It seems strange that there’s been no official Year’s Best Weird Fiction anthology before this inaugural, crowdfunded volume, co-edited by series editor Michael Kelly and special guest editor Laird Barron and published by Undertow/ChiZine Publications. Reading through this finely-curated collection of short stories and novelettes, it’s clear that the Weird is all around us. And it’s really, literally, quite awesome. But it’s not new.
The popularity of this subgenre, if you can call it that, waxes and wanes every decade or so and has for a long time, from early masters like Algernon Blackwood and H.P. Lovecraft to contemporary authors whose names are often associated with the New Weird—think China Miéville and Caitlín R. Kiernan. But the weird never really goes away; it just travels through fiction wearing other genres as a disguise. Call it horror, dark fantasy, slipstream, or just plain ponderous.
In his introduction, Kelly says he read upwards of 3,000 stories. In his introduction, Laird Barron, himself a enjoying a great deal of acclaim for his own collection The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All, offers a guiding principle that helped whittle that giant pool down to the very best: “My sense of a weird tale is that it contravenes reality in some essential manner; that it possesses at least a hint of the alien; and that it emanates disquiet or disorientation.”