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The artistic legitimacy of weird fiction or weird fantasy
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 9 December, 2019 01:49PM
Elsewhere, I've asserted that the artistic legitimacy of a form or genre (or subgenre) is proven if there is even just one work that (a) incontestably belongs to that genre as clearly defined, and (b) that achieves something of real worth that could only be achieved in that form.

So -- how is "weird fiction" defined? Would "weird fantasy" be better, as admitting poetry?

What artistic qualities does such literary art attain that it only can attain?

Why should all people who care about literary art agree that those artistic qualities are worthy? (We are trying, here, for a discussion that does more than just say, "I like it; I don't really care if nobody else does, or if people think it's stupid; it's all subjective anyway," etc., etc.) Let me elaborate a bit. I don't find that cubist art has an immediate appeal to me. If I saw a book about cubist art on the library discard book cart, offered for free, I wouldn't take it. But I'm willing to entertain the idea that, if I were willing to give him or her a fair listening, someone might be able to convince me that cubism may achieve something certainly worth achieving and that, to the extent that I dismiss it out of hand, is something legitimate that I stand to miss out on.

So, then: what is the case for weird fantasy? What are the arguments we can make to a person who cares about literary art, but dismisses wf out of hand?

I'll begin with this, that weird fantasy can be regarded as a variety of the art of storytelling about wonders, marvels, the extraordinary. I would say that some of the ancient works of literature that have compelled admiration for hundreds or even thousands of years certainly emphasize the extraordinary, the wonderful. Thus, take Oedipus Rex. It's just silly to suppose that what matters in Sophocles' play is that it gives us some knowledge of social relations in ancient Athens or something like that. No; it is a real work of literary art. And it deals with an almost risibly unlikely situation, if you think in terms of a "slice of life" -- a young man inadvertently kills his father and marries his mother, thus bringing dreadful consequences upon his kingdom; at last he learns what he has done through the oracle of the gods. Well, insofar as Oedipus Rex is a weird fantasy, the artistic legitimacy of wf is proven.

But probably we will want a definition of wf that is narrow enough to exclude Sophocles' play, for the simple reason that when we feel like reading wf, we do not take Sophocles down from the shelf.

So... the ball is now rolling, I hope!

Re: The artistic legitimacy of weird fiction or weird fantasy
Posted by: zimriel (IP Logged)
Date: 9 December, 2019 09:05PM
A "weird fantasy" which includes Oedipus Tyrannus is - if I read you right - Nemesis fantasy. The final victory of Mathematics over Physics.

In Oedipus Tyrannus, the Olympic Gods rule, and these Gods impose laws upon men and women that we all understand. If men and women don't follow the Laws Of Nature And Of Nature's God, even in ignorance, they suffer, along with all around them.

That is often true of Clark Ashton Smith. I see it especially in his best Zothique tales. Raising the dead ("Empire"), torturing the living ("Torturers"), and withholding the dead from their grave ("Charnel") all end as they should. Even if those gods whom men worship are such like Tisaina / Thasaidon, Who Wields The Mace; there still remains a higher justice beyond them.

HP Lovecraft might agree. His higher law is that we don't question whatever laws Nature's God has imposed upon us. If we go Beyond, we'll attract the attention of those From Beyond. "The Other Gods" is his extension of Lord Dunsany here: Nature's God cares about us, and Yog-Sothoth does not.

Robert Howard seems the exception. Conan doesn't ever reach his final destination. He sometimes wins, sometimes loses, always survives. Maybe Howard did not write Weird?

Re: The artistic legitimacy of weird fiction or weird fantasy
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 9 December, 2019 09:26PM
For myself, I think before I get into discussing tragedy on this particular thread, I'd like to get a clearer idea of what weird fantasy as such is.

Does anyone want to work here on a definition?

For a definition, we'd need three things:

1.the term to be defined ("weird fantasy")
2.the category to which that term belongs
3.the characteristics that set "weird fantasy" apart from the other things that belong in the category

So you can visualize a pie-circle (the category); "weird fantasy" is a slice of that pie.

That's not a very good analogy, of course, since a pie typically has the same ingredients all the way through. But anyway, use it for what it's worth.

So, if "weird fantasy" is the term, then what's the category, and what characteristics set "weird fantasy" apart from the other members of that category?


At this point, though, I pause; is "weird fantasy" even the best term for the thing we are discussing? I can't think of a better offhand, but that doesn't mean there isn't one.

However we define "weird fantasy," or dark fantasy or whatever, the definition needs to be broad enough to encompass all of the work that basically everyone would agree IS "weird fantasy." So: do we agree that most of the prose that HPL and CAS wrote was "weird fantasy"? Well, then did Arthur Machen write weird fantasy? Blackwood? M. R. James? ….E. R. Eddison?

I'm going to sit back and let others do the heavy lifting! : )

Re: The artistic legitimacy of weird fiction or weird fantasy
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 9 December, 2019 10:39PM
This should be good, and I'll try to participate, but I have some personal business coming up this week and the next, then Xmas is upon us. Our daughter is coming home from her first professional job out of college, and I'm looking forward to her visit!

Off the top of my head, I recall some of CAS stories that, to me, seemed more like science fiction than his other prose, like the Zothique, Hyperborea, Averoigne cycles. This SF-type material is closer to Edgar Rice Burroughs than to something like The Worm Ourbouros--which I take to be adult fantasy, but is it weird fiction?

So, are Vulthoom, or the Vaults of Yoh Vombis truly weird fiction, a la Lovecraft, or are they more like Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth?

Or are all they all weird fiction, and therefore maybe Bradbury's Martian Chronicles is, or Ballard's Vermillion Sands, also? For that matter, is science fiction subsumed within weird fiction, is it the other way around, or are they separate entities only tangentially related?

Maybe we could hash out some works that we agree are weird fiction, but ARE fantasy, and some others that are fantasy, but not weird fiction...

Then, we could take the list of works generally recognized (by us) as weird fiction, and attempt to analyze the literary attributes , tropes, and devices that are typical or characteristic of weird fiction. Some of these would be shard by other genres/sub-genres, but we may be able to come up with a fairly definitive list of these characteristics that in the aggregate occur in weird fiction, but not the others.

Extra credit: is weird fiction a subset of adult fantasy, or some other broader genre(s)?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

Re: The artistic legitimacy of weird fiction or weird fantasy
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 10 December, 2019 10:17AM
Thanks for those suggestions, Sawfish.

Further questions:

1.Are the following terms identical, or, if not, how do they differ from each other? -- weird fantasy, dark fantasy, supernatural horror
2.Do we agree that the definition of wf (or whatever other term we select) should be broad enough to include certain works aimed at young readers? I'm thinking here of some books by John Bellairs, such as The House with a Clock in Its Walls.

I'm not quite comfortable with "supernatural horror" in that there's likely to be confusion when it comes to Lovecraft, at least. Because of his essay, he may be identified with "supernatural horror," but the development of his imagination, and some of his best stories, were away from the supernatural towards science fiction. Is there anything supernatural in "The Colour Out of Space," "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," At the Mountains of Madness, "The Whisperer in Darkness," "The Shadow Out of Time," and perhaps others? Then there's William Sloan's To Walk the Night and The Edge of Running Water. In these novels the atmosphere is eerie and some plot elements suggest "the supernatural," but both are works of science fiction or science fantasy. I would like to suggest the term "Gothic science fiction" for these novels by Sloan and those Lovecraft stories, i.e. they are literary works emphasizing the evocation of an eerie atmosphere and uncanny suspense -- like the Gothic novels of Anne Radcliffe, I believe -- but while the strange things may remain only partially accounted for, the sense is that everything that happened is, in principle though probably not in fact, presumed to be explicable in rational, scientific terms.

If we include Gothic science fiction within weird fantasy or dark fantasy, then our definition of the latter term will have to be broad enough to encompass stories that might not deal with "the supernatural."

As a Christian, by the way, I also have a little discomfort with the word "supernatural" or at least with the way it's often used. This term suggests a dividing line on one side of which are "natural" things -- the "laws of nature," atoms, rocks, stars, plants, machines, human bodies, etc., and on the other side of which are, or may be, "supernatural" things -- miracles, spirits, angels, devils, God. The term has some usefulness if we are discussing things in which there is believed to be something present or going on that transcends the sensory, such as sacraments and (other) miracles, etc. But the real dividing line is between created things and the Creator.


From Dec. 16 to Dec. 27 or so, I might not be contributing much here, btw.

Re: The artistic legitimacy of weird fiction or weird fantasy
Posted by: zimriel (IP Logged)
Date: 10 December, 2019 07:45PM
Quote:
Dale Nelson
As a Christian, by the way, I also have a little discomfort with the word "supernatural" or at least with the way it's often used. This term suggests a dividing line on one side of which are "natural" things -- the "laws of nature," atoms, rocks, stars, plants, machines, human bodies, etc., and on the other side of which are, or may be, "supernatural" things -- miracles, spirits, angels, devils, God.

I am also a Christian. I draw that 'dividing line' between what is of this world and what is not. In fact I insist on it. I see God as outside of this spacetime, in a position to create and defend it.

That goes back to what I was saying earlier and elsewhere: about physics, which apply to this spacetime; and about mathematics, always true in every universe forever.

"The Dark Eidolon" and "The Other Gods" had this much in common - if we bypass such god(s) as mean us well, we shall encounter Things as don't. Because the supreme god of all things that were, will be, and can be is Nemesis. It is the Cold Equations.

Re: The artistic legitimacy of weird fiction or weird fantasy
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 11 December, 2019 11:54AM
Interleaved below:

Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Thanks for those suggestions, Sawfish.
>
> Further questions:
>
> 1.Are the following terms identical, or, if not,
> how do they differ from each other? -- weird
> fantasy, dark fantasy, supernatural horror

OK, let's consider the terms used in combination. I'll use the definition taken from a free online source that seems most germane to our discussion:

1) Weird - I'd want to emphasize the 2nd definition here.

2: of, relating to, or caused by witchcraft or the supernatural : MAGICAL

[www.merriam-webster.com]

[NOTE" I may want to fine-tune this one...]


2) Dark (as in mood)

I'd use most of the 3rd definition:

a: arising from or showing evil traits or desires : EVIL
the dark powers that lead to war

b: DISMAL, GLOOMY
had a dark view of the future

d: relating to grim or depressing circumstances


[www.merriam-webster.com]


3) Fantasy

I'd want to concentrate on 2b.

b: imaginative fiction featuring especially strange settings and grotesque characters


[www.merriam-webster.com]


4) Supernatural

Much of the definition is related, but I'd suggest concentrating on 2a.

a: departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature

[www.merriam-webster.com]


5) Horror

There are several definitions that may be useful here. Under the 1st definition:

a: painful and intense fear, dread, or dismay

b: intense aversion or repugnance

Under the 2nd:

a: the quality of inspiring horror : repulsive, horrible, or dismal quality or character

[www.merriam-webster.com]

[NOTE: It may be useful to differentiate between "horror" and "terror".]

I'd have no objection to fine-tuning any of these, or perhaps substituting a mutually agreeable definition, but I think it will work best, moving forward, to have fairly concise definitions of key descriptive terms.


> 2.Do we agree that the definition of wf (or
> whatever other term we select) should be broad
> enough to include certain works aimed at young
> readers? I'm thinking here of some books by John
> Bellairs, such as The House with a Clock in Its
> Walls.

I'm fine with this idea, Dale.


Let's decide on the definitions and then tackle the rest of your post.

Does this sound OK, to you?

>
> I'm not quite comfortable with "supernatural
> horror" in that there's likely to be confusion
> when it comes to Lovecraft, at least. Because of
> his essay, he may be identified with "supernatural
> horror," but the development of his imagination,
> and some of his best stories, were away from the
> supernatural towards science fiction. Is there
> anything supernatural in "The Colour Out of
> Space," "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," At the
> Mountains of Madness, "The Whisperer in Darkness,"
> "The Shadow Out of Time," and perhaps others?
> Then there's William Sloan's To Walk the Night and
> The Edge of Running Water. In these novels the
> atmosphere is eerie and some plot elements suggest
> "the supernatural," but both are works of science
> fiction or science fantasy. I would like to
> suggest the term "Gothic science fiction" for
> these novels by Sloan and those Lovecraft stories,
> i.e. they are literary works emphasizing the
> evocation of an eerie atmosphere and uncanny
> suspense -- like the Gothic novels of Anne
> Radcliffe, I believe -- but while the strange
> things may remain only partially accounted for,
> the sense is that everything that happened is, in
> principle though probably not in fact, presumed to
> be explicable in rational, scientific terms.
>
> If we include Gothic science fiction within weird
> fantasy or dark fantasy, then our definition of
> the latter term will have to be broad enough to
> encompass stories that might not deal with "the
> supernatural."
>
> As a Christian, by the way, I also have a little
> discomfort with the word "supernatural" or at
> least with the way it's often used. This term
> suggests a dividing line on one side of which are
> "natural" things -- the "laws of nature," atoms,
> rocks, stars, plants, machines, human bodies,
> etc., and on the other side of which are, or may
> be, "supernatural" things -- miracles, spirits,
> angels, devils, God. The term has some usefulness
> if we are discussing things in which there is
> believed to be something present or going on that
> transcends the sensory, such as sacraments and
> (other) miracles, etc. But the real dividing line
> is between created things and the Creator.
>
>
> From Dec. 16 to Dec. 27 or so, I might not be
> contributing much here, btw.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

Re: The artistic legitimacy of weird fiction or weird fantasy
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 11 December, 2019 12:40PM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Maybe we could hash out some works that we agree
> are weird fiction, but ARE fantasy, and some
> others that are fantasy, but not weird fiction...
>
> Then, we could take the list of works generally
> recognized (by us) as weird fiction, and attempt
> to analyze the literary attributes , tropes, and
> devices that are typical or characteristic of
> weird fiction. Some of these would be shard by
> other genres/sub-genres, but we may be able to
> come up with a fairly definitive list of these
> characteristics that in the aggregate occur in
> weird fiction, but not the others.

Sawfish's message of 11 Nov. 2019 (morning) with definitions of key words such as "weird" should be a good resource to have at hand when we're working on a definition formula.

I do like his idea, though, of spending a little time hashing out works that we think should be under the heading of this genre that we want (1) to define and then (2) to evaluate for its artistic legitimacy.

Questions, too, accumulate. Another is: do we agree that a weird fantasy story (or "dark fantasy"? or "supernatural horror story"?) may have a happy ending? I think it would be a mistake to lay down a law that wf can't have a happy ending. Or, well, maybe I'd want to contend that weird fantasy might occasionally have happy endings, even if "dark fantasy" can't (can't it?).

But I was expressing approval of the compilation of representative works. That is, when we come to decide what we are going to call this genre whose artistic legitimacy we are going to attempt to evaluate, we would like the definition of this genre to be such as to accept those works.

So, here are some works I would suggest as representative of "weird fantasy."

Algis Budrys's "Rogue Moon," a Nebula-winning novella about an enigmatic and lethal installation discovered on the Moon -- a great example of Gothic Science Fiction

Damon Knight's "Stranger Station" -- Gothic sf

Fritz Leiber's "A Pail of Air," "Smoke Ghost," and "You're All Alone" -- Gothic sf

William Sloan's To Walk the Night and The Edge of Running Water -- Gothic sf

David Lindsay's A Voyage to Arcturus -- I hesitate over this one!

W. H. Hodgson's "The Voice in the Night," which arouses suspense and vicarious horror, part of that horror being entangled with a very positive feeling about the capacity of human beings to retain their dignity even having experienced intense inner suffering and the unspeakable deprivation of human appearance; and numerous other works by Hodgson

Much of Poe's and Aickman's fiction

The characteristic works of M. R. James, Lovecraft, Smith, and Blackwood

Much of Machen, but not all

Some stories by Walter de la Mare and Ray Bradbury

Charles Williams's War in Heaven, Descent into Hell, All Hallows' Eve

The ghost stories of Russell Kirk

Howard's sword-and-sorcery

Dunsany's "Hoard of the Gibbelins"

Tolkien's poem "The Mewlips" (which I've argued might be derived from Dunsany's "Hoard")

Many folktales, perhaps especially the Icelandic and the Japanese

John Bellairs's novels for kids, such as The House with a Clock in Its Walls

It will be seen that not all of these that I'm proposing involve "the supernatural," but all in some way go outside the empirical world as it is usually expected to be. It will be seen also that there is quite a range of literary styles here, ranging from pulp fiction to children's literature to highly literary fiction. Is the range too great?


What about works that we think are not[I] "weird fantasy"?

[i]The Lord of the Rings
and The Silmarillion have monsters (e.g. giant spiders), practitioners of evil arts (Saruman as breeder of super-Orcs), and (in the case of The Silamrillion at least, a sense of doom. But do we regard these as works of weird fantasy? Or maybe one as, but not the other?

Comics about Casper the Friendly Ghost and Wendy the Good Witch -- not wf, agreed? But I admit that I've found Popeye's Sea Hag a bit creepy....!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11 Dec 19 | 12:43PM by Dale Nelson.

Re: The artistic legitimacy of weird fiction or weird fantasy
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 11 December, 2019 12:45PM
zimriel Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Because the supreme god of all things that were,
> will be, and can be is Nemesis. It is the Cold
> Equations.


I'm glad that you mention nemesis

It suggests an element of the older sense of "weird," i.e. the sense of fate or doom, which is so important in the old weird ballads and folk stories!

Re: The artistic legitimacy of weird fiction or weird fantasy
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 11 December, 2019 03:47PM
More nominations for "weird fantasy" or (whatever)….

Jack Vance's The Dying Earth -- agreed?

Shakespeare's Macbeth

Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," "Kubla Khan," "Christabel"

Keats's "Lamia" and "La Belle Dame Sans Merci"

Tolkien's "The Lay of Aoutrou and Itroun"

Beowulf

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The British folk tale "Yallery Brown": [www.sacred-texts.com]

Grimm's "Jorinde and Joringel" [www.sacred-texts.com]

Lafcadio Hearn's Kwaidan (I already mentioned Japanese folktales)

Jacobs's "The Monkey's Paw"

Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Henry James's The Turn of the Screw

Stoker's Dracula

Haggard's She

H. G. Wells's "The Sea-Raiders," "The Crystal Egg," The Time Machine

Re: The artistic legitimacy of weird fiction or weird fantasy
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 11 December, 2019 05:17PM
Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House

A question for when we discuss the formal definition of weird fantasy or whatever term we decide on -- is this thing a subset of a broader category that could be called the wonder tale?

"Wonder tale" would admit things like Machen's "Great Return" that many of us would hesitate to label as weird fiction, and yet that seem akin to it, and tales of dealings with the faeries, etc.

I'm going to start a separate thread relating to the question of what wf works have actually creeped us out. This seems relevant to the definition-then-artistic legitimacy discussion we're working on here.

Re: The artistic legitimacy of weird fiction or weird fantasy
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 11 December, 2019 08:10PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House
>
> A question for when we discuss the formal
> definition of weird fantasy or whatever term we
> decide on -- is this thing a subset of a broader
> category that could be called the wonder tale?
>
> "Wonder tale" would admit things like Machen's
> "Great Return" that many of us would hesitate to
> label as weird fiction, and yet that seem akin to
> it, and tales of dealings with the faeries, etc.
>
> I'm going to start a separate thread relating to
> the question of what wf works have actually
> creeped us out. This seems relevant to the
> definition-then-artistic legitimacy discussion
> we're working on here.

Dale, the list is getting so long that, in order to make even an initial response, I'd have to spend a lot of time going thru the referred works to see if they were, or were not, to be included as weird fiction--and we still haven't yet decided on a workable definition for weird fiction.

Maybe we could agree on ONE work that we both feel (and other contributors, too) are certainly to be included as weird fiction. In doing so we'd necessarily develop a list of characteristics, and maybe we could use this list, or modify it, to use as a tool to qualify other works.

OK, to start, to me a good, solid example of weird fiction is Lovecraft's well-known The Statement of Randolph Carter.

Would you agree or not? If not, why not, and we can move on until we both solidly agree on what is unquestionably an example of weird fiction.

As to your ultimate point, that "...the artistic legitimacy of a form or genre (or subgenre) is proven if there is even just one work that (a) incontestably belongs to that genre as clearly defined, and (b) that achieves something of real worth that could only be achieved in that form," is an exciting and worthy proposition to explore. The way I see it, we are now working on element "a" of your propostion.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

Re: The artistic legitimacy of weird fiction or weird fantasy
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 11 December, 2019 09:48PM
Sawfish, I hoped, by listing a bunch of stories as I did, to give interested persons a chance to see that "weird fantasy" seems to cover quite a range, and also to comment if anything listed didn't seem to belong -- to the end of being able to formulate a definition.

A good definition is a corral that's capacious enough to keep in everything that belongs, and to keep out everything that doesn't belong. Of course, there may be occasional disagreements about specific items.

It must be years since I read "Randolph Carter." I'm sure it's an example of wf, but I'd like to check it again.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11 Dec 19 | 09:49PM by Dale Nelson.

Re: The artistic legitimacy of weird fiction or weird fantasy
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 12 December, 2019 09:12AM
I wonder if the Fourth Voyage of Gulliver -- to the Houyhnhnms -- qualifies as weird fantasy. Gulliver's miserable recognition of the fact that he and the noisome Yahoos are of one species anticipates Lovecraft's "Arthur Jermyn" and "The Outsider."

Re: The artistic legitimacy of weird fiction or weird fantasy
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 12 December, 2019 09:50AM
Let's make a good faith effort, by the way, to deal with objections to weird fantasy. We're looking towards an argument for the artistic legitimacy of weird fiction. That argument will be strengthened if we acknowledge sincere criticisms that may be made against the genre.

After all, other genres have been criticized, and defended. For example, Neoclassical poetry (Pope et al.) has been criticized for its moralism, didacticism, artificial diction, mechanical metrics, etc. A case for the artistic legitimacy of Neoclassical verse that takes account of such criticisms and is still able to argue for its achieving worthwhile things achievable in no other way will be more convincing than an assertion of liking for Neoclassical verse that leaves the matter at that.

So... this might take some effort, since presumably everyone here likes at least some weird fantasy... but what are objections to it that might be entertained? Will we be able to show that, though the various objections may indeed be true of much wf, they are not absolutely inherent in it?

Here are a few that occur to me, to get this ball rolling. But that's not to say we should stop adding examples of works that are, or are not, wf, nor that we shouldn't devise a definition of wf before we get too deeply into a defense of the genre.

1.Weird fantasy is misogynistic. Writers of wf often aim for effects of terror and horror. Believing that women are usually more susceptible to these emotions, the writers again and again write scenes of fear, horror, panic involving women as victims. Examples: many of the stories by Robert Bloch.

2.Weird fantasy is reductive. That is, its tendency is to turn from the artistic rendering of human complexity to oversimplified depictions of people as mentally ill and nasty (the perpetrators of various bad deeds) or as lacking in perception (the typical victim who walks into the bad place when the reader can see that any reasonable person would not do so) or as the object of cynical superiority evoked in the reader. Reading weird fantasy is liable to make its addicts impatient with literature that portrays human depth more searchingly; they are bored by it, and crave the simplicities of wf.

3.Weird fantasy is formulaic. Countless wf stories are just variations on Bad Things Happening to Curious People. You start a weird story not only assuming it will work out in familiar ways, but probably because[i] you assume it will work out in familiar ways. This is lazy reading as well as lazy writing.

4.Weird fantasy is childish or primitive. Everybody really knows that there are no such things as vampires, ghosts, demons, gods, books of magical spells that really work, and so on; furthermore, there is no evidence that there is intelligent nonhuman life anywhere in the universe, so tales of alien invaders are silly. Some people never grow up but retain an immature desire to pretend to be scared of strange creatures. Like the character in the movie [i]Signs
says, they need girlfriends.

5.The sub-literary nature of weird fantasy is damningly evident in that some of the best-loved works in the genre are manifestly written in a slapdash or inept manner. Any story that can do what it's supposed to do with little or no regard for verbal excellence is highly suspect. An author may, if he or she wishes, try to tell a weird story using just and resourceful diction, but frankly the purpose of the story -- to deliver cheap thrills -- makes this optional.


6.Weird fantasy is obviously of low social origins. It has typically been produced by writers for cheap magazines, shoddy paperbacks, sleazy movies, etc. that are aimed at the semi-educated who desire an easy-to-read escape from the tedium of proletarian or low bourgeois conditions. A love of weird fantasy is common among such, while those who have had a first-rate education and are conversant with literary excellence have little interest in it, except perhaps as indicative of interesting psychological abnormality on the part of the author (e.g. Poe).

7.Weird fantasy tends to absorb the attention of people away from more important concerns, such as improving the lot of oppressed classes or saving one's soul. It is like a drug that dulls the needed keenness to deal with the tasks of the day.

8.Weird fantasy is characteristically opposed to diversity and multiculturalism because the chief thing is always fear of "the Other." Even where the story may avoid stereotypes of persons of color, people of Asian descent, and so on, it cultivates reactionary attitudes of dislike of difference. This is harmful especially in our global economy. We need instead a literature that celebrates difference and that exposes the intersecting prejudices that persist in disadvantaging some and privileging others.

9.Weird fantasy typically deals with ugliness. This is especially harmful when it is read by young people. The beautiful is a real category of reality -- it is not just a matter of taste -- but it may take effort to develop the ability to perceive the beautiful in poem, painting, or music (e.g. Bach's keyboard works). Young readers develop a taste for the weird, the ugly, the morbid, rather than for the beautiful.

10.At least among the young, weird fantasy promotes depression, possibly even the desire for self-harm or hurting others, by its grim themes, violent or sickening imagery, etc. It may compensate socially marginalized youngsters who need to be encouraged to interact with others rather than retreating into unreal worlds.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12 Dec 19 | 10:20AM by Dale Nelson.

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