Some Thoughts on Two Anthologies

Okay, over the past two and three weeks, I have read two Ann and Jeff Vandermeer anthologies- 2008’s The New Weird and Steampunk. To be honest, I am torn about these two anthologies. On the one hand, both anthologies have some really strong and great stories. But on the other hand, both anthologies are hampered by the inclusion of academic essays that reflect upon both steampunk and the new weird.

Starting with Steampunk, I found myself not enthralled with most of the stories I read. The best ones, in my opinion, are: Jay Lake’s “The God-Clown is Near,” Joe Landsdale’s “The Steam Man of the Prairie and the Dark Rider,” and Ted Chiang’s “Seventy- Two Letters.” All of these tales are steampunk, but also new weird.

Moving on to The New Weird, the best tale, by far in my opinion, is China Mieville’s “Jack.” The bright new star of the anthology is Alistair Rennie with his amazing (and disgusting) “The Gutter Sees the Light That Never Shines” (a pity that I haven’t found anything else by him). Other good tales are Jay Lake’s “The Lizard of Ooze” and Simon D. Ings’s “The Braining of Mother Lamprey.” I will admit that I did not read the last two sections because they are academic and too postmodern.

In my last post, I have mentioned that I enjoy swords and sorcery. I also enjoy steampunk and the new weird (even if the new weird is practically an already dead genre, but isn’t it actually more of a style than a genre?). Indeed, I am as inspired by China Mieville as I am by Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith.

Thinking about the new weird, I think that Jeff Vandermeer has a point, but he over complicates it. The new weird is a merger, an uncertain alliance of fantastic science fiction, fantasy, and horror. And then you throw in as many postmodern and literary techniques that one can (with out being too over the top).  The point about the new weird, and where it succeeds, is that it allows for a more literary, more poetic language.

So, while I am disappointed in both anthologies, I have discovered many new writers that I will look out for. And that is really one of the reasons that anthologies exist for, don’t you think?

With that out of the way. My next post will be. . . Part One of my Bas-Lag Reading Project- I’m tackling, The Scar!


Posted on January 27, 2011, in Books and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Jeff VanderMeer

    “But on the other hand, both anthologies are hampered by the inclusion of academic essays that reflect upon both steampunk and the new weird.”

    This is where I began to laugh at your review. And continued laughing.


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