Symposium on the Nature of Genre and Pleasure in the 21st Century

Participants, in alphabetical order:

John Clute, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, David Schow, Emma Straub, Peter Straub and Gary Wolfe

By Emma Straub

Introduction

I was born into a house of horror, one filled with gargoyles and monsters, creepy crawlers and scary stories. This is not to say that my home was not a loving, stable one. My parents, despite the decision to raise their children in the middle of new York City, are good Wisconsin folk, and the rooms in our home have always been replete with music and laughter. The aforementioned horror was my father’s toolbox, his garage woodshop. Instead of crafting hobby horses for me and my brother, he crafted books out of that most raw human emotion—fear.

I always imagined that this was standard operating procedure. My family was normal enough to invite my pals home from school, and despite embarrassment familiar to children everywhere, my parents seemed pretty okay by me. Some people were even impressed by what my father did, and that was more than okay, but still not out of the realm of what I saw as normal.

By the time I was old enough to read his books (what I describe, when asked, for the sake of not wasting my time or anyone else’s, as “Big Fat Horror Novels”) I understood that the world he was a professionally a part of was fascinating. The world of genre fiction was full of funny looking guys dressed all in black and long stringy hair, guys all in leather with goatees, the select few in suits and ties— and no matter what they were wearing, they were always hilarious. The best dinner party guests one could ask for- great storytellers, and totally devoid of pretension.

This was a recognition of something that I had always, in some sense, been aware of, and so it didn’t strike me as a huge epiphany. What did shock me was when I had the rather unhappy realization that this was, in fact, not a universally held belief, and , worse than that, people who read books tended to look down on genre and its writers. And this for no reason at all, for the people who deny genre do it sight unseen, without having so much as read genre’s greatest works of the last century.

The moment itself came on a Monday morning session of my Literary Theory class. We were discussing Stephen King’s novel ‘Salem’s Lot. The comments from the peanut gallery were such that no actual discussion of the text was possible. For three whole days the class debated whether or not we should (or could) even talk about a book of its sort. The implication was a capital letter N-O. This was beyond my comprehension. Surely I wasn’t surrounded by elitists, by those who thought this was (to quote a classmate) “meaningless pleasure”? How can the pleasure one gets from a book be totally meaningless, after all?

And then a light bulb went off over my head. Perhaps, in order to better understand the modes of acceptance and pleasure intended and felt by those interacting with genre fiction, I could use my resources on the subject: living, breathing kingpins[i] of that sticky underworld known as genre.

What follows are my findings on the subject by way of written exchanges with said kingpins. The interviews appear in their entirety.[ii] It’s what I’m affectionately referring to as “The Symposium” and what David Schow called “Emma’s Noble Quest.” Without further ado, the experts…..

I want to touch you all over and
I want you to touch me.

-Stephen King

 

TO: STEPHEN KING[iii]
FROM: EMMA STRAUB

Hello, hello, Steve. I'm completely thrilled that you agreed to be bombarded by my literary queries on this most important of subject matters. I think my father explained a bit about the project that I'm doing, but, as this is for the record, so to speak, I'm going to explain it anyway. So, in my literary theory class, we read a book by you, Mr. Stephen King. This book, ''Salem's Lot', was a topic of very heated debates. It seemed that everyone enjoyed reading it, but didn't equate the pleasure they found with any sort literary value. I found this to be highly disturbing. This prompted a breakdown of sorts, where I was forced to admit that I was surrounded by complete lunatics, who really believed that horror novels were not real books. After sitting through a few class sessions that made me want to throw things at people's heads, I decided that for my final project for the class I would prove them all wrong. Not hard to do. In addition to proving that genre fiction is legitimate, and that getting pleasure out of a book means that it is GOOD as opposed to BAD. In any case, I thought it would be interesting to see what people who make their livings in the universe of genre, intelligent, highly articulate people, had to say about this, and probably far more illuminating than my own ruminations on genre fiction. Which is where you come in.

And so, please take a few minutes to look at my shoddy little questions, see if they make any sense or prompt any kind of genius response, and email me back when you get the chance. Your help is much appreciated.

Since the book that prompted this vituperously horrifying response happened to be one of yours, I thought I'd start there. "Intellectuals," that is, academic folk found in places like college campuses, seem to look at genre fiction as something akin to reading the back of a box of Cheerios. As someone who grew up respecting this sort of work, I had no idea. Naive, but true. The comments from the students in my class ranged from the complimentary ("masterful") to the pretentious ("This is just like Derrida") to the obnoxious ("masturbatory").

How do you deal with this sort of prejudice? Or do you think that this is more of a problem for lesser-known writers, who have yet to find a niche/ fan-base? Was this kind of thing more of a problem for you before you became Stephen King Famous Guy, or does fame not factor into this? Do you still feel a stigma is attached to the kind if writing you do, or is that old-fashioned and snobby? Are we, as a reading public, past all that? Certainly your work has crossed back and forth between genres, and your pieces in places like 'The New Yorker' help your street cred, but you are still classified as a horror writer. Does it bother you that you retain the stamp of horror regardless, that people's assumptions come with that kind of label?

Moving on to a happier vein, is the pleasurable aspect of your work a primary concern? How much do you look towards the reader's experience with the text? My theory class was shockingly willing to separate the 'highly readable and enjoyable' from the 'literary and valid'. Do you make such distinctions, or does that strike you as counterproductive?

How would you describe genre, and the way it functions outside the context of an individual text? It strikes me as dangerous and somewhat crippling to lay such heavy words on a writer, who is by nature creative and imaginative. What's it all about, that sticky stuff, the horrible, the scary?

