New Myths and Techno Prophecies: How Fantasy and Sci-Fi Prepare You For A Weird World

Thomas Ligotti’s “The Town Manager” ends with the narrator offered the leadership role in a new town, a position that he has discovered from decades of exploitative policy leads to the slow destruction of the town but fattened wallet for the Town Manager. We are left asking if he will take the role, and how he would shape a society given what he’s seen. Fiction creates simulations able to portray the workings of human nature and reality, and the powerful flexibility of genre gives us untold ways to build a story off of core ideas. Weird tales translate supernatural elements into a contemporary setting, but it also branches out into two other genres that either uses magic and the occult or science and technology to reveal how the world is truly governed. Robert E. Howard’s fantasy story “The Phoenix on the Sword” and George R. R. Martin’s science fiction short “Sandkings” give us two different answers to “The Town Manager’s” leadership dilemma, from the ground as a king leading men or from above as a god pulling the strings of fate from behind the veil.

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Short Story Analysis: How ‘The Night Wire’ Connects You to Cosmic Horror

For human history, story has been a way for consciousness to explore worlds, to connect people to places they have never been and things they’ve never seen, to give the reader’s imagination access to the author’s. But with “The Night Wire,” H.E. Arnold uses story to tell us about how consciousness can now be connected to vast new worlds using technology, telling us of a fateful night in the lives of two telegraph operators receiving news reports from the strange town Xebico under attack by a mysterious fog and unidentifiable beings, directly linking our consciousness to a strange, weird world that we can observe in quiet, chilling terror but are unable to visit.

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Short Story Analysis: Walking the World As Tutuola’s Complete Gentleman

When Amos Tutuola’s “The Complete Gentleman” closes, the Nigerian folklorist had taken the reader on an adventure into a mysterious world with talking skulls and juju magic to save a captured young lady. As with so much other “weird” fiction, readers had journeyed to discover a world that is so hard to truly define that even the genre’s masters have a hard time qualifying it. For their The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Ann and Jeff Vandermeer quote the genre’s grandfather H.P. Lovecraft’s definition that the weird “represents the pursuit of some indefinable and perhaps maddeningly unreachable understanding of the world beyond the mundane” (VanderMeer xv). In The Complete Gentleman, however, it is the reader’s pursuit of the world that takes center stage, and Tutuola is able to navigate them through the story’s mysterious, supernatural world by providing a capable, magical protagonist that can transform it into new shapes so its substance and lesson may be laid bare.

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