Note: Below is my original essay on SciFi Strange. I've also arranged the following links for anyone wanting more information and resources on this emerging subgenre.
- My response to comments by Jeff VanderMeer on SciFi Strange.
- A collection of comments by other people on SciFi Strange.
- My online anthology of SciFi Strange stories.
- The article "From New Wave to SciFi Strange: Thematic Shifts in the SF Short Story" by Andy Hedgecock, published in the scholarly journal Short Fiction in Theory & Practice.
I hate manifestos. They sound so pretentious, and often strike me as merely an ego trip for the manifestor. Sort of an "I'm so important whatever I say goes for everyone from this point on." Please. So don't call this a manifesto. Instead, it is the noticing of a trend.
What's the next big thing? I think it's already here. We simply don't have a name for it.
I've actually been thinking about this topic for a few months, ever since reading the introduction David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer wrote for my short story "The Ships Like Clouds, Risen by Their Rain" in their Year's Best SF 14. They said of my story, "If there is such a thing as new weird SF, this is it."
That set me to thinking. Why do I write stories like this? Why do I react so positively to certain types of SF, while other types leave me cold. The SF stories I love are by authors like Ted Chiang, Paolo Bacigalupi, Ian McDonald, and Nnedi Okorafor, to name only a few. As I reflected on the term new weird SF, I realized this label covered all the authors and stories I loved. Except new weird SF simply doesn't work as a name. It sounds too much like a rip-off of the New Weird.
Perhaps we should call this trend SciFi Strange.
Like SF's earlier New Wave movement, there is a lot of experimentation with SciFi Strange, along with high literary standards. But where New Wave stories focused excessively on sexual expression and the drug-influenced residue of the 1960s, SciFi Strange simply accepts the different viewpoints which were once so shocking and novel to the '60s generation. In addition, SciFi Strange writers live in today's multicultural world, where diversity and difference are the norm, even as we explore the basic human values and needs which bind all of us together.
SciFi Strange also flirts with the boundaries of what is scientifically--and therefore realistically--possible, without being bounded by the rigid frames of the world as we know it today. But don't mistake SciFi Strange for fantasy. This is pure science fiction. It's merely an updated version of the literature of ideas. A SF equipped for a world where the frontiers of scientific possibility are almost philosophical in nature.
Examples of SciFi Strange include Gareth L. Powell's "Ack-Ack Macaque," Eugie Foster's "Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast," Daryl Gregory's "Second Person, Present Tense," Aliette de Bodard's "Butterfly, Falling at Dawn" (along with many other stories), Mercurio D. Rivera's "The Scent of Their Arrival," and most of the stories by Paolo Bacigalupi, Ted Chiang, Ian McDonald, and Nnedi Okorafor. In fact, I would rate Ted Chiang as the father of SciFi Strange. I know his amazing short stories have truly influenced me.
Am I merely shooting off at the mouth with this? I hope not. SciFi Strange is what I see happening around me. This is the type of SF which truly excites me these days. It will be interesting to see if anyone else agrees.