Weird Fiction is among the strangest and most unique forms of speculative fiction. It exists as a great blend of genres and stylistic approaches, fusing fantasy, horror, science fiction, and sometimes dark humour to create surreal adventures and absurd stories. To use the moniker as an umbrella term reveals a variety of facets and manifestations over the years. Weird Fiction, Slipstream, and New Weird are all basically different pieces of the same overarching genre or style. A truly in depth exploration of Weird Fiction and its various forms could likely occupy multiple extended sessions of research and reading so, for our purposes here, I’ve simply gathered a few examples of great Weird Fiction books, in no particular order.
The City & The City
British author China Miéville’s award winning “The City & The City” is a wonderful place to begin if you’re looking for more modern examples of weird fiction. A murder case sends an inspector down the rabbit hole into the strange underworld of his city and its “twin,” which occupies almost the same location. While the basic plot devices may sound par for the course, it is the setting of the cities and the weird world that he constructs for these events that help to push the boundaries. Most of Miéville’s work could honestly make it onto this list, seeing as he directly identifies his style as Weird Fiction, but “The City & The City” creates a bizarre setting that serves as the perfect primer to such a strange and expansive genre.
While not classified officially under Weird Fiction, “The Hike” by Drew Magary is as weird and absurd as it gets. A short hike becomes an adventure into a world of monsters, demons, and other such oddball entities. It is imagination at its finest, crafting a modern day fantasy adventure full of defied expectations and surreal encounters. Built as fantasy with elements of sci-fi, dashes of horror, and healthy portions of humour, this book comfortably fits into the mould of Weird Fiction.
Welcome to Night Vale
Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor
"Welcome to Night Vale" is the literary companion piece to the ongoing audio podcast of the same name. Creators Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor have, from the outset, made the show's fondness for H.P. Lovecraft and Weird Fiction quite clear. The fictional town of Night Vale is a setting where almost anything can, and usually will, happen. Indescribable horrors, supernatural terrors, government conspiracies, interdimensional beings, and all other manner of strange phenomenon abound in Night Vale, becoming common occurrences for the equally weird and wonderful citizens of the town. The novel, much like the podcast, handles the extraordinary with a sense of mundane bemusement, twisting winking humour throughout what would be psychologically scarring in the hands of other authors. Night Vale is a love letter to Weird Fiction through and through, making it an essential read for those with a taste for the strange.
The Strange Library
Haruki Murakami's works are some of the finest and strangest tales of modern Japanese literature, but his 2008 novella "The Strange Library" is probably among his most outright surreal. When a young schoolboy finds himself locked away within a massive labyrinth hidden beneath his local library he must find a way to escape before the monstrous ancient librarian that tends the books eats his brain. Though it is a quick read this story is one that will likely stick around in your head for some time after you read it. The fantastically bizarre events that take place are absurd to their very core and deftly mix unease with curiosity.
At the Mountains of Madness
No primer to the world of Weird Fiction would ever be complete without the de facto father of the genre himself, H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft's stories are towering beasts, full of a descriptive language that expands the curious need for more, whilst also creating an atmosphere of crushing fear. His work thrives on the inhuman and the interdimensional, and basically any H.P. Lovecraft story could have made it onto this list, but "At the Mountains of Madness" is my pick. It was my introduction to Lovecraftian fiction, and contains many of the elements that make his other stories so frightful and groundbreaking. "At the Mountains of Madness" is Lovecraft's 1931 novella of an Antarctic exploration mission gone horribly awry. The discovery of a primordial metropolis past a mountain range delves the explorers into a world of ancient alien beings, awesome monstrosities, and creatures far beyond human comprehension. It is horrifying, yet endlessly attractive, and in my opinion a perfect start for any budding fan of eldritch horrors.