(Polygon, £9.99, 222 pages, April 2001; ISBN: 0748662847)
It began in 1981, with Alasdair Gray's first novel, Lanark: A Life in Four Books, a massive and dauntingly dense tome of Kafkaesque and Joycean ambitions imbued with a peculiarly dark sense of humour. Then, in 1984, Iain Banks stirred things up with his controversial and disturbingly funny The Wasp Factory. In the late 1980s, Ian Rankin and Philip Kerr fed the fire with their respective twists on the suspense tale. And, when, in 1993, Irvine Welsh joined the party with Trainspotting, the new wave of strange and macabre Scottish fiction became impossible to ignore.
These writers explore the outré, spanning the range from dystopian science fiction to junkie hallucinations and from Nazi atrocities to ritual mutilations. In that spirit, Damage Land celebrates Scottish fiction's predilection for the bizarre, with new and recent weird tales of millennial theme parks, sexual politics, obsessed stalkers, people growing extra heads, and transformative encounters between the human and the nonhuman.
In an impassioned introduction and an idiosyncratic bibliography, editor Alan Bissett traces the roots of this penchant all the way back to the eighteenth century and Robert Burns and works his way to the present, noting along the way authors such as Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Buchan, and Muriel Spark.
None of the literati mentioned so far are among the contributors to Damage Land. Instead, Bissett anthologizes the very latest generation of emerging writers. These authors, true to Bissett's intention, take the gothic out of its cliché environments and relate it to contemporary concerns, as have Gray, Banks, and Welsh.
Damage Land is a treasure chest of creepy and quirky treats showcasing the diversity of gothic fiction and 20 of its newest voices.
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© Claude Lalumière 13 October 2001, 12 April 2003