Feb 14

'Weird' as genre or as narrative principle/motive?


At first I was surprised that the first two (real) episodes of the podcast was about The Murders in the Rue Morgue. Of course, Poe IS one of the main influences on Lovecraft, but I never saw this particular tale as weird. I DID see Poe's influence on the descriptions of architecture and estates and maybe even on the dreamlike tales like Polaris (although these are maybe and indeed better described as one of his Dunsanian tales).

The podcast made it clear that there ARE many parallels to be found on the weird side of these tales, and I now can see this tale as weird. But to me it also gave rise to a question:

Is there a difference between 'weird tales' and tales wherein the weird is merely a narrative element or a motive? Can we speak of 'true' weird tales when the weird (e.g. cosmic horror) is the main theme? And is there - maybe, who knows - a weird element to be found in most of the (canonical and genre) literature? I also posit this questions because it also touches my idea that the (philosophical/world) view of the reader influences the decision to call something 'weird'. It's a bit like the question asked in the podcast: is Poe racist or the opposite of racist? It is what you read into it. This is not meant as criticism - I like to view the books that I read in light of the anti-antropocentric or the absurd. But still: where are the boundaries of such views - and is there a difference between 'weird literature' and 'literature with weird elements'?

(I hope Arthur Machen will come by on this podcast. I always find it hard to pinpoint to the weird in his tales, although there IS a weird atmosphere about it. I like these tales because I think the horror here is very discrete but at the same time overwhelming.)

We love Machen, and we'll have his story "The Bowmen" out on May 21. You can always find the schedule of upcoming stories on the podcast page here on the website so you can read along (of course we'll also always say what's next on the air).


I think it will be a lot of fun to use the show to try to determine the contours of weird fiction both as a genre and as a "narrative principle." And because we are covering literature from the beginning of modern publishing around 1800 all the way to the present, it will be a lot of fun to see how the things that strike people as weird or unsettling have changed over time. To us, of course, an orangutan isn't weird, but for Poe it was -- and seems really to have shaken his cosmology just as much as learning about the vastness of space.

Good to hear!

I also like the anachronous approach of the weird and the changing of ideas. I am very curious about the next episodes!

I just listened to the episode about The Frolic by Ligotti. There was a comparison with other tales, periods and genres circling around the weird that i found interesting. I found it also very interesting how the aspect of suburban affluence came into the focus of some horror and weird tales, though Machen already did something like it many years before. (So, I will wait even more eagerly for the Machen episode).

Next time I will read M.R. James for the first time (though I already have a book of him, but there's never enough time to read everything you want to read, you know what I mean).

One of the general issues of our current publishing categories is that "literary fiction," the fiction not defined by a genre like mystery or horror or SF or romance, is often a mish-mosh of the aforementioned "genres." One of the things I love to do when reading fiction that is outside of a genre is try to determine what main genre influences the writer is working with. I believe it is definitely the case that "weird" is often more of a narrative principle today than a pure genre. But the roots go deep and sometimes reading to the tropes can give you clearer sense of the story.


We did a little digging after covering The Frolic and found out that Ligotti was influenced by Machen, which was great to find out.

What a great found about Ligotti! I certainly will reread his tales with this influence in mind.

New Posts
  • What an odd story! As with a few before it, I didn't enjoy this one much when reading it, but the discussion in the episode really helped put a better perspective on it. In particular I really liked the framing of it as a plague story with the spectre of cholera hanging over everything (for some reason it hadn't occurred to me that the omen of death was an omen of them getting cholera), and the idea of it as a reaction to the science of the Enlightenment. Thanks also for making the weird political digression make sense! It completely boggled my mind what it had to do with anything else in the story. I'm still not completely convinced, but I guess it worked for Poe. Overall I thought this story had a lot of great set-up; the evocative description of the cholera epidemic and the tantalizing hints of the tomes in the library would make an excellent introduction to a different weird story. As it stands, though, the description of the beast and the revelation about it didn't do anything for me. Maybe that's a problem of perspective as a modern reader, which at least would fit with the theme of the story in a roundabout sort of way.
  • Great podcast. About the political situation in the 1840’s there was in 1848 an outbreak almost simultaneously of revolutionwry reform of governments all over the place. The old monarchies were changed to the forms that held until World War One. A history podcast I listen to covers this year in a whole series. It is called “Revolutions” it is done by Mike Duncan. Each series he covers a different revolution and in series 7 he covers 1848. It is about 20 some episodes each from 30 to 50 mins long about this year. I’m not this far in his podcast yet, I’m on series 5 currently, but each episode is extremely well made and informative while being entertaining. I’m sure Poe was current with the political tempest that was brewing at the time he wrote this story. It makes me even more interested to get to this series about the history.
  • When I was young I didn't read much comics. In the Netherlands 'strips' (comics) were usually the well known comics from Belgium (Tintin, Spike and Suzy) or funny and/or dirty ones. I never really liked them. American comics here were and are expensive, so I didn't read them. But I had friends who did have some, and they gave me Sandman, after which I was a huge fan from this series and Neil Gaiman. I then read Alan Moore’s comics (Moore being Gaiman’s mentor) and loved his comics too, including Swamp Thing. But, as I said, comics are expensive here, and I stopped buying them (mainly Vertigo imprints) after my graduation, unfortunately (though I once got the first issues of Preacher). I liked the episode on the podcast, so I scribbled some of the titles on paper. Moore's Providence already was on my wishlist, but 'alas', they are out of sale here (and I don't have a credit card or the like, so I can't buy things from 'far away' directly). But I keep trying. I do have a copy of stories of Lovecraft, adapted into comics by the (over here well-known) artist Erik Kriek ( http://www.gutsmancomics.com/news/ ). Though I didn't read any other books by him, I think he likes weird tales (although he also likes to make parodies and to add the afore mentioned sexual dirtiness). Many of his comics are translated into several languages. His adaptation of Lovecraft ( http://www.gutsmancomics.com/works/comics/#44 ) earned a lot of praise.

Claytemple Media is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.