Weird Fiction discussion

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What Are You Currently Reading? > Other Speculative Fiction I am currently reading

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message 1: by Dan (last edited Apr 11, 2019 06:05PM) (new)

Dan | 745 comments I am really enjoying one of the two books C.J. Cherryh wrote the first year she broke into the field: 1976. It's titled Gate of Ivrel and although I'm only halfway through it I think I'm going to have to consider it a science fantasy masterpiece. Andre Norton in a foreword writes how she wished she could write like Cherryh did here, that this work is one Norton herself keeps returning to (like Tolkien's) in order to reread it, and so on. I don't think Norton was just gushing either, but sincerely admired Cherryh's writing.

This early book has all the earmarks of Cherryh's style that she maintained her entire career, namely it's written in super dense, highly limited third person omniscient. What this means is that we get the story from only one character's perspective and can only know as much about what's going on as that one character does. Often Cherryh picks a very limited character. We don't have one as limited as Faulkner's Benjy in this case, but almost so. Think of a Star Trek original series story as being told purely from the character's point of view of a world that they beamed down to who knows nothing about advanced technology.

It's a fascinating story told from a limited perspective that moves fast in terms of plot because Cherryh doesn't give us a single detail that doesn't come to the character's head. It's really an incredible ride!


message 2: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) I'm not sure if Black Tickets: Stories is weird fiction or not. There aren't any SF or fantastic elements, but the headlong, stream-of-consciousness short stories often feel weird. Some are just a page long - ugly snapshots of the world. Her style was supposed to have inspired Gibson's for Neuromancer, generally considered the first cyberpunk novel. Her work is definitely not my thing, so I gave it a 2 star review here:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 3: by Kateblue (last edited Apr 12, 2019 07:00AM) (new)

Kateblue I figure anything by Kurt Vonnegut is weird, so I am reading Cat's Cradle right now for another GR group, Hugo & Nebula Awards: Best Novels https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/... Not sure I like it much at 1/3 in

Jim, I think Black Tickets: Stories sounds depressing, so I will be skipping it. Glad you read it so I didn't have to!


message 4: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) You're welcome, Kateblue. It might work for some, although given its age, it hasn't been very popular. I was discussing that new show "Black Mirror" with some friends & several really liked it. I watched 2 or 3 episodes, but they were all dark, nasty, & depressing; too much so for me. I thought they were really well done, but I read & watch this sort of thing as an escapist vacation from the real world. I prefer to visit some place nice or at least one that turns out well.


message 5: by Ed (new)

Ed Erwin Weirdest stuff I've recently read has all been comix:
**** Upgrade Soul
**** Everyone's a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too
**** Gideon Falls, Vol. 1: The Black Barn
*** Creature Tech
*** Tumult
** Dull Margaret
** The Squirrel Machine ("Winner of 'most weird'")

But also:
***** The Annotated Hunting of the Snark
***** The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein
**** Timequake ("Ting-a-ling!")
**** Senlin Ascends


message 6: by Kateblue (new)

Kateblue Jim said: but I read & watch this sort of thing as an escapist vacation from the real world. I prefer to visit some place nice or at least one that turns out well.

Me, too!


message 7: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 58 comments I don't know if this is considered Speculative Fiction, but I just started reading The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein.


message 8: by Scott (new)

Scott Rosemarie wrote: "I don't know if this is considered Speculative Fiction, but I just started reading The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein."

Sure it is!


message 9: by Ed (new)

Ed Erwin Rosemarie wrote: "I don't know if this is considered Speculative Fiction, but I just started reading The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein."

Heinlein is credited with popularizing the term Speculative Fiction, and he applied it to his own writings, so why not! Wiki says he intended it as a synonym of Science Fiction, and thus doesn't include Fantasy.

Others use the term with other meanings. For me it is an umbrella term for all fiction that is not trying for 100% naturalism.


message 10: by Scott (new)

Scott I see it as anything that speculates about the future [of humankind], particularly in a serious way. Where we're headed or may be headed. There is a lot of overlap with science fiction, but not all science fiction is speculative, IMO.


message 11: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 58 comments Thanks. I have only read two chapters so far so I have lots to look forward to.


message 12: by Ed (new)

Ed Erwin Scott wrote: "I see it as anything that speculates about the future [of humankind], particularly in a serious way. Where we're headed or may be headed. There is a lot of overlap with science fiction, but not all..."

I guess we use the term differently, then!

What you say matches (to my understanding) what the French call "Anticipation". I don't think we have an equivalent term. A French friend of mine wrote a story about a scientist inventing a pill to eliminate the need for defecation. The subtitle was "A story of anticipation" a pun on anticipation meaning "needing to go to the bathroom" and the French SF term. I explained to him that we don't use that term here, but he kept it anyway in the English translation.

