Monday 15 October 2012

I have finished The Weird...!

I don’t know if you've ever seen the Man Vs. Food TV program (if not, basically some idiot attempts to eat an 40oz steak or 3ft pizza or something…) but I've just finished reading The Weird, a vast (100+ stories, 750000 words) anthology of weird fiction put together by Jeff and Ann VanderMeer.

“The publishers believe this is the largest volume of weird fiction ever housed between the covers of one book” the blurb says, as if there’s any doubt…

The Weird cover image
Just the physical size of the book is somewhat imposing, especially when you see the double-columns of small type inside. I've been reading this on and off since January, and part of the reason it has taken so long is that its pretty much impossible to read this book (in its non-ebook version) on public transport or in bed. It’s just too heavy and unwieldy.

But unlike those huge steaks (I imagine) The Weird doesn't let quantity get in the way of quality. Given the sheer number of selections there’s no way people will love every one, but there’s not a story here that’s anything less that interesting to the horror fiction aficionado. I don’t think any anthology before this one has stories spanning such a range before, whether in time (the oldest story is from 1908; the newest 2010); geography (stories from twenty countries across the globe, some in translation for the first time); or genre (traditional horror rubs shoulders with science-fiction, literary fiction, fantasy and even humour).

Some of the stories I had read before – and it’s always a pleasure to read The Willows or The Hospice again. But many others were brand new to me; of those that I've not read before these were my favourites:
  • Hanns Heinz Ewers, “The Spider,”
  • H.F. Arnold, “The Night Wire,”
  • Clark Ashton Smith, “Genius Loci,”
  • Robert Barbour Johnson, “Far Below,”
  • William Sansom, “The Long Sheet,”
  • Robert Bloch, “The Hungry House,”
  • Jerome Bixby, “It’s a Good Life,”
  • Charles Beaumont, “The Howling Man,”
  • Mervyn Peake, “Same Time, Same Place,”
  • Gahan Wilson, “The Sea Was Wet As Wet Could Be,”
  • Dennis Etchison, “It Only Comes Out at Night,”
  • James Tiptree Jr. (Alice Sheldon), “The Psychologist Who Wouldn’t Do Awful Things to Rats,”
  • George R.R. Martin, “Sandkings,”
  • William Gibson/John Shirley, “The Belonging Kind,”
  • Joanna Russ, “The Little Dirty Girl,”
  • F. Paul Wilson, “Soft,”
  • Garry Kilworth, “Hogfoot Right and Bird-hands,”
  • Lucius Shepard, “Shades,”
  • Joyce Carol Oates, “Family,”
  • Karen Joy Fowler, “The Dark,”
  • Lisa Tuttle, “Replacements,”
  • William Browning Spenser, “The Ocean and All Its Devices,”
  • Craig Padawer, “The Meat Garden,”
  • China Mieville, “Details,”
  • Brian Evenson, “The Brotherhood of Mutilation,”
  • Margo Lanagan, “Singing My Sister Down,”
  • Steve Duffy, “In the Lion’s Den,”
  • K.J. Bishop, “Saving the Gleeful Horse,”
But that’s not to belittle the quality of the others.

In my opinion The Weird sets a new standard for an anthology of ‘weird fiction’ – as well as the stories themselves, the Introductions and Afterwords are thought-provoking, and as if the book itself wasn't enough there’s a whole website called The Weird Fiction review with articles, interviews and fiction by many of the authors.

In short, if you’re a horror fiction fan with a taste for the weirder, more articulate or surreal side of the genre, this is pretty much a must-read.


Unknown said...

Kudos to you. I should get that, but I'm gun shy for letting a similar challenge get the best of me. I'm stuck at 80% of Halcyon's Definitive Lovecraft, which they estimate at 1000 pages, and I just can't make myself continue.

James Everington said...

It's a lot different reading so much by one author though - I still have about 30% of the Complete Sherlock Holmes to get through at some point...