Writing on the Edge: Authors Michael Cisco and Brendan Connell on Weird Fiction


Many of the more interesting twenty-first century permutations of “The Weird” in literature have come from authors Michael Cisco and Brendan Connell. For Cisco, it’s primarily been through novels like his latest, The Great Lover, and Brendan Connell through collections like the just-released The Life of Polycrates & Other Stories for Antiquated Children. Connell’s fiction has appeared in such respected publications as McSweeney’s, Adbusters, and Harpur’s Palate, while Cisco has been highly praised for previous novels by the likes of China Mieville, perhaps the most popular mainstream writer associated with The Weird.

But what is “The Weird” exactly? Weird fiction, in the classic sense, tends to mean the kind of supernatural stories that don’t fit into easy classifications, and which may produce more of a sense of unease than of outright horror. As H.P. Lovecraft wrote in his classic definition:

The true weird tale has something more than secret murder, bloody bones, or a sheeted form clanking chains according to rule. A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; and there must be a hint, expressed with a seriousness and portentousness becoming its subject, of that most terrible conception of the human brain--a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the daemons of unplumbed space.

In its more contemporary permutations, “The Weird” has been infiltrated by the experimental literary speculative fiction of the British New Wave, the transgressive body horror of Clive Barker’s Books of Blood, and various mainstream influences. The result is sometimes called “The New Weird,” and even Mieville’s latest, Embassytown, ostensibly a science fiction novel, is an example of it. Modern Weird also can contain elements associated with experimental fiction, in addition to references to the Decadent writers of the late 1800s. K.J. Bishop, Steph Swainston, Jeffrey Thomas, and others are all creating weird texts in a modern context.

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