Greetings, horror fiends and friends. Today, The Longbox of Darkness is once again taking a look at weird fiction, specifically modern weird fiction. Over the years, this genre has immersed my imagination in its bizarre landscapes, supernatural dread, and eerie ambiance. Arthur Machen, H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and Robert E. Howard birthed the Weird, and it has only gotten weirder as the 21st century dawned. So today, let’s look at who’s been making waves in the world of weird fiction over the last couple of decades. Read on and get to know the top five modern weird fiction authors sending shivers down our spines in this latter day and age.
1. China Miéville
The first name that springs to mind when I think about modern weird fiction is the incredibly talented China Miéville. A prolific author and academic, Miéville has received numerous accolades for his works, including the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the British Fantasy Award, and the Hugo Award. His novels, such as “Perdido Street Station,” “The Scar,” and “The City & The City,” expertly blend elements of fantasy, science fiction, and horror.
I first discovered him in an Ottakar’s Bookstore back in 2001, when I picked up two of his early works – “King Rat” (his first novel) and (my favorite) “Perdido Street Station“, and I’ve been a Miéville-junkie ever since.
Miéville’s writing style is marked by his rich, evocative prose and intricate world-building. He often explores themes of power, politics, and the relationship between language and reality. If you’re looking for a mind-bending, genre-defying experience, you can’t go wrong with our man China here.
2. Kelly Link
Kelly Link is a contemporary American author who has made a name for herself with her spellbinding short stories. Her collections, like “Stranger Things Happen” (my personal favorite), “Magic for Beginners” and “Get in Trouble,” (a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize) have garnered much critical acclaim, earning her the World Fantasy Award and the Shirley Jackson Award, among others.
Back in 2006, a friend gifted me “Stranger Things Happen,” and after reading the first story (“Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose”) I realized that I was in for a treat. Every story that followed detonated in my brain like mental sticks of dynamite. It would not be overly generous to describe her output as compulsively readable.
Link’s stories are characterized by their lush, dreamlike quality and a sense of quiet unease that lingers long after you’ve finished reading. She seamlessly weaves together elements of horror, fantasy, and fairy tales, which puts her firmly in the weird fiction camp. She usually explores themes such as identity, loss, and the blurred lines between reality and imagination, but she’s endlessly experimental and will often surprise you. If you’re in the mood for some hauntingly beautiful reads, Kelly Link is a must.
3. Jeff VanderMeer
A prominent figure in the New Weird movement, Jeff VanderMeer is best known for his Southern Reach Trilogy, comprising “Annihilation,” “Authority,” and “Acceptance.” These novels have won him numerous awards, including the Nebula Award and the Shirley Jackson Award. His works often delve into the realms of ecological horror and surrealism.
I first became aware of VanderMeer when I saw a copy of his lengthy novel/novella collection “City of Saints and Madmen” in 2005. I read it and loved it. It was deliciously odd! I subsequently picked up his Veniss Underground short novel, and that blew me away as well. Since then, I’ve bought everything he published. His seminal novel “Annihilation” was made into a Netflix movie starring Natalie Portman, and I eagerly await future adaptations of his work.
VanderMeer’s writing style is atmospheric and enigmatic. He effortlessly immerses you in the mysterious, uncanny worlds he creates via his vivid descriptions. He is particularly interested in the relationship between humans and the environment, and his stories often feature characters grappling with the consequences of humanity’s impact on the natural world. If you’re a fan of both the strange and the thought-provoking, VanderMeer is your go-to author.
4. Carmen Maria Machado
Carmen Maria Machado is a rising star in the world of weird fiction, with her debut short story collection, “Her Body and Other Parties,” earning widespread praise and numerous accolades, including the National Book Award and the Shirley Jackson Award. Machado’s works are marked by their powerful, visceral prose and their innovative blend of horror, science fiction, and magical realism.
I only recently discovered Machado, but for the life of me, I can’t tell you how. I blame the pervasive influence of social media and the internet. I had read a snippet about her somewhere that appealed to me, and before I knew it I had made several Kindle purchases and ordered the physical copy of “Her Body and Other Parties.” Shortly after that, I happened upon her horror comic series for DC Comics’ Black Label imprint, “The Low, Low Woods” (illustrated by artist Dani) and THAT blew me away. So it’s a fair bet to say that she’s one of my favorite new authors, and I’m excited about what she’ll publish in the years to come.
Machado’s stories often center on themes of gender, sexuality, and the body, examining the ways in which societal expectations can shape and warp our experiences. Her unique, genre-bending approach to storytelling makes her a perfect choice for readers who crave fresh, provocative perspectives on the weird and the eerie.
5. Laird Barron
Laird Barron, an American author and poet, has made significant waves in the world of weird fiction with his dark, atmospheric tales that blur the lines between horror, science fiction, and the supernatural. His collections, such as “The Imago Sequence” and “Occultation,” have garnered him the Shirley Jackson Award. He has also been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award numerous times.
I first discovered Barron through his pulp novella “X’s for Eyes” in 2015. The story was so bizarre that I tracked down more of his stuff, starting with “The Imago Sequence” and his novel “The Croning.” Both were highly enjoyable reads and showcased his best work. Since then, I’ve been purchasing whatever he puts out.
Barron’s writing is characterized by its dense, rich prose and a sense of cosmic horror that harkens back to the works of H.P. Lovecraft. He often tackles themes of isolation, dread, and the unfathomable, bringing the full force of cosmic terror to bear on his readers. If you’re a fan of cosmic horror and stories that leave you with profound existential dread, then Laird Barron is an author you need to read.
So, there you have it: five modern masters of weird fiction who have captured my imagination and just won’t let go. Each of these authors brings a unique voice and perspective to the genre, pushing the boundaries of what is possible and inviting us to explore the strange, the eerie, and the unsettling in new and exciting ways. So why not pick up some of their books and let yourself be transported into the weird and wonderful worlds they run rampant in? I assure you, you won’t be disappointed.
*Do you have a favorite author that I left off the list and that you’d like to recommend? Leave a comment below, and let The Longbox of Darkness know. Also, remember to subscribe to the blog to be notified of future posts. Thanks for reading, darklings!
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