You Don’t Have To Be Mad…

Love of the weird is an affliction. There can be no doubt about it. The very reading of that dread tome, The Necronomicon, can cause a man to lose his sanity. And while that book might be quite a hefty chunk of paper, it is hand-written and full of hideous illustrations. It is a little difficult to keep count, but at a rough estimate I put it at barely over novel length, around 42,372 words. Fortunately it is not fiction, so that won’t cause Jess Nevins any problems when he comes to do Medieval Hugos over at io9.

Ahem. I digress. The book is relatively short. How much more mind-warping, then, would a full 750,000 words of weird fiction be? For that is the size of the monster that Ann and Jeff VanderMeer have unleashed upon the world with The Weird. In the wake of the book’s launch, the true cost of its creation is beginning to be revealed.

Exhibit 1: Adam Mills, a young man supposedly hired by the VanderMeers as an intern to help produce the book. So hopelessly obsessed has this unfortunate lad become, that he has taken it upon himself to compile a list of the opening lines of all 116 stories collected in the anthology. Mills writes about the experience here. Donations towards his psychiatric treatment are gratefully accepted.

Meanwhile the heartless VanderMeers are seeking to profit from the poor boy’s condition. Not only have they published the list, they are asking innocent readers to add to it with opening lines from their own favorite stories. Where will this end? Tabloid hacks around the world are already sharpening their quills in anticipation. Weird Fiction Causes Cancer! You read it here first.

And yet, can some good possibly come of this sorry tale? I think perhaps it might. You see, these opening lines are the work of some very fine writers indeed. They are mostly highly intriguing, designed to draw the hapless reader into the story from the very outset. In other words, they are all stories waiting to happen. Were I ever to be in the position of running a creative writing course, one of the challenges I might set the students would be to pick one of the opening lines — obviously from a story that they haven’t read — and complete the tale. There is no need to wonder where to get your ideas from. Here are 116 of them, all ready for use.