New Era, New Trophy – World Fantasy Award

Earlier this month the organisers of the World Fantasy Award announced that they would be making a change. For over forty years the winners of the World Fantasy Award were presented with a trophy modelled in the image of renowned weird fiction author H.P. Lovecraft. However, now there is a wide-spread belief that it is time to shake things up a bit. The coveted award will no longer take the form of Lovecraft’s head, however influential that head may be. As you might expect, this alteration caused a bit of controversy in the sf/f community.

The organisers did not give an explanation for the change, but it is apparent that many feel Lovecraft is not an appropriate figure to represent the award. The problem of Lovecraft’s racist opinions, which some argue figure in his writings, is clearly of particular concern. Quite predictably, a schism appeared in the sf/f world. One side argued that Lovecraft’s influence on fantasy and horror was being denied, while others protested that fantasy has undergone significant transformations since the Award’s initiation, and a new trophy should reflect that. Lovecraft, it seems, represents the  exclusive old guard, whereas we have entered a new era in sf/f, one which is inclusive and embraces previously marginalised voices.

Regardless of your opinion, the Award’s organisers have been steadfast in their commitment to change. There is no going back. In fact, they have recently called for artists to submit their designs for the new trophy. So if you were upset with the decision to oust Lovecraft, you have the opportunity to offer a design for the trophy of your choice. However, the administration have stated clearly that “the ideal design will represent both fantasy and horror, without bearing any physical resemblance to any person, living or dead”, so bear that in mind!

 

For more on this topic:

The Atlantic published an interesting in-depth piece on this issue – Check out the article by Lenika Cruz here

See this short piece in The Guardian about the call for new trophy designs

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Feature: What Haunts Us This Halloween?

Halloween is a time for spooks and scares, and often the scariest things come from inexplicable sources. Spectres of the supernatural have haunted the human mind for generations; but in an era of technology and scientific rationality, can something as simple as a spirit from beyond the grave still give us the shivers?

Recently, The Guardian published this piece on the re-emergence of tales of ghostly hauntings, stating “the good old-fashioned ghost story is back with a bang”. The article speculates that a key reasons the ghost story has grown in popularity is because the reading public have become more receptive to genre fiction. Is genre snobbery finally at an end? (Well, not quite, but we’re getting there).

Ghoulish figures never left our literature or media – the vampire obviously garnered a lot of attention post-Twilight, though the new sexy model lacked the creepy leer of Dracula. Zombies, too, enjoyed a spell in the spotlight – they were embraced in various media forms, in films like 28 Days Later, in graphic novel and tv series The Walking Dead and even ushered in (yet another) take on Pride and Prejudice. The intent of these ghouls isn’t always to frighten the reader or viewer, but our culture’s fascination with such creatures is clearly still strong. These fiends aren’t always there to scare!

However, the supernatural continues to unnerve. Despite the fact that we know more about the workings of the world, the universe and outer space than ever before, we can still be spooked by stories about ghosts. In fact, the more we discover about the universe, the more we realise how little we actually know. In this grey space is where the philosophy of H.P. Lovecraft reigns – we, as humans, are limited in what we can understand about the cosmos, and what is most scary is that we are aware of our limitations.

Everything from cosmic horror to the ghost story is frightening because at the heart of those stories is the unexplained. Worse still, something as seemingly simple as a ghostly spectre is not only inexplicable, but has the potential to be utterly incomprehensible. But let’s not get too upset by the fundamental shortcomings of the human mind – it’s Halloween, let’s just have some fun and scare ourselves silly!

So, our advice is curl up with a classic ghost story from M.R. James or get a thrill from David Mitchell’s new novel Slade House; generally just have a good time! And rest assured, we’ll still be grappling with all those unfathomable forces after Halloween’s over – there is still much to be uncovered in the dark and bewildering universe (or, is that multiverse?).

Highlights | 19-25 Oct 15

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The New and Improved Romie Futch by Julia Elliott (Tin House)

Out this month from Tin House is The New and Improved Romie Futch by Julia Elliott. Tin House can always be relied upon to provide fantastic new fiction, and this title is sure to garner attention. Elliott tells the tale of down-on-his-luck Romie Futch who attempts to reclaim his life by enrolling as a test subject at the Centre for Cybernetic Neuroscience. There, he hope to become “new and improved” by downloading knowledge of the humanities subjects into his brain. Safe to say, things do not go as planned, and Romie ends up on the trail of a mutant beast known as “Hogzilla” – a thousand-pound boar possessing supernatural powers. Elliott’s book seems encompass everything we love – undeniably weird, with sprinkling of the speculative and Southern Gothic. We are eagerly anticipating out copy!

