If you cornered me in a bar and put me on the spot to define “the new weird” as a literary movement, well, I’d b.s. my way through it, but I’d feel dirty inside. Why are you cornering me anyway? Fine. I’ll try. I suppose it is A: distinct from the old weird, the pulpy Weird Tales kinda weird. But, B: similar enough to share the word weird. See? B.S.. Though, in fairness, it’s a slippery sort of genre, with one foot planted firmly in the speculative fiction camp and some other limb (probably a tentacle) undulating toward the literary/magical realism tradition. The point is, it’s a thing and I like it. Okay? Let’s move on.
My motivation for thinking about the semantic origins of this particular genre label is a classic. Boy meets book. Boy loves book. Boy wonders, “what the heck is this book, anyway?”
This book, is Plow the Bones by Douglas F. Warrick. It’s good. Really really good. The kind of good that, as a book-nerd, makes me very excited and, as a writer, maybe pisses me off a little. Plow the Bones is a collection of short stories, so it really offers a portrait of Warrick’s authorial voice and aesthetic. That voice, that aesthetic, is the star here. I been devouring short speculative fiction for a long, long time, and Warrick manages to enthrall and surprise me in nearly every tale. What’s more, he’s freaking sneaky about it. While reading, the prose is fluid, dynamic, and engaging with a kind of (invisible) grace, but after finishing a story, I’d often find myself thinking, “wait, what did he just pull off there?”
The touching familial relationship built between a sightless hermit and a skinless monster-child living behind a 9 to 5er’s eyeball? Why not? A billion year intimate character study of a quasi-Buddhist slacker overcoming damnation through Zen? Sure.
After that, the book gets weird.
But, and this is the important part, it never feels like weird for weird’s sake. These are real stories with really engaging character development. It’s just that the integral frameworks upon which these well-crafted narratives are built are beautifully novel and exquisitely strange.
See why I’m thinking about “the new weird”? If Plow the Bones is new weird, then I’m sold. I’m a new-weirder. A new weirdian. I’ll sow the patch onto the acid-washed denim jacket of my literary consciousness.
So, I’ll come right out and say it. Read this book. I’ve long trusted Apex to produce kickass books, and Plow the Bones is a standout even among their impressive catalog of titles.