TO: EMMA STRAUB
FROM: STEPHEN KING

Great to hear from you. I'm going to try to answer your Qs at a single go, because I'm on this stupid machine as a Guest, and thus can't save messages or even addresses. Anyway, Peter[iv] DID explain some of this song and dance, and I appreciate your standing up for me. FIRST, yeah, college students, especially in the high-priced-spread literary programs, are very Puritanical. They tend to equate pleasure in reading with sin, like rioting in the fleshpots of Babylon. It's bosh. How can you read Graham Greene (genre: mystery/suspense/spy) without pleasure? Or Frank Norris, for that matter? Sherwood Anderson's small-town stories? Some are better than others, granted, but the dividing line can never be drawn on the basis of enjoyment=tripe and a hardscrabble, notes-in-the-margin experience=greatness. That's idiocy. SECOND, how do I deal with the prejudice? I don't. There is a simple fact of life in English-speaking literature, and it's this: a huge rock cropped up in the second half of the 18th century, and the river of literature split into two streams around it: POPULAR FICTION and LITERATURE. That rock was the GOTHIC NOVEL[v] , as exemplified by Horace Walpole, Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Lewis, and Charles Maturin. The only literary figure strong enough to bridge the created gap was Charles Dickens, and the literati of his day basically sneered at him as your classmates sneered at the work I do, or Peter, or others. What your mates have to realize is that we're all doing our best and trying to find an audience. We're also trying to pay for the heating oil and the kids' braces. Does the reader's pleasure become my pleasure? Yes. I'm out to scare them, make them laugh, make them cry...make them REACT, goddammit. Elevate both pulse and bp into the red zone. It's very sexy for me. It's the kissy-facey part of a date. I want to touch you all over and I want you to touch me. It's about reaching another heart, soul, and eye. I'm not so interested in the mind (as say Jonathan Franzen might be, or George Orwell was), but that makes me no less serious unless you're a Puritan and feel that feelings are less important, somehow, than the intellect. So I'm in the ghetto, yeah, and so is your Dad, who deserves to be there less than me, because THERE'S NOT A BETTER STYLIST IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE. I've been fortunate to ride his coattails, and boy, I know it. I'll throw twelve words at you, hoping one sticks; with Peter, every word's a dart. It's because he came to prose and storytelling out of a poetic sensibility, I think, and I didn't. I can't even write a rock lyric. I know, I've tried. And what is GENRE? It's nothing but an English professor's steak-knife, a tool to cut slices off the roast--a bit of the naturalistic tale here, a bit of surrealism there, a horror tale or mystery cut off the butt end. Fame is a by-product, nothing but effluent from the particular fuel I happen to burn. It's an annoyance. Your classmates might be surprised to hear it (and might not believe it), but the work's what matters. I WOULD DO THIS FOR NOTHING, and continue to do it until all the fuel in the tank is burned. And what would I do then? Nothing but die happy, beautiful. Nothing but die happy.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with being in the gutter;
and there’s a life and a vitality in the gutter
that is a lot harder to find in other places.

Neil Gaiman

TO: NEIL GAIMAN
FROM: EMMA STRAUB

As someone who has been involved in the terribly low-brow worlds of both genre fiction (gasp!) and graphic novels[vi] (comic books!), how do you respond to the prejudice against such things? Or is there enough of a following for both fields that there isn't a backlash of that sort? You seem to have a very loyal following, among horror/fantasy types, and also among a young, very hip crowd. Hell, you can even count the Magnetic Fields[vii] as fans! Impressive indeed. Does this mean that the lines of acceptance are blurring, even being erased?

Why are people attracted to the kind of books you write? Is the idea of pleasure (the reader's, your own) important to you, a part of the process? Or is that secondary, i.e., they like it or they don't.

Where do you think your work fits in to what we will call the "literary"? This was my major bone of contention when my class was discussing ''Salem's Lot'-- people admitted that they enjoyed reading it, but then wouldn't admit that it was a good book in terms of "literary value", whatever that means. But maybe those who write fiction that is slightly darker than, say, J.K. Rowling, are already resigned to the fact that their work is outside the realm of canonical academia. Or in a hundred years is Stephen King going to be read the way we read Charles Dickens?

TO: EMMA STRAUB
FROM: NEIL GAIMAN

To be honest, I rather enjoy the prejudice. There's nothing necessarily wrong with being in the gutter; and there's a life and a vitality in the gutter that is a lot harder to find in other places.

On the other hand, I cheat. Yes, I write comics and graphic novels, but I write the kind of comics that people who don't read comics aren't embarrassed to have read.

I don't write pure horror, although I love to use horror as a cook uses a condiment or a herb, to accent and highlight, to add spice.

These days I see the most interesting fiction occurring not in genre (and I have a wide definition of genre) but in the spaces where genres meet, where confluence occurs.

Why are people attracted to the kind of books you write? Is the idea of pleasure (the reader's, your own) important to you, a part of the process? Or is that secondary, i.e., they like it or they don't.

I don't know. I write the kind of books that I'd like to read, but that other people aren't writing. If I could have read Stardust, or American Gods, I wouldn't have needed to write them.

But once I start to write, sure, the reader's pleasure is important. Or at least, all the reactions I can elicit from a reader, from pleasure to discomfort to amusement, and the rest of them, are all fair game. Mostly I want them to keep reading, and to come away feeling that they didn't waste any of their life reading my story.

Three genres that get little respect are horror, humour and erotica, and I suspect it's because they all share in common an immediate physical reaction from the reader -- fear, or laughter, or arousal -- and the craft is ignored.

Most writers write for an audience. It may be their ideal reader is a New York Times critic, or a husband, or an editor, or a best friend, or an imaginary person who is just like them. I doubt there's anyone out there who simply writes for herself or himself, with no awareness or interest in readers. (Or at least, those who are wind up being the Henry Dargers, creating because the world on the inside is more interesting than the one on the outside. Most of them are unpublished and unpublishable.)

Where do you think your work fits in to what we will call the "literary"? This was my major bone of contention when my class was discussing ''Salem's Lot'-- people admitted that they enjoyed reading it, but then wouldn't admit that it was a good book in terms of "literary value", whatever that means. But maybe those who write fiction that is slightly darker than, say, J.K.Rowling, are already resigned to the fact that their work is outside the realm of canonical academia. Or in a hundred years is Stephen King going to be read the way we read Charles Dickens?

I think comparing King with Dickens is interesting and apt. They both put an astonishing amount of the world around them into their books.

There's a strange streak of puritanism in America, which seems to spread into a number of fields, and which has, as its mantra, if You Enjoy It, Then it Isn't Good For You.

Dickens was the ultimate populist. So was Twain. People read what they wrote because they enjoyed reading them.

Enjoyment or lack of enjoyment is a lousy litmus test for a good book. Off the top of my head, my tests for a good book would be a bunch of questions like:

1) How good is the writing? Is there a pleasure to be taken in the way the words are put together?

2) Has the author taken me somewhere I couldn't have gone on my own?

3) Am I a different person now, because I read that book?

There are great works of horror that do that, and great works of detective fiction, and great works of romantic fiction. Many books won't deliver that kind of stuff -- the best you can hope for is a few hours away from your own life.