I agree with the definition in wiki, but know that everyone uses these terms differently:
Speculative fiction is an umbrella genre encompassing fiction with certain elements that do not exist in the real world, often in the context of supernatural, futuristic or other imaginative themes. This includes, but is not limited to, science fiction, fantasy, superhero fiction, horror, utopian and dystopian fiction, fairytale fantasy, supernatural fiction as well as combinations thereof (e.g. science fantasy)



message 13: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Rosemarie wrote: "Thanks. I have only read two chapters so far so I have lots to look forward to."

It's possibly my favorite Heinlein book, although I'm moody so that can change. I definitely think it's the best he's ever written. It's aged better than Stranger in a Strange Land, IMO.


message 14: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 58 comments I am glad to hear that, Jim. Stranger in a Strange Land was painful reading after a gap of 40+ years!


message 15: by Dan (last edited Apr 12, 2019 09:59PM) (new)

Dan | 745 comments Ed wrote: "I agree with the definition in wiki, but know that everyone uses these terms differently:
Speculative fiction is an umbrella genre encompassing fiction with certain elements that do not exist in the real world, often in the context of supernatural, futuristic or other imaginative themes. This includes, but is not limited to, science fiction, fantasy, superhero fiction, horror, utopian and dystopian fiction, fairytale fantasy, supernatural fiction as well as combinations thereof (e.g. science fantasy)."


I like Wikipedia's definition too and would add the large and important alternative history genre (of the Turtledove variety). Weird fiction is also a small circle completely encompassed in speculative fiction's larger circle, but the definition would become unwieldy if it mentioned every possible subgenre.


message 16: by Dan (new)

Dan | 745 comments Rosemarie wrote: "I don't know if this is considered Speculative Fiction, but I just started reading The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein."

I have not read many of Heinlein's later works. A hardcover copy of Friday sits on my top shelf and has been waiting years for me to pick it up.


message 17: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) "Friday" is one of the best novels RAH wrote after 1970, but that's not saying much. The story moves along despite a fair amount of preaching & there isn't any incest. There's are interesting themes about energy & large corporations.


message 18: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) I've always liked the idea that speculative fiction covered SF, fantasy, & other fictional genres. It can ask "What if?" without worrying about the mechanisms & devolving into arguments about genre. Zelazny's work often teetered back & forth across the SF/fantasy line. Even Heinlein did with "Waldo". And then there are the elements that were SF, but are now considered fantasy like Psi powers.


message 19: by Merl (last edited Apr 14, 2019 04:47AM) (new)

Merl Fluin | 99 comments I just finished reading The Ocean Container by Patrik Sampler. It's set in the near future, with speculative aspects focusing on surveillance capitalism and ecological disaster... which makes it sound really grim, but it's actually poetic and beautiful and full of hope.


message 20: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) I’m rereading Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven .


message 21: by Kateblue (last edited Apr 14, 2019 11:31AM) (new)

Kateblue Rosemarie, Moon is a Harsh Mistress is one of my all-time faves. I find myself re-reading it every few years. And I really liked Friday, tho' not as much. I agree that Stranger in a Strange Land has not aged well, but if you think of it historically . . . it was written in 1962 and therefore I think it's one of the roots of Hippie culture.

Re Heinlein and fantasy . . .

I think Heinlein's fantasy Magic, Inc. is brilliant. It's probably novella length and is often packaged with Waldo, which I would characterize and more SF-like (see Waldo and Magic, Inc) But I guess, before I say Magic Inc. is brilliant, maybe I better go read it again . . . it's been years . . .

There's also Glory Road (actually, not one of my favorites) which I always thought was fantasy until someone here on GR pointed out that there's a science-like explanation, so maybe it's SF? But it's still fantasy to me! (Sing that last sentence to the tune of a Billy Joel song!)

And. of course, there's The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag which I would say is definitely fantasy.

Can anyone think of any other fantasy Heinlein wrote? (yes, I know it doesn't matter if it is SF or F, but indulge me. I am looking for fantasy to read right now . . . . )


message 22: by Kateblue (last edited Apr 14, 2019 11:32AM) (new)

Kateblue Susan, I remember reading The Lathe of Heaven but remember nothing about it. Is it the one set in Seattle?

Merl, just reading the description of The Ocean Container makes it sound weird. Do you think it is?


message 23: by Ed (new)

Ed Erwin Kateblue wrote: "Susan, I remember reading The Lathe of Heaven but remember nothing about it. Is it the one set in Seattle? "

Yep. Never read it, but I was lucky to see the PBS production of it back in the 80s. It made a big impression on me, because there wasn't much thoughtful SF around on TV at that time.


message 24: by Ed (new)

Ed Erwin Kateblue wrote: "Can anyone think of any other fantasy Heinlein wrote?..."

