Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Weird Fiction Finds (Vol. 1)

I'm pretty much stealing this directly from Jeff VanderMeer, but it's hardly such a revolutionary idea as can be owned by any one man. Here are some books that I have found on my journeys, as are worth being pointed out to connoisseurs of weird fiction, old Sci-Fi/Fantasy cover art, etc.

The Gray Prince by Jack Vance. Awesome cover art. And get this: the cover advertises it as "A Fantasy Epic" while the title page declares it is "A Science Fiction Novel." Science-Fantasy is sort of my interest right now as I develop my space opera, so I picked this one up at Harper Ferry Books.

The Weird Gathering & Other Tales edited by Ronald Curran. Also found this one at Harpers Ferry Books. Another one with great cover art, which is the only thing that caught my eye about. The collection is purportedly intended to examine social attitudes surrounding female practitioners of magic and sorcery, and is ostensibly composed of only tales published in the first half of the 19th Century. Unfortunately, as I flip through it, I see a LOT of verse, which is a big turn off, but titles such as "The Witch Dance on the Brocken" turn me back on.

Harvest of Fear (Formerly FRIGHT) edited by Charles M. Collins. A collection of old (some as old as 18th century) horror tales. I got this for 10 cents at a church rummage sale. An incredible buy. Though I hadn't heard of most of the authors when I purchased this, the exception being H. P. Lovecraft whose "The Horror at Red Hook" is included, it has introduced me to E. T. A. Hoffman, L. P. Hartley, and Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, amongst others.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Pulp Fiction: My Space Opera and the Return of Marlowe and Winston

Space Opera

I've always wanted to write a space opera ever since I was a wee lad who wished he could get a hold of some old Buck Rogers stories and the Flash Gordon serials. In the late 80s in Carroll County, MD, this just wasn't going to happen. The cultural imaginations of space travel before people had even been to the Moon was simply fascinating to me. Now I'm a grown man and I have almost limitless fodder from the early years of SF to wet my whistle. It's about time I create something familiar enough to satisfy that child-like urge for unreasonable adventure, yet original enough to make me feel I'm not completely wasting my time/talents. I mean, I'm not writing for the pulps. But that's mainly because the pulps don't exist anymore.

I am going to write a series of space opera shorts that tie into a potential trilogy of novels.

My selling point for the story world is this: If Jack London, H.P Lovecraft and Douglas Adams collaborated on Star Wars. But just like Seinfeld wasn't actually about nothing, this tag line does very little communicate my aims for the series. I'll be mixing in classic concepts, like a sassy female android for comic relief and diabolical Astrodemons from a distant galaxy, with more modern ones, like a mind-corrupting space metal called carasium (colloquially "crazium") and corporate control of worlds which are ostensibly Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune in the distant future. I will combine post-apocalyptic and dying earth tropes with steampunk aesthetics, but never forgetting the retrofuturist dogma that we can defeat the alien menace with our human heart and ingenuity. There will be some pirate story and Star Trek in there, too.

I hope I can manage to sell these stories to some major magazines. But I'll be doing so under the pen name C. S. Nightingale. (I may also do some fantasy adventure tales under the anagram Chang Lei Tsing.) I find this distinction pragmatic because G. Arthur Brown will be know for his Slipstream, Bizarro, Quasi-Literary Absurdism/Irrealism/Surrealism. Anything less 'artistic' will be assigned an alias. Word up.

Marlowe and Winston

I had an idea about two years ago to start up a pulpy short story serial about supernatural gangsters vying for control of a near-future metropolis to prevent/bring about the end of mankind. I had posted my early drafts of about nine episodes on my blog at Myspace, each imperfectly rendered in a short amount of time with minimal editing or thought put into cohesion with the overarching plot. I wanted to bring in an illustrator to do a plate for each episode. I couldn't find anyone willing to do artwork for me. As any hero would, I abandoned the stories a few months later like thalidomide babies.

But now they are back from the grave.

I'll be reworking my original ideas into some short stories, each composed of scenes that happen non-sequentially, giving glimpses of about three different timelines (let's call them Past, Present and Yet to Come).

