New Weird

The New Weird movement is a post-modernist take on certain kinds of literary genre fiction. In a nutshell, it's a specific genre of Scifi/Fantasy/Horror literature that does not follow the conventions of derivative Sci-Fi, Fantasy or Horror, without being an outright parody or deconstruction. Similar to the New Wave Science Fiction movement of The '60s, but it took off in the mid-nineties, and was at its peak in the early-to-mid Turn of the Millennium.

New Weird incorporates elements from certain genres, but tries to avoid being typecast as stereotypical examples of any of them. The purpose of the movement is partly as backlash against the lack of respect that sci-fi, fantasy and horror works get. Proponents of New Weird are of the not unreasonable belief that the reason genre fiction is held in such low regard is because it caters to a very specific audience who likes to read the same sorts of things. The word "Fantasy" becoming almost a brand name that invokes the idea of pseudo-Europeans living in medieval times using sorcery while Tolkienesque elves and/or dragons putter around somewhere in the background. Sci-fi and Horror share similar fates, just with different connotations (spaceships, aliens and explosions for the former; serial killers, monsters and the undead for the latter). Some writers in the genre are playing right into the Sci-Fi Ghetto themselves, with the belief that any Science Fiction that does not involve spaceships, robots and lasers must be an entirely new genre, or that any Science Fiction that does have such elements is bad by default.

Genres such as Romance or Historical Fiction do not lend themselves as well to the concept of New Weird. Writing characters in a non-mundane setting would end up with the work in question being recategorized as science fiction or fantasy.

Works in the New Weird genre are therefore heavy in their use of Deconstructor Fleets and Mind Screw. Some of them may even take on a disdainful stance against the genres they hailed from, with liberal amounts of Take That!. New Weird fiction will often — but does not have to — take place in an Urban Fantasy setting. For some reason, the various "punk" subgenres are acceptable, if not downright embraced in New Weird fiction. For the most part, anything goes as long as it doesn't Follow the Leader note . Some discussion of the genre jumping off of a messageboard thread aimed at hashing out what the term means is available here; the thread itself was started by M. John Harrison, whose Viriconium books are at least influential on the genre and are probably examples of it.

Overlaps, but is distinct from Science Fantasy (which features blends or oscillations between those two genres) and Bizarro Fiction / Cult Classics. Compare with Deconstruction, Mythpunk (which also involves Post-Modernism), Mind Screw, New Wave Science Fiction. Contrast with Zeerust. See also Genre-Busting, Sci-Fi Ghetto, Speculative Fiction, Weird Science, and Weird West.


Examples

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    Comic Books 
  • Multiple works by Brandon Graham such as King City, Multiple Warheads, and Prophet have elements that defy explanation, but make sense in context.
    • King City has a drug that slowly turns users' bodies into more of that drug.
    • Multiple Warheads has characters use a water purity detector able to identify lingering radiation, war poisons, and black magic.
  • The Nikopol Trilogy by Enki Bilal, of which Immortal was partial film adaptation, has Egyptian gods showing up at a futuristic dystopian Paris, as experienced by Human Popsicle Nikopol when he gets possessed by Horus.
  • Saga has a blend of Science Fantasy that blurs the lines of both, focusing on a couple on the run from their families, who are on opposites sides of a galactic war. It's never explained if the world has actual aliens, genetically engineered humans from a post-singularity, or is an another dimension; as the Earth is never mentioned, despite obvious cultural trends, which could even be a form of Bowdlerisation for benefit of the audience.
  • Shutter, written by Joe Keatinge and illustrated by Leila del Duca, features a bizarre version of New York with an assortment of intelligent nonhuman species and strange technology, like airships and giant-eagle carried gondolas.

    Literary Authors 

    Literature 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Although the default Dungeons & Dragons setting is the furthest thing imaginable from this, a few of its optional settings qualify, especially Planescape and Dark Sun (although the weirdness of the latter varies significantly Depending on the Writer.)
  • The Pathfinder campaign setting Golarion has shades of this with source-books now including things like interplanetary travel, a crashed high-tech alien ship guarded by barbarian hordes, spellcasters who can turn themselves into AI, "occult" monsters more common to Gothic Horror, etc. added to a High Fantasy world that initially only stood out for avoiding Fantasy Gun Control.
  • Numenera is a bizarre blend of epic fantasy, science fiction, Science Fantasy, and post-apocalyptic, all powered by Sufficiently Advanced Technology. There might be some actual psychics and cosmic horrors, nobody really knows for sure. It's been nine apocalypses and a billion years, and not every age was one of Humanity.
  • Nobilis has the everyday "prosaic" world and features a "mythic world" that is part-another-dimension and part-old-cartoon where everything is alive, meaning it's possible to talk a lock into opening itself or ask how it feels about the weather. This starts busting genres when a character can hack a computer network by intimidating its central server. There are also enemies that can permanently remove aspects from reality as we knew it, with only a people who were off-world (or protected) remembering what the world was like before: with things like airships, child-protection robots, powdered-light, and who knows what else. Also, players collectively create a home base and a leader-type NPC during character creation, based on their PCs, adding more weirdness if there's no overall theme.
  • In Noumenon all the player characters are bipedal insects trapped in a bizarrchitecture mansion called the "Silhouette Rouge". It might be xenofiction except that humans (or possibly humanoid abominations) show up in the various rooms. And every room is different, stretching the definition with instances like a tent's interior or nightclub dance hall or mine-shaft; each with a surreal twist on the expected contents.

