Bees Replacing Birds and Other Boundary Crossings
Sturgeon Award finalists

We Need a Broader Discussion of Genre Boundaries

The New Weird conversation is interesting and energetic. But a discussion of genre boundaries needs to encompass more writers, works, and publications than can be accomodated in a discussion of the New Weird. Defined by process of elimination, the New Weird is rapidly shrinking. Remaining New Weird writers are, by my count, M. John Harrison, China Miéville, Justina Robson, maybe Gabe Choinard, and one or two drafted posthumously. Everyone else has been shot down or left.

Alastair Reynolds is irretrievably New Space Opera unless he can be wooed away from accomodating reader expectations. We should pay very close attention to Jeff VanderMeer's departure (taking with him the crowd he publishes, I think), Jeff having concluded that he will not be using the term New Weird. With Jeff's departure, a significant majority of writers negotiating a new relationship with genre are out.

As I stated (in my June 4th post in the New Weird discussion), there is a widespread change in writers' relationships to genre boundaries that is different than Slipstream. I am now convinced that this is not the New Weird, but something else which is perhaps in need of naming.

There is a thriving movement of small press magazines, antholgies, and web sites publishing off-genre fiction, fiction in dialog with genre while outside the parameters of what the major magazines can publish: Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, Polyphany, Conjuctions: 39, Leviathan, Fantastic Metropolis, etc. These, too, are not New Weird.

Neither Miéville's nor Harrison's influence can be conflated with the New Weird. The New Weird is narrow but the influence of Perdido Street Station and Miéville's other novels is broad. And while Miéville's work seems to me strongly in the tradition of Dhalgren, Delany is definitely not New Weird because he thinks genre boundaries serve a useful purpose (and I agree with him).

Harrison is widely influential in his lifelong attack on fantasy and science fiction tropes and his violating of readers' expectations. Some credit him with having destroyed the old Space Opera in the early '70s. But again, we cannot count influence as equivalent with the New Weird.

Influence, after all, is a function of reception rather than writer's intent.