Salem's Lot isn't King's greatest book. As far as genre goes, in my head it's a book I tend to store in the 70s Bestseller Genre bin, rather than in the horror bin: the huge cast, the pleasure to be taken in the disintegration of a small town are what I remember. The Vampirism was, in that pre-Anne Rice (and all the little Rice-aronis) world, a wonderful sort of surprise. It was broad rather than deep. (The Shining was deep. It goes down a long way.)

To the world at large, horror as a genre represents a tawdry,
almost comically formulaic kind on fiction, an unhealthy,
adolescent, inexplicably popular form of writing.
Hey, that stuff is pretty twisted, isn’t it? Kind of sick, right?

Peter Straub

TO: PETER STRAUB
FROM: EMMA STRAUB

In an interview in 'Dark Echo,' you said that "...while (horror) was certainly entertaining, there was much more to it than mere weightless entertainment." Where do you think this added heft comes from? Is the realm of horror made more weighty by the increased amount of emotional volleyball, the fear, the gut response, etc?

You've played with--some would say, even abandoned-- conventional modes of horror in your more recent books (excluding "Black House[viii]," which was entirely fantastic in nature, a jolly fun romp back in the old Territories)-- Now, was this a conscious choice to get away from the fantastic, or were you worn out by covering the ills within your novels with transformative metaphors-- the noxious elements underneath now ready to show through. Is that how you view genre, as a filter through which the actual horror is morphed into something more tasty and easy to kill, such as vampires and monsters, things with which we can be comfortable, as opposed to rapists and pedophiles and the like, the evils too horrible to read about? Is genre a screen behind which our true terrors lie?

Besides being able to kill off a detestable character in a sublimely painful fashion, what does one gain by staying within the realm of horror/the fantastic?

Some of your books lack supernatural/horror elements completely, and yet are still classified as horror. In terms of your own work, do you think that your career as a novelist has been enriched or hurt by your association with the horror world?

And finally, does horror/ genre fiction cover more 'emotional territory' than "literary fiction", or is it just dealt with on a more surface level--the anty raised to a higher status?

TO: EMMA STRAUB
FROM: PETER STRAUB

In an interview in 'Dark Echo,' you said that "...while (horror) was certainly entertaining, there was much more to it than mere weightless entertainment." Where do you think this added heft comes from? Is the realm of horror made more weighty by the increased amount of emotional volleyball, the fear, the gut response, etc?

Visceral emotion has a good part in the gravity of decent works of horror literature, but even more important, I think, is its connection to other emotions seldom reckoned with in horror's closest literary relatives, mystery and fantasy. For a long time now, I have been interested in horror's ready openness to feelings like loss, grief, sorrow, uncertainty, and dislocation. These emotional conditions are uncomfortable and powerful, and people often wish to deny or repress them. We wish to be optimistic, even while circumstances inform us that optimism is shallow and insufficient. Crime and mystery novels seldom focus on the grief experienced by the survivors of the victim or victims - they almost always concentrate on the identification and apprehension of the villain - yet in the world, every violent death, in fact almost every death, leaves behind a gaping wound. The survivors of the victim or victims exist in an world forever altered. That world is more painful, but it is also enriched by their suffering, since that suffering is rooted in love and amounts to its continued existence in another form, and because its presence awakens us to the living, if often hidden, grief of other people. It becomes a kind of education, it should lead to a deeper adulthood.

And violence, the experience of violence, involves an exposure to extremity, which produces odd and heightened mental states. Though the mental states may be distorted or exaggerated, they are also extremely alert, finely-tuned, clear-sighted: selected fragments of the world come into sharp, bright, vivid focused, and can be seen with a kind of radiant clarity that suggests, or even announces, their true significance. So the extremity-experience can be felt to be an awakening to the real nature of what is around us.

At their best, experiences of this kind, although deeply frightening, lead directly into a consciousness of the sacred, of the presence of the sacred in the everyday and ordinarily overlooked, taken for granted. Much horror, of course, deals with the supernatural, and the supernatural inevitably brings with it an echo, a hint, of the sacred, because it very directly involves the existence of irrational, otherworldly realms and powers. When the supernatural is admitted into a story, the story automatically declares that what we see, the world ruled by physical laws, is only a portion of a larger, far less knowable, universe. Mystery novels almost never incorporate actual Mystery, but horror has no choice, whether its writers know it or not. (Most of course couldn't care less.)

You've played with--some would say, even abandoned-- conventional modes of horror in your more recent books (excluding "Black House," which was entirely fantastic in nature, a jolly fun romp back in the old Territories)-- Now, was this a conscious choice to get away from the fantastic, or were you worn out by covering the ills within your novels with transformative metaphors-- the noxious elements underneath now ready to show through. Is that how you view genre, as a filter through which the actual horror is morphed into something more tasty and easy to kill, such as vampires and monsters, things with which we can be comfortable, as opposed to rapists and pedophiles and the like, the evils too horrible to read about? Is genre a screen behind which our true terrors lie?

How many questions is that, anyhow? Yes, in the mid-eighties I made a deliberate, conscious decision to leave behind the conventional imagery and trappings of horror fiction. It seemed to me that I could invoke a richer, emotionally far more grounded fictional world if I concentrated on the realities for which horror tropes were metaphors. So in KOKO, some people do see demons, but those people are under artillery fire, they are surrounded by corpses, and they think they are going to die. Under pressure, reality melts and becomes surreal.

Yet KOKO and the other books that followed were all described in the press as horror novels, which I took as an indication that I had done pretty much what I'd wanted to do. It was also sort of frustrating, of course, until I came to the recognition that horror was unlike any other genre, being far less rule-bound and narrowly defined than mystery or science fiction. The names of those genres refer to their content, but "horror" is only the name of an emotion, and a pretty interesting emotion, at that. As a genre, "horror" seemed infinitely capacious, open to everything - it seemed more like a point of view than an actual genre.

To the world at large, however, horror as a genre represents a tawdry, almost comically formulaic kind of fiction, an unhealthy, adolescent, inexplicably popular form of writing. Hey, that stuff is pretty twisted, isn't it? Kind of sick, right? For me, that response speaks of the same kind of denial and repression that I mentioned earlier - a rote rejection of what is felt to be unpleasant. So my career in general might have suffered a bit from my consistent identification with this genre, at least as far my literary reputation goes. Critics kind of decide to give one writer in each genre a free pass by saying that he is so good at his genre that he transcends it - this happened to Elmore Leonard, and to Steve, after a while. The reviewers liked their books so much they redefined them as respectable after all. But once they did it for Steve, they couldn't do it for me, or they'd look absurdly indulgent.