Yes. I just finished The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein. Check the contents of that.

One thing I really liked about "Waldo" was near the end. There is this super-smart guy with no social skills because he's lived apart from humans all his life. The advice given to him on how to become more human is to read fiction. I fully agree.


message 25: by Ed (new)

Ed Erwin Kateblue wrote: "There's also Glory Road (actually, not one of my favorites) ..."

But! The description from the re-publisher, TOR, states "... a favorite of all who have read it."

Either you have not read it, or it is one of your favorites. I don't know how to resolve this contradiction.


message 26: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Kateblue wrote: "Susan, I remember reading The Lathe of Heaven but remember nothing about it. Is it the one set in Seattle?..."

Yes, fantastic book, my favorite by LeGuin, quick read, & the 1980 PBS movie was excellent. Very true to the book. Even LeGuin approved. The only problem with it now is that they lost the rights to use The Beatles version of "I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends" & have a terrible cover band version.

There was a 2010s or so movie version that was terrible by all accounts, including LeGuin's. I would avoid it, but I highly recommend both the book & the PBS movie.


message 27: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) I've heard it argued that "Magic, Inc" was RAH's only fantasy story since 'Waldo' uses interdimensional energy, even if it is found by a hedge witch who uses it by drawing figures with chalk. I've always thought it to be fantasy, but I have it in one book with "Magic, Inc", too. I think people like to argue as SF because then an SF author helped create or foresaw 'waldos', a very important engineering item.

I always thought of "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" & "Glory Road" as SF. In the first (view spoiler) In the second, it's just super advanced tech. It reads much like a fantasy, as does Lord of Light, but the basis is scientific. There are even passages in it that discuss the differences & they come down firmly on the side of tech so advanced it seems like magic.

I really don't care how anyone else shelves it though. It's enjoyable fiction & that's all that really matters.


message 28: by Kateblue (last edited Apr 14, 2019 09:20PM) (new)

Kateblue OK, I can go with all of the RAH being SF except for Magic, Inc. I just was hoping there was some Heinlein fantasy out there that I hadn't read. I've read almost all of his and there is no more :-(


message 29: by Kateblue (new)

Kateblue Ed, resolve your dilemma about Glory Road in my favor, please. I seriously know that it is not one of my favorites :-)


message 30: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) The first half of "Glory Road" was great. If he had ended it after the quest was finished, it would have been much better. Everything after that just dragged the book down, IMO. Preaching.


message 31: by Merl (new)

Merl Fluin | 99 comments Kateblue wrote: "Merl, just reading the description of The Ocean Container makes it sound weird. Do you think it is?"

Ha, depends how you mean "weird", obviously... If we think that "weird" is a distinct genre with its own specific conventions and/or canon, then no, probably not. Or it at least not deliberately so. But it certainly has lots of qualities that weird fiction fans will find especially intriguing or exciting – especially the atmosphere, which for me is always the most important aspect of any fiction, regardless of formal genre.


message 32: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch is supposed to be SF, but it's quite weird. Similar in some respects to Dark Matter which I'm also reading. One is audio, the other print. I try to keep separate genres between books just so I can avoid such similarities. I'm 3/4 of the way through Dark Matter & Crouch has ramped up the weirdness another notch again. He did that in Pines, too.


message 33: by Kateblue (last edited Apr 16, 2019 03:52PM) (new)

Kateblue There's a new Blake Crouch coming out this year. Recursion


message 34: by Dan (new)

Dan | 745 comments It has been reviewed just over 200 times and will be out in about eight weeks.


message 35: by Ed (new)

Ed Erwin Dan wrote: "It has been reviewed just over 200 times and will be out in about eight weeks."

Wow! They are doing a good job of advance publicity!


message 36: by Dan (new)

Dan | 745 comments Aren't people supposed to disclose they're reading an advance copy in exchange for their padded rating, I mean "honest" review.


message 37: by Ed (new)

Ed Erwin I think even the VanderMeers consider Chuck Palahniuk as part of their "New Weird" club. I've been reading a collection of his short stories. They are clever and sometimes funny, but also really, really gross. Like he is trying to be as gross as he can possibly be without completely turning off the reader. Seems like he may be a precursor of "Bizarro" fiction.

The title is "Stories You Can't Unread", which seems to imply that you can't forget them. Yet, with each story I read, I get the impression that I've read it before maybe 10 years ago but have almost completely forgotten it.


message 38: by Ed (new)

Ed Erwin Ed wrote: "... I get the impression that I've read it before maybe 10 years ago ..."

It turns out that this is impossible since neither the book, nor any stories in it, were published then. Oh well. It seems awfully familiar. The author himself uses the label "transgressive fiction" for the style. My review.


message 39: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) your link went to the book page, Ed. Your review is here:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 40: by Dan (new)

Dan | 745 comments Jeff VanderMeer reviews a Chuck Palahniuk work here: http://www.jeffvandermeer.com/2009/05...

You can still nominate one of his books for June New Weird if you want. Nominations are open for almost seven more hours.


message 41: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Is Harlan Ellison considered a weird author? He's mostly been cast as SF, often with horror elements like "A Boy and His Dog". He's done some very weird stuff.

I'm on a bit of a Twilight Zone kick & I watched several from the 1985 series today. The first one was "Shatterday" written by Ellison starring Bruce Willis. Every bit as weird & good as the original series which surprised me. I hadn't remembered them as being so good.


message 42: by Ed (new)

Ed Erwin Dan wrote: "Jeff VanderMeer reviews a Chuck Palahniuk work here: http://www.jeffvandermeer.com/2009/05... ..."

Thanks. I only skimmed it but it seems he finds lots of flaws but at least does find it entertaining. I enjoyed some of the stories I read. I think someday I may read "Fight Club" to compare it to the film, but I'm not much inclined to explore more of his work.


message 43: by Dan (last edited May 20, 2019 05:53PM) (new)

Dan | 745 comments Jim wrote: "Is Harlan Ellison considered a weird author? He's mostly been cast as SF, often with horror elements like "A Boy and His Dog". He's done some very weird stuff."

Ellison liked to transcend genre boundaries. That's clue one that he might be a Weird writer. Eric Schaller made a strong argument for considering Ellison a Weird writer in this article: http://weirdfictionreview.com/2018/01...

Check out that recommended reading list near the end with his mention of another Ellison short story. Just below that is Yann Martel's Life of Pi. I read and liked that about fourteen years ago. First time I ever thought of it as being New Weird, but it sure is.

I'm comfortable saying much of Ellison's oeuvre is Weird.


message 44: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Interesting article. “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” was the first story I ever read by Ellison & I was hooked at about age 10. It was one of the books of my father's I inherited when he died. I've since replaced it once or twice due to wear. "Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes" is another pretty weird tale. "Jeffety is Five" was never a favorite - too sad, but it is certainly weird.

I think Ellison also wrote one called the "25 cent god" or something like that. (view spoiler) I could have the prices wrong, but it's close & I think it was Ellison that wrote it. Not positive, though.


message 45: by Dan (last edited May 20, 2019 09:17PM) (new)

Dan | 745 comments I could not find the story you mention, though it sounds cool.

Did you know Ellison once (and only once) co-wrote a story with this month's coverboy, Zelazny? It first appeared in the October 1969 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Titled "Come to Me Not in Winter's White", I found a free copy of the story online anthologized here: https://archive.org/details/partnersi...

I went ahead and read it. What a creepy story! At its start I detect more Ellison, but by the end I felt I was clearly reading Zelazny. They merged their styles and made the transition so smooth I could not tell quite where it happened.


message 46: by Jim (last edited May 21, 2019 03:17PM) (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) "Come to Me Not in Winter's White" is a great short story about love & the lengths it will take us to. I'd forgotten Ellison wrote that with Zelazny in Partners in Wonder. It's a fantastic collection. I have a copy.

I can't find the little god story, either. I probably have the wrong author or something.... I did. My apologies. Old, bad memory. I found the story on my anthology shelves in an old paperback of The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction, Fourth Series. It has a cover price of 50 cents, probably the source of my confusion.

The story is "$1.98" by Arthur Porges.
You can read it here:
https://archive.org/stream/Fantasy_Sc...

Arthur Porges (1950s-2000s, died 2006) - best known for short stories in the 1950s-1960s, The Ruum and Other Science Fiction Stories. His ISFDB page is here:
http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?1255


message 47: by Scott (last edited May 21, 2019 07:46AM) (new)

Scott Ellison preferred to just be called a writer, not even an author, which has a little pretension, but a writer. To him writing was just a job like any other.

I think he was okay with "fantasist", which is broad and encompasses many genres.

I guess I could see some of his work as "weird."

And yes, the 80s TZ series was very good!


message 48: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Note that I edited my last post. I had the wrong copy of F&SF listed. It previously said 6, but it is really 4. The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction, Fourth Series


message 49: by Scott (new)

Scott I have started The Fall of Hyperion. Probably shouldn't have let so long go since the previous book (it was only last year!) but I think things are slowly coming back to me.


message 50: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 58 comments I just finished Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon. It was a dense read.


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