Desolation Tries to Colonize You: Jeff VanderMeer and Alison Sperling

“Weird fiction is unusual, too, in how the unknown may be both horrific and incredibly beautiful.”

Our season of the weird starts off with a conversation between the writer the New Yorker called “the weird Thoreau,” Jeff VanderMeer, and a scholar of the modernist weird, Alison Sperling (FSU). With ND host Chris Holmes, Jeff and Alison delve into how the ugly politics of Lovecraft’s “old” weird gives rise to the stylistic panoply of the New Weird movement. Jeff discusses the ways in which nature writing’s sublime and ecstatic moments are their own category of the weird. The three consider ways to represent unrepresentable species, the limits of human intelligence in perceiving animal intelligence, the nonhuman narrative perspective, and the infinite weirdness of government bureaucracy. Along the way, Alison and Jeff dig into the “Florida man” trope and investigate Jeff’s attempts to outwit Florida zoning to re-wild his backyard with native plants. And if you harbor any suspicions about the temperaments of penguin researchers, you won’t want to miss Jeff’s answer to this season’s signature question.


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View a transcript of the episode here.



Mentioned in this Episode