So, a person who would actually seek literary merit
by engaging all this pain and repugnance and despair repeatedly
must be the reader equivalent of a sadomasochist, right?

David Schow

TO: DAVID SCHOW[ix]
FROM: EMMA STRAUB

You've said that "any writer of unsettling fiction (is a) war correspondent of the human condition." I take this as a given, but maybe that's just because I grew up surrounded by freaky people such as yourself and my father. But what is it that draws people to the war, so to speak, both as writers and as readers? Is the mask of horror, the covering of the human condition with quarts of blood and vampires willing to suck it, what people find appealing, putting the human problems beneath the transformative filter of genre?

How do you seen genre in relation to other kinds of fiction? Are we still paddling behind, trying to catch up and earn respect, or do you think a new era has begun, one in which the world of "straight" or "literary" fiction is willing to accept the importance and relevance of genre?

As someone who also works in film, how does that affect the way you look at horror? Are people more willing to accept horror on the screen or on the page? Do you think the audience is the same?

How does the notion of the reader play into your work? Is their pleasure a concern? I think that most writers write what they need to, what they have to expel from their systems, be it poetry or splatterpunk, and so I suppose what I'm asking is not if you do it FOR the readers, but if you write what you need to with them in mind.

TO: EMMA STRAUB
FROM: DAVID SCHOW

Emma's Noble Quest!

>> "I was forced to admit that I was surrounded by complete lunatics, who really believed that horror novels were not real books."

Let's get low-blow and cite a few classics: FRANKENSTEIN not literature? It's the only book for which Mary Shelley is remembered. Ditto Stoker and DRACULA. Does this mean Jules Verne isn't literature because it's a flight of fancy? If so, does that mean the work of Jorge Luis Borges is not literature because it is fantastical? There's a movie corollary here: Whenever a horror project receives higher notice or acclaim, critics fall all over themselves to re-categorize it; thus, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, book and film, are not "horror," but "suspense" or thrillers. Suspense and thriller writing originated in the pulps and, according to academic wisdom, are thus not literature either. Hence, Borges becomes "magical realism" (a bullshit description if ever there was one; the guy was a fantasist). So what is the dividing line? Is Dickens not literature because it was popular? He was the Harold Robbins of his day. Does this mean Oscar Wilde was writing literature when he did "The Ballad of reading Gaol," but not when he did PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY?

What is boils down to is the very word, "horror." It's too raw for scholarly sanction. Attempts have been made to soften the blow by the invention of every dumb term from "dark fantasy" to "literature of unease." If a book or story has literary merit, it's not a matter of pedigree, or of the writer having studied at the correct schools. It is an inherent quality that elevates the work above and beyond the mere telling of a fiction -- the thudding a-b-c of the accumulation of detail, substituting for style, wit, or grace. I think MISTER X is definitely literature, at least by the standards of my own taste, and so are books such as Farris' WILDWOOD, or Fritz Leiber's OUR LADY OF DARKNESS, or for that matter, Trevanian's THE SUMMER OF KATYA, which would never be classed as horror, but which are horror.

I've read plenty of the masturbatory fallout published in places like the New Yorker and Saturday Review, which purport to be literature, but are not. It usually comes down to some effete, arbitrary distinction made by critics or scholars with axes to grind. While a lot of modern highbrow fiction is NOT horror, a lot of it certainly is horrible.

>> "getting pleasure out of a book means that it is GOOD as opposed to BAD."

Highfalutin standards aside, fiction is primarily entertainment. If it fails to entertain, but follows all the "rules," is it then a sort of de facto literature? (This is the only way a lot of teachers can be published.)

Again, who sets the standards? Who establishes these dumb rules?

In horror's case, it's a kind of "are you still beating your wife" question.

No one with any taste would actually ADMIT liking this stuff; I mean, look at the dictionary definition of horror, and it's usually a synonym for "repulsive." Who wants to be repulsed, really? Horror is: "painful, intense fear, dread, or dismay." What sane person would actually court such emotions?

Aha: That means the nomenclature of "horror" really DOESN'T APPLY to most of the fiction published as horror -- the portion, at least, that has literary merit. Horror fiction is always looked down upon because as a genre, in films and books, it is ALWAYS judged by its worst examples, or its lowest common denominator. It is dismissive and pre-emptive to assume all horror fiction (or all of any kind of subcategory or genre) is the same, but in order to disqualify horror fiction as legitimate, you have to proceed from exactly this wrongheaded assumption. After all, who would want to read anything that (dictionary, again) causes "intense aversion and repugnance?" Isn't that like putting your hand on a hot stove on purpose, because it feels so good when it stops?

"Horror" (as a genre) is a marketing distinction, and a bad one.

I think the origins of the term as applied to a school of fiction has its roots in what were originally called "penny dreadfuls," the very connotation of the term denoting something forbidden, dark, and slightly sleazy. Therefore: Not literature.

But one generation's classic is another generation's trash. If Shakespeare were alive today, he'd probably be writing sitcoms.

So, a person who would actually seek literary merit by engaging all this pain and repugnance and despair repeatedly must be the reader equivalent of a sadomasochist, right?

Literature Vs. Horror is the sort of Us Vs. Them boneheaded thinking that needs to render all things down into recognizable categories, kind of like portion control at McDonald's. People need to know exactly what to expect from their fiction, and horror at its best specializes in the unexpected. A lot of critics can't deal with any writing that's not predictable, and again, horror at its best is unpredictable. And surprising.

"You've said that "any writer of unsettling fiction (is a) war correspondent of the human condition." I take this as a given, but maybe that's just because I grew up surrounded by freaky people such as yourself and my father. But what is it that draws people to the war, so to speak, both as writers and as readers? Is the mask of horror, the covering of the human condition with quarts of blood and vampires willing to suck it, what people find appealing, putting the human problems beneath the transformative filter of genre?"

The stress of situation visited upon characters in horror fiction permits a acid test by proxy of many human values, the kind of morals and attitudes we never, or rarely, get to try out in real life. Ultimately you need to relate to a fictional character, essentially, as a fellow human in a great deal of trouble, and see how they handle it, to adjudge how you might handle similar stresses, or real-world horrors that are analogous to the made-up ones.

I think the world needs monsters. I think the world LOVES monsters, and will invent them when they aren't readily available. Otherwise, we'd all be writing straight documentaries and books about mere psychos, and would never have to advance our theories into any realm of the preternatural or supernormal.

