05 March, 2012

Fantasy Overview: New Weird

Part four of my fantasy overview, delayed for no good reason.

If you want fantasy that gets away from medieval settings and quest plots, this is your subgenre. What these authors have in common is attempting to write fantasy that gets out of the rut worn by Tolkien and imitators. Often they try to take less well-traveled paths, making books that feel fresh and different... and of course weird.

China MiƩville
The big name in New Weird, and not without reason. His Bas-Lag novels are set in a world filled with scarab-headed races and living robots and god whales. His books stand alone, sometimes referencing events of other novels, but always exploring new aspects of the world. It's a setting that feels enjoyably populated and far from Generic Fantasy Land.

Jeff VanderMeer
The same kind of unusual setting as MiƩville, but focusing on one idea in depth instead of a wide variety. For example, Finch features a fantasy world with industrial-level technology comes face to face with radically different fungus people. They use living fungal technology to monitor everyone, take memories from the dead, and create changing houses.

Michael Swanwick
Tolkien, the cynical and industrial remix. Dragons exist, but they are robotic creations that function as fighter-planes. There might be a prophecy or quest, but you can assume it will be undermined by the end of the story. Very likely to be polarizing, but you should give him a try in case you're one of the readers to appreciate him.

This is a broader genre than the authors I've listed, but I wanted to single it out because it's an important force in the fantasy genre overall.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting this. Very helpful. And it's a good reminder that high or epic fantasy doesn't have to have a medieval setting with the usual trappings.