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Animal Studies Journal

Abstract

Drawing on the thinking of Donna Haraway and other transdisciplinary thinkers, this paper makes the case for an ‘avian Weird’ by exploring the representation of birds in the New Weird fiction of Jeff VanderMeer. Distinct from the Lovecraftian ‘Old Weird’ of the twentieth century, the New Weird has been defined by VanderMeer himself as “a type of urban, secondary-world fiction that subverts the romanticized ideas about place found in traditional fantasy” (2008, 31). However, VanderMeer’s oeuvre is also something of a textual aviary, where the avian comes to represent the entangled and monstrous ontologies of the ‘Chthulucene’. A substitute for the human-centred ‘Anthropocene’, Donna Haraway’s ‘Chthulucene’ indexes the fibrous and squishy bits of the world (2016). Like Haraway, I am unsatisfied with the term ‘Anthropocene’, the planetary effects of which implicate more than only human life-forms: we need new translocal, transspecies, and transbiological ways of thinking. In its chthonic and tentacular etymology, the Chthulucene gestures to the imagery of Weird worlds, as well as the tangled, twiggy body of the nest. What happens when we look at the world through avian eyes? Might these tetrachromats offer a response to Haraway’s call to “see the world in hues of red, green, and ultraviolet”? (1991, 295) In VanderMeer’s New Weird fiction, avian epistemologies reveal the possibility of monstrous survival in the Chthulucene.

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