    Video Games 
  • A lot of Atlus games are this; especially the Persona series.
    • The series started in pretty typical Urban Fantasy spaces, but by the time of Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, the plots truly fell into this genre. From the opening sequence, where the main cast watches the world end, to it's ending, wherein the demonic main character fights the godly force of pure creation at the center of the bubbled Vortex world in order to bring Reason into existance, New Weird Barely covers it
    • In the same console generation, the Digital Devil Saga features the reincarnating warriors of Purgatory being transformed into cannibalistic monsters by a mysterious EGG shaped pod containing a bizarre amnesiac girl, while an all encompassing eye orders them all to devour each other in order to reach Nirvana. And then it's revealed that all of the events were actually inside a computer system, an advanced military AI testing ground. And the real world is somehow worse, between the demon virus spreading havoc and the sun turning those not infected by it to stone.
  • The Dishonored Series (Dishonored, Dishonored 2, Dishonored: Death of the Outsider) takes places in an age of exploration setting, with things like steampunk technology powered by whale-oil, an invasive species of rats, and cut-throat politics as well as magical powers, witches, and a mysterious immortal being empowering a series of special beings with magical powers to use and abuse as they (and the player choose). It's aesthetics are hard to describe and it can best be described as Terry Pratchett's Discworld mixed with Thief, Neil Gaiman and Lovecraft Lite.
  • On the surface, The Elder Scrolls seems like a fairly generic fantasy series, but if you start digging into the lore you find things like a gay, time travelling cyborg; a Humongous Mecha powered by the heart of a dead god with an alarming tendency to break time; and an AI from the far future who got caught in the crossfire of a war, was driven insane and sent back to the late Merethic era where she then acted as a soothsayer for a while.
    • Morrowind in particular, with things like an entire game full of Bizarrchitecture, including a fortress made from a giant crab shell and a guild of necromancers who grow giant mushrooms to live in; an incurable disease that makes you immortal; and giant arthropods as the main form of overland travel.
  • A case could be made for the Final Fantasy series being an example. Even in its earliest installments, it freely mixed sci-fi and fantasy elements, created its own races, cultures, and monsters rather than relying on fantasy standards, and boasted greater narrative complexity than the majority of its contemporaries. Especially from about Final Fantasy IV on, it becomes increasingly difficult to say whether a game is primarily fantasy with sci-fi elements, or sci-fi with fantasy elements.
    • Of particular note is the recurring setting of Ivalice, with its magic-powered robots, predominantly Middle Eastern and North African aesthetics with only the faintest whiff of medieval Europe, and nary an elf or dwarf in sight.
  • The Thief series mixed Edwardian steampunk with everything from ghosts and zombies to ancient magic from a god hostile to humanity.
  • Arguably, the setting of Zenoclash and Zenoclash 2 fits this, in a highly surrealist way. No standard Fantasy Counterpart Culture anywhere, bizarre beings and societies, art direction inspired by surrealist art and omnipresent odd Magitek (e.g. Stone Age-esque semi-auto pistols made from seashells)...
  • Planescape: Torment qualifies, being set in Planescape's multiversal Gothic-themed city of Sigil rather than any sort of traditional fantasy setting, and focused heavily on questions of philosophy and identity.

    Web Comics 
  • FAMIB is set in an strange world where super-powers can be granted through the crystallized souls of the dead, alongside modern fire-arms and paramilitary organizations. There's also many strange species, like psychic dragons and unicorns, that are treated as normal species part of the natural world.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons has an... unusual take on fantasy elements and biblical/mythological lore. Set mostly in Throne, built upon the decaying corpses of gods long dead and seat of power of the Demiurges, it contains access to the 777,777 universes of the Wheel. Among the lesser oddities are the physical manifestations of angels being living nuclear explosions, mostly harmless liquor that can bestow demonic attributes and rather strict "don't feed the dead" city ordnances.
  • The Overside webcomic series have an enormous variety of species and technology with plots that defy conventions of many genres, except perhaps Adventure.
  • Mountain Time merges fantasy (main characters include a pixie and a talking hamster) with sci-fi (robots, time travel, and space exploration abound) with normal urban life (most of the characters are human). However, no one aspect is particularly dominant, as most of the usual genre archetypes end up being subverted by absurdist storytelling.

    Web Originals 
  • southernfriedweirdness.com is a website that compiles New Weird stories. Notable for having last updated in 2009.note 
  • The SCP Foundation is about building an entire 'Verse at the intersection of Magical Realism, Urban Fantasy, Hard Science Fiction, Bizarro Fiction, and Cosmic Horror. The community is especially fond of inverting, deconstructing, and having reality ensue on even the most sacred of classic genre tropes... but also reconstructs those same tropes with a fresh spin that makes the reader see them in an entirely new light.
  • The Clockwork Raven is set amid the decaying ruins of the more traditional fantasy setting of the prosperous castle in the air, and focuses on two characters more interested in surviving and escaping than in following any grand destiny. It's also a genre mashup typical of the New Weird, sitting halfway between The Martian and Castle in the Sky, with a healthy dose of Clock Punk to boot. Even the dragons, which in a typical setting would be majestic beasts, are scavengers reduced to their own skeletal remains.
  • Urban Reverie is a story focusing on two social outcasts trying to survive within a City of Adventure filled to the brim with morally ambiguous Knights, plotting Archmages and several other planes of reality. They walk around using Cyberpunk level tech powered by magical engines that burn the very fabric of the universe as an infinite power source.


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