When it comes to your leisure reading, are you looking for something a little different? Perhaps you enjoy elements of the supernatural and fantastical but are tired of the same old clichés of most genre fiction? Why not give Weird Fiction a try!
Weird fiction is characterized primarily by its blending of science fiction, fantasy, horror and just about every other fiction genre to create something entirely new. The name “weird fiction” was coined by H.P. Lovecraft in a 1927 essay titled “Supernatural Horror in Literature,” which sought a division between traditional horror at the time and Lovecraft’s own work. The genre has since grown further apart from its close connection with horror and has become an umbrella term for books that can’t easily be placed in any other category.
If you’re new to weird fiction, below you’ll find some great reads to get you started. Keep in mind that nearly all weird fiction still contains some elements of horror, so if you tend to be squeamish these may not be the books for you.
Weird Fiction Books
The Wine-Dark Sea by Robert Aickman
Amazon: 4.1 | Goodreads: 4.13
“In these 11 stories, the occasion may be a walking tour of Northern England, a birthday present of a Victorian dollhouse or a stay at a Swedish sanatorium for insomniacs, but it simultaneously traps the characters with dread and opens them up to a new awareness of a greater, deeper and more dangerous world. A remarkable collection by an author who deserves to be better known.” ~ Goodreads
The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All by Laird Barron
Amazon: 4.1 | Goodreads: 4.02
“Barron returns with his third collection, The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All. Collecting interlinking tales of sublime cosmic horror, including “Blackwood’s Baby,” “The Carrion Gods in Their Heaven,” and the World Fantasy Award–nominated “Hand of Glory,” The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All delivers enough spine-chilling horror to satisfy even the most jaded reader.” ~ Amazon
Weaveworld by Clive Barker
Amazon: 4.6 | Goodreads| 4.13
“Barker turns from his usual horror to epic-length fantasy for this account of the Fugue, a magical land inhabited by descendants of supernatural beings who once shared the earth with humans. The Fugue has been woven into a carpet for protection against those who would destroy it; the death of its guardian occasions a battle between good and particularly repulsive evil forces for control of the Fugue. Weaveworld is rich with memorable characters, exciting situations, and pockets of Barker’s trademark horror.” ~ Goodreads
Fledgling by Octavia Butler
Amazon: 4.2 | Goodreads: 3.9
“Fledgling, Octavia Butler’s new novel after a seven year break, is the story of an apparently young, amnesiac girl whose alarmingly inhuman needs and abilities lead her to a startling conclusion: She is in fact a genetically modified, 53-year-old vampire. Forced to discover what she can about her stolen former life, she must at the same time learn who wanted – and still wants – to destroy her and those she cares for and how she can save herself. Fledgling is a captivating novel that tests the limits of “otherness” and questions what it means to be truly human.” ~ Goodreads
The Complete Stories of Lenora Carrington with an introduction by Kathyrn Davis
Amazon: 3.6 | Goodreads: 4.25
“Published to coincide with the centennial of her birth, The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington collects for the first time all of her stories, including several never before seen in print. With a startling range of styles, subjects, and even languages (several of the stories are translated from French or Spanish), The Complete Stories captures the genius and irrepressible spirit of an amazing artist’s life.” ~ Goodreads
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
Amazon: 4.2 | Goodreads: 4.02
“From familiar fairy tales and legends – Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss-in-Boots, Beauty and the Beast, vampires, werewolves – Angela Carter has created an absorbing collection of dark, sensual, fantastic stories.” ~ Amazon
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
Amazon: 4.1 | Goodreads: 4.13
“House of Leaves is a multilayered intersection of wild ideas, ten years in the making, from Mark Danielewski. It is also the story of a seemingly normal house gone wild. The novel intertwines the narratives of two haunted individuals: Zampano, a blind man whose strange manuscript is found in his apartment when he dies, and Johnny Truant, the tome’s discoverer and narrator of House of Leaves.” ~ Fantastic Fiction
Windeye by Brian Evenson
Amazon: 4.3 | Goodreads: 4.03
“A woman falling out of sync with the world; a king’s servant hypnotized by his murderous horse; a transplanted ear with a mind of its own. The characters in these stories live as interlopers in a world shaped by mysterious disappearances and unfathomable discrepancies between the real and imagined. Brian Evenson, master of literary horror, presents his most far-ranging collection to date, exploring how humans can persist in an increasingly unreal world. Haunting, gripping, and psychologically fierce, these tales illuminate a dark and unsettling side of humanity.” ~ Goodreads
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Amazon: 3.9 | Goodreads: 3.89
“First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.” ~ Goodreads
The Fisherman by John Langan
Amazon: 4.2 | Goodreads: 4.01
“When Abe and Dan, two widowers who have found solace in each other’s company and a shared passion for fishing, hear rumors of the Creek, and what might be found there, the remedy to both their losses, they dismiss it as just another fish story. Soon, though, the men find themselves drawn into a tale as deep and old as the Reservoir. It’s a tale of dark pacts, of long-buried secrets, and of a mysterious figure known as Der Fisher: the Fisherman. It will bring Abe and Dan face to face with all that they have lost, and with the price they must pay to regain it.” ~ Goodreads
The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
Amazon: 4.4 | Goodreads: 3.91
“People move to New York looking for magic and nothing will convince them it isn’t there. Charles Thomas Tester hustles to put food on the table, keep the roof over his father’s head, from Harlem to Flushing Meadows to Red Hook. . But when he delivers an occult tome to a reclusive sorceress in the heart of Queens, Tom opens a door to a deeper realm of magic, and earns the attention of things best left sleeping. A storm that might swallow the world is building in Brooklyn. Will Black Tom live to see it break?” ~ Amazon
Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
Amazon: 3.9 | Goodreads: 3.97
“A magnificent fantasy rife with scientific splendor, magical intrigue, and wonderfully realized characters, told in a storytelling style in which Charles Dickens meets Neal Stephenson, Perdido Street Station offers an eerie, voluptuously crafted world that will plumb the depths of every reader’s imagination.” ~ Amazon
The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami
Amazon: 3.9 | Goodreads: 3.55
“Opening the flaps on this unique little book, readers will find themselves immersed in the strange world of best-selling Haruki Murakami’s wild imagination. The story of a lonely boy, a mysterious girl, and a tormented sheep man plotting their escape from a nightmarish library, the book is like nothing else Murakami has written. Designed by Chip Kidd and fully illustrated, in full color, throughout, this small format, 96 page volume is a treat for book lovers of all ages.” ~ Goodreads
Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
Amazon: 4.1 | Goodreads: 3.94
“From the author of the Southern Reach Trilogy (aka: Area X) comes a story about two humans, and two creatures. The humans are Rachel and Wick – a scavenger and a drug dealer – both with too many secrets and fears, ready with traps to be set and sprung. The creatures are Mord and Borne – animal, perhaps plant, maybe company discard, biotech, cruel experiment, dinner, deity, or source of spare parts.” ~ Provided by the publisher
Still not sure where to start?
Weird fiction anthologies will give you the opportunity to sample the work of various weird fiction authors and see what most interests you.
If you’re feeling brave, try the work of authors like Thomas Ligotti, Kathe Koja, Jon Padgett, Michael Cisco and so many others in the following collections.
The Year’s Best Weird Fiction: Volume One edited by Laird Barron
Amazon: 4.2 | Goodreads: 3.92
“Welcome to the weird! Acclaimed author and editor Laird Barron, one of weird fiction’s brightest exponents, brings his expert eye and editorial sense to the inaugural volume of the Year’s Best Weird Fiction.” ~ Goodreads
Also available in eBook (hoopla).
The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
Amazon: 4.25 | Goodreads: 4.13
“The Weird features 110 stories by an all-star cast, from literary legends to international bestsellers to Booker Prize winners: including William Gibson, George R. R. Martin, Stephen King, Angela Carter, Kelly Link, Franz Kafka, China Miéville, Clive Barker, Haruki Murakami, M. R. James, Neil Gaiman, Mervyn Peake, and Michael Chabon. “ ~ Goodreads
Jeff Vandermeer, author of the bestselling Area X Trilogy (which is being adapted to film in 2018) and editor of numerous Weird Fiction anthologies, describes what makes Weird Fiction a genre that is greater than the sum of its parts:
Here, in what is actually our infancy of understanding the world—this era in which we think we are older than we are—it is cathartic to seek out and tell stories that do not seek to reconcile the illogical, the contradictory, and often instinctual way in which human beings perceive the world, but instead accentuate these elements as a way of showing us as we truly are. Unruly. Unruled. Superstitious. Absurd. Subject to a thousand destabilizing fears and hopes.
Want to learn more about Weird Fiction?
Originally posted by Toledo Lucas County Public Library blogger Juliette H. at ToledoLibrary.org/blog/weird-but-true-this-lesser-known-fiction-genre-is-making-a-comeback.