Find out more on Tin House’s website and read an interview with Elliott to find out more.

Read Publisher’s Weekly review of the book here and read an excerpt here

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 Vintage Classics Bronte Sisters Series
Granted, the Brontes are not contemporary authors, but the dynamic literary sisters are back in bookish news (not that they every really left!). In honour of the bicentenary of the Bronte, Penguin Vintage Editions are re-jacketing Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Anne Bronte). These fantastic new covers deserve a mention because they so perfectly portray the eerie and Gothic themes embodied in these texts, which often gets let out in mainstream discussions of the Brontes. The jackets were wonderfully designed by Sarah Gillespie, find her stuff here. And just in time for Halloween, too – the only problem is you feel the unrelenting urge to buy the whole set!

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The Masters Review – New Voices for the Classic Ghost Story

Gothic is most certainly the theme of the week – the finial item on this list comes from The Masters Review. October is the month of all things creepy, and The Masters Review is determined to let their spooky side shine! The state their aim for the month is to “to bring you as many different takes on the ghost story as possible”, and this week’s feature is the new short story “Clean Hunters” by Lana Valencia. If you’re interested in a bit of non-fiction this Halloween season, The Masters Review has also published some great essays on the uncanny (“Something’s Wrong in the Garden”) and the darker side of literature in their Literary Terms series (“Literary Terms: Gothic, Grotesque and The Uncanny“).

Author Spotlight: Jeff VanderMeer

Bookish Bio

In celebration of the news that Jeff VanderMeer will be releasing another book next year, we have decided to dedicate our very first Author Spotlight to him! Jeff VanderMeer is an American author who has been writing sf of varying degrees for the last few decades. He has been a prominent voice in the sf community, both online and in the academic world. Not only has VanderMeer contributed significantly to the Weird with his works of fiction, but along with his wife Ann, he has complied numerous influential anthologies. These anthologies have dealt with a wide range of sf-related topics, from Steampunk to weird fiction and the New Weird. VanderMeer is also a strong advocate of translated weird fiction, and he is determined to make it possible for international Weird writers to get their stories published in English for the Anglo-centric masses.

Catalogue Stand-Outs

VanderMere’s most prominent works of fiction include:

The Southern Reach Trilogy –

“Annihilation” (4th Estate, 2014)

“Authority” (4th Estate, 2014)

“Acceptance” (4the Estate, 2014)

The Ambergris Novels – 

“City of Saints and Madmen” (Tor, 2004)

“Shreik: An Afterword” (Tor, 2006)

“Finch” (Underland Press, 2009)

The paperback editions of The Southern Reach Trilogy by 4th Estate UK

The paperback editions of The Southern Reach Trilogy by 4th Estate UK

In-Depth Focus

A look at the books of The Southern Reach Trilogy 

Although the trilogy is made up of three separate novels, it is recommended that all three books should be read in sequence. The publisher, 4th Estate, made the savvy decision to publish all the books in the same year; this worked greatly to their advantage as the first book “Annihilation” proved a run-away success.

“Annihilation” follows the story of a team of four scientist as they undertake a mission to a strange wilderness known as Area X. The group are the twelfth expedition to be sent into the strange zone by a clandestine government agency called The Southern Reach. In the following two novels, the reader gets a better look into this shadowy agency, as the story shifts from the weird wilds of Area X to the unsettling claustrophobia of confined offices and narrow hallways. The story of Area X slowing unfolds as the characters become both baffled by and obsessed with the mysteries of the unsettling landscape.

Useful Links

VanderMeer’s Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_VanderMeer#Novels

VanderMeer’s Blog: http://www.jeffvandermeer.com/

VanderMeer on “The Uncanny Power of Weird Fiction” from The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/10/uncanny-fiction-beautiful-and-bizarre/381794/

“The Weird World of Jeff VanderMeer” from Tor.com: http://www.tor.com/2014/12/10/the-weird-world-of-jeff-vandermeer/

“A Writer’s Surreal Journey” from The Altantic:  http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/01/from-annihilation-to-acceptance-a-writers-surreal-journey/384884/

“Weird Ecology: On The Southern Reach Trilogy” from the Los Angeles Review of Books: https://lareviewofbooks.org/review/weird-ecology-southern-reach-trilogy