China proposed a name for the literary movement. “Noird” (prounounced Nward). In April’s Bookslut, Geoffrey Goodwin described my work as “weirdboiled,” which I have to admit, thrills me to no end. So in the race of meme nomenclature, I self-servingly have to give the nod to weirdboiled.
(*aside: I’m giving Geoffrey Goodwin credit for weirdboiled as he’s the first person I’ve found to put the term in print or pixels. I happily invite Nick Mamatas, Hannah Bowen, and livejournal user infinitehotel to duke it out with Geoffrey for creator’s credit.*)
The weird detective story has been around for a while of course. Some of my favorite examples are Jonathan Lethem’s Gun With Occasional Music, PK Dick’s Do Andriods Dream… and A Scanner Darkly, and Bukowski’s Pulp. More recently we had Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, and the novels of Jack O’Connell (particularly my favorite, Word Made Flesh).
But here in the ’09, there’s been a proliferation of weirdboiled novels: Jedidiah Berry’s The Manual of Detection (think noir and Borges), Brian Evenson’s Last Days (think noir and Grand Guignol), China Mieville’s The City and The City (think noir, and well, Mieville), national book award winner Denis Johnson’s Nobody Move (serialized noir), Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice (think noir, and well, Pynchon), and coming in the fall are two books I’ve had the honor of reading early and giving blurbs to: from Underland Press, Jeff Vandermeer’s Finch (think noir and Ambergris) and from Small Beer Press, Vincent McCaffrey’s Hound. And, there’s my own, The Little Sleep, which I add not because of quality but because of subject matter. Hey, I’m happy to do my own little part in the zeitgeist, all right?
Why all these books now? Hell if I know. The cynical pessimist might say it’s an example of publishers trying to capitalize on a built-in market of mystery readers. In this instance, I choose a more optimistic outlook. I think the recent spate of weirdboiled fiction is a positive sign, a sign that writers and readers aren’t satisfied with fiction always conforming to genre expectations, that more writers and readers want to mix and mash and muddy it all up. Muddy isn’t nice or safe, but it is real, weird or not.
So while I’m not down with the name “Noird,” I do adore China’s sum-up description of the Noird fiction: