Weird Fiction is Thriving on the Vine

Great good news! Ann and Jeff VanderMeer have launched a very promising online journal dedicated to the examination and enjoyment of outré literature, called Weird Fiction Review. Not only does the first issue contain an interview with Neil Gaiman, I see on GalleyCat that “the journal will maintain a ‘symbiotic relationship’ with S.T. Joshi’s print journal, The Weird Fiction Review.” This is a very good thing, Joshi being one of the world’s foremost scholars of the uncanny genres.

I like the way Jeff and Ann refer to their project as “a non-denominational approach that appre­ciates Love­craft but also Kafka, Angela Carter and Clark Ash­ton Smith, Shirley Jack­son and Fritz Leiber — along with the next gen­er­a­tion of weird writ­ers and inter­na­tional weird.” That quote is also from GalleyCat, and here’s a link to the entire article.

But Ann and Jeff VanderMeer didn’t stop there. They have a new book out. You know those old, weird/horror/sci-fi anthologies I like to talk about in my Bill’s Bookshelf series? Most of those books are from the 1960s or 70s, but here’s a brand new collection that carries on the tradition and brings it into the 21st Century. It’s called The Weird: A Compendium of Dark and Strange Stories. This ambitious labor of love  boasts over one hundred years of weird fiction collected in a single volume, representing  more than 20 nationalities, with seven new translations. Check out the table of contents.

Apparently, when Weird Tales magazine decided to replace Ann VanderMeer as editor, the magazine’s loss was our gain. Ann & Jeff’s book-life is flourishing like the verdant foliage of Ambergris.

uNcAnNy

The word “uncanny” is often used interchangeably with words like “eerie” and “weird.”  After Boris Karloff  portrayed the Frankenstein monster in the classic 1931 movie, he was sometimes billed as “Karloff the Uncanny.” I recently decided to look up the actual definition of uncanny and discovered a treasure trove of cool information, including some psychology from Sigmund Freud and Ernst Jentsch, short stories by E. T. A. Hoffman (especially Der Sandmann), which inspired the likes of Poe, Baudelaire, and Kafka, all the way up to Neil Gaiman’s acclained graphic novel, The Sandman.

Wikipedia describes the concept of uncanny as “an instance where something can be familiar, yet foreign at the same time, resulting in a feeling of it being uncomfortably strange.”

A 1906 essay by Ernst Jentsch called On the Psychology of the Uncanny cites the fiction of German writer E.T.A. Hoffmann as examples of uncanny tales. Sigmund Freud also made extensive references to Hoffman’s work. Both psychologists focused mainly on a macabre little tales called Der Sandmann (The Sandman).

I found Hoffmann’s The Sandman to be a wonderfully bizarre treat, and Thanks to Gaslight, you can read the entire text here.

Hoffman is associated with German Romanticism. He wrote a novelette called The Nutcracker, which was later the inspiration for the famous ballet by Tchaikovsky that has become a Christmas tradition. Hoffmann’s story Das Fräulein von Scuderi  may be the first detective story, coming even before Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”

Neil Gaiman‘s Sandman series of graphic novels feature a character created by Morpheus (“the Sandman”) called the Corinthian, who steals the eyes of his victims, similarly to Hoffman’s Sandman. Here is a good source of information on Gaiman’s Sandman: Master of Dreams.