STEVEN CRAIG HICKMAN
Weird Literature as Speculative Philosophy
One of the basics of Weird literature is the notion that it not reveal in complete detail the unknown, but that it should always leave that object just outside the purview of our common sense realist expectations. This notion that the Weird is always speculative, and that our access to the objects of its strange worlds should be through some form of indirect rather than direct vision is well illustrated by many of H.P. Lovecraft’s own tales.
As Iain Hamilton Grant in a recent work suggests:
“…we can never get to a point where we know every dimension and quality of an object, and as such there will always be something about the object that escapes our translation. This is what the literary translator experiences when she sees her translation pulled in two competing directions – towards literal fidelity on the one hand and cultural/ contextual fidelity on the other.
There will always be some dimension of a text that goes untranslated.”
Isn’t this the truth of most Weird literature? That the objects of dread, terror, and fear are always in excess of our ability to translate them into our normal everyday language and common sense reality? It’s these liminal edges of the real / unreal dichotomy that deliver us to that speculative mode of apprehension which suggests that for the most part we are blind to most of the world’s workings, that we live in and through a consciousness that is both limited and bound to a very small and finite spectrum of the Real.
Weird literature explores these liminal zones reminding us of the strangeness of our world, and that’s what keeps our world open and incomplete; a world that can never be reduced to the circle of the known. There will always be something on the outside seeking entrance into our conscious minds, something strange and away that cannot be translated into our safe and secure worlds of thought. And, yet, that’s what keeps us alive and seeking answers, the unknown that is unknown. The closer we get to knowing this mystery the further it recedes from our grasp. It’s this limit, this edge of things that keeps us thinking, speculating, and seeking more and more investigations into the Weird and uncanny zones of being…
And, yet, there is another aspect of Weird literature, the notion that it is a critique of our limited fabrications and interpretations of the world. The notion that we seem to accept as given the consensus reality of the common sense world we all share and live in, and that the linguistic and imagistic safeguards that circumvent and lock us all in a shared and illusionary construction of reality may in the last instance be detrimental to our lives. This is the notion that Weird literature doesn’t so much expose us to the great outdoors of the strange, as it actually shows just how illusionary and manipulated we are by our socio-logical and cultural-ideological prisons that keep us bound to a false vision of the Real.
By opening us to the intransigent and broken ruins that surround us, the Weird exposes the breaks and gaps in our constructed worlds, releasing us into a world that is not only stranger than we thought, but stranger than we could ever imagine, thereby freeing us to explore the edges of our own lives in a more empowered and unhindered way.
Hamilton, Grant. The World of Failing Machines: Speculative Realism and Literature John Hunt Publishing.