If we can wax a bit Nietzschean, horror fiction is the most pro-life fiction there is -- not Pro-Life in the political buzzword sense, but in terms of permitting us to see ourselves as strong, assertive survivor types in a world that seems to be trying to kill us, daily. If you can plant yourself into the shoes of the character enduring some horrific ordeal, you come away feeling that yeah, what happened to that person was awful, but they survived, and I might, too.

"How do you see genre in relation to other kinds of fiction? Are we still paddling behind, trying to catch up and earn respect, or do you think a new era has begun, one in which the world of "straight" or "literary" fiction is willing to accept the importance and relevance of genre?"

I think anything labeled "horror," outright, will have to fight the straitjacket of genre as determined by its most lowbrow and dire examples. The way out is to write artfully enough that the readers will ignore the label. Certainly nothing Chuck Palahniuk has written has been degradingly classified as "horror," yet I think all his novels are horror novels at their core. Maybe they're not literature, though I doubt a college would refuse his offer to speak.

Horror as a legitimate genre will always be retarded by its worst examples. The way out for writers is to survive in a genre -- nearly every writer starts out writing "generic" fiction of one sort or another -- long enough to accumulate an audience that comes not for the subject matter, but to hear that voice speak. This is where our Mr. King has so admirably succeeded in becoming sui generis -- a genre unto himself. Suddenly there's Stephen King over here, and "horror" over there. Suddenly Stephen King doesn't write "horror" so much as he writes Stephen King fiction, which is occasionally horrific.

According to genre, Anne Rice is equal parts romance novelist and writer of mildly spicy beach-book erotica. But who cares? She has a wider audience than someone publishing in the Hartford Review of Poetry. I find her books unreadable and over-indulgent. But they speak to somebody's needs, or people wouldn't buy them. If you're in the thrall of a really good conversationalist, you come away feeling you've had a more significant exchange than mere chitchat about the weather and what's for dinner. By the same token, a writer can speak to the needs of their audience, and without even knowing this person that wrote such-and-such a book, a reader can feel they have participated in some larger human dialogue. Understanding and perception is involved -- that's why some readers seek out some writers (or in worst-case scenarios, stalk them): Because they feel the writer understands something about their condition, or has a special insight, something beyond the surface trivialities of the day-to-day. There is no contradiction in any popular fiction, including horror, also functioning as literature, and nourishing its readership. That's best-case.

Worst case is lazy readers and lazier writers just treading water and doing the literary equivalent of grinding sausage.

"As someone who also works in film, how does that affect the way you look at horror? Are people more willing to accept horror on the screen or on the page? Do you think the audience is the same?"

I think they're two very different audiences with a subset in common, even though today they often serve the same corporate masters. Again, lowest common denominator demeans the whole field of endeavor; horror movies have a harder row to hoe because their selling points are usually right up there on the poster and in the ads.

"How does the notion of the reader play into your work? Is their pleasure a concern? I think that most writers write what they need to, what they have to expel from their systems, be it poetry or splatterpunk, and so I suppose what I'm asking is not if you do it FOR the readers, but if you write what you need to with them in mind."

It factors in to the extent that if I'm leading a reader down a path, I don't want them to get lost. I would hope readers are not disappointed, given that they've invested the time to read something in which I invested time to write. But you have to try to keep that awareness from becoming a wall you smash into for the sake of a reader who might not get it, has lousy comprehension skills, or hasn't studied the precedents necessary to an understanding of layers in fiction. I like to leave buried treasure for readers who take the time to notice things. And the first reader I have to satisfy is, after all, myself.

This is the most dangerous question of all,
and it can probably get you killed if it falls into the wrong hands.

Gary Wolfe

TO: GARY WOLFE[x]
FROM: EMMA STRAUB

As a reviewer for 'Locus', you must read a wide swathe of what is known as 'genre fiction'. Would you say that its reputation is more affected by its lower-end authors (less talented) than straight fiction, even more so than its geniuses, like Peter Straub et al?

I think that people who don't read much horror tend to ignore the difference, while taking it for granted that Jane Austen is a better writer than, say, Helen Fielding. Do you think that's true?

You're doing a piece for the upcoming genre issue of 'Conjunctions' magazine[xi] -- does this signify a segue into a new era of genre, one in which its value and relevance has ceased to be questioned? What does it say for a magazine such as 'Conjunctions' to lend its hipness and coolness to a world like genre, so populated by convention-folk in chain-mail bustiers? Or is the very face of genre evolving, as well? How far have we come?

You wrote an essay for 'Locus' about the events of 9/11, wondering if SF (science fiction) had prepared us at all-- how then does real life horrors affect the books, and vice versa? What happens when nightmares, outlandish and terrifying scenarios, are true, and take place in the actual world? Are we more equipped to deal with them because of our familiarity with the literature?

How would you describe the relationship between genre fiction and pleasure? If a text is pleasurable, does that decrease its literary value, or does pleasure enrich one's experience with a given text?

TO: EMMA STRAUB
FROM: GARY WOLFE

> As a reviewer for 'Locus', you must read a wide swathe of what is known as 'genre fiction'. Would you say that its reputation is more affected by its lower-end authors (less talented) than straight fiction, even more so than its geniuses, like Peter Straub et al? I think that people who don't read much horror tend to ignore the difference, while taking it for granted that Jane Austen is a better writer than, say, Helen Fielding. Do you think that's true?

The hidden question here is "reputation among whom"? For mainstream readers who only occasionally read horror, the reputation of the field is almost entirely defined by King, Straub, Barker, and possibly Koontz (who I would put in a slightly different, grungier box). They are barely aware of low end authors, and equally unaware of lesser known but quite literary horror writers such as Graham Joyce. For habitual horror readers, the low end is more visible if only because they frequent the horror sections of bookstores, where genuinely crummy novels are given equal shelf space with fine ones. You almost have to think of genre fiction in three categories: bestsellers, genre formula, and literary (with some overlap). Bestsellers are visible to readers who often see no other horror fiction at all, and who therefore are more likely to think in terms of brand names; e.g., a Stephen King novel rather than a horror novel. (I've met many people who seem to believe that King is a genre, just like they can only describe certain kinds of fantasy by calling them Twilight Zone-like stories.) Anyway, the second category, genre formula, is more what you're describing as the low end: writers who want merely to recapture the thrills they've experienced as readers, and who have little literary ambition other than getting published. Horror, unfortunately, is full of these. The third category, literary, consists of "serious" writers who use the materials of horror for more ambitious purposes, namely, your dad. (But also Joyce, a good bit of King, and others.) The problem they face, I think, isn't that the readers think of the genre in terms of low-end fiction, but in terms of movies. Unlike romance, which doesn't have a significant genre presence in film, horror and SF (and to a lesser extent fantasy, although that may change soon) are almost defined in the popular imagination by film redactions.