What's it all about, G.? Marlowe is the young, cocky new recruit (or so it would seem). Winston is the seasoned but disillusioned mentor guiding Marlowe toward success, while all the time knowing it has been prophesied that Marlowe will be his undoing. The two are agents of forces known only as the Thanes, who oppose the enigmatic Boyars, otherworldly entities who wish to destroy the City. Mostly, they run around killing other agents and minor demons and undead, while struggling to stay out of the greater conflict that is mounting. But gradually, they are drawn toward the final, inescapable showdown.

It's gonna be rad, I swear.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

New Story at The New Absurdist

A slightly modified version of a writing exercise I had to do in my college Creative Writing course. "Eudora Welty vs. The Burnvictim." I submitted it over at the New Absurdist because 1) I don't think anyone will give me money for it and 2) it is a neat site for absurd stuff. I guess I've always tended toward the absurd, even if I don't abide by the strictest definition of absurdism: a philosophy stating that the efforts of humanity to find inherent meaning in the universe will ultimately fail. My definition is a little more like this: 1a) a philosophy that most human convention is based upon meaningless assumptions or 1b) the tendency via writing or art to defy the probability matrix that is the human psyche. Absurdism is frequently hilarious, but it is also frequently horrific. Just check out a few stories at the New Absurdist to see what I mean. -

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Update, May 20th

In the wake of my niece getting married (congrats, Jenn & Johnny!) I feel another burst of creative optimism. I have several ideas that I am working on or will be working on in next couple weeks. "Fisherman's Greek" is a dark tale of love, the sea and revenge. "In a Winter Garden" is my first real attempt at a full-fledged fantasy story set in a secondary world of beauty and bloodshed. "The Man Who Invented Justice" is a short, somewhat satiric parable, but it is mostly an exercise in the absurd. I'm also working on a tale tentatively titled "The Flea Market" with the lovely Miss Amanda Hart. She has come up with a delightfully zany premise that will be rounded into a fantasy of manners with some magic realist leanings (I'm predicting).

Only a few days left until the Lost series finale. I think they've done a very good job of creating a total series - beginning, middle and end. While some of their original story has clearly been changed in the six season's the show has aired, the overall plot is satisfyingly cohesive. There are loose ends from the second season that now tie in perfectly. Of all the slipstream/quasi-sci-fi/low fantasy television serials that have every aired, Lost stands out as one of the most artful, accessible and, therefore, successful. I'll miss it when it is gone but I won't lament their desire to give it a real ending that wraps up the show. Carnivale suffered the fate of a well conceived story idea that was cut off in midstream due to conflicts with HBO. While Carnivale may have had the potential to surpass Lost - it certainly had a lot more freedom on the HBO network - Lost has beaten it to a bloody pulp that can't even claim the cult appeal of Twin Peaks.

Image: Dorothea Tanning's Eine Kleine Shop Postcard.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

What's New May 1st, 2010

So, I've got a new official header picture featuring "Creation of Birds" by Remedios Varo (thanks to Kilby). I find her style fits right into The Strange Edge. Can't believe I didn't know about her paintings until a few weeks ago.


Movie Recommendation
Just saw Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Terry Gilliam's latest film and Heath Ledger's last film (RIP), now available on DVD. The best fantasy film of the last few years, sure, but still flawed in the same way as The Brothers Grimm (minus the Matt Damon effect). Overly elaborate plot and settings overshadow the viewer's ability to truly relate to the characters and understand them as anything more than participants in the already mentioned overly elaborate plot. Sure, Tom Waits as the Devil is a nice touch. Sure, Christopher Plummer makes a great old, disillusioned drunk. Sure, Gilliam manages to substitute Colin Farrell for Ledger at the appropriate time--right when the character shows himself to be just as unlikable as Colin Farrell. Vern Troyer should have been kept in a non-speaking role, because unfortunately he's not an actor proper, but the role he plays is interesting even while hampered by his acting deficiencies. Yeah, and Jude Law and Johnny Depp are predictably adequate in their brief appearances, as well. While both are good actors, they spend their time mimicking what Ledger has already set-up, so neither has the opportunity to shine. The FX are amazing, even if deliberately anti-real (read as: MirrorMask with a bigger budget). The ending is a little unfulfilling, and almost every piece of the film is recycled from some of Gilliam's earlier work, but if you love Gilliam like I do, then it is still worth watching. Rent it for a buck from RedBox.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

