jeff:
….

Evil Monkey:
More than a dozen. You need one to put forth a manifesto about the lightbulb, another to ascribe cosmic malice to the lightbulb, a few more to argue about whether the lightbulb is indeed light issuing from a bulb, a few more to discuss the origins or non-origins of the bulb, at least one to actually do something and get a ladder to reach the bulb, and then a few more to doubt both their own proximity to the light from the bulb and then a last few to doubt that the lightbulb, even while shining, ever actually existed. A few years later, you need a bunch of others to come around to ascribe motivations to the New Weirdies who were originally loitering around the lightbulb and to create a whole new history for the event and for the idea of “lightbulb,” which some of the original attendees of the lightbulb event will deny actually ever existed, or that the event occurred. Someone will certainly suggest that the lightbulb only existed for marketing purposes. Then, maybe, at that point, you or the lightbulb will be properly screwed. In.

Jeff:
What’s your point?

Evil Monkey:
People shouldn’t be plugging in lightbulbs if they’re in literary movements!

Jeff:
What brought this on?

Evil Monkey:
You haven’t noticed bloggers poppin’ up like carnival gophers to tell peeps what they think New Weird and Steampunk are?

Jeff:
Well, I have noticed someone trying to define Steampunk every other day, that’s true.

Evil Monkey:
And generally with no clue as to what a powerful tool Google can be.

Jeff:
Now, now. I understand the urge to come at a subject without the clutter and roar of knowledge.

Evil Monkey:
Yes, your readers have gotten used to that.

Jeff:
I’m gonna ignore you…but the New Weird stuff is even more perplexing. I understand the idea that movements (or, non-movements, if you like) change over time, and are re-interpreted, but why wouldn’t you check out the actual source material and a nicely concise introduction to New Weird. Disagree with it if you like, but, surely, immerse yourself in what’s out there about it first and then launch your blog posts upon a sea of fully contextualized tentacles…

Evil Monkey:
New Weird isn’t horror.

Jeff:
Blork. You’re grotesque.

Evil Monkey:
It was always just a marketing term. (How do you undercut a term? You change the wiki by randomly referencing a comment by another editor who has always been antithetical to its potentiality and never liked this kind of cross-genre experimentation.)

Jeff:
BLORK! (Wait. Why the hell would anyone with integrity start anything as just a marketing term?)

Evil Monkey:
It’s all about fantasy and horror, not SF! (They took urban fantasy away and did strange experiments on it.)

Jeff:
SF is strange, man! Always has been!

Evil Monkey:
It’s British only!

Jeff:
It’s American only!

Evil Monkey:
American doesn’t mean what you think it means! And there’s a whole world out there, moron!

Jeff:
Evil doesn’t mean what you think it means! Stop slapping me! I didn’t steal that damn banana.

Evil Monkey:
You repudiated the movement! Stop punching me in the liver! I didn’t steal your vodka.

Jeff:
I did? Did I? Actually, I did whatever the word is for repudiating something before it can even be pudiated.

Evil Monkey:
Then you put your books on a NW recommended list!

Jeff:
Huh? I did. I did! (They wanted my fiction in the book, I said no–isn’t that good enough?) I’d do it again, damn you. I don’t remember. I forgot. People change. Frog of war.

Evil Monkey:
New Weird predated New Weird. Frog of war?!

Jeff:
Never mind. I went back in a time machine through a singularity in a giant squid’s mantle. I predated it with a stamp. I stamped NEW WEIRD all over Harrison’s head while he was sleeping. He wiped it off. So I went back further and did the same thing to Peake. Then I aged ungracefully and died a curmudgeon, having taken the name Avram Davidson. Ah…here’s the time machine. I’ll be off soon.

Evil Monkey:
You were never Avram Davidson! And that’s no time machine! That’s just a huge nautilus shell that somehow crawled in here. You bastard!

