The New Weird
The New Weird takes its name from the literary movement of the same name that includes speculative fiction and horror stories popularized in pulp magazines by authors such as H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. The New Weird movement can best be described as, well, weird, and the stories in Ann and Jeff Vandermeer's anthology tend to focus on the images created, as opposed to the plot or the characters. As a result, some of the stories feel a bit disjointed, like you are reading someone else’s fever dreams. This allows for some of the images to be truly horrible and lack easy explanations. The New Weird also includes some scholarly essays about the movement, if you would like explanations.
Michael Moorcock, famous for his Elric of Melnibone stories, contributes a fairly straightforward World War III story with a deeply disturbing rape description buried within the story. Clive Barker, writer of the game changing Books of Blood and director of Hellraiser, contributes a story called “In the Hills, the Cities,” where people tie themselves together to fight a battle for long forgotten reasons. In one of my favorite stories, “Watson’s Boy” by Brian Evenson, a boy learns to assert himself by collecting keys despite his father’s disapproval. The entire story takes place in a building that may or may not be a prison or perhaps a mental hospital. The refusal to explain the context is part of the charm of the story.
One of the interesting aspects of this anthology are the images of the female. A good number of the stories are written by women. Some portrayals, like the women so easily disposed of in Moorcock story, are traditional portrayals of women in horror stories—but they were in the minority. I was very surprised by two stories. The first, "The Neglected Garden" by Kathe Koja, tells the story of a wronged woman who, for want of a better description, cruxifies herself on a garden fence. Her boyfriend refuses to get her help, and Mother Nature helps her take revenge in a truly original and very gratifying way. I wondered while reading it, with the horror focused at the beginning and the triumphant ending, if a man reading it would see the exact opposite, with my triumphant ending as the true horror.
These stories will burn themselves into your brain in ways that are uncomfortable and thought-provoking. You can’t find anything better than this anthology.