And what is weird fiction? Is it undefinable? Maybe, but we don't think so.
We at least want to tell you what it is to us. So here's a quick list and then below, in Toward a Weirder Tomorrow, we dissect it in a bit more detail. We are looking for, in no particular order, dark fantasy, cosmic horror, fabulism, folk horror, magical realism, slipstream, "soft" science fiction, supernatural horror, and surrealism. In short, weird fiction and where it borders with science fiction and fantasy:
- It must be speculative fiction.
- It need not be horror. At its core, weird fiction is the unknown. That sits very well as warding off the shadows—or horror—but beyond the grotesque, it reaches clear to the ecstatic with stopovers at all modes in between, such as at the comedic and the slice of life.
- As a landscape, speculative fiction exists on a spectrum with other genres and at times shares their borders. These frontiers are evershifting.
- The weird sits in an "uncanny valley" of realism, snug between the impossibility of fantasy and the certitude of science fiction.
And it needs to incorporate the current theme…
We are now open to original short stories of urban weird fiction (so stories about cities and dealing with the complexity that is other people) for the upcoming Nowhereville: Weird is Other People. These are modern weird tales (give or take a few decades) that could only be told of the weirdness of the urban experience and our interactions with one another. (See Toward a Weirder Tomorrow for additional thought on weird fiction and Requirements for Current Theme at the end for more details on submissions.)
Eyedolon Magazine consists of monthly stories that fit the above theme, and then, when we have some to-be-determined critical mass of stories, they are collected in print form as an anthology. Then we'll pick a new topic and start the whole process over for another anthology. (It's a magazine-anthology hybrid.)
So far published for Nowhereville:
- “Y” by Maura McHugh
- “Patio Wing Monsters” by S.P. Miskowski
- "Underglaze" by Craig Laurance Gidney
- "A Name For Every Home" by Ramsey Campbell
In addition, patrons get access to the following serialized fiction:
- The Song of Spores by Bogi Takács [part 1 | 2]
- How To Unmake It In Anglia by Brandon O'Brien [part 1]
- The Obsecration by Matthew M. Bartlett [part 1 | 2]
- Blossoms Blackened Like Dead Stars serial by Lucy A. Snyder [part 1]
- The Night Museum by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. [part 1]
And serial fiction will be released in full ebook edition to patrons and also available in ebook and print editions to non-patrons when complete. Through our various patron tiers, advance release editions of our other titles (such as novels and novellas) are also available to patrons.
We just wrapped up the Kickstarter for our anthology Welcome to Miskatonic University, and you can read one of its stories, "Some Muses Are Not Gentle" by Brandon O'Brien (available to non-patrons).
TOWARD A WEIRDER TOMORROWOr Weird Is A Genre All Its Very Own (Just Turn Right at Speculation and You'll Spot It Between Fantasy and Science Fiction)
Between the Impossible of fantasy and the Inevitable (or at least Very Plausible Given Our Current Understanding) of science fiction exists the Maybe state of the weird. Simply put, weird fiction is the unknown. It lies between the real and the unreal; it's our fear and ecstasy given life as we're confronted by the unknown.
If one could map all the stories ever told on a vast theoretical, multidimensional architecture, how might that look? Imagine each dimension, ticked off by different measures and serving as axes for plotting stories on this vast landscape. For the purposes at hand, we're only interested in the portion relating to speculative fiction, so let's spin the dials and shift our gaze through the appropriate porthole—
There! That particular spectacular and shifting lobe contains all of speculative fiction.
CHARTING THE WEIRD: If one were to attempt to map speculation, at one end might lie fantasy while at the other science fiction. And caught in between is the weird.
- Fantasy represents the "impossible" at its core. These are the stories presenting pasts that have already happened (but differently) and the stories relying on elements that the consensus has deemed impossible (see also magic and dragons, that while perhaps there is indeed more to understand about Universe, there is nothing substantive pointing toward this ever actually happening). These are the tales, whether heroic or dark, that don't try to replicate our reality in every detail but that create worlds beholden only to their own internal logic, either from whole cloth or by reweaving the existing fabric of history (whether baldly or subtly).
