lördag 7 november 2015

The new weird.

(Warning: some spoilers may appear)

The New Weird is something of an interesting topic. Ranging from somewhere between horror, science-fiction and fantasy, new weird holds it's story base in the supernatural and bizarre. Tugging at our nervous minds by twisting our existence in on itself, the stories reveal dark corners of the world that maybe should have remained hidden. They take on things that we fear and make them even scarier by removing the rime and reason behind what we thought we knew.

Two good examples of this is the book Krakken by China Miéville and the movie Freaks (1932). Freaks had a provocative take on this theme. The movie plays off of alienation, having the setting within a circus where a lot of the characters stand out from the norm because of their features or other qualities, and thereby are exposed to others ridicule, resentment or the entertainment of others. 

Throughout the movie, I felt they did a good job of showing character portraits, bringing them to an equal level and showing the humanity and compassion between all (or most) of the people living within the circus. The ones referred to as 'the freaks' had a very touching friendship community that truly made it upsetting to see how some of the other circus artists, even when exposed to it, where still unable to see them as anything more than freaks.

While keeping this tone throughout the movie, the end had an interesting twist where one of the members of the 'freak-community' had been viciously deceived by two of the other circus members and the freaks show just how capable they are of standing up for themselves, bringing out a most horrifying side. Seeing the movie, I couldn't help but hurraying them for bringing down their justice and scaring the bejesus out the atrocious couple that had deceived one of their own. While having a heart as kind and soft as feathers to anyone who treated them well, the harsh world had certainly left its mark on them, and they did not take kindly to misstreatment.

As for Krakken, I was quite captivated by this book. While expertly crafted, it creates a perfect marriage between religion, science and magic. A young scientist specialising in the conservation and research of mollusks gets involuntarily wrapped up in a religious war where he encounters talking tattoos, a man who can swallow a person whole, a police detective with a controversial skill set and a shop owner who specialises in origami which involves not only folding paper, but humans as well. 

This is a book I likely wouldn't have picked up if it weren't on the required reading list, which is one of the reasons I enjoy this class so much. Literature is a wondrous way of being exposed to the strange and beautiful minds in this world we otherwise might have missed out on. We are given ideas thrown in our face that are radically different from our own, ideas that we might disregard as outrageous, bland or upsetting. Or in those magical moments, ideas that sparks our own minds to embellish and explore. Either way, the important thing is that we are exposed to something that is not coming directly from our selves, and that challenges our way of thinking.

Being a student at an art school, I am struck by the notion that anything that evolves out the normal tangible societal system is a possible base for the new weird. That includes storytellers, artists that are hiding in the shadow of their own work, scientists working in dark labs with theories and substances that to an outsider seamed to be out of this world. What is stirring in those secluded minds? What secrets do they hold that is unreachable for the rest of us? 

When I was younger I used discuss this tendency with my friends; how people used to see us as weird and how hard it could be to communicate on the same level. Not that any one of them was better or worse, we just had a different way of thinking from one another and of perceiving the world around us. The difficulty came in communicating across borders. Here, where the outside world tends to fade into something of an awareness yet not present, and where a lot of people have backgrounds of being excluded or alienated in their previous communities, they are united by the very same factors. We're all so different, but we see the world from somewhat of the same angles; from behind the curtains, examining the workings of the world backstage rather than from the front row seats. We try to observe the preparations, the dressing rooms as one person changes into another completely, the little secret signs and the small needles that keeps a dress together where it was too large. And when we leave the backstage to take part in the audience we can no longer see the show without analysing it. We get a second dimension because we've observed the tricks to create the elusion. That's what new weird is to me; peeking behind the curtains of something we take for granted to see the possible dimensions that lie beneath. New weird doesn't grasp from thin air to create simple fiction of our imagination, it elaborates on what already there, thereby making it believable in the most eerie sense.

As trends are moving forward and our society is drastically changed by new gadgets, cultural influences across borders and experimental thinking, things that before seemed strange and frightening are stepping out into the light and becoming norm, whereas new unknown factors arise to present more fascination. Doomsday predictions spread across genres, and although a lot of what's new in our melding pot of a world will unavoidably seep into the new weird, I believe the heart and soul of the genre will remain the same, leaving a lot of the 'new world' fascination and dystopia to the cyberpunk and sci-fi genres.

Young Kraken in Training, by Barak Ashraf


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