Jeff:
I wasn’t *that* Davidson. I was Avram Davidson the taxidermist. I gave up fiction because I knew what was coming next.

Evil Monkey:
KJ Bishop doesn’t believe you exist.

Jeff:
Do I exist, Evil? We know you exist. But I don’t exist. Except in the past. Now get out of my way. I’m getting into that time machine, with my stamp pad.

Evil Monkey:
I can’t let you do that. We need you here, in the present, to stamp out alternative revisionist versions of history. (Only 20 people in the world are reading this by now.)

Jeff:
I won’t do it, Evil! I won’t. I won’t be chained to this term the rest of my life. I want to be free. I want to run with the deer and the coyotes and the hamsters.

Evil Monkey:
Don’t worry! You’re already branded a Steampunk. See—it’s right there, a tramp stamp. Whatever you’re running with, it’s gonna be all baroqued-up!

Jeff:
Unhand my shorts. I am not an animal!

Evil Monkey:
Step away from the time machine you loony tune.

Jeff:
You’re weirder than I am.

Evil Monkey:
But you’re newer. What do we do now?

Jeff:
It’s up to you. We can keep keeping on with this stand-off and soon the second time machine will get here. The one from the past. The one in the form of a giant beetle. The one piloted by Kafka. He’s gonna kick all of our asses and leave us for dead. He’s the original Kafkaesque. Everyone else is just a row of mirrors waiting to be shattered.

Evil Monkey:
Cheery fucker, aren’t you?

Jeff:
You should know.

Evil Monkey:
All right. Then what’re we waiting for—let’s get in that damn time machine.

Jeff:
Where to first?

Evil Monkey:
First we stop Brooks and Meyer, then we take Manhattan.

Jeff:
Weirdies, ho! (That was mean and you’re going to burn in hell.)

Evil Monkey:
Shut up. Wow. It’s bigger in there than I thought it would be, and who or what the hell is that shadowy thing standing at the end of the —–……………………………………………………
@%#%&&!!!!!!!!
……… …….. ………..
>>evil help !! help jeff<<

>> evil : jeff <<

The Weird:
*Bomp, bomp-a-roo.* Hmmm. A little stringy, a little fatty, but they’ll do. I’ll hug ‘em and love ‘em and keep ‘em close. My nue litul friends. Gotta come up with a name for them, though, some term to bind them and in the darkness keep them…This one I think I’ll just call “Weirdie” and this one’ll be “Punk.”

Comments

  1. says

    As per Twitter discussion with others: If it’s so difficult for us to identify which authors self-identify with NW and/or Steampunk, would it make sense for them to get a steampunk/weird tramp stamp so we could identify them on sight? What does EM think about this?

  2. says

    Neither EM nor I identify with NW any more than we identify with slipstream or with magic realism or fantasy. But since other people use them, we’re polite enough to go along with it. Ask us in an hour you might get a different answer. NOW GO CHANGE THAT LIGHTBULB, SQUIRREL. Punk.

  3. says

    So I take it you won’t get a NW/Steampunk tramp stamp? And hey! No one orders a squirrel! They are weird than NW and more punkish than Steampunk! They might chitter in the trees at you and gnaw on the power lines in response to this effrontery! But it would be a thing of interest, to see how many squirrels it would take to change the NW lightbulb.

  4. says

    You and that damned monkey will fit in the tidy little box even if I have to cut you into little pieces!

    (I shouldn’t say anything, I wrote one of those posts in the past. Although, I like to think mine was more interested in exploring why people grouped those books together than saying “there is a thing called New Weird and all these people do it”.)

  5. says

    I wish I could quote this in an essay… but I’m afraid that the establishment will ask questions if I start talking about an evil monkey.

  6. says

    I read all of it, so I must be one of those twenty people. And I laughed. I, too, want to run with the hamsters.

    Looking forward to Capclave.

