My quest for weird has turned up some gems, and shown me that we need to nurture new writing talent in both mainstream and independent publishing.
A month ago I threw open the doors of the Weird Things column to all comers. Nominate your weird stories I said, and nominate them you did. I’ve looked at more than 500 independently published weird stories, from writers of whom I had in all but a few cases never heard. I hope it has been a genuine exercise in new talent spotting, and I hope the five stories (and a few honourable mentions) highlighted below will all receive some well-deserved attention as a consequence. I’ve also returned from my quest for weird with a better understanding of the new paradigm of digital independent publishing, one formed as much by what I did not find as what I did.
What I did not find were a lot of good books lingering in obscurity outside the publishing mainstream. The truth is that good books are few and far between. And great books are as rare as unobtanium. They are, consequently, really rather valuable and therefore hardly likely to be found on the Amazon Kindle 99p bestseller lists.
This is quite in opposition to the rhetoric of absurd clown figures like JA Konrath, who argue that every other self-published writer is a potential Stephen King if only the eeeevil publishers weren’t keeping them down. But it also goes against the business model of the major publishers, which is founded on the exploitation of novels as a commodity. If good books are actually rare and unpredictable, where does that leave the business model of publishers who want to sell them like tins of beans in Tesco?
What I did find were books and writers with the potential to be great. One or two of them need only a little bit of polish and a snazzy cover design. Interestingly, the books that edged towards greatness were not the ones hard-selling themselves in to the Kindle top 100, or the ones trying hard to be tins of beans. They were the ones that, however rough around the edges they might be, sounded like the author just really wanted to write them.
More than anything else that is what shone out of my weird story selections below. I hope you like them as much as I do, or even more!