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Weird fiction

Postby pollywog » Sun Sep 30, 2007 9:23 am UTC

I've just finished The Scar by China Mieville, and went on a little Wikipedia journey to find out some more about him and similar writers. I found this quote:

China Mieville wrote:Tolkien is the wen on the arse of fantasy literature. His oeuvre is massive and contagious - you can't ignore it, so don't even try. The best you can do is consciously try to lance the boil. And there's a lot to dislike - his cod-Wagnerian pomposity, his boys-own-adventure glorying in war, his small-minded and reactionary love for hierarchical status-quos, his belief in absolute morality that blurs moral and political complexity. Tolkien's cliches - elves 'n' dwarfs 'n' magic rings - have spread like viruses. He wrote that the function of fantasy was 'consolation', thereby making it an article of policy that a fantasy writer should mollycoddle the reader


Another thing I found was a link to the article on Horror Fiction. It contains this group of authors:
* V.C. Andrews * Jay Anson * Clive Barker * Algernon Blackwood * Robert Bloch * Ray Bradbury * Ramsey Campbell * Nathaniel Hawthorne * James Herbert * Washington Irving * Shirley Jackson * M.R. James * Brian Keene * Stephen King * Dean Koontz * Michael Laimo * Richard Laymon * Bentley Little * H.P. Lovecraft * Arthur Machen * Richard Matheson * Robert R. McCammon * Joyce Carol Oates * Edgar Allan Poe * Ann Radcliffe * Anne Rice * John Saul * Darren Shan * Mary Shelley * Robert Louis Stevenson * Bram Stoker * Peter Straub


I know few of these writers, King, Poe, Shelley, Stoker, Stevenson, but I'd like to read some more. Could you please recommend which are worthwhile, or writers that aren't on the list? Something that's horror, but not necessary overly violent.

The quote about Tolkien was just sort of thrown in there, but you could talk about contemporary non-Tolkienic fantasy as well.

Edit: I don't really want to turn this into a "Pick my books for me" thread, but I'd like to read more steampunk as well. Anyone know of anything good?
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Re: Wierd fiction

Postby Narsil » Sun Sep 30, 2007 12:52 pm UTC

Well Shirley Jackson is up there, so I would recommend looking for her short story, "The Lottery" to get an idea of her writing. It's actually a really good story. If you have a high school english textbook, it's in there.
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Re: Wierd fiction

Postby Narsil » Sun Sep 30, 2007 12:55 pm UTC

Narsil wrote:Well Shirley Jackson is up there, so I would recommend looking for her short story, "The Lottery" to get an idea of her writing. It's actually a really good story. If you have a high school english textbook, it's in there.

[url="Edit: It's also here."]
http://www.americanliterature.com/SS/SS16.HTML[/url]
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Re: Wierd fiction

Postby Malice » Sun Sep 30, 2007 2:06 pm UTC

pollywog wrote:Another thing I found was a link to the article on Horror Fiction. It contains this group of authors:
* V.C. Andrews * Jay Anson * Clive Barker * Algernon Blackwood * Robert Bloch * Ray Bradbury * Ramsey Campbell * Nathaniel Hawthorne * James Herbert * Washington Irving * Shirley Jackson * M.R. James * Brian Keene * Stephen King * Dean Koontz * Michael Laimo * Richard Laymon * Bentley Little * H.P. Lovecraft * Arthur Machen * Richard Matheson * Robert R. McCammon * Joyce Carol Oates * Edgar Allan Poe * Ann Radcliffe * Anne Rice * John Saul * Darren Shan * Mary Shelley * Robert Louis Stevenson * Bram Stoker * Peter Straub


Let's see...

-V.C. Andrews is famous for writing "Flowers in the Attic", a best-seller about (I think) child abuse. I haven't actually read it, but I'm under the impression that most of her books after that (and she's had a long, lucrative career in the bestsellers lists) aren't worth the paper they're printed on. Try the original, at least.

-Clive Barker is like a really really dark Ray Bradbury, blending horror and fantasy to great effect (not to mention sex, violence, and crazy surrealism). Barker's incredibly creative, he has a great sense of humor, and his voice is one of the most original I've read. He writes stories that nobody else has ever thought of--a breath of fresh air. He isn't always good, but he's always exciting and unpredictable. Try his "Books of Blood" and go from there.

-Robert Bloch writes thrillers and noirs, damn good novels all. One of the things he pioneered was writing from the perspective of the killer (or lending sympathy to them). Try "Psycho" (the basis for the Hitchcock movie) and "The Scarf" for a taste of what he's about.

-Ray Bradbury (dunno how you don't know him, but you didn't mention him...) ... Ray Bradbury has been writing books and stories for, like, a hundred years. Some people don't like him; I love most of his stuff. Fahrenheit 451 is one the best books out there, period; Something Wicked This Way Comes is amazing and beautiful in its way; and there are so many great short stories out there. (Not to mention stuff like Dandelion Wine and The Martian Chronicles....) He's impossible to peg down; calling him a horror writer doesn't really do it. He generally writes fantasy, but not always; often he blends fantasy and horror and science fiction together at once. His prose is lyrical, moving, and energetic--he's older than God but somehow still writes like his heart is 12 years old, still possessing a boundless capacity for imagination and wonder.

-Ramsey Campbell is weird. I haven't read enough of him, but what I have read is very dreamlike--horrific, unexplained, arresting, absolutely original. His stories are entirely like anything else I've read, and closing the book is like waking up from something, you're not sure whether it was a dream or a nightmare. I recommend "Scared Stiff", a short story collection connecting sex and horror in some very interesting ways.

-Nathaniel Hawthorne lived in the 19th century, and in addition to inflicting "The Scarlet Letter" on generations of groaning high school students, he also managed to write some early ghost stories and a few Gothic novels (most notably, "The House of Seven Gables", which influenced H.P. Lovecraft). Haven't read any of his horror--I was one of those students.

-James Herbert is a pulp British author with an eye towards the macabre, the grotesque, the violent, and the darkly ironic. I haven't been able to get into most of his oeuvre, but I found a copy of "The Fog"--about a miasma floating around England making people go violently insane--and loved it. He may not be great, but he's certainly great fun.

-Washington Irving is the author famous for, among other things, the stories of Rip Van Winkle and the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. Read 'em if you haven't.

-Shirley Jackson you say you know (who hasn't read the Lottery?), but you might not have heard of her best novels: her last, "We Have Always Lived in the Castle", and her finest, "The Haunting of Hill House". The latter is an utterly chilling, brilliant, ambiguous story about a group of paranormal investigators in a supposedly haunted house. It's one of the best books I've ever read. (Short and cold--like an icepick to the heart. Emminently readable.)

-M. R. James is another classic ghost story author who influenced H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King (among others; for an example of King's, look at his early story, "Jerusalem's Lot", in his collection "Night Shift"). So important that they call a certain kind of English ghost story "Jamesian". Might be available on the 'net, as the copyrights have probably run out.

-Brian Keene I know almost nothing about. He's a very new author, has won the Bram Stoker award twice, and seems fairly prolific.

-Koontz. Um. Don't.

Skipping ahead a bit....

-H.P. Lovecraft. I haven't read enough of him myself, but he's influenced just about everybody who came after him. Funny you should mention what Tolkein did for fantasy--Lovecraft did the same for horror (in perhaps a less destructive way). For a primer, go read "The Colour Out of Space" and "The Call of Cthulu"; both are available free online (along with most of Lovecraft's stuff). He didn't really succeed as a novelist, but his short stories built a world in which terrifying gods stood ever poised to destroy humanity; in which people had no way to understand these powerful forces; in which evil was seen obliquely--anything more and insanity was the inevitable result. So good that people carried on (and continue to carry on) the mythos in their own work, adding and homaging left, right, and center.

-Richard Matheson is, quite simply, fantastic, and helped to invent the modern horror story. A lot of his stuff is fairly famous. His best work might be "I Am Legend", a very original and meaningful take on vampires; he also wrote "The Incredible Shrinking Man" (a lot less hokey than it sounds), "Terror at 20,000 Feet" (made famous by the Twilight Zone episode) and countless other novels and short stories. (He does sometimes work in more of a fantasy bent; for example, his novel, "What Dreams May Come", about the afterlife. Also made into a pretty good movie.) He's incredibly prolific and it's basically all good, especially the short stories--Matheson definitely isn't afraid to experiment with a story.
As a side note, his son, Richard Christian Matheson, is a master at crafting extremely minimalist horror stories. (As an extreme example, he once wrote a story using nothing but one-word sentences.) His collection, "Dystopia", is absolutely fantastic.

-Anne Radcliffe is one of the people who invented the Gothic novel at the end of the 18th century. Her most famous is "The Mysteries of Udolpho"; it's good to read at least one of hers to get an idea about how the genre began.

-My cinema professor last semester said of Anne Rice, "That woman had just one book in her!" and it's true. Boy, is it a good one though. If you're one of the rock-dwellers who hasn't read "Interview With a Vampire", go read it now. (No, the movie isn't good enough.) It's an absolutely fantastic re-imagining of the entire vampire mythos--namely, vampires who don't like being vampires. Brilliant, rich, and well-written. Don't bother with anything else she's written, though, unless you absolute must know more about the characters (especially Lestat).

-John Saul is... well, bad. Hard to say more. He is occasionally interesting--The Blackstone Chronicles are pretty cool, for dealing with ghosts in an abandoned insane asylum (you just don't see that these days)... But do yourself a favor and rent "Session 9" instead. Give the rest of his stuff a miss--at the very least, there are plenty of better authors on this list.

Shelly, Stevenson, Stoker...

-Peter Straub is, frankly, brilliant. And terrifying, too. Besides his work with Stephen King (The Talisman, Black House), he created an excellent atmosphere of intensifying dread in "Julia", published a ripping good homage to the Gothic novel called "Ghost Story" ("Tell me the worst thing you ever did." "I won't tell you that, but I will tell you the worst thing that ever happened to me. The most dreadful thing..."), and wrote some bloody terrifying short stories to be found in "Houses Without Doors" (the best of which is "A Short Guide to the City", which... well, I won't spoil it).

Want more? Koji Suzuki, who wrote the "Ring" trilogy (which eventually became the excellent American horror film), does a fascinating thing by looking at the same basic story through the lens of different genres--first horror, then a little science fiction, then some very "high" science fiction. All of them are complex, original, and well-written.

Further suggestions can be found in Stephen King's excellent treatment of the horror genre, "Danse Macabre"--check his list of 100 important works between 1950 and 1980--and then go read the book too, okay?
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Re: Wierd fiction

Postby Narsil » Sun Sep 30, 2007 2:24 pm UTC

Adding to the above entry on Nathaniel Hawthorne:

The Scarlet Letter is the most terrifying novel ever conceived.
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Re: Wierd fiction

Postby Angelene » Sun Sep 30, 2007 2:44 pm UTC

I know nothing of the genre so not only am I being pedantic, but off-topic too...but in a thread in a literary forum, to have 'weird' misspelt really irks me.
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Re: Wierd fiction

Postby nerdlord » Sun Sep 30, 2007 2:58 pm UTC

China Mieville wrote:Tolkien is the wen on the arse of fantasy literature. His oeuvre is massive and contagious - you can't ignore it, so don't even try. The best you can do is consciously try to lance the boil. And there's a lot to dislike - his cod-Wagnerian pomposity, his boys-own-adventure glorying in war, his small-minded and reactionary love for hierarchical status-quos, his belief in absolute morality that blurs moral and political complexity. Tolkien's cliches - elves 'n' dwarfs 'n' magic rings - have spread like viruses. He wrote that the function of fantasy was 'consolation', thereby making it an article of policy that a fantasy writer should mollycoddle the reader


AHHHH! What were they thinking?

You should put a warning before posting something like that, my blood actually boiled.
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Re: Wierd fiction

Postby william » Sun Sep 30, 2007 6:38 pm UTC

Narsil wrote:Adding to the above entry on Nathaniel Hawthorne:

The Scarlet Letter is the most terrifying novel ever conceived.

The actual horror is having to read through his prose.
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Re: Weird fiction

Postby Belial » Sun Sep 30, 2007 7:54 pm UTC

Tycho over at Penny Arcade once said of "Shadow of the Colossus", something like "It's not a game you'll necessarily love, but it's a game that *needs to be played*. The experience needs to be had, whether you enjoy it or not".*

The same can be said of Lovecraft. It's not necessarily terribly enjoyable or good, but it needs to be read.

*quote conjured from memory, I do not speak to its reliability.

I know nothing of the genre so not only am I being pedantic, but off-topic too...but in a thread in a literary forum, to have 'weird' misspelt really irks me.


Fixed.
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Re: Weird fiction

Postby pollywog » Mon Oct 01, 2007 12:58 am UTC

Malice, you're a legend.

Clive Barker, Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, H.P. Lovecraft, Richard Matheson I'll try to begin with. Thanks a lot.

Narsil wrote:Well Shirley Jackson is up there, so I would recommend looking for her short story, "The Lottery" to get an idea of her writing. It's actually a really good story. If you have a high school english textbook, it's in there.


Reminded me of another story I've read, quick search, It Could Be You by Frank Roberts. But that was more sci-fi.

CaraInFrames wrote:I know nothing of the genre so not only am I being pedantic, but off-topic too...but in a thread in a literary forum, to have 'weird' misspelt really irks me.


Arrggghh, sorry, been spelling it that way all my life and the spellcheck doesn't pick it up in the subject box.
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Re: Weird fiction

Postby mackey » Mon Oct 01, 2007 4:39 am UTC

isnt kafka kind of horror fictiony? (with less horror), i havent read very many of his stories (so far only the judgement, the metamorphosis, and in the penal colony) the but ive liked what i have read and i would say that what he writes is definetly weird fiction
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Re: Weird fiction

Postby GentlemanLoser » Tue Oct 02, 2007 1:11 am UTC

I find it suprising that nobody has mentioned the (I think) best dystopian novel ever written: WE by Yevgeny Zamyatin. I feel that this novel succeeds at illustrating the points that Orwell and huxley seek to in their novels, 1984 and Brave new World, respectively. Don't get me wrong, those are two of my favorite books, but WE does a much butter job, in my opinion of demonstrating the dangers of a government that is entirely to involved in our lives, and where it can easily lead to if left unchecked.
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Re: Weird fiction

Postby Malice » Tue Oct 02, 2007 7:00 am UTC

pollywog wrote:Malice, you're a legend.

Clive Barker, Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, H.P. Lovecraft, Richard Matheson I'll try to begin with. Thanks a lot.


*grin* Glad to be of help. Hope you enjoy 'em.

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Belial, I agree with the sentiment--in fact, it's shameful that I haven't read more Lovecraft than I have (I tend to get frustrated by the lack of a good omnibus). But what I have read is interesting, distinctive, and effective.

--

Yeah, Kafka's pretty horrific, in a surrealist way. (The two seem to go together well. "Un Chien Andalou" creeps me out.) The Penal Colony in particular didn't make a lick of sense to me, but was still absolutely horrifying.
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Re: Weird fiction

Postby mackey » Wed Oct 03, 2007 3:29 am UTC

i thought Un Chien Andalou was really creepy the first time i saw it and then i read some things about the symbolism (well not actually symbolism because bunel made it clear that there was no symbolism but you know what i mean) used and it creeped my out even more, that being said its prbably one of my more favorite films

i thought in the penal colony was more horrifying because of the fact that it made almost no sense, its probably my favorite of his longer stories that ive read so far, even though the metamorphosis is supposed to be his best work i like in the penal colony and the judgment more, i just think they're much more surreal/horrific than the metamorphosis
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Re: Weird fiction

Postby TheStranger » Thu Oct 04, 2007 2:38 am UTC

Lets not forget Clark Ashton Smith, one of HPL's successors. Though I do not care for his take on the Mythos (adding the benevolent Elder Gods runs contrary to everything HPL wrote).

I'm also surprised that no-one has mentioned Robert E. Howard. He is most famous for his Sword and Sorcery work, but much of his work could easily be classified as wierd fiction as well.

I'd also add Mike Mignola to the list, for modern wierd fiction there is no one better. 'ell I'd put him near the top of all time best wierd fiction writers.

Belial, I agree with the sentiment--in fact, it's shameful that I haven't read more Lovecraft than I have (I tend to get frustrated by the lack of a good omnibus). But what I have read is interesting, distinctive, and effective.


"H.P. Lovecraft: Tales", one of the Library of America collection, is THE collection to get. It has all of his iconic stories.
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Re: Weird fiction

Postby Narsil » Thu Oct 04, 2007 1:02 pm UTC

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Author:H._P._Lovecraft

This is a pretty fair collection of his stories, for the low price of nothing.
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Re: Weird fiction

Postby no-genius » Thu Oct 04, 2007 1:36 pm UTC

mackey wrote:i thought Un Chien Andalou was really creepy the first time i saw it and then i read some things about the symbolism (well not actually symbolism because bunel made it clear that there was no symbolism but you know what i mean) used and it creeped my out even more, that being said its prbably one of my more favorite films


Oooh what is that book? I need to read that book!! (cf: debaser. also see why I must watch the 'slicing up eyeballs' movie - wait, thats the same name, isn't it? I'm confused now...)
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Re: Weird fiction

Postby bigglesworth » Thu Oct 04, 2007 6:17 pm UTC

I've just read Fevre Dream, by George R.R. Martin, which is fairly good vampire horror, very well written.
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Re: Weird fiction

Postby Jesse » Thu Oct 04, 2007 6:46 pm UTC

Also, lack of a good omnibus?

'Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories'
or
"Mountains of Madness Omnibus 1 & 2"

Got them years ago and love love love. Call of Cthulhu stays in my coat pocket, so it is with me wherever I go.
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Re: Weird fiction

Postby mackey » Thu Oct 04, 2007 7:56 pm UTC

no-genius wrote:
mackey wrote:i thought Un Chien Andalou was really creepy the first time i saw it and then i read some things about the symbolism (well not actually symbolism because bunel made it clear that there was no symbolism but you know what i mean) used and it creeped my out even more, that being said its prbably one of my more favorite films


Oooh what is that book? I need to read that book!! (cf: debaser. also see why I must watch the 'slicing up eyeballs' movie - wait, thats the same name, isn't it? I'm confused now...)


it wasnt actually a book more like an essay or something i cant really remember where i read it, ill look for the thing but i doubt ill be able to find it
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Re: Weird fiction

Postby bigglesworth » Thu Oct 04, 2007 9:21 pm UTC

Generation Y. I don't remember the First Gulf War, but do remember floppy disks.
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