New for Earth Day

Writing news:
I submitted "The Story of Job" to Cafe Irreal, a site which specialized in irrealism, something in which I'm pretty sure I dabble in most of my work, esp. my philosophy and politics. Keep your fingers crossed for me. (For those of you who are new to irrealism and take the time to read the essay, keep in mind that when the author refers to physics, he is using the term very broadly to encompass all natural laws, even those in the soft sciences, including psychology, sociology and economics. So, a story where everyone walks around in bright blue Speedos, talking about how they love the smell of feces, purchasing houses for $5, would not meet the test for realistic physics simply because gravity still applies.)

Recommended listening:
I was cleaning my house today, and listening to Mekanik Kommando (terrific tech-obsessed industrial new wave from the early 80s) and Ramases (wacky Space Rock by a Sheffield salesman who believed himself to be the reincarnation of the Pharaoh/god and started a cult).

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Something New (Story of Job)

I got an idea for something new while at work the other day. I've nearly completed it and hope to have something to submit by the end of this week. When the muse comes upon me, I can write so quickly that I'm glad I took a typing class in high school. I can't imagine how hunt-n-peckers can possibly write anything longer than a drabble.

But here's a little slice of "The Story of Job," tale of a 'Mongoloid,' that I'd like to share:

“Hi, Job,” I say with as much false enthusiasm as I can manage at eight in the morning. I try to scurry to the produce department too fast for him to take a real interest, but he’s predatory in that regard. My scurrying makes him hungry for my attentions. I pray to my heathen gods that he doesn’t want to touch me. But he’s coming my way and holding up his crusty, reptilian mitt because he wants to do a combo high-five/shake. Whatever grows upon him will come in contact with my flesh, but I don’t want to be rude, so I make direct, skin-on-skin contact. And I imagine the birth defects that I am liable to pass along to my future offspring, assuming my seed one day finds purchase (only $9.99 at my website).

“Hey, Leary!” he says with a warped grin. “Guess what?” And he doesn’t give me time to guess; he comes right out with: “I laid more eggs, and I hope they are going to hatch this time. The shells are still real leathery and scaly but I’m keeping them warm. When they hatch I won’t call them abominations. I will call them beautiful babies! ‘Cause, you know, I got compassion for them, ‘cause when I was a baby my mommy tried to throw me back.”

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Kiss ( A Writing Exercise from a Couple Years Ago)

This is a pretty basic exercise in which you have two characters in a restaurant and one of the characters must dare the other character to kiss someone else in the restaurant. My results were fun, if flawed. But, if you want something to read, here ya go.

The Kiss

After the lunch rush ended, which had consisted of only six patrons to begin with, the pizzeria was vacant except for the four: James, Peter, the greasy man behind the counter, and one other patron. The man behind the counter, with a frown on his swarthy face, counted the cash in his till. James sat facing Peter and tapping his fingers on the battered wood-like table, which felt rough and chalky except where it was covered in a slimy film. Peter sat facing sideways on the pew-like booth, knees bent, feet on the bench, legs scrunched close to his body. The other patron sat at a two-seater and faced away from the two high school boys as she sipped a large birch beer.

Sun shone in on James's strategically disarranged sandy hair as he took the last noisy slurp of his milkshake. It made the vacuuming sound that only especially unconscientious people, like toddlers, allow openly in public. He looked at Peter, the boy's knees in his own face. "Are you trying to kiss your knees?" he said to Peter.

Peter looked up and over at James. His long, limp hair danced as he turned his head, and then closed like a brown umbrella to conceal most of his face. "Um…"

In a mocking tone, James said, "That's what I said to your mom last night." Peter huffed, blowing his hair about.

The man behind the counter, a small Sicilian goblin with armpit stains that helped to explain the scent of overripe peaches that hung about the cafe, coughed in the strained tones of a cat overfed on its own hair. He then went on to work the pizza dough by hand without putting on gloves.

Peter winced. "Remind me why we come here again." He reached over and grabbed the last of his oily, boardwalk-style fries. They tasted of the dirt in which the potatoes were grown and the filth of unwashed hands. He grimaced. "I foresee death in my future."

