Novels by Aliens: Weird Tales and the Twenty-First Century (Paperback)

Novels by Aliens: Weird Tales and the Twenty-First Century By Professor Kate Marshall Cover Image

Novels by Aliens: Weird Tales and the Twenty-First Century (Paperback)


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A wide-ranging account of the twenty-first century’s fascination with the weird.
Twenty-first-century fiction and theory have taken a decidedly weird turn. They both show a marked interest in the nonhuman and in the preternatural moods that the nonhuman often evokes. Writers of fiction and criticism are avidly experimenting with strange, even alien perspectives and protagonists. Kate Marshall’s Novels by Aliens explores this development broadly while focusing on problems of genre fiction. She identifies three key generic hybrids that harness a longing for the nonhuman: the old weird, an alternative tradition within naturalism and modernism for the twenty-first century’s cowboys and aliens; cosmic realism, the reach for words legible only from space in otherwise terrestrial narratives; and pseudoscience fiction, which imagines speculative futures beyond human life on earth. Offering sharp and surprising insights about a breathtaking range of authors, from Edgar Rice Burroughs to Kazuo Ishiguro, Willa Cather to Maggie Nelson, Novels by Aliens tells the story of how genre became mood in the twenty-first century.
Kate Marshall is associate dean of Research and Strategic Initiatives, director of the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, and associate professor of English at the University of Notre Dame. She is the author of Corridor: Media Architectures in American Fiction.
Product Details ISBN: 9780226827834
ISBN-10: 0226827836
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication Date: October 10th, 2023
Pages: 240
Language: English
"[An] excellent new book. . . . For Marshall. . . the Weird, in its many manifestations, stands at the center of contemporary literary culture — so long as we know where and how to see it."
— Jess Keiser

“To a novelistic landscape populated by zombies, trees, amnesiacs, robots, and geological traces of an unimaginable past, you'll find no surer guide than Kate Marshall. But Novels by Aliens is an introduction to far more than the semi-human wilds of recent fiction. As we learn in these beautifully argued pages, the novel has been weird for centuries—indeed, perhaps never more than when it has most aimed to be realist. In retheorizing the form itself, Marshall demonstrates the importance of fictional thinking to contemporary dilemmas that themselves prove to be less novel than we often assume.”
— Jennifer Fleissner, Indiana University Bloomington

“Marshall’s electrifying book takes us on a tour of early twenty-first-century novels that want to be narrated by Martians—but also landscapes, animals, monsters, artificial intelligences, and myriad other nonhuman entities. Though this desire for a radically external perspective often fails, novel forms of sentience, and the worlds they inhabit or imagine, come to structure thought experiments that speculate their way through problems as seemingly unrepresentable as human extinction. With an ambitious scope and synthetic skill, this book connects classic literary texts by writers such as Stephen Crane and Frank Norris to contemporary work by novelists such as Teju Cole, Colson Whitehead, and Marilynne Robinson. Novels by Aliens succeeds at making our world feel weirder and more alien in ways that ultimately make it far more available to thought.”
— Patrick Jagoda, University of Chicago

“Dense yet expansive, this study illuminates whole worlds—and the very edges of the known world. Marshall has a preternatural gift for getting to the point. Read this whole book for a surefooted survey of the novel’s most exorbitant possibilities presented with peerless critical depth and balance. Ranging across the Wild Wests of capitalism before 1900 and after 2000, Marshall shows us novels aiming to cut loose from the human subject while remaining tethered to the genre histories of frontier naturalism and the old weird.”
— Jed Esty, University of Pennsylvania

“Marshall remains the same scholar whose ‘The Old Weird’ made such a suggestive genealogy between the spooky aspects of Naturalism and the twenty-first century revival of gothic horror. Novels by Aliens is an impressive account that gives readers a way to consider the irony of the Anthropocene being an era both of exaggerated human agency (to mar the planet) and also an era where the truly picayune nature of human agency and importance within a vaster world/universe comes more clearly into view.”
— John Plotz, English, Brandeis University

“A timely and insightful study. . . This book has the potential to transform novel theory and literary criticism generally and to illustrate the important contribution both fiction and literary theory have to make to debates concerning humanity’s most urgent and pressing issues.”
— Priscilla Wald, author of "Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative"