Taking Notes: 'The New Weird: 'It's Alive?'' (2008 ) by Jeff VanderMeer

我以前在介紹 Jeff VanderMeer 與 K. J. Bishop 作品的專文中,曾經一併寫過關於 New Weird 次文類的介紹。如今 VanderMeer 編纂 The New Weird 作品合集,明顯有為該文類建立論述的意味。本文即為該合集的序文,有開宗明義的況味。特此筆記如下,照慣例,粗體字為我所加:

Jeff VanderMeer, "The New Weird: 'It's Alive?'" in The New Weird, edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer (San Francisco: Tachyon, 2008), pp. ix - xviii.

p. ix
首先說明 New Weird 的起源是從 weird fiction 而來:
  Weird fiction -- typified by magazines like Weird Tales and writers like H. P. Lovecraft or Clark Ashton Smith back in the glory days of the pulps -- eventually morphed into modern-day traditional Horror. "Weird" refers to the sometimes supernatural or fantastical element of unease in many of these stories -- an element that could take a blunt, literal form or more subtle and symbolic form and which was, as in the best of Lovecraft's work, combined with a visionary sensibility. These types of stories also often rose above their pulp or self-taught origins through the strength of the writer's imagination. ......

  Two impulses or influences distinguish the New Weird from the "Old" Weird, and make the term more concrete than terms like "slipstream" and "interstitial," which have no distinct lineage. The New
p. x
Wave of the 1960s was the first stimulus leading to the New Weird. Featuring authors such as M. John Harrison, Michael Moorcock, and J. G. Ballard, the New Wave deliriously mixed genres, high and low arts, and engaged in formal experimentation, often typified by a distinctly political point of view. New Wave writers also often blurred the line between science fiction and fantasy, writing a kind of updated "scifantasy," first popularized by Jack Vance in his Dying Earth novels. This movement (backed by two of its own influences, Mervyn Peake and the Decadents of the late 1800s) provided what might be thought of as the brain of New Weird.

  The second stimulus came from the unsettling grotesquery of such seminal 1980s work as Clive Barker's Books of Blood. In this kind of fiction, body transformations and dislocations create a visceral, contemporary take on the kind of visionary horror best exemplified by the work of Lovecraft -- while moving past Lovecraft's coyness in recounting events in which the monster or horror can never fully be revealed or explained. In many of Barker's best tales, the starting point is the acceptance of a monster or a transformation and the story is what comes after. Transgressive horror, then, repurposed to focus on the monsters and grotesquery but not the "scare," forms the beating heart of the New Weird.

接下來探討 New Weird 真正風行之前的演變。繼 Barker 的恐怖小說小復興後,從 1990 年代的幾位作家作品肇始,像是 Jeffery Thomas 的 Punktown 故事、Michael Cisco 的 The Divinity Student、Jeffrey Ford 的 Well-Built City 三部曲,直到 VanderMeer 自己的 Ambergris 故事及 K. J. Bishop 的早期短篇,均呈現出上述的文類特徵。主要的創作園地有 The Third AlternativeThe Silver Web 等雜誌,以及 VanderMeer 主編的 Leviathan 系列合集。

p. xi
整個 New Weird 開始爆發成新興文類的關鍵點在於 China Mieville 的 Perdido Street Station
  The publication of Mieville's Perdido Street Station in 2000 represented what might be termed the first commercially acceptable version of the New Weird, one that both coarsened and broadened the New Weird approach through techniques more common to writers like Charles Dickens, while adding a progressive political slant. ......

  Mieville's fiction wasn't inherently superior to what had come before, but it was epic, and it wedded a "surrender to the weird" -- literally, the writer's surrender to the material, without ironic distance --
p. xii
to rough-hewn but effective plots featuring earnest, proactive characters. ......
因此較之前面所提及的作品,Mieville 較為能讀者所接受。  
...... Mieville had created just the right balance between pulp writing, visionary, surreal images, and literary influences to attract a wider audience -- and serve as the lightning rod for what would become known as New Weird.

再來整整兩頁則是敘述 New Weird 興起後,發生在 The Third Alternative 網路討論區的路線論戰。

怎麼戰的暫且按下不表,下一節探討 New Weird 對於出版與行內外的影響。首先是怪怪作品開始有人出,成為一種貼在作品上的標籤:
p. xiv
  The other reality about the term "New Weird" has little to do with either moments or movements and more to do with the marketplace. ...... As an editor at a large North American publishing house told me two years ago, "New Weird" has been a "useful shorthand" not only when justifying acquiring a particular novel, but also when marketing departments talk to booksellers. Confusion about the specifics of the term created a larger protective umbrella for writers from a publishing standpoint. Many books far stranger than Mieville's have been prominently published as a result.
p. xv
第二個特點在於雖然 New Weird 作者的作品還是沒比傳統行內作品來得賣座,他們在評論及評審獎項方面開始掌握主導地位。
  The other truth is that even though heroic fantasy and other forms of genre fiction still sell much better than most New Weird books, New Weird writers partially dominated the critical and awards landscape for almost half a decade.
同樣地,讀者對於分類的敏感度不高,所以一些比較具有原創性和獨特風格的作家也被冠上 New Weird。也造成部分人士認為這個標籤無法被定義。
  In a similar way, New Weird has become shorthand for readers, who don't care about the vagaries of taxonomy so much as "I know it when I read it." For this reason, writers such as Kelly Link, Justina Robson and Charles Stross have all been, at one time or another, identified as New Weird. These reader associations occur because when encountering something unique most of us grab the label that seems the closest match so we can easily describe our enthusiasm to others. (The result of both carefree readers and some careless academics has been to make it seem as if New Weird is as indefinable and slippery a term as "interstitial.")
然而,New Weird 的演變也十分快速。有些參與的作家已經轉向,新作家也將其精神消化吸收後,產生更新銳的作品。

p. xvi
  This speaks to the nature of art: as soon as something becomes popular or familiar, the true revolution moves elsewhere. Sometimes the writers involved in the original radicalism move on, too, and sometimes they allow themselves to be left behind.

  New Weird is a type of urban secondary-world fiction that subverts the romanticized ideas about place found in traditional fantasy, largely by choosing realistic, complex real-world models as the jumping off point for creation of settings that may combine elements of both science fiction and fantasy. New Weird has a visceral, in-the-moment quality that often uses elements of surreal or transgressive horror for its tone, style, and effects -- in combination with the stimulus of influence from New Wave writers or their proxies (including also such forebears as Mervyn Peake and the French/English Decadents). New Weird fictions are acutely aware of the modern world, even if in disguise, but not always overtly political. As part of this awareness of the modern world, New Weird relies for its visionary power on a "surrender to the weird" that isn't, for example, hermetically sealed in a haunted house on the moors or in a cave in Antarctica. The "surrender" (or "belief") of the writer can take many forms, some of them even involving the use of postmodern techniques that do not undermine the surface reality of the text.
p. xvii
VanderMeer 同時點出 New Weird 與 Slipstream 和 Interstitial fiction 兩個主要的差異處。
...... First, while Slipstream and Interstitial fiction often claim New Wave influence, they rarely if ever cite a Horror influence, with its particular emphasis on the intense use of grotesquery focused around transformation, decay, or mutilation of the human body. Second, postmodern techniques that undermine the surface reality of the text (or point out its artificiality) are not part of the New Weird aesthetic, but they are part of the Slipstream and Interstitial toolbox.


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