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message 1: by Cuniculus (new)

Cuniculus Potterton | 2736 comments I'm a bit confused about the weird fiction monicker. As far as I understood several sources (including Wikipedia), the label stems back to the legendary pulp magazines of the 1920ies and 30ies, like Astounding Stories and, of course, Weird Tales. While H. P. Lovecraft is regarded as master of horror literature nowadays and his penpal Robert E. Howard as one of (sword & sorcery) fantasy, the classification into different (sub)genres seems to have been less of a matter back in the day. Instead, the label "weird fiction" was used as a generel term for short stories that would only later be considered to be works of SF, horror or fantasy.

Is this definition/understanding of the weird fiction label legit or is there more to it? What are the unique characteristics of a weird fiction story?


message 2: by Perry (new)

Perry Lake | 308 comments Ekel, I think in it's current usage, weird fiction refers mostly to horror and sword & sorcery, but can also include sci-fi. I think originally it just meant that the story was printed by Weird Tales magazine.


message 3: by Char (last edited Sep 08, 2016 06:45AM) (new)

Char  | 13891 comments Mod
That's a good question, Ekel. I became familiar with the term when reading the stories of Robert Aickman. While I agree with the moniker in his case, I'm at a lost as to how to describe his stories, and as to how the term itself evolved.


message 4: by Jack (last edited Jan 16, 2016 12:42PM) (new)

Jack Tripper | 16 comments Yes, there's a bit of a difference between the "weird" of the pulps and the "weird" as it's defined today. Stuff like Howard's sword and sorcery or A. Merrit's adventure tales would not be considered "weird" if they were released today, but fantasy or sf. I've been thinking about updating my goodreads shelves to differentiate between the two. It just doesn't seem right to have some of the old pulps on the same shelf as say Ligotti, Kelly Link, and Aickman. Authors like Lovecraft, Jacobi, and Clark Ashton Smith fit the current definition, though, as much of their work is truly weird.

Also, I never know where to draw the line when I'm labeling something. I mean, PKD's stuff is undoubtedly weird, but does his work belong on that shelf? These are the burning questions in my life.


message 5: by Justin (new)

Justin (justinbienvenue) | 2788 comments Given that Bizarro exists it's hard to say where the term "weird fiction" lies. By origins one could say it's the pulp magazines mentioned but nowadays it seems weird covers a wide variety when it comes to fiction.


message 6: by Gordon (new)

Gordon | 63 comments Here's the closest thing to a definition I could find: "Chiefly derived from early 20th-century pulp fiction, its remit includes ghost stories, the strange and macabre, the supernatural, fantasy, myth, philosophical ontology, ambiguity, and a healthy helping of the outré. At its best, weird fiction is an intersecting of themes and ideas that explore and subvert the Laws of Nature. It is not confined to one genre, but is the most diverse and welcoming of all genres. Hence, in this initial showcase of weird fiction you will discover tales of horror, fantasy, science fiction, the supernatural, and the macabre." https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/year...

The scholar on this would be S T Joshi and his works: The Evolution of the Weird Tale and The Weird Tale.


message 7: by Char (new)

Char  | 13891 comments Mod
I submit to Joshi's expertise on the subject, but to be honest, I find him to be insufferable in his day to day writings and reviews.


message 8: by Gordon (new)

Gordon | 63 comments I don't blame you. I often feel the same way towards Stephen King's reviews.


message 9: by Char (last edited Jun 26, 2017 12:29PM) (new)

Char  | 13891 comments Mod
Gordon wrote: "I don't blame you. I often feel the same way towards Stephen King's reviews."

LOL Point taken!
Though I have to say that I rarely see King denigrating authors with abandon as Joshi does. It's possible to give a negative review without getting personal, calling the author names, etc...


message 10: by Mixofsunandcloud (new)

Mixofsunandcloud | 539 comments I think if I ever quit my job and open a used bookstore (the dream) I will aspire to become a Scholar of Weird Fiction. That is a great title.


message 11: by Gordon (last edited Jun 27, 2017 05:11AM) (new)

Gordon | 63 comments Char wrote: "Gordon wrote: "I don't blame you. I often feel the same way towards Stephen King's reviews."

LOL Point taken!
Though I have to say that I rarely see King denigrating authors with abandon as Joshi ..."


Interesting. I remember Harold Bloom being the same way at times; especially towards Stephen King. http://archive.boston.com/news/globe/...

Let me know if you have a suggested article on Joshi's attacks. I'd be interested to read it.


message 12: by Char (last edited Jun 27, 2017 06:02AM) (new)

Char  | 13891 comments Mod
I see it on his blog-well, I haven't visited in some time now, but I just looked it up and it looks like the same old thing is still going on:
http://stjoshi.org/news.html

I guess it's the fault of the writers-as Joshi says-"They should write better stories."

I can understand criticism of books and writing-but to take that further to the person themselves? Personally, I feel that's over the line. Joshi is no doubt an expert, but IMO, a mean spirited one-and that drives me away from whatever he's offering.


message 13: by Gordon (new)

Gordon | 63 comments Char wrote: "I see it on his blog-well, I haven't visited in some time now, but I just looked it up and it looks like the same old thing is still going on:
http://stjoshi.org/news.html

I guess it's the fault o..."

Thanks for the info! Joshi certainly seems defensive in that post.

I haven't followed Joshi's persona outside of the books he has written or edited, but some of these posts remind me of Harold Bloom's dismissal of popular contemporary writers.


