Feb 14

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

5 comments

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.

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