Review: The New Weird (Stimuli)
This is the second of multiple posts related to The New Weird, an anthology edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer. I previously posted an overview of the anthology, including the recommended reading list. The stories in the Stimuli section are the New Wave and New Horror precursors to New Weird.
Horror can often come off as a mindless evil plodding through a narrative while the protagonist either battles it or tries to survive. The stories in this section tear apart that description from pretty much every angle. They are each asking the question “Where do I belong?” in complex and beautiful ways. If our protagonists can find a place in the strange and horrific trappings of these stories, than it might be possible that we readers, may find a place in a world that contains many such horrors, just not concentrated and distilled to their madness inducing core as they are here.
The Luck in the Head by M. John Harrison
A poet’s dream turns to nightmare and the nightmare bleeds into reality. I love a short story that leaves you aching for more of the world in which it is set. The Mammy Vooly and Uroconium and the surrounding wasteland stuck in my mind and may find their way into my dreams. Interestingly the poet protagonist recalls a critic representing “his work as a series of narrativeless images, glued together only by his artistic persona.” Applied to the story in which it appears, it’s valid, but The Luck in the Head is none the poorer for that fact.
In the Hills, the Cities by Clive Barker
We view the world in different ways. Some of us are fascinated by the differing politics that are embraced. Some of us just want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Some people see a metaphor and say, ooo, I can do some damage with that. The pen is, as they say, mightier than the sword. If you’ve never read Barker… expect blood. Expect tons of blood.
Crossing into Cambodia by Michael Moorcock
War has its own inherent horror. The neat thing that Moorcock does in this piece, is hint that there’s something even more apocalyptic going on than just the horrors of an endless war. There’s a darkness looming at the edge of this piece that not even the blinding flash of a nuclear blast can dissipate.
The Braining of Mother Lamprey by Simon D. Ings
This story manages on every page to be both intensely disturbing and significantly humorous. In your average horror it’s death or something deadly that threatens. Life and living are usually good things, but here it’s clear that there can be too much of a good thing. Even the ending manages to combine whimsy and gore.
The Neglected Garden by Kathe Koja
This story captures a decent into madness, set amongst the trappings of the utterly mundane. Relationships never end cleanly and I’m not sure if the fantastical in this story more evokes abuse or suicide, but ultimately strength is derived from the suffering. I’m pleasantly confused by this story, but love the meticulous manner in which the fantastical (and horrific) elements are described.
A Soft Voice Whispers Nothing by Thomas Ligotti
A simple description of this story would be someone born with the taint of death upon them such that their not truly at home in the world until they find the land of the dead. But on other levels it’s not clear if what ails the protagonist is actually a disease. The voice that whispers nothing, is actually quite verbose during it’s “metaphysical lecture.” I read that page a few times and pretty much agree that it whispers nothing, which is probably a statement about religion or such. None of that captures how eerily beautiful the writing is.