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

I would consider weird fiction to be a broad category of fiction consisting of a sort of "Breakdown of Reality", that is, the suspension of natural laws for a usually horrific effect. It thus encompasses much of the horror genre, including (in my opinion) Lovecraftian/cosmic horror; "Bad Place" stories; some ghost stories, especially the Jamesian format; Folk Horror; some science fiction horror; and a good deal of other works. It's more a "feel" than a rigourous classifictaion.


message 15: by Nicos (new)

Nicos | 123 comments If the main character fights with a monster with tentacles, then it is horror, sci-fi, or fantasy. If the main character fights with their lover who grew tentacles, then it is weird fiction :D


message 16: by Perry (new)

Perry Lake | 308 comments Nicos wrote: "If the main character fights with a monster with tentacles, then it is horror, sci-fi, or fantasy. If the main character fights with their lover who grew tentacles, then it is weird fiction :D"

Interesting way of looking at it.


message 17: by The rockabilly werewolf from Mars (last edited Feb 21, 2020 06:11PM) (new)

The rockabilly werewolf from Mars | 475 comments Personally, I think it's just another term like "psychological thriller", "supernatural fiction", "dark fiction", "paranormal thriller", "dark suspense", and "occult fiction"; namely, a synonym for horror fiction that will fall out of favor sooner or later. As a genre independent from horror, I don't think it exists.


message 18: by Char (new)

Char  | 13891 comments Mod
I think it does...A few of the Robert Aickman stories I've read have nothing horrific about them.

In fact, they have nothing whatsoever...I question whether some of his pieces that I've read are even "stories." Some of them felt like little windows onto someone's life, with no clear plot or character development. I don't know what other categories those types of tales would fit. I know that I didn't really care for a lot of them.


message 19: by The rockabilly werewolf from Mars (last edited Mar 03, 2020 10:48PM) (new)

The rockabilly werewolf from Mars | 475 comments Char wrote: "I think it does...A few of the Robert Aickman stories I've read have nothing horrific about them.

In fact, they have nothing whatsoever...I question whether some of his pieces that ..."


Interesting perspective on it. Admittedly,, I'm someone who generally takes a fairly inclusive approach to defining horror fiction, so generally I classify much of this sort of story as horror fiction, but I can definitely see what you mean. I'm curious, which particular stories did you find this to be the case with (I personally would place Choice Of Weapons, The Next Grove and a couple others to fall into this category, and there's quite a few others that I don't understand, so I definitely understand your point. Mostly, I read him because I like the atmosphere in some of his stories, rather than because I expect them to make sense).


message 20: by Jeff McIntosh (new)

Jeff McIntosh | 149 comments May I suggest "Pages from a Young Girl's Journal"?


Jeff


The rockabilly werewolf from Mars | 475 comments I wasn't trying to criticize Aickman's work as a whole (I personally consider The Hospice to be one of the most unsettling stories ever written), there are just a few pieces of his that I personally don't find especially interesting. I've read a lot of his stories.


The rockabilly werewolf from Mars | 475 comments Also, if anyone else has any examples of weird fiction that isn't horror, I would be curious to know about it.


message 23: by Canavan (new)

Canavan | 548 comments Rockabilly said:

Also, if anyone else has any examples of weird fiction that isn't horror, I would be curious to know about it.

The problem with answering this question is that it presupposes concrete definitions of “horror” and “the weird”.

Char said (in part):

A few of the Robert Aickman stories I've read have nothing horrific about them. In fact, they have nothing whatsoever...I question whether some of his pieces that I've read are even "stories." Some of them felt like little windows onto someone's life, with no clear plot or character development. I don't know what other categories those types of tales would fit. I know that I didn't really care for a lot of them.

Aickman famously referred to his tales as “strange stories”. They are not to everyone’s taste, but his fans tend to be ardent ones. I liked Neil Gaiman’s description of what it’s like for him, as another author, to read Aickman: “I think Aickman is one of those authors you respond to on a very primal level. If you’re a writer, it’s a bit like being a stage magician. A stage magician produces a coin, takes coin, demonstrates coin vanished. If you’re a professional stage magician, you’re not going, ‘Oh, boy! He vanished the coin!’ You’re thinking that was a smooth or a not smooth French Drop. Or, ‘Look, he did that sleight. I haven’t seen that done in a while.’ Or, ‘Look, there’s a reverse French Drop.’ That tends to be what you do as a fiction writer [while] reading fiction. You’ll go, ‘Oh, look. He’s setting that up.’ You’re in the position of a stage musician in the audience. .... Reading Robert Aickman is like watching a magician work, and very often I’m not even sure what the trick was. All I know is he did it beautifully. Yes, the key vanished, but I don’t know if he was holding a key in that hand to begin with.”


message 24: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten  (kmcripn) | 15 comments Perry wrote: "Ekel, I think in it's current usage, weird fiction refers mostly to horror and sword & sorcery, but can also include sci-fi. I think originally it just meant that the story was printed by Weird Tal..."

I have never associated sword & sorcery with weird fiction. I think it is more intellectual or existential horror. It is associated with Lovecraft and others like him.


The rockabilly werewolf from Mars | 475 comments Canavan wrote: "Rockabilly said:


Also, if anyone else has any examples of weird fiction that isn't horror, I would be curious to know about it.


The problem with answering this question is that it presupposes..."


Fair enough. That's part of my problem with weird fiction as a genre. It seems like everyone is trying to define something without being exactly sure what it is. There is quite a lot of work that is often classified as weird fiction that I like (and also quite a bit that I don't), but as a way of classifying fiction it's practically useless. I suppose that it would be better phrased as "examples of fiction that you would classify as weird fiction, but would not classify as horror".


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