- Science fiction, on the other end, represents that which is inevitable, that which is perfectly likely, and even that which might very well happen to us as a species at some point in the future possibly—at least based on how we understand ourselves and the universe here and now. Science fiction, at its core, is an extrapolation of our current reality, building social and technological advances or curtailments as befits the time of the writing. It is all of our possible futures based on our current understanding.
- Weird fiction (now that we've set a foundation) falls in between those prior two giants' extremes. It is more proximal to our current state of being. It is our "unknown," us trying to give name and shape to the darkness and to the ecstatic—to that which we don't understand. It is often labeled as "supernatural" or "weird science," depending on which side of the scale it tips, toward fantasy or toward science fiction. Compared to fantasy, it is anchored more firmly in the known: rather that rewriting all that exists, it instead merely pokes holes and pulls strings, tearing down or building up, layering upon the known. (Supernatural horror and folk horror and fabulism are some weird subgenres that often tilt toward fantasy.) Compared to science fiction, weird fiction is less certain. It relies on established principles, on a "science" and "nature," that has perhaps been imagined but has no accepted model. (Slipstream and "soft" science fiction are often the more science fiction–leaning of weird tales, exploring themes of death, dreams, psychic abilities—the very nature of reality—and similar realms that we recognize that science possibly hasn't yet said its final piece on.)
Now, back to our massive map! It is comprised of axes, each a continuum of some quality, each further expandable into its own multidimensional spectrum as needed. But the two such measures of a story that might be most helpful now are time (or proximity) and realism.
- Proximity is simply the past-present-future of the story, and this measures how close the reader is to the story in spacetime. Does it take place in a projected future or a derived past or is it snug in a present-day approximation?
- Realism is how far the fiction deviates from consensus reality. (The zero point here is our consensus world—this is realistic fiction and not speculative at all—and the opposite extreme is absurdism, or bizarro fiction.) So to what extent does a story speculate? Is there only a touch of the unreal painted on an otherwise "healthy" reality (as in magical realism), does it enter the surreal, or maybe sail on clear to the absurd?
I suggest here that all of speculative fiction could be measured on on the plane created by proximity and realism. We could certainly refine this by unpacking the axes further and even adding more dimensions, but at the core, this feels a good approximation of speculation. Speculation is about setting, the time and place and cultures; you need to add plot and tension and mood if you want to add horror, comedy, romance, (or "emotion") to the equation; and it is independent of style (existing anywhere from literary to pop).
So to wrap up, speculative fiction incorporates three genres—fantasy, weird, and science fiction. (Horror is on a separate axis that only intersects with speculative fiction sometimes, but more on that another time.) And within those three genres lie a multitude of subgenres.
As ever, this is a work in progress. Thinking of it this way has been helpful to me. YMMV. Cheers!
Broken Eye Books
REQUIREMENTS FOR CURRENT THEMEWe want diverse stories with modern sensibilities from many different voices that show the immense and diverging possibilities for weird fiction, fearlessly exploring the new and the strange. We are actively seeking submissions from writers from underrepresented populations. (This includes, but is not limited to, writers of any race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, class, and physical or mental abledness.)
- Original, previously unpublished weird fiction short stories (3,000-7,500 words)
- Pay rate of 8 c/w for first rights to digital, audio, and print formats in English.
- Simultaneous submissions are welcome, but please, let us know as soon as possible if your submission has become unavailable before you hear back from us.
- No Cthulhu Mythos for this one.
- Only one submission per author.
- We seek both rich characters and grandiose ideas. We seek diverse characters.
Submit your story in standard manuscript format as an attachment to submissions(at)brokeneyebooks(dot)com with a subject line of the following: [NWV] "Your Story Title".
Submission window open from May 1, 2018 to July 1, 2018. (We cannot confirm receipt of your manuscript, so please don't ask. We will accept or reject as quickly as we can.) The published anthology will be a mix of stories both from invited authors and from submissions. Don’t self-reject. If in doubt, submit.
Thank you for your support!
Broken Eye Books is an independent press based in Seattle, here to bring you the odd, strange, and offbeat side of speculative fiction. Our stories tend to blend genres, blurring the boundaries of sci-fi, fantasy, and the weird.
Support weird. Support indie.