Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Strange Fiction / Weird Fiction

A question by email: Hal, when you says strange ficcion, are you telling about Weird Ficcion?

Answer: No, just the literal meaning -- fiction which is strange, fiction of the strange -- hence the lower-case rendering of the term. It's a broad term for that set of genres and isolated works featuring the strange -- nothing more, nothing less. It means exactly what it would mean in common usage, if someone were picking out strange fiction versus humorous fiction versus boring fiction versus bitter fiction.

It's not equivalent to even a lower-case "weird fiction," because "weird" carries connotations that over-specify the nature of the strangeness. (Like comedy is not the same as farce; farce is a type of comedy.) And it's definitely not equivalent to an upper-case "Weird Fiction," because that's a nominal label on a group delimited by the consensus of what is or isn't in the group. To say, "That's a Weird Fiction novel," is equivalent to saying, "That's a Village People album." To say, "That's strange fiction," is equivalent to saying, "Those are people who live in permanent settlements."

Just as the lifestyles of people can be described in terms of whether or not they involve permanent settlements, fiction can be described at the text level, in terms of whether or not it involves certain subjunctivity levels and other such modalities -- what Delany talks about in his essay, "About Five Thousand Seven Hundred and Fifty Words," only more so. In the same way that permanent settlements come in different flavours -- coastal or riverside, rural or urban -- the strange comes in different flavours -- the absurd or the abject, the uncanny or the weird. And "Weird Fiction" limits not simply by specifying a particular flavour but by applying a name for a flavour to a particular community; it's not just a particular type of permanent settlement but a specific settlement... Urban City.

That sort of bounded genre is very much not what I mean by "strange fiction."



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