James smirked and gave an exaggerated shrug. "Food is cheap here. We are poor. Ergo—"

There was a loud crash as an aluminum pizza lift hit the floor. The small man peered wide eyed at his clientele, the dough falling haphazardly about his hands like the wax melting from an off-white candle. All three customers faced him. "I didn't do that," he said with a slight quaver in his voice.

"Huh?" James said.

"I didn't drop the lift. I been tossing dough, you seen me! Was-a the ghost!" The man dropped the dough and made the sign of the cross, then said, "O Dio!" He bent over, revealing a carpet-like patch of thick, black back hair, and scurried to pick up the lift. Then he replaced it without washing it on a hook beside the pizza oven.

Peter brushed his hair from his eyes and stared with his mouth open at James in mock terror. James returned his gaze with a sprightly gleam in his eye. "Yeah," said James loudly enough for the man behind the counter to hear him. "There's all kinds of Civil War ghosts around here. Like that one guy who got shot and didn't realize he's dead. He still haunts the area to this day."

Peter was trying not to laugh. The man behind the counter watched the two with one eyebrow raised.

In the tone of an old horror movie trailer, James said, "And he was always trying to make himself a pizza!"

"The horror!" Peter said and shook deliberately. His arm and legs quaked, and his hair did a 60s mop top swoosh. He gave out a high pitched shriek, which grated like nails on a chalkboard.

"Shut up-a, you!" the man behind the counter said and then grabbed his pizza cutter and pointed it at Peter. Then he looked with narrowed eyes at James. "And no smart lip from-a you, either. You think I'm-a joking?"

"We keep you in business, old man," James said quietly. The man didn't appear to hear him. But the other patron, a girl in her late teens with an impish grin turned and looked squarely at James. Her skin was smooth and her face was fresh and beautiful, like that of an angel of pure alabaster. She turned away once more and resumed eating a piece of pepperoni pizza, picking each pepperoni off before eating it, then consuming the remainder of the pock-marked slice.

"Crap," said James, even quieter this time. "Did you see that chick?"

Peter turned around and stared at the girl, trying to make it as obvious as possible. But she was facing the opposite direction.

"Dude!" James smacked Peter's head. "Don't be a jerk. Did you get a look at her or not?"

Peter said, "I didn't really see her face. Is she hot? Do you wanna kiss her face?"

James blanched. "Seriously, man. Don't humiliate me. I just wanted to know if you saw her. You don't need to make a big deal of it."

Peter shifted positions so that he now sat properly, facing James directly, and he leaned forward, then reached into his pocket and produced a twenty dollar bill. "I have here in my hand an ordinary twenty dollar bill." He took it, one corner in each hand, and proceeded to tug on it to demonstrate its authenticity. "Which can be yours, if you accept today's challenge."

James slumped back, and allowed his head to knock gently against the back of the seat, producing a half-hearted plastic clunk. He closed his eyes and muttered, "No, no, no, no." He jimmied his legs up and down, producing a rhythmic patter. Peter kicked one of his feet, breaking the rhythm and snapping James back into the conversation. "She's cute, okay? Is that what you want me to say? Geez, man. I don't know why you always do this to me."

"Because," Peter said with a grin, "it's fun." He pulled the bill tight to produce a small snap. "Cold hard cash, my man. If you walk right up to that girl and ask if you can kiss her."

"You think I'm crazy? I don't even know her. I am not about to just kiss a stranger."

"Eh, eh! You don't have to kiss her. You just have to ask if you can kiss her. And the money is all yours. Or are you still scared of girls?" Peter spat into his hand, then looked at the contents of his spittle, shuddered, and wiped his hand off on a paper napkin. He offered his mostly dry hand to James and waited.

James stared at the hand for a second, exhaled heavily, and then shook to seal the bargain. Peter smiled and nodded. James pulled his hand back. It was moist from the remainder of Peter's spit and the scent of garlic clung to his hand. "That was unnecessary."

Peter's face became serious. "Yeah, the spit thing. I won't do that again. I'm not sure why they do that in old movies."

"It's nasty, dude."

The girl cleared her throat quietly, but loud enough to attract James's attention. He froze. Peter kicked his foot again under the table. "Go now," Peter said in a gruff whisper.

James stood up like a droid with sand in its joints.