    Oz

  7. says

    Love ‘em an’ pet ‘em an’ squeeze ‘em and hug ‘em, George.
    I think you should issue a book of Steampunk stamps. “Now with real steam!” That should be NW enough.
    (clearly I’m one of those 20 people Evil Monkey referenced…)
    Scariest perhaps is that, by the process of delineating described above, in 15 years we’re still going to have gits coming to SP and NW for the very first time and announcing it to the world as if it’s new. Or news. Or…oops, time for our meds.

    gf

  8. Divers Hands says

    HAH! That only proves you’re a revisionist! Trying to place Bugs and Daffy into the New Weird now. For shame Jeff. For shame.

    Honestly, its stuff like this that makes the interwebs fascinating to me. Every two to five years this odd collective of people emerges who actually believes they’ve reinvented the wheel, and then vehemently deny the aged layer of posts and websites and points that predated them as being correct – or even existing in some cases. An entire history fabricated and intentionally stamped with falsified metadata just to meet the conspiratorial aims of discrediting the awareness of a new generation…

    Fuck. I think I just became a new weirder by default.

  9. says

    Does EM do birthday parties? I’d love him to come and argue the whole night with my sister.

    I also think that the vodka and the banana were stolen by the toaster [they are an alien lot].

    How will you stop Meyer?

  10. Ennis Drake says

    So you’re like Koschei (not really, but I’m going to run with that and amuse myself): You’re bound in twelve chains. You made the chains. But you weren’t the one who made them gold. Regardless of your role in their creation, regardless of their beauty and worth, they are still bonds, and you want to be free of those bonds. Here it diverges a trifle. Powers came to you (Powers-That-Be and Powers-Consumption) and they offered you freedom in exchange for a bucket of water. So you wrote them a bucket of water. But they said, “A single bucket will not quench our thirst; give us more!” So you wrote them a second. And a third. And here you are (and remain), divergent in golden chains, in agony because you know that somewhere (perhaps buried in the marshy hollow of a cypress tree) is a familiar lightbulb, inside which is stuffed an evil monkey, inside which are the remains of a nautilus, inside which is a whole world splattered with all the hues of freedom, wherein roam deer, and coyote, and hamster.

    Meaningless? Or New Meaningless?

  11. jeff vandermeer says

    I don’t actually think I’m bound by New Weird. In general, I still get to play across boundaries. But what I want with regard to the label is of course ridiculous I suppose: both admire it and despise it simultaneously. Also, Finch I would agree is New Weird to the core. Parts of City might be. Shriek is not. Buuuut they are all set in the same place so they must be all one thing.

    In some quarters I am Mr Steampunk, which is sillier still, and others a surrealist (happiest I am to be labeled thusly) or slipstreamer (blah) or literary fantasist. Whatever. I get to write what I want. What I am mostly on about above is for latecomers to do their research and get it right. Cheers.

  12. Ennis Drake says

    I don’t think you’re bound by “new weird”, either. If there was a bond, I’d say it was the worry of it. ; )

    If it matters, I define you (and the handful of other talented authors of “new weird” with which I’m familiar) as a surrealist. I think “surrealist” is the commonality in the fiction, if a commonality is what needs to be defined. “Needs” being the definitive word. Also, if it matters, “literary fantasist” makes me heave. As does “literary [blank]”. Useless. Conjecture. Perception. Pigeon hole. Mail slot. Bullshit.

    Anyway, _I_ am divergent. I agree. Do the research; get it right. (Speaking of which . . . I’m going to need a copy of that VanderBible).

    And . . . going on . . .

    People sometimes ask me (when I’m drunk enough to claim that I write fiction), “What do you write?”

    “Dark fantasy,” I respond (forcefully and authoritatively, if slightly slurred)

    Readers respond: “Neat. Like what?”

    “Those Who Know” respond: “Oh. So you write _fancy_ horror. No. It’s cool. I don’t blame you. All the blogs say horror’s dead.”

    And I groan.