Another problem with horror in particular, as I've said more than once before, is that it's a bad idea for a genre. No other genre is actually named for its intended emotional impact on the reader or viewer (it would be like calling romance "swoon fiction"). I think the very concept of the genre tends to mitigate against taking it very seriously for many readers, since it suggests it's a genre only designed for effects.

You're doing a piece for the upcoming genre issue of 'Conjunctions' magazine-- does this signify a segue into a new era of genre, one in which its value and relevance has ceased to be questioned? What does it say for a magazine such as 'Conjunctions' to lend its hipness and coolness to a world like genre, so populated by convention-folk in chain-mail bustiers? Or is the very face of genre evolving, as well? How far have we come?

I'd love to think the Conjunctions issue will make a difference, but I'm afraid at best it would be a difference for a handful of readers. In talking with the editor, Brad Morrow, I've already picked up a few ominous signs: his saying, for example, that John Crowley's work is good writing no matter where it comes from. This is a subtle version of a dodge that mainstream readers have employed for decades, dismissing genre fiction by simply declaring that its best examples aren't genre fiction. Le Guin and Lessing don't really write science fiction--I've even heard it claimed that Harry Potter isn't "really" fantasy! There's a famous piece of doggerel in SF circles, I think by Kingsley Amis of all people, that goes "SF's no good! They bellow till we're deaf./But this looks good/Well, then, it's not SF."

I think genre is evolving, though. I think it goes through a kind of life cycle that ends in either evaporation (it becomes a resource for all writers) or implosion (it becomes so crabbed and self-reflexive that it audience shrinks to a coterie of devotees).

You wrote an essay for 'Locus' about the events of 9/11, wondering if SF had prepared us at all-- how then does real life horrors affect the books, and vice versa? What happens when nightmares, outlandish and terrifying scenarios, are true, and take place in the actual world? Are we more equipped to deal with them because of our familiarity with the literature?

There's a widely repeated and probably apocryphal story about a fire in a psychiatric hospital which created panic among the staff, until the paranoid schizophrenics calmly led everyone to safety: this is exactly what they'd been expecting, and they'd checked out all the emergency exits a hundred times. I don't think literature gives us that kind of preparation for disaster, and I doubt that it gives us much preparation at all--certainly not for anything on the order of 9/11. What it does do is provide a kind of reassuring myth of survival and renewal--catastrophes are temporary, evil is defeatable and containable (see the end of Black House). Interestingly, most end-of-the-world stories aren't about the end of the world at all, but about the end of the old civilization; many of them segue into pioneer tales, almost (The Stand is part of this tradition). Mircea Eliade said somewhere that a function of ritual is to reassure us that nothing really happens for the first time, that certain behaviors will ensure continuity, etc.

How would you describe the relationship between genre fiction and pleasure? If a text is pleasurable, does that decrease its literary value, or does pleasure enrich one's experience with a given text?

This is the most dangerous question of all, and it can probably get you killed if it falls into the wrong hands. The rubber term here is "pleasure," since there are many kinds of pleasures to be derived from a given text--pleasures of language, history, character, story, etc. I think what may have happened in your lit theory class is that your classmates, probably unconsciously, found themselves privileging certain kinds of pleasures over others. Genre fiction, including 'Salem's Lot, tends to privilege Story, but Story may seem almost vulgar to someone trained in the modernist tradition, which is more likely to privilege language and character (see Ulysses). So even readers who are steeped in modernism may enjoy a good story, but they won't respect themselves in the morning. (After all, people were telling good stories in the Middle Ages! Haven't we progressed beyond that?)

I think this leads down a dark road full of unpleasant spectres. I think there's an issue of class (Story is simply too accessible to too many people); an issue of economics (this book made too much money to be any good); even an issue of puritan morality (if literature is really good for you, it shouldn't be fun).

And one other thing. You can probably get an insight into what your classmates were thinking by checking out Thomas Roberts' An Aesthetics of Junk Fiction (about 1990, I think) and a chapter in C.S. Lewis's An Experiment in Criticism called, Something like "On Reading by the Unliterary."

No wonder, maybe, that genre stories are looked down upon.
Courtiers always hate the child who sees the emperor has no clothes.
John Clute

TO: JOHN CLUTE[xii]
FROM: EMMA STRAUB

As someone who critiques SF for a living, how do you respond to those who consider genre writing to be less than literary? As someone who has compiled not one but two encyclopedias relating to genre (science fiction and fantasy) you clearly do not underestimate the value of this stuff-- what about it do you see as the most vital, the most valuable?

Is "genre" a way of applying a context around a work of art, a way to engage with it? Would it be more difficult to get inside a work of genre lit if it wasn't labeled as such?

How do you think genre relates to pleasure, in comparison to other kinds of literature? Does it place a higher premium on the reader's response?

TO: EMMA STRAUB
FROM: JOHN CLUTE

---I've increasingly begun to think that condescending responses to genre literature, from the mouths of establishment critics, is an example of the psychopathology of the literary life: because those fending-off condescenscions are so deeply held that they are not amenable to counter-arguments; because refusal to pay attention is conveniently unfalsifiable; because the _intensity_ of the condescension, not the cognitive _content_ of the condescension, turns out to be the heart of the message conveyed. I should clarify that, maybe: very simply, the blanket condemnation or relegation, to outsider status, of whole ways of understanding the world says far more about those who utter the anathema than it does about genre literatures themselves.

So the question is: what is so disturbing about genres?

1) The genre literatures of the last two centuries (I'm referring here to Gothic romance, fantasy, science fiction, supernatural fiction, horror, and to a certain extent to crime) contradict the underlying burden of 20th century literary criticism: which is that texts must be understood in an essentially _spatial_ , formal, theme-centred manner. Hence the formalisms, the structuralisms, the post-structuralisms of modern criticism: all of which are, in their fashion, of interest. But (humiliatingly for their purveyors) they will never make it as _science_ ; and (stupidly as it seems to the rest of us) they never seem to come to terms with the essentially story-shaped nature of the world as we story-shaped humans understand it, or of the nature of story itself, which we story-shaped humans use to express our understanding, through story, of the storied world....