"Are you crippled? Go!" Peter balled up a straw wrapper and threw it at James. The impact felt like a fly landing on his head, and caused him to rearrange his hair by pushing it to one side. Then he reconsidered and tried to put it back to how it was originally.

The girl faced the other way. Her hair was long and golden and shone in the afternoon sunlight that drifted through the lettered windows. When it was still, on the back of her head was a clearly visible G, a dim shadow amidst the brightness.

As he approached her table, James fidgeted with the buttons on his shirt, and toyed with where to place his hands, first in the pockets, then out again and onto his hips. When he came into view of her face, he forgot anything he'd planned to say.

"Hi. You've got a G on your head."

She chuckled nervously. "Excuse me?"

"Oh. That came out all wrong. M-my name's James. And that's my friend Peter." He pointed to their table.

She turned her head as if she was going to look, but her eyes remained fixed on James. "Okay. Hi. Can I help you?"

"Maybe." He sighed. "My friend is going to pay me twenty dollars if I ask you if I can kiss you. So…"

She pursed her lips and bobbed her head about awkwardly. "So…"

"So can you help me with that?"

She chuckled again. "I think you just asked me if you could kiss me. And if that's the deal, then I guess your friend owes you twenty bucks."

"Oh." James looked down at his feet. He cocked his head to the side. "Then, I guess you won't let me kiss you."

"Sorry, but I've got something else I need to do." The girl frowned and vanished.

James looked back up to find the girl gone and started violently. He turned to look at Peter, whose mouth was entirely agape, this time in genuine awe.

The pizza lift fell again, producing a loud clash, followed by the tinkling of several other utensils being tossed against the floor.

"It's-a these damn ghosts!" shouted the man behind the counter. He threw his hands up over his head. "Always I tell them to go away. Bad for business!"

James hurried back to the table. Peter was already scrambling to get up. "We are outta here, man," Peter said.

"Fine with me," James said. The two exited the pizzeria and headed down the boulevard.

The man behind the counter sauntered to the window and looked out at the two fleeing boys. He laughed, holding his belly. "Tell-a you friends," he said and laughed some more. "Tell all-a you friends."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Brief Lipogram Exercise

Inspired by Peter Crates and written without the letter E. Reads a bit like something translated.

“That girl is a fucking idiot,” I say. Out of my mouth words pour without my thinking about what could soon pass. Thomas says it’s unfair. Alan says I’m myopic. I don’t know. Might just paint that saying on my car and allow thinking to go on without my input. In minds along this road who look upon my car and its words, what occurs? I would wish to cut into a brain for insight post-car-sighting. A man looks in my car, watching nothing but what this man wants. It’s all around now, his want in solid form. Stifling my body with willful cloying. That’s protocol today. First said by us in that first instant of cognition. This plan is not following with facility. Thomas can’t gasp aloud without phasing Alan’s volition. Alan can’t will without making us sick about it. It isn’t at all a point of clarity as it stands. No flow, no calm. Discuss, discuss, that’s final Alan might say that. In fact, Alan has said that on many occasions. It’s not, though.
I think aloud: “I know that girl. That girl is good at sports and school. Why did I say that?” My mind throbs. “Why do I say such things? Is it my soul longing for flight from my lungs? My spirit, my vapor not, wanting my warmth?”
“Your spirit is cold. That’s a fact, not my opinion,” Alan says. “But it wouldn’t work anyway. Spirits stick to your ribs. Don’t flow through your nostrils.”
Thomas, thoughtfully sitting on his stool, looks at us and says, “Do you know it, I concur with Alan. Your soul has no contact with this girl. What do you call this girl?”
“Cassandra,” I say.
“Cassandra can call out things abnormal in you,” Thomas says. “Cassandra might do just that. But still, a good girl and not a fucking idiot, as you said. Logic, you know? Cassandra’s using it right now as you and I and Alan sit arguing with our own words and your wrong thinking.”
“A quiz,” Alan says, “to catch a fool, if Cassandra is in fact a fool. Common topics, but not too common. Normal, I might add. But surprising.”
“Surprising to a fool?” I ask.
“Yah, that’s it.”
“What’s not surprising to a fool?”
“That girl Cassandra thinks I’m dumb. Why quiz that girl’s stupidity and not my own?”
“For you also, okay. That, too.”
My apology, truly, to you all.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Searching for Weird

I'd like to make this blog a central stop for weirdness, not just of my own, but for any weirdness that may interest a chap like me. If anyone is there reading this, suggest something weird for me to check out and enjoy, possibly even suggest to others or review for my blog. But I only want REAL weirdness. I don't want a picture of a turd on the American flag or a sketch from Robot Chicken (no offense, just isn't WEIRD). Leave a comment with a name of or a link to something weird in the visual arts, music, fiction, entertainment, history, science, conspiracy theory or even your abdominal cavity. If you have weird within you, feel free to expose it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

How NOT to Write a Novel

Had to give a quick plug to this little gem, How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman --which, by the way, is worth reading even if you aren't planning on writing a novel. Several times I have laughed out loud at the examples of errors they use to illustrate what to avoid when writing a novel. There are lots of books on how to write, but this one is far more useful. The two authors write comic gold and never fail to give you insights into things you may not have thought in your own writing about or to reinforce points that you may academically know but have failed to put into practice.

Here's a brief sample:

The Redundant Tautology

Wherein the author repeats himself

An old man nowadays, with gray hair and wrinkles, Captain Smothers walked down the street to his weekly card game. Usually he would meet Katz on his way, and sure enough, coming down the street towards him he saw his old friend, Major Katz, who was as old as he was. It was the usual day they always arranged to meet for a game of chit with retired Rear Admiral Chortles. The three men, all former members of the armed forces, played chit, the card game known as "Priest's Delight" in Ireland, every Sunday. It was something they had never failed to do since they began the tradition. Katz joined Smothers and greeted him. "Hello," he welcomed Smothers.
"Hello," Smothers greeted him in return. The aged, decrepit, grandfatherly Katz was wearing a clean shirt and freshly ironed pants with shoes. He looked neat as usual. Smothers' shirt, however, was wrinkled and needed ironing; he had never been as neat as Katz, but rather untidy, though he too, like Katz, was formerly in the army, but no longer. You would have expected an Army man to develop a habbit of neatness, but Smothers somehow never had, and remained quite sloppy...

Another version of this is the "large gray elephant," or the "rectangular room with a floor, walls, and ceiling." While it is not absolutely a shooting offense to characterize an elephant with attributes that all elephants possess, it is a yawning offense. "An aroused and angry elephant" gives us a specific striking mental picture. "A large gray elephant" gives us two extra words.

Oh, and I just found out about Salad Fingers. Awesome stuff! I guess I slept through 2005, but if you did too, and you like creepy, weirdo flash cartoons, check it out here.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Sounds of Inspiration

I've just made myself a playlist to listen as I work on my novel. For many people, it is way easier to write while listening to music that lacks vocals (something to do with processing language, but ask your local psychologist to be sure), so my list is mostly instrumental. I wanted stuff with an alien feel, so there's everything from stock French educational film scores of the early 80s to orchestral space pop of the early 60s to experimental electronic weirdness. Here is a list of a few of the albums I drew from, and links to where you can find out more about them. Because, I know people of the future are gonna want to know what G. Arthur Brown was listening to when he wrote The Belange (working title only).

Space Oddities Volumes 1 & 2
The Strange New World of Bernard Fevre
Luke Vibert’s Further Nuggets
Hyman & Mayo’s Space Pop LP “Moon Gas”
Man in Space (with Sounds)
Yu – Songs of Science
Informatic 2000 (Bizarre 80’s French Eletcronic Musique)
Nino Nardini’s “Musique Pour Le Futur”

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Strange Edge: Have I Stumbled upon a New Idear?

In my reading, my searching out what's going on in fiction, I've run across a lot of unusual subgenres/movements/effects. Two in particular have caught my eye: Slipstream and New Weird.

For those who are unfamiliar, my brief overview. Slipstream is a style or effect in fiction that relies on cognitive dissonance to make the reader feel strange. This can come in the form of unreliable narrators who seem to give contradictory accounts of events or in the inability of a reader to distinguish whether the events in a story are real and magical or imaginary and mundane. Slipstream stories normally occur in a world not entirely distinct from our own. That is, typically only the events in the story itself--or those elements central to the story--are impossible, and the normal rules of existence seemingly apply to every other aspect of life. Slipstream may also use textual subversion while also relating surreal perceptions or events that operate on dream-logic. Slipstream generally deals more with epistemic, ontological or metaphysical uncertainty than social or political ideology. When it is social, it leans toward the psycho-social. You won't find many morality tales in this style.

