The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories by Jeff VanderMeer Download (read online) free eBook .pdf.epub.kindle

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories

From Lovecraft to Borges to Gaiman, a century of intrepid literary experimentation has created a corpus of dark and strange stories that transcend all known genre boundaries. Together these stories form The Weird, and its practitioners include some of the greatest names in twentieth and twenty-first century literature.

Exotic and esoteric, The Weird plunges you into dark do

Exotic and esoteric, The Weird plunges you into dark domains and brings you face to face with surreal monstrosities. You won’t find any elves or wizards here…but you will find the biggest, boldest, and downright most peculiar stories from the last hundred years bound together in the biggest Weird collection ever assembled.
The Weird features 110 stories by an all-star cast, from literary legends to international bestsellers to Booker Prize winners: including William Gibson, George R. R. Martin, Stephen King, Angela Carter, Kelly Link, Franz Kafka, China Miéville, Clive Barker, Haruki Murakami, M. R. James, Neil Gaiman, Mervyn Peake, and Michael Chabon.

The Weird is the winner of the 2012 World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology
…more


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    Zach

    Watching the number of characters I can fit into this textbox dwindle away as I review each story is creating a feeling of anxiety entirely appropriate to this book. Thanks, goodreads.

    Alfred Kubin, “The Other Side” (excerpt), 1908 (translation, Austria)
    Set somewhere on Earth in the fictional city of Pearl, this story featured an interesting juxtaposition of a straight-forward, almost newsprint-esque voice addressing the successive plagues of sleeping sickness, animal infestation, and non-organi

    Alfred Kubin, “The Other Side” (excerpt), 1908 (translation, Austria)
    Set somewhere on Earth in the fictional city of Pearl, this story featured an interesting juxtaposition of a straight-forward, almost newsprint-esque voice addressing the successive plagues of sleeping sickness, animal infestation, and non-organic decomposition that overtake the city, culminating in the protagonist’s appeal to the lord (?) god (?) leader (?) of the city for some sort of explanation for the misery all around him. The sense of entropy and fantastical meta-recognition on display here brought to mind Viriconium pretty strongly. I liked this enough that I plan on searching out the complete novel. 4.5/5

    F. Marion Crawford, “The Screaming Skull,” 1908
    This was a very enjoyable ghost story about an old man living in a haunted house he inherited from his cousin after said cousin murdered his wife and then passed away. There was nothing really surprising or, ahem, weird in this one, and I’m not entirely sure why it was included (particularly after the Vandermeers made the point in their introduction that only a few ghost stories were weird enough to include?). I did enjoy the way it was presented: the narration is the protagonist’s half of a conversation with a visiting friend, whose responses are answered but never quoted directly. This story introduces the theme that several others touch on in this anthology: the acceptance or understanding of the un-/super-natural, as the narrator’s refusal to accept this occurrences as proof of a murder lead inexorably to… well, you know. 4/5

    Algernon Blackwood, “The Willows,” 1907
    An intensely atmospheric story about two men on a camping trip in a swamp on the Danube who stumble onto some sort of nexus of interdimensional horrors. The focus is on the intersection of the natural world and supernatural forces and the inexplicable awe-inspiring weirdness of each, with a narrator who spends a lot of time ruminating on the effect of such on the human mind. Slow and longer than it needed to be, but the mood is pitch perfect and the build to the climax is truly creepy. 5/5

    Saki, “Sredni Vashtar,” 1910
    The boy Conradin lives with his cousin Mrs. De Ropp, who takes a certain enjoyment out of making him miserable. Conradin’s only enjoyments in life are toast and the two pets he keeps hidden in a shed in the garden: a chicken and a ferret. He’s scared of the ferret, though, and becomes more and more worshipful and fixated on this creature that he begins to view as his very own protective deity. This ferrety god of violence and suffering’s name? SREDNI VASHTAR!
    Most interesting was the fact that the weird aspect of this story was quite possibly an entirely rational and ordinary event. 3/5

    M.R. James, “Casting the Runes,” 1911
    Ok so this is a story about a guy who is SO MAD about negative reviews of his books and rejections of his conference proposals that he curses people with his dark nefarious arts. Ho hum. Again the theme pops up of the inability or refusal of the human mind to come to terms with such eldritch occurrences, although not so explicitly dwelt upon as it was in “The Willows.” 2.5/5

