I happened to find myself in a local blues festival late last night. It wasn’t red-eyed three am late, just a pleasantly liquid 12:30 am, which was plenty late for the dwindling patrons on this muggy July night. This was also a two-beer 12:30 am and not the kind of 12:30 am that comes after six beers and odd shots. So, it was all quite mild and not the time and place for the unexpected and weird to alight on my shoulder.
Regardless of the physical facts of the matter, I did find myself in a bit of a Twilight Zone. As I watched the lead launch into a blistering solo I couldn’t help but notice that it looked like his strumming hand was elongating so that his fingers were stretching to reach the strings rather than reaching back and forth with his wrist and hand. I was transfixed, could not look away, and the more I looked between the action of this hand and the much more mundane hand on the neck I had to accept that this was a thing I was seeing.
Sure, it’s quite possible that the rock music jostled loose some latent THC or Psilocybin and sent me trippin’ the light turquoise through no fault of my own. I suppose it is as likely that this guitarist has some monk-like ability to loosen and contract his fingers like a tentacle or contortionist. Either way, this was a thing that was happening and I was a participant in it, whether or not it was part of shared reality.
So it is with the weird writ large. Weird fiction is more than just a story with weird influences, an artifice set to simulate the facets of weird experience. Rather “weird” art should bring the audience in some contact with the truly weird and inexplicable. The text is merely a vehicle to enrapture the reader into something wholly distinct from the set dressing of the narrative. The world bends to the weird and then the weird draws it into knots upon knots.
There is no fantasy here, no sleeping dreams, nothing that is inherently true or false. Only shades and shadows of the liminal, hints of what might be acting and dancing just a few feet away, in the shadows of backstage. The forces that celebrate, taunt and prop up whatever actors may be trodding across the creaking boards of the “real”.
The weird is a kind of crossroads, you see. An intersection between what is hoped for, what is feared, what is known and what cannot be known. This is a place where you can stand or kneel, where you can meet with an other that will not be entirely straightforward with you. The weird is a gift and a curse. The weird is a peak into the kaleidoscope of millions of eons that the finite folds of our brains can never, ever grasp.
Or just rock and roll fueled exhaustion.
Why not both?