New Weird, on the other hand, is almost always set in a secondary world, a world very much unlike our own. In this way, it is more accessible to core Fantasy fans than may be Slipstream. New Weird relies on the grotesque (in somewhat the same way Horror does) to give a feeling of wrongness to the reader. There is a tendency toward darkness in theme and the stories tend to contain very gritty social themes squirming below the surface. As these stories are set in a secondary world, many of the creatures, races, venues and customs of that world can be seen as symbols. Unlike your shelf-stable, run-of-the-mill heroic fantasy, you won't see many recognizable tropes (no Elves, Dragons, Vampires, Wizards) in New Weird. You will instead see Lovecraftian variations on those themes.

Though both of these types of story appeal greatly to me, and I'd wager they appeal to a very large common intersection of the Venn diagram of genre readers, they can be contrasted in this way (if somewhat oversimplified for sake of my point): Slipstream features strange events in a typical world whereas New Weird features typical events in a strange world. There is a perfectly good reason why these two conventions have arisen so. In Slipstream, the reader attempts tell what events are real while trying to interpret them in light of the physics of the known world. If those tales were set in a strange and alien world where the reader has yet to be shown an established physics, the reader could easily become overwhelmed with the task. That is to say, when a boy turns invisible in the real world, we know something out of the ordinary has occurred. But when a twarb turns invisible on planet Tandrel, we don't have a basis to decide if that is an unusual event or something that happens all the time. If all elements of the tale are very strange, it takes a lot of work for the writer to expose the necessary information to his reader and gain the reader's trust while enticing the reader to read on. It is much easier to fall into the New Weird conventions of a very strange setting with a fairly typical adventure, romance, drama, or intrigue plot. Or a very normal setting with an entirely unbelievable, confusing, atypical, post-modern plot.

Harder work, maybe. But interesting work? I think so. Here are a few stories I was reading that gave me some ideas about where to begin (and collections where you can find them for your own personal enjoyment):

Brian Evenson - "The Progenitor," "Body" (The Wavering Knife), "Watson's Boy (The New Weird)

Thomas Ligotti - "My Case for Retributive Action," "Our Temporary Supervisor," "In a Foreign Town, In a Foreign Land" (Teatro Grottesco)

Kelly Link
- "Catskin" (Magic for Beginners), "The Wizards of Perfil," "The Constable of Abal" (Pretty Monsters)

Phillip Raines and Harvey Welles - "The Fishie" (Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet)

Veronica Schanoes - "Serpents" (Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet)

All of the above stories have radically different styles and feels. Evenson plays with bleakness and insanity and alienation. Ligotti combines just about every form of horror ranging from the psychological to the financial to the supernatural. The stories from Link have an off-kilter fairy tale feel, the Raines and Welles collaboration feels like a psychedelic folk tale, and Schanoes' story happens in a non-child-safe Wonderland. But they all have elements in common. They take place in worlds that we are unfamiliar with. They are not in simple Fantasy Land templates ala Tolkien or Terry Brooks. But more than that, they all contain a plot that makes us question the underlying reality of what seems to be the surface reality. Where is this story really taking place? What is really happening to the character? What is the true nature of the characters? Do the characters know what the nature of their reality truly is? Can we the reader be sure of what the reality of the tale is? In one way or another, all these stories create this unified feeling of strangeness. Not just in locale but in action and theme.

So, in short, I want to create successful stories that capitalize on the full spectrum of strangeness. I want to create worlds and plots that are equally bizarre, and fill them characters that don't fall apart under the pressure of being completely and utterly uncanny. I want to entertain, but I also want to encourage my readers to challenge assumptions, which means subverting conventions, but not so much as to become pure experimentalism. Secondary world fiction with plots that induce cognitive dissonance. Let's call it The Strange Edge. Because it will never be a core of any genre. It will always be a frontier region that scares people on all its borders, be they literary, fantasy, mystery, science fiction or horror.