Exploring a New Genre

Every year my writers group publishes an anthology. We select a theme to tie the stories together but we are careful to pick one that will accommodate a wide range of different genres. I usually write Science Fiction or Fantasy. This year, I decided to try my hand at a sub-genre of Horror called New Weird.

As August Derleth popularized the genre known as Weird fiction by publishing the works of H. P. Lovecraft, M. John Harrison coined the term New Weird in his introduction to China Miéville’s novella The Tain.

I have read Lovecraft and Miéville but I felt like I needed to investigate the characteristics of New Weird further to insure that I understood the definitive attributes of the genre. I also felt I could learn from studying more examples of it.

Before my research proceeded very far, I was reading John Scalzi’s blog, Whatever, (part of my daily routine) when I found a surprisingly relevant entry. John often lends his platform to other writers in a feature he calls The Big Idea. In this particular instance, he featured Jess Nevins talking about his book, entitled Horror Fiction in the 20th Century: Exploring Literature’s Most Thrilling Genre, coming out on January 31, 2020.

The Big Idea of Nevin’s book was to explore the overlooked writers of the genre, in addition to the ones widely known and read. Not to steal his thunder, but the thing that he said he found that intrigued me most was that the genre was much bigger than most people think. In particular, he found that far more women had written horror than he was aware of. That was in addition to people of all racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds.

I’m glad when I find things like this out. Not only does it reveal the universality of the genre. It also points me to a whole new group of authors writing stories in a genre that I enjoy.

Will it have a direct bearing on the short story I’m writing? Maybe not. I’m a slow reader. I won’t have time to read much of the exciting new corpora of horror fiction that has opened up to me before my deadline pushes me into finishing this story. But it will affect my reading in the future. And for that, I’m grateful to Jess Nevins and John Scalzi.