> 2) Because the genres are story-based and story-run, they are _slippery_ . Though there are a lot of formulas, which do define a lot of bad genre product, at the heart of genre lies the dangerous, charismatic, seductive spoor of story itself, somewhere within, like a slave telling it as it is in a secret language known only to oppressed mortals: it is in this sense that the genres of the last two centuries use formula as a kind of sheeps' clothing; in this sense that the language of genre is _Aesopian_ .

3) The question of value. Take the subversive Hypnopompic of Story (a phrase I JUST MADE UP); and apply that to a twofold consideration: one) that the genres since 1765 manifestly represent (I think) a profound human balancing-act response to the savagery of the engine of time, a way of handling the radical and continuing insecurity about the nature of history and of reality that so marks our current era; and two) that the genres (most conspicuously sf, of course) not only provide solace against that High Anxiety, but actually _address_ the world that causes it. Insultingly to the establishment critic, sf is actually about the world..

So. These story-based, slippery, subversive genres are used as tools by human writers to expose and describe the nature of a savagely turning world, under the guise of entertainment: which means that they not only do a better job of shaping our understanding of this world than non-genre, mimetic texts can, _they do it with a light heart._

No wonder, maybe, that genre stories are looked down upon. Courtiers always hate the child who sees the emperor has no clothes.

Is "genre" a way of applying a context around a work of art, a way to engage with it? Would it be more difficult to get inside a work of genre lit if it wasn't labeled as such?

---Most genre fiction, as I sort of said above, is crap. A central way of defining crap in a genre work is to ask yourself if the work in question is governed by a structure of rules, or if it itself governs the rules. A _Star Wars_ novel can be precisely described in terms of its adherence to apriori rules, adherence to the bible that the _Star Wars_ owners insist be followed to the letter by any serf hired to plough their fields. A fantasy (say) by Michael Swanwick, (say _The Iron Dragon's Daughter_ ), will penetrate the web of rules and break through into a vision of the nature of the world that has been enabled by the kind of story he has ransacked..

As to difficulty: not really, I think, except for the thoroughly bad examples. A _Star Wars_ novel would read as utter nonsense if you didn't know it was a product precisely designed to replicate RULES YOU KNOW ABOUT ALREADY. Genuinely explorative novels, written with a web of rules they tend to test to destruction, are quite possibly _easier_ to read if you don't know the initiating context. But, as I've sort of argued here, if you don't know the initiating context you are going to miss some of the insights of the ju jitsu..

How do you think genre relates to pleasure, in comparison to other kinds of literature? Does it place a higher premium on the reader's response?

---We go back to story. There is no more profound pleasure than to tell, or to be told, a story. There is another way of describing story, one I used a long time ago: story is a way of visioning fatefulness that humans can understand. "Fate is co-extensive with vision," as I quoted Erving Goffman to say. The highest pleasure, in other words, is to feel, through story, co-extensive with who you are.

FROM: EMMA STRAUB
TO: LITERARY THEORY

According to Todorov, when we look at literature from the perspective of genre, we’re connecting works through their “unifying principal operatives” as opposed to specific commonalities. This, in the context of the postmodern world of Genre, as opposed to simply Todorov’s fantastic, seems to be rather precarious. Genre’s big three—science fiction, fantasy, and horror—are put in peril by this blanket unification. As seen in the preceding statements by those interviewed on this very subject, genre is a tricky and slippery thing indeed. Most wanted to squash the term all together, finding it useless and insufficient, and those who agreed to play along with the word argued for an elasticity not previously granted. Gary Wolfe’s forthcoming essay, “Evaporating Genre” delineates the problems genre has with remaining static, a virtual impossibility:

“The fantastic genres [are] evolutionary by their very nature: sf must accommodate the shifting and often counterintuitive visions of reality that science itself reflects; horror must accommodate the constantly shifting sources of the anxiety that it seeks to exploit; fantasy must adapt to the dreams of a world no longer governed by the conventional desires of pastoral idealism.” (Wolfe, p.29) This of course makes “genre” a difficult issue to discuss, even from the inside. Even those privileged to the kind of information about genre fiction that most people don’t care to possess seem not to know what to make of it.

To work from the inside out, though, horror is an interesting case, for a few reasons that nearly everyone brought up. The word “horror” is a feeling, the reaction produced. It is a genre so grounded in the emotional response of the reader that is consumed by it, engorged by it, named after it. My original discomfort related to the overlooking of this notion. Of course the response is based on pleasure, and not a “high-falutin’” ideal of what high-minded literature should be. It’s not designed that way. It is there to horrify you, to scare you, to make you squirm. This means that it as done its job. There are different avenues of pleasure one can stroll down, the gut-wrenching lock-your-doors sort, and the intellectual, Nabokovian acrostic sort—although isn’t the conquering of that too a physical feeling of satisfaction, of elation? If we give weight to one over the other, how do we choose the heavier? This is entirely self-destructive and counter-productive. The act of reading is meant to be enjoyable, not a juggling match of lead balls.

Roland Barthes and Stephen King presumably never expected to be bedfellows. However, Barthes’ bliss and King’s “kissy-facey’” sexiness spoon each other rather perfectly. Barthes says, “the text you write must prove to me that it desires me. The proof exists: it is writing. Writing is: the science of the various blisses of language, its Kama Sutra…” (Barthes, p. 6) Both Barthes and King place the highest value on the moment of reading when the text reaches out its soft hand and strokes the cheek of the reader, the moment when the mental faculties are so engrossed in the text that the physical body is excited as well. This plays into the idea of horror fiction better than most, as fear is more linked to the realm of the eroticism (i.e. King’s sublimely intended kisses, not Anne Rice’s lesser vampire-romance fiction, actually meant to TURN YOU ON in the most sexual sense of the phrase, although that too, I suppose) than most emotions, even though at first the two may appear to be diametrically opposite. Barthes, although it would most likely come as a surprise to himself, actually lends a great deal of support to the claim that genre fiction is valid and highly literary by way of its deep relation to the reader’s pleasure. Emotion reigns, and we as readers are its loyal subjects. What can we do but keep turning the pages? And how much more perfect an indication can you give of the quality of a text than the overwhelming desire to keep reading it?

But we still have to pick the book up in the first place. And this is where the problem of snobbery enters in. The Puritanical climate of canonical literary studies touched upon by King, Schow, Gaiman, Wolfe and Clute, is an interesting question indeed. As it turns out, my experience was with ‘Salem’s Lot was all too familiar to these gentlemen. I fear that this boils down to an issue of class, one that I am unprepared to deconstruct adequately, but will try not to gloss over. It seems to me that the main problem is the approach automatically taken towards works such as these within the context of a small, fancy, expensive school, or the places populated by the graduates of such schools. Neither King nor Straub come from a wealthy background, or one deeply rooted in high-priced blue-blood Ivy League histories, the breed of folk who see the kind of pleasure being valued in genre fiction as antithetical to the literary, who know it to be lesser-than from deep within their chinos.

Such an allegiance would have written these books out of irony, which brings to mind the comments made in class regarding King’s use of epigraphs. The choices presented, if my memory serves correctly, were either that King was reassuring his readers that it was ok to read a book like his, or, my personal favorite explanation, that he was making himself feel better about writing such a book— both of which take for granted that this kind of book is, at base, trashy. Choice ‘c’, that this man was an educated, highly-intelligent and well-read individual who was out to write the best book he could didn’t seem to be an option. To state the obvious, epigraphs, whether they be Wallace Stevens or John Ashbery (a favorite of Straub’s) are included for their relevance to the material at hand. In any other pocket of contemporary literature, this would be taken for granted. It is only when the material (and thereby author) is misconstrued as ‘beneath’ the intellectual reader that such things are called into question. Who are we to decide which kinds of book are inherently more meaningful than others, or rather, which kinds of books we can overlook completely? As Barthes says in his essay “Pleasure of the Text”, as though in direct answer to such questions, “What is significance? It is meaning, insofar as it is sensually produced.” (Barthes, p.61) Using this as a guide, then, the most significant works in the world include those of genre, where emotions are pushed and pulled; where we sit on the edge of our chairs, biting out nails as we turn each page; where we keep the light on as we slowly fall asleep, too anxious to turn it off.

__________________________________

[i] The “kingpins” interviewed, as one might well expect, are well acquainted with one another. Gary Wolfe and John Clute met in 1994 when Clute was awarded the Pilgrim Award from the Science Fiction Research Association, a prize given for lifetime achievement in scholarship and criticism, but had known each other’s work for quite some time. Peter Straub describes his relationships to all those interviewed in the following soliloquy, which I will include for both its humorous aspects in addition to the clarifications it makes about just how a college co-ed got in touch with so many of genre’s luminaries at one go:

“Because they exist in ghettos, so to speak, crime writers, horror writers and science fiction writers have always formed loose, informal communities that exist to provide like-minded gatherings, emotional and professional support, ceremonial occasions where awards can be given, etc. On any given weekend, there are likely to be at least 2 or 3, maybe more, local conventions for horror or sci-fi writers and fans. Larger annual conventions like the World Fantasy Convention, World Horror Convention, Bouchercon (for Mystery writers), Worldcon and Dragoncon (both massive sci-fi cons) assemble from twenty to two hundred professionals, and it is at these events that lots of writers are able to meet one another - in fact, a lot of friendships exist between writers who see each other only at these conventions.

The International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts, in Ft. Lauderdale, is an academic conference that is attended each year by a core group of writers and academics who bring in new people by inviting them as guests. World Fantasy and World Horror, attended by writers, editors, and agents, not academics, also invite Guests of Honor, often invites writers who have just made a name for themselves - so I was a GoH at World Fantasy not long after I moved back to America, and Steve was their GoH very early in his career.

I met Neil on my own when he came to New York on business about 8 or 9 years ago, and Gary and Clute may have met him for the first time in Ft. Lauderdale in 2000. Probably not, though. Gary may have met him earlier at some other convention or academic gathering or festival, since Neil really gets around, and Clute may well have met him in England.

I met Schow at a Fangoria convention in NYC in about 1990 - Fango is a magazine for fans of horror movies, and David wrote a column – called "Raving and Drooling" - for it. Because this is horror, the film connection brings a lot of people together. Schow met King at a party in Frank Darabont's house, for example. (And I met Frank Darabont because he was a friend of David's, and I wrote Schow a series of mock-letters supposedly sent to Darabont by an inane teenage girl named Kimberley Buggins who wished to warn him about his pal David. Darabont was amused by these letters. They all began, ‘Dear Frank Frank Franky Frank Darabont, How are you? I am fine, but...’”

[ii] Note about the format:

I sent each of the participants an email containing a brief explanation of my project, a plea for their assistance, and then some questions. The questions were primarily tailored to each recipient, although a few of the writers got similar questions about the relationship between writing/reading and pleasure. I’ve included both my emails and their responses, but in an attempt to save space, have cut out the explanation portion of all my emails, except in the case of my email to Stephen King, as to give a fuller picture of the original emails that were sent.

I also tried to cut out irrelevant information and personal banter, although, due to my relationships with those interviewed, in some cases traces can still be found. I apologize for this only halfway, as I think the informal nature of the medium lends a candid and warm tone to the project, which makes me feel very honored indeed, and I would be delighted if some of that came through in the paper.

[iii] Stephen King is a horror writer from the great state of Maine.

[iv] Peter Straub, writer and this author’s father—to be heard from later on in the essay.

[v] Many of those interviewed brought up the Gothic novel. To read more, look at William Patrick Day’s 1985 book In the Circles of Fear and Desire.

[vi] In addition to novels (the most recent being last year’s smash hit American Gods) Neil has written the wildly popular ‘Sandman’ series for Vertigo Comics.

[vii] The Magnetic Fields, headed by Stephin Merritt, write songs that are both beautiful and dark, a bit like genre fiction itself.

[viii] Black House, by Stephen King and Peter Straub, was published 9/15/01, seventeen years after their first collaboration, 1984’s The Talisman. The two men met while abroad in the mid 1970s and decided to work together shortly thereafter.

[ix] David Schow is one of the young horror upstarts who started what became known as the “Splatterpunk” movement in the 1980s. He has since written both books and films.

[x] Gary Wolfe is a college professor who spends the better part of his time ingesting all things genre. He is a reviewer/critic for ‘Locus’ magazine, which is a publication focusing on things of a fantastic nature, and has written countless essays on this very conundrum.

[xi] The issue of ‘Conjunctions’ magazine is forthcoming—The editor, Bradford Morrow, contacted Peter Straub, who is writing a piece for the issue, and who then also suggested Morrow include some critical pieces by both Wolfe and Clute.

[xii] The leading scholar on SF, John Clute has