Wednesday, January 11, 2012

[January 11th, Weird Wednesday] "Foreweird" by Michael Moorcock and "Introduction" by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer

I would like to start the first analysis [or something close to an analysis] of “The Weird” with a side note. Today I've spotted that Through A Forest of Ideas received traffic from After some googling kung fu, I discovered that have linked “Weird Wednesday” under their Of Interest section on the site. Needless to say, I'm ecstatic about the development for numerous reasons. It's all rather personal, but mainly, I'm happy to have come up with an idea that is met with interest. Thank you 

Now, with this out of the way, I'll proceed with my thoughts on “Foreweird” by Michael Moorcock and the “Introduction” by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer. For the purposes of the analysis, I have switched the texts as the VanderMeers deliver a clearer and conciser definition of the weird tale without an actual textbook definition of the genre being presented. That is where the weird tale's charm lies. No man, no reader or scholar can name something that has no name to begin with. 

After I completed both introductory texts, I felt rather than understood that the 'weird' is much like a literary version of the primordial goo of life. It's full of potency. No measurement can weigh, count or calculate the dimensions of the weird. It constantly evolves. It searches for new ways to adapt to its cultural habitat, which in itself is a complex, growing system. The weird is more than the sum of its parts though it's not as simple as to be compared to ordinary synergy. Sometimes it can be best understood as the tropes it's not as the VanderMeers explain before assuming roles of evolutionists and tracking its historical roots in stories from beyond generations. 

I'm still fascinated after having reread the historical breakdown of the development and countless 'weird sightings' in world literature over the decades. Here is where I reach the conclusion that you can't understand the weird as you might [think you] understand a scientific phenomenon. The best you can do is observe it in the context of a specific era and the literary traditions that dominate it. It is here where “Foreweird” by Michael Moorcock makes much more sense to me. Moorcock adopts a different approach to the presentation of the weird to the readers. 

His writing flows from paragraph to paragraph, acquires the quality of a river's delta. Every sentence swerves and takes you into a new direction. Moorcock switches from his understanding of the weird tale to cardinal misconceptions, the stigmata behind the lack of rationalism, the weird tale's multifaceted nature and how shapeless it can be. 

The weird tale's main 'fault', according to Moorcock, is its inability to fit in a package, stay still and allow itself to be marketed to the masses. And yes, I have not heard about the 'weird' before, because it hasn't popped on the mainstream's radar. Thinking about both texts, I think that the answer as to why the 'weird' can't be defined [though I'm of the opinion that connoisseurs of the weird tale do not see it as an outstanding issue] is because the weird leaves more questions asked than answered. Moorcock states such is 'a superior kind of fiction' and I agree with him, because presenting readers with all the answers acts as a prerequisite for lazy reading. Now, engaging the reader to solve mysteries in an environment, where the rational is excluded from the equation, begets creativity; encourages to take the dark, unexplored route; keep the primordial goo healthy and expanding; allow for later works and writers to take charge and evolve as well. 

Here I'd like to detour and share my experience with the 'absence of rationalism' in animation, both in the West and in the East. The examples are children's TV shows, which I think are inherent carriers of the idea that you don't need rationalization. I think the weird tale has found a host that succeeded in entering the mainstream as children are much more adept at accepting the weird, the strange and the fantastic without prejudice and demands for explanations, at least as far as my experience and memory of being a child are concerned. Ample examples are “Totally Spice”, a French cartoon series, and “Sailor Moon”, a Japanese anime and the most famous representative of the magic girl genre. 

“Sailor Moon” featured a trio of the Sailor Starlights [bear with me on this one], who perplexed me. If you're aware of magic girls, then you know that from a normal, human state, a female character undergoes a magical transformation, which is signified by a change of outfit. The Sailor Starlights, in their depowered states were male pop stars before transforming into powerful female warriors. The curious thing about this magical gender switch is that it's not explained. 

There's no evidence to support any theory as to whether the character truly change their gender or are just dressing as male. I'm mentioning “Totally Spice” because the premise is about a teen version of Charlie's Angels look-alikes with outrageous James Bond gadgets and a penchant for fighting super villains. I am also referring to this series, because of the sudden body transmogrifications. 

One episode paid a strange homage to Franz Kafka's “The Metamorphosis”, while another sees humans mutate into human-vegetable hybrids [perhaps a subconscious tribute to “The Vegetable Man”]. There is no science to explain why these mutations have occurred other than the drop of the words 'chemicals' and 'machine'. What do I intend with all of this? Nothing in particular, other than to illustrate that the 'weird' is alive and well in different mediums, perhaps even connected to its literary sibling. 

Anyway, let's conclude. Although a grand statement, I do believe the 'weird' [based on the historical background provided by the VanderMeers and Moorcock] to be one of the strongest forces to keep the wheel in speculative fiction turning.