I like weird fiction. I like Dagon, and Cthulhu, and The King in Yellow, and Hastur. I regularly take trips to Carcosa, Pagana, and the Dreamlands. I’ve tried writing a short story or two myself, though I’ll admit they weren’t particularly good.
But I’m far from the only person that likes weird fiction, all one has to do is take a quick search through the internet or check a local hipster hangout to find tentacled plushies and mind-altering T-shirts. It’s become quite the fad, and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. Weird fiction – and its cousin slipstream – is snug as a bug in the insecurities and inconsistencies of modern life. It is a genreless genre, rooted in feeling rather than techniques and conventions. It is sickening, fantastic, horrific, and strange, and always out of place, which is why it seems so fitting to 21st century readers.
There’s a resurgence in weird fiction: a new wave of the not-quite-sure-what-it-is, and its not the usual postmodernist convention-bending that we’ve seen so often atop the bestseller lists (though I’ll admit there can occasionally be some crossover).
[Let me also take this moment to say that I am definitely not a fan of China Miéville, but that’s a story for another time]
Having apparently devoured the written word, the weird is now sinking its teeth into the digital world. Sneaking out of the covers of works like The Raw Shark Texts and House of Leaves into forums, videos, art, and codes. The copious amount of online myths and legends – or creepypasta – is a testimony to the weird’s symbiotic relationship to the Internet. For the first time in human history we have a worldwide system of communication, filled with more information than any one person could ever comprehend, what better place for the weird to reside?
But here’s the conundrum: the weird is the unknown, the strange, the creeping sense of unease that rests in the back of the skull. The modern weird is at once terrifying, and tamed. Cthulhu is the poster boy for weird fiction and cosmic horror, yet we turn him into action figures and hats. And not even creatures from beyond time and space can hold up a fight against big guns.
Do you see what I’m getting at?
Perhaps its just the nature of our time. We are accustomed to our technology, even if we are afraid of it. Cultures and ideas spread across the world at speeds that would have terrified Lovecraft even more than they did at his own time. Maybe weird fiction simply cannot exist in a modern world, with modern sensibilities. Maybe weird fiction is so utterly at odds with progressive thought that it cannot possibly survive.
But even these answers seem unsatisfactory…
Sentience breeds fear. There is always an unknown, always an unanswered question, always a strange, unforeseeable future, and a stranger, indecipherable past. The weird and the strange aren’t going anywhere, and they cannot be tamed. Maybe this new generation of the bizarre is simply in its infant stages – struggling to separate itself from its curmudgeonly parents and grandparents. Perhaps it is merely asleep, waiting for the alignment of the stars to beckon it out of its slumber.
For that is not dead which can eternal lie. And, well, you know the rest.