what he said

John Coulthart on the Weird–

It’s a term that isn’t always easy to define which is one reason I like it. Fantasy, horror and science fiction evolved quite naturally as descriptive terms then ended up being co-opted by the imperatives of marketing. If you drew a Venn diagram you’d find the Weird intersecting with familiar genres, and with the wider literary world, but never quite matching any particular area. Weird Tales magazine used to publish anything that suited its title: this might be horror, sf, heroic fantasy (both CL Moore and Robert E Howard could dip into the weird stuff), and even detective fiction in the case of all those “psychic detectives”. Weird for me defines a quotient of the uncanny or the fantastical that lies beyond the usual stereotypes of the genres. It’s often present in places where there’s no overt generic reference at all: David Lynch’s Eraserhead is a good example.

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3 responses to “what he said

  1. Brendan

    The novels of Derek Raymond are just as weird as those as John Fowles, which are just as weird as the films of Maya Deren, which are just as weird as the plays of Sarah Kane etc etc. Once the weird becomes ‘The Weird’ and especially ‘The New Weird’ (apologies to Mr. Miéville) it isn’t very, well, weird anymore.

  2. To me:
    Historically the Weird represents a thing that was after fantasy (and the implied religious/spiritual/moral explanation for all strangeness you’d find in pre-20th c. Fiction Of The Unrealistic) but before confident sci-fi (and the certainty that the strangeness had a scientific explanation) it was a sort of historical zone of uncertainty.

    Emotionally, all strange unreal things in fiction exist on a seriousness scale going from funny (fish slapping dance) to weird to horrific to heroic. So the Weird again, is a zone of uncertainty–laugh or run away or just be fascinated.

  3. I’d also say that the classically, arty “surreal” is characterized by the Weird having attached itself to neither the Sci Fi explanation nor the Fantasy explanation whereas the pulp Weird is characterized by acknowledging both equally and simultaneously (Lovecraft being the keystone).