    Lord Dunsany, “How Nuth Would Have Practiced his Art Upon the Gnoles,” 1912
    Nuth the burglar is the best burglar of all the burglars, but his bumbling apprentice is not up to snuff, so of course the two embark on a scheme to Robin Hood some giant emeralds from the gnoles, who appear to be fairies/elves/menacing little folk of the forest (and not hyena-esque gnolls, although the gnoles do appear to be their namesake). This was a good setup and I thought it was going in a different direction based on some of the narrator’s comments on the antagonism between the propertied classes and Nuth’s reappropriations, but it turns out that this is a very short story (as are the following two) and I was somewhat disappointed. It did have a great final line, though. 3/5

    Gustav Meyrink, “The Man in the Bottle,” 1912 (translation, Austria)
    A decadent-ish (as in the literary tradition) story of a decadent (as in the lifestyle) masquerade ball – combination that I could not care much less about. I imagine most of the titles and names were supposed to mean something to me, but they didn’t, and this one overall felt rather short and inconsequential. The first miss of the collection. 1/5

    Georg Heym, “The Dissection,” 1913 (new translation by Gio Clairval, Germany)
    Another very short one, correctly identified by the Vandermeers in their introduction as more of a prose poem than a story, which contrasts the replaying of the happiest memory (ies?) of a cadaver with the messy end of his remains at the hands of a team of doctors. Much creepier and more atmospheric than anything else since “The Willows.” 3/5

    Hanns Heinz Ewers, “The Spider,” 1915 (translation, Germany)
    Oh hey women are like spiders who ensnare and then kill their mates, get it? zzzz 2/5

    Rabindranath Tagore, “The Hungry Stones,” 1916 (India)
    This was fine but unlike, say, “The Willows” which has stuck in my head in a big way, I don’t think it will have any kind of lasting impact. In this first piece in the book by a non-Westerner the titular stones are the building materials making up an ancient palace built by a Persian Shah, now used as a residence by a humble collector of wool duties. The house, though, misses the former days of excess, and begins manifesting itself in the dreams of the narrator. It’s better than that summary makes it sound, although it has an awkward framing narration (as do so many of these older stories!) and ends kind of mid-stream.
    Also, an off-putting number of references to the dainty feet of fair maidens…? 3/5

    Luigi Ugolini, “The Vegetable Man,” 1917 (new translation by Anna and Brendan Connell, Italy; first-ever translation into English)
    You will never guess what the protagonist of this story finds himself turning into after an encounter with a mythical plant deep in the heart of the Amazon. A few creepy moments but overall another kind of inconsequential short piece.
    Minor annoyance: a Brazilian addressing a countryman in Spanish. 2.5/5

    A. Merritt, “The People of the Pit,” 1918
    Ok, back on track. I think it says a lot that this story, which is written in the most laughably awful pulpy way, was my favorite entry in a while. Again, a framing story: two guys hiking find a horrifically mangled third guy crawling through the snow. In his lucid moments, guy #3 recounts his trip down into THE PIT, a pre-deluvian hell on Earth of extra-dimensional slug monsters and bodiless terrific entities and haunted ruins and what have you.
    It just so happens that I think I can identify my three favorite aspects of weird stories:

          1. hell on Earth
          2. extra-dimensional monsters, slug-esque or otherwise
          3. haunted ruins
    Excellent work, Mr. Merritt. 4.5/5

    Ryunosuke Akutagawa, “The Hell Screen,” 1918 (new translation, Japan)
    In which an artist whose name I forget is tasked by a lord who hates him (and whose name I also forget) to paint a portrait of Hell. The Weird aspects of the story come into play through dreams and the artist’s attempts to stage real-life visions of Hell in order to paint them – nothing actually supernatural here. There’s also a subplot about the lord’s inappropriate interest in the artist’s daughter, who seemed at first to be shaping into an interesting character, but then that went nowhere and she was reduced to a sadly typical agent-less hostage. 3/5

    Francis Stevens (Gertrude Barrows Bennett), “Unseen?—?Unfeared,” 1919
    The first story written by a woman – but a woman using a male pen name and featuring only men. A man and his buddy have a drink, discuss the misfortunes of a local scientist type who is commonly understood to have practiced witchcraft, and part ways. The narrator then quickly begins feeling ill and stumbles into a showroom where a crazy man shows him the crawling horrors suffusing the world invisible to the naked eye. Then it turns out that the crazy man was the scientist in question at the beginning, and also the drinking buddy had accidentally poisoned the narrator and so maybe (or maybe not) the whole thing was just a series of hallucinations…? This was a bad story. 1/5

    Franz Kafka, “In the Penal Colony,” 1919 (translation, German/Czech)
    Another entirely natural and yet undeniably weird story about a visiting dignitary and the horrific torture machine at the heart of the titular colony. I’m sure Foucauldian/biopolitics people have a field day with this punitive-inscribing-upon-the-body business, but I’m not going to hold that against Kafka – this was a great story about the inhumanity of modernity, even if all I could picture the whole time was Count Tyrone Rugen. 5/5

    Stefan Grabinski, “The White Weyrak,” 1921 (translation, Poland)
    Heroic chimney sweepers battle some sort of gremlin-y thing. Unmemorable. 2/5

    H.F. Arnold, “The Night Wire,” 1926
    Something goes bump in the night at a newspaper wire office when reports about an evil mist start pouring in from a town that appears not to exist. Creepy and inexplicable, I just wish this one was longer. 4/5

    H.P. Lovecraft, “The Dunwich Horror,” 1929
    A bit of an odd choice for the inevitable Lovecraft entry, because while this does have some sort of unspeakable twisted horror coalescing in a decaying backwater New England town, it also has a redoubtable hero who defeats said horror and emerges unscathed. Who wants an optimistic Lovecraft story? And yet – a great one-story primer on the mythos and the Necronomicon, so I don’t know what other single story I would have preferred to see here instead, although I think “The Whisperer in Darkness” is the one that has most stuck with me. 3.5/5

    Margaret Irwin, “The Book,” 1930
    The VanderMeers’ introduction to this one made the point that this was one of the few ghost stories weird enough to be included in the volume. I’m not so sure that I would call this a ghost story in the first place, but if you do, then I would say like 75% of the stories (so far anyway) fit the same criteria <12/10/11: just realized I already made this point regarding the second story in the anthology. oops). “The Book” is about a book of Satanic rites that a bumbling white collar-type finds in a mysterious (haunted?) bookshelf that he has inherited, and the text of which changes to guide his business ventures, only to slowly reveal its more sinister side. No surprising developments here, but still very enjoyably creepy. 4/5

    Jean Ray, “The Mainz Psalter,” 1930 (translation, Belgium)
    Jean Ray, “The Shadowy Street,” 1931 (translation, Belgium)

    No real reason was given for the inclusion of two Ray stories back to back, but I’m not going to complain because these were both absolutely fantastic (both senses of the word) and his stuff is very difficult to come by these days, I have now found. The former is a horrific story of seafaring and the latter is a horrific urban study, but both are surreal puzzles that seem not to have answers but which revolve around alternate dimensions and predatory invisible creatures and growing dread and terror and helplessness. Moreover many of old stories in the volume so far have relied on kind of awkward framing narratives, but Ray uses that technique to great effect. Also, I think “The Shadowy Street” is the first story in the collection to include an actual active woman character.
    I’ve sort of waffled back and forth regarding spoilers for the stories collected here but watching these unfold was too much fun to ruin for anyone – find and read these. 5/5

    Clark Ashton Smith, “Genius Loci,” 1933
    A haunted swamp story, notable only for its exploration of the seductive effect of the weird on the human mind. 2.5/5

    Hagiwara Sakutaro, “The Town of Cats,” 1935 (translation, Japan)
    A prose poem about the weirdness of familiar locations when approached from a different direction. Meandering, overly introspective, and ultimately uninteresting. 2/5

    Hugh Walpole, “The Tarn,” 1936
    The second entry about a vengeful author, but this was much better than “Casting the Runes.” Our protagonist (it would be helpful for these reviews if I could ever remember character names but that is not something my brain is capable of, apparently) is a solitary, bitter man being visited by a much more successful author whose debut emerged at the same time as the protagonist’s – unfairly, our man feels, killing off any interest in his book. Word of this dislike reaches the antagonist, who can’t bear anyone to think ill of him, so he traipses out to intrude and tromp about on the protagonist’s precious solitude by a remote tarn. Weird and horrific hijinks ensue – this is a great example of a seemingly mundane story slowly and inexorably becoming a weird one. 4/5

    Bruno Schulz, “Sanatorium at the Sign of the Hourglass,” 1937 (translation, Poland)
    So I (tried to) read _Street of Crocodiles_ relatively recently and did not enjoy it at all – I found it kind of vacuous and meandering and entirely unengaging. This, on the other hand, I absolutely loved: a man visits his ailing father in a sanatorium where time has been tampered with in order to cheat death. The father may or may not be the only patient there, the son may or may not be losing his mind, nothing is as it seems, and then to top everything else off an army invades. Another excerpt that has me interested in finding and reading the entire work. 5/5

    Robert Barbour Johnson, “Far Below,” 1939
    Another purely pulpy work, which are proving less common than I would have expected. There are THINGS living in the deepest subway tunnels under NYC, and so the government attempts to contain them by focusing the powers of science and modernity. This doesn’t exactly work out – but it doesn’t exactly not work out either. 3/5

    Fritz Leiber, “Smoke Ghost,” 1941
    Following “Far Below” quite well thematically, why wouldn’t modern ghosts be made up of exhaust and trash and factory soot and machinery? This I imagine was a historically important piece for the modernization of the haunting story, but the actual narrative here isn’t particularly interesting and the climax/ending kind of betrays the setup anyway. 3/5

    Leonora Carrington, “White Rabbits,” 1941
    Better-written (much, much better-written) than the preceding story, but kind of similarly vignette-ish and image-based. Leprous zombies and carnivorous rabbits. 3/5

    Donald Wollheim, “Mimic,” 1942
    To be honest, I had to look this one up to remind myself what it was about because I was drawing a complete blank – which tells you something about this piece, less a story than a quickly-jotted idea to the effect of “many other species have some sort of rival or predator that mimics them, why not humans?” 2.5/5

    Ray Bradbury, “The Crowd,” 1943
    Ok I spoke too soon about the lack of pulp in here, I suppose. Crowds at car crashes gather quickly… a little TOO quickly, if you ask our protagonist here. 2.5/5

    William Sansom, “The Long Sheet,” 1944
    Life, if you think about it, is like being trapped in a steel tunnel, with a wet sheet that you have to laboriously twist until dry in order to earn your freedom, only guards from above constantly shower you and the sheet with steam. 3.5/5

    Jorge Luis Borges, “The Aleph,” 1945 (translation, Argentina)
    This has never been one of favorite Borges stories and I’m pretty bummed that it’s the one that made the cut. I think a lot of that has to do with the interminable discussion of poetry in the first half? Really just about anything else would have been a better choice, although for my money “The Garden of Forking Paths” is unbeatable (also if you had asked me to guess which would be included here I probably would have said “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” which does after all share with “The Aleph” the conceit that Borges-the-character is trying to root out some sort of weirdness, but what do I know). 3/5

    Olympe Bhely-Quenum, “A Child in the Bush of Ghosts,” 1949 (Benin)
    Kind of an inverted companion piece to the Lieber story, here instead of weird-as-symbol-of-the-modern we have weird-as-natural (natural-as-weird?), wherein a boy overcomes his fear of death by means of exposure to the spirit world. This had a folktale-ish vibe to it, and based on the shared-with-Tutuola idea of the “Bush of Ghosts,” I am going to go right ahead and assume that’s what this story was based on. 4/5

    Shirley Jackson, “The Summer People,” 1950
    I had confused this title with “A Visit; or the Lovely House” when I was about to read this one, and while that story would have fit the bill also, you can’t really go wrong with Jackson. This story has such a perfect arc of creeping dread and slowly-intruding weirdness – it occurs to me that intrusion, either of the weird into reality or the rational into the irrational, is a central concern for all of this volume’s selections. 5/5

    Margaret St. Clair, “The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles,” 1951
    A riff on the earlier gnoles story with a rope salesman instead of a burglar – a perfectly 1950s update, particularly when he is reading his salesman’s manual for pointers on how to approach the client. Somehow manages to be simultaneously goofy and creepy/unsettling, the former of which is not so much my thing but I will admit that this was a lark. 3.5/5

    Robert Bloch, “The Hungry House,” 1951
    Another haunted house story. Maybe that intro where they said there weren’t many ghost stories was from an earlier draft of the collection? Typical setup: a young couple purchases (or rents? the story is kind of inconsistent on this) a house which has been vacant for a while, weird things happen, the backstory is filled in, typical haunted housery continues. An excellent build-up that faltered with the reveal and ensuing carnage – although reflections really are quite creepy, aren’t they? 3.5/5

    Augusto Monterroso, “Mister Taylor,” 1952 (new translation by Larry Nolen, Guatemala)
    There’s an interesting dichotomy here between weird-for-the-sake-of-weird stories and stories where the weirdness is a more blatant thematic stand-in… for, say, American imperialism in Latin America, as reiminaged into the commodification of shrunken heads. Bananas or coca cola as shrunken heads – that’s pretty weird, huh? 3/5

    … and I’m out of characters. To be continued in the comments, I guess.
    …more

    Jim

    Mar 19, 2012

    rated it
    it was amazing

    I would rank this at the same exalted level as Manguel’s excellent BLACK WATER anthologies – not just another horror anthology, but a true tribute to weird literature throughout the world. By turns tender and terrifying, straight-faced and satirical, graceful and grotesque, awe-inspiring and devastating, the stories in this wide-ranging volume are capable of producing one dizzying revelation after another, as they explore the height, depth and breadth of the unfettered human imagination.

    Mark

    Dec 24, 2011

    rated it
    it was amazing

    This is the most comprehensive and eclectic story collection of the sub-genre to date. Many will comment on this book’s size. It is over a thousand pages of fairly small text, usually in two columns per page (Weird Tales style), 750 000 words of weirdness from writers in over eighteen different countries. There are stories that are known, stories that are much less known and some stories translated into English for the first time.

    A huge collection of stories and a variety of authors from all ov

    A huge collection of stories and a variety of authors from all over the world, Ann and Jeff here not only try to show what they consider to be a collection of the best representations of the subgenre (if we can call it that) in the last one-hundred years but also try to show readers what weird fiction is, what are its origins and how it has developed.

    An ambitious target, but one which has been supremely realised. Of the old favourites, many will recognise:

    F. Marion Crawford, “The Screaming Skull,” (1908) , Algernon Blackwood, “The Willows,” (1907) , Saki, “Sredni Vashtar,” (1910 ), M.R. James, “Casting the Runes,” (1911), H.P. Lovecraft, “The Dunwich Horror,” (1929), Clark Ashton Smith, “Genius Loci,” (1933), Fritz Leiber, “Smoke Ghost,” (1941), Ray Bradbury, “The Crowd,” (1943), Shirley Jackson, “The Summer People,” (1950), Jerome Bixby, “It’s a Good Life,” (1953), Daphne Du Maurier, “Don’t Look Now,” (1971), George R.R. Martin, “Sandkings,” (1979), Stephen King, “The Man in the Black Suit,” (1994) and China Mieville, “Details,” (2002).

    All are good tales and as good as you could expect, as are stories by F. Paul Wilson, Clive Barker, Caitlin Kiernan, Lisa Tuttle, Garry Kilworth and many others.

    Where this collection really scores is that there is a lot here even the experienced expert will find new. Many of the tales have been translated from other languages, especially for this edition, and so were new to me. Authors I have heard of (Belgium’s Jean Rey, for example) I was now reading for the first time. There’s Kafka and Borges here, but new to me were France’s Michel Bernanos, Spain’s Merce Rodreda, Italy’s Dino Buzzati and Japan’s Ryunosuke Akyutagawa. What this confirmed to me was that there is an amazing world of the Fantastic beyond the English prose.

    The Weird, being in chronological order, also gives us glimpses into the latest ‘new’ weird writers: or should that be ‘new, new weird’, as the ‘New Weird’ grouping, if it ever existed, seems to date from the later1980’s to early 1990’s. Clearly names to look for in the future are Laird Barron, Steve Duffy and Reza Negarestani, many of whom I hadn’t encountered until this volume. The final ‘Afterweird’ by China Mieville is as brain-stretching as I’d expect.

    I haven’t even tried to review the tales in depth here. I was pleased to read some old favourites but was more pleased to read stories I’d never heard of before. Consequently there was a joy in just not knowing where a story was going to lead.

    There is enough here for everyone. It is awesomely weird. There are stories of drama, of fantastic mythology, of creepiness and unease, of tales in the past and ones that might just be happening now.
    Even in such a major-sized tome there are omissions, some because of space, some because the editors couldn’t get the permissions. (I’ll mention Thomas Disch, JG Ballard and Arthur Machen, for example.) But these are minor quibbles, considering what is covered.

    This is essential for anyone with a remote interest in what readers see in weird fiction. It covers the width, breadth and depth of what readers might see as the sub-genre, as well as no doubt some other dimensions usually beyond the traditional three. It has taken me nearly two months to read this, but it has been an amazing read. This is a book to wallow in, to delve into, to pick stories from at random. It is a book once read, readers will keep coming back to, and have since finishing it the first time.

    As is the book’s remit would suggest, not every story will be well liked, not every tale will be understood. It will cause debate, and I suspect will be high on ‘the best of’ lists at the end of the year. I think already it is one of mine.

    …more