Weird Fiction

What is the Weird Fiction Subgenre?

Weird tales are stories that explore the eerie in everyday life. Themes such as loneliness, the self, and a feeling of existing outside the rest of the world. Weird fiction existed long before there were distinctions between horror, fantasy, and science fiction.

The term was used to describe any tale of the scientific, the supernatural, or the macabre. In the 1920's, H.P. Lovecraft borrowed the term from Joseph Sheridan LeFanu, who used it to describe his own work, and added another facet to its definition. According to Lovecraft, weird fiction was characterized by an atmosphere of dread and the knowledge that the laws of nature were subverted by forces outside human comprehension, such as aliens or demons. Around that same time, an American pulp magazine titled Weird Tales began to be published. Stories in Weird Tales tended to skew more toward the Lovecraftian and occult subgenres. This popularized the term "weird fiction" and codified the subgenre even more.

In the 1990's, the subgenre saw a revival, now termed New Weird. Stories in the New Weird subgenre were tales that blended horror and fantasy or horror and science fiction. Authors of New Weird fiction often cited H.P. Lovecraft and other weird fiction authors among their influences. However, New Weird fiction often rejects the racism and sexism of the time period in which the original weird fiction was set, instead glorifying the subgenre's subvertive style.


Weird Fiction Characteristics

Level of Characterization: The level of characterization in weird tales is variable because of the breadth of the genre. Some of the earlier weird tales used character archetypes, though more recent incarnations tended to focus on the otherness of their characters.


Level of Plot: Plot's in weird fiction can also vary, but tend to be moderate. Themes will focus on loneliness and otherness.


Level of Supernatural: Supernatural tends to be high in weird tales. There will always be something out of place in these stories, many times this can be something supernatural, though alien or otherworldly is also a possibility.


Level of Scary: The level of scary in weird fiction is low to moderate. This is a subgenre of creeping unease, not necessarily horror, but not really belonging to any other genre.


Level of Violence:  The level of violence in weird fiction also varies depending on the tale, but generally, in this subgenre violence runs from low to moderate.


Typical Setting: As this subgenre is concerned with themes of otherness and loneliness, typical settings tend to be isolated, but can involve fantasy settings such as a fairy tale castle or borrow from science fiction settings, such as distant planets or even the distant future.

Related Horror Subgenres

As Lovecraft was one of the forefathers of weird fiction, the Lovecraftian subgenre does share quite a bit with the weird fiction subgenre. Also related is dark fantasy, as this subgenre borrows heavily from the fantasy tradition. Supernatural and alien subgenres are also related to weird tales, as well as cross-genre due to the blended nature of the weird fiction subgenre.

Don't Read Weird Fiction If You Dislike…

The strange and unusual. Weird tales are exactly that, weird. So, if the strange does not appeal to you, this may not be the genre for you. Also, don't read if you are expecting edge-of-your-seat thrills, this is the genre of the slow burn scare.

The Weird by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer- Featuring tales from Lovecraft and Kafka among their ranks, this collection of short stories truly defines the weird fiction subgenre.


The Wyvern Mystery by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu- At first glance, this tale of an orphan girl who is pursued by the handsome sons of her guardian may seem like the stuff of Victorian romance, but a darker, gothic undercurrent runs through the work as this orphan's dream come true becomes her nightmare.


The Necronomicon: Best Weird Tales by H.P. Lovecraft- Not the ancient spellbook referenced in his work, this is instead a collections of short stories and novellas by the master of weird whose stories were so creepy that he inspired a whole new genre.


The Ceremonies by T.E.D. Klein- Jeremy Friers, an unsuspecting graduate student, and Carol Conklin, a shy library worker, have no idea when they meet that their strange relationship has been engineered to serve a sinister purpose.


The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson- A team of paranormal researchers spend the summer investigating the supernatural phenomenon surrounding Hill House. As they do, the paranormal activity begins to center around Eleanor Vance, a shy telepath. Members of group fear for her safety, but Eleanor begins to feel more at home among the unearthly forces of the


The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker- When a disgruntled postal worker discovers a secret magical society, he will stop at nothing to gain its power, even if that means destroying his former partner.


Cipher by Kathe Koja- This 1991 Bram Stoker award winner chronicles what happens when starving artists, Nicholas and Nakota, find a strange hole into nothing in their apartment, and the dark things that happen as they experiment with it.


Sabella, or The Bloodstone by Tanith Lee- Sabella lives on Novo Mars, a colony of Earth, and knows that even her presence is a danger to the humans in the colony. That is why, at night, she feeds on the blood of deer, but something is drawing Sabella back to her sinister origins. In short, vampires on Mars; it doesn't get much weirder than that.


The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson- In a novel that Lovecraft called creative and macabre, Hodgson tells the story of a couple who struggle to reconnect after being reincarnated in a distant future when the sun has gone dark.


Perdido Street Station by China Mieville- An eccentric scientist unwittingly grows giant moth-like creatures that feed on the subconscious in his quest to restore the wings of a friendly garuda. Only he can figure out a way to stop the monsters before all of the citizens of New Crobuzon become insensible.

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