I’m sure there are countless authors like me out there. In fact, I’ve read a lot of their work. We are the dreamers. We are the creators of weird fiction. And, when we tell people the kinds of stories we write, more often than not we are the receivers of blank stares, and comments like:
“Oh, really?” Long, uncomfortable pause. “Isn’t that interesting.”
This is the elevator pitch of my baby, *ahem* –I mean, my upcoming novel, Old Souls:
When a woman claiming to know Lucien Navarro from a life ten-thousand years before asks him to return to their great family, he abandons his antipsychotics to uncover the truth.
His soul is immortal.
Once the leader of three hundred beings who’ve incarnated over and over through the ages, Lucien must unite his kind again to rise up against the cult set on their destruction, take a stand in a war which has raged behind the veil of human awareness for millennia, and fight for a love that tests the boundaries of time.
*Insert blank stare here*
There’s no doubt about it. It’s weird fiction. And, do you know what? That’s okay. Why? Because real life doesn’t make sense. Not even a little bit. Strangely, fiction–good fiction–does.
All day long, we tell stories. We talk about the news. We tell each other what we did the night before. We crunch numbers. But all stories are told for a reason. They are the ties that bind us to each other. They unite us in our human experience. While telling these stories, we are saying: “This is the way I see the world.” We’re asking others to see it the same way we do, if even for a just few minutes.
Weird fiction isn’t any different just because pieces of it are pretend. In fact, it’s an exceptionally effective tool in pinpointing some of the more obscure ideas we want to share.
One of the key ways human beings were able to conquer the world we live in, populating almost every nook and cranny of the planet, is through language. “And then Muckoochu rubbed the sticks together, like this,” (storyteller rubs sticks together), “and made fire.”
Weird fiction is, in fact, an elevated form of storytelling, and some might argue it also an elevated form of teaching. Weird fiction usually plays off of themes. It’s a view of the world from an entirely different angle.
Take the Twilight Zone, episode 42: The Eye of the Beholder. A patient is being operated on by a gathering of surgeons. Both the faces of surgeons and the woman’s face are hidden until the very end of the show. The doctors are doing the best they can to try and make the woman appealing, as she is described by the nurses as: “not normal,” with a face that looks like “a pitful, twisted lump of flesh.” When she’s revealed at the very end of the show–after what the doctors called another wildly unsuccessful surgery–we realize that by our standards, the patient is in fact, a beautiful woman. It was the doctors and nurses who were practically monsters. The closing narration is an in your face “moral of the story”:
“Now the questions that come to mind: ‘Where is this place and when is it?’ ‘What kind of world where ugliness is the norm and beauty the deviation from that norm?’ You want an answer? The answer is it doesn’t make any difference, because the old saying happens to be true. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, in this year or a hundred years hence. On this planet or wherever there is human life – perhaps out amongst the stars – beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Lesson to be learned in the Twilight Zone.
Lessons can be learned from all types of weird fiction.
The Hunger Games series almost serves as a warning to YA readers: “Hey, wake up! This is an example of what could happen to society if we don’t keep questioning our government.”
Anne Rice was able to connect with millions of readers, not just by writing about vampires and witches, but by writing about mankind’s eternal quest for salvation.
Old Souls isn’t about Lucien Navarro. Well, it is–but it’s also about the movable lines between reality and perception. The theme of the entire book can be found in this one line of the elevator pitch: “he abandons his antipsychotics to uncover the truth.” And then, the question is left in the readers hands . . . What makes reality real?
Fiction writing is not much more than the sharing of a dream: an alternate reality. We write books that say, here, take a look at this, does it mean something to you? Will you see the world the way I do, if even for just the briefest flicker of time? That desire to connect with one another, to teach, to learn, to grow together is one of the puzzle pieces that ultimately make us human–the species that took over the entire planet. And when that spark between writer and reader ignites, when we are connected by ideas, well, that’s just a downright beautiful thing.