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The 13 Of The Weirdest Short Stories Ever Written

Posted: 05/08/2012 3:27 pm

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories [Tor, $29.99] contains 110 tales from the past 100 years of weird fiction collected in a single volume of over 750,000 words. Over 20 nationalities are represented and seven new translations were commissioned for the book. This is the largest collection of weird fiction ever housed between the covers of one volume.

A compendium is neither as complete as an encyclopedia nor as baggy as a treasury. Although the backbone of the book reflects the immense influence of both Kafka and Lovecraft, we have ventured from that basic focus to provide different traditions of weird fiction. Strands of The Weird represented include classic and mainstream weird tales, weird science fiction, weird ritual, international weird, and offshoots of the weird influenced by Surrealism, Symbolism, the Gothic, and the Decadent movement. A full definition of weird modes of fiction can be found in the introduction. We hope that readers will be delighted by the classics included and by the unexpected discoveries found within its pages. Authors include Ben Okri, Michael Chabon, Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, Octavia E. Butler, and Jorges Luis Borges.

Of course, "weird" covers a gamut from the subtle weird to the more outré--and we encountered lots of the weirder material in compiling the anthology. So here, without further preamble, are thirteen of the weirdest stories from the past century, all included in The Weird. (For those who don't like to end on a number like thirteen, honorable mentions would include Daphne Du Maurier's "Don't Look Now," William Sansom's "The Winding Sheet," Mervyn Peake's "Same Time, Same Place," and Margo Lanagan's "Singing My Sister Down," also in the volume.)

"The Hell Screen" by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1918)
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Akutagawa was often called the "father of the Japanese short story." He published his first short story, Rashōmon, while still a student and wrote over one hundred more in his lifetime. Akutagawa's "The Hell Screen" is a creepy masterpiece that involves the supernatural events that surround an artist's creation of a painting for a high lord, a depiction of hell that goes seriously wrong. Inexplicable shadows, snakes, and monkeys figure in this deeply strange evocation of an artist's search for truth.

Sample lines: "At first, the liquid came out slowly, like a very thick, sticky fluid, but little by little the glistening thing glided up to the nose of the frightened boy, who...screamed, 'A snake! A snake!'"
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