the place of cool in weird fiction
I like weird shit; fiction that confuses the crap out of me, that sort of thing. Vandermeer, Bishop Cisco, etc. Bring it on, I'm lovin' it. Right now I'm working my way through one of the "Leviathan" anthologies (Leviant 4: Cities for those who care) and it is quite splendiferous in the quality of its fiction. Each time I dive between its pages I am transported to a place where... well quite honestly I don't know where it takes me, some acid trip through the looking glass, to someplace that's not quite anywhere else. The stories are deep, troubling, profound, and (quite often) just slightly beyond my grasp. It's fiction that makes me reach for meaning without the promise of there being any meaning to be found. It's one hell of a ride.
But, you know what, sometimes I just wish something would blow up.
Fantasy fiction is constantly striving to be taken seriously as a literary genre, and works such as those found in the Leviathan books are a fantastic step towards that goal, there seems to sometimes be a profound absence of cool. There is no populist crap here.
Is the elimination of such "populist crap" essential to weird fiction?
I suppose one of the problems is "what is cool?" Some people thing arrogant elvish bowmen are cool, and not tawdry, played-out sterotypes. Personally I dig things blowing up, gunfire, and fighting in general. If it could be used as a set-piece in an action movie then I'm likely to categorise it as cool. And as action movies are about as populist as you can get, then surely there are some things are broadly viewed as being cool. Such as things blowing up.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating explosions in every story, or even action scenes in every story, but their near sub-genre wide elimination strikes me as a little odd. Indeed, the main reason Mieville remains one of my favourite weird fiction writers is because of the sheer power of some of his action scenes. They're damn cool, they get my adrenaline pumping, and they sure as hell keep me turning the pages. And that's really the point, isn't it? To engage the reader, to get them involved.
I think, in the end, it's a question of balance. The problem with most action movies is the overwhelming nature of the cool scenes with no time for anything to balance them out. They become uncool because they overwhelm us. We become numb to them. But one (just one!) action scene in a piece of writing (it being literature or not) can really bring the piece to life. Too much = bad. Too little... well, you can certainly get away with it. But I think as much careful thought should be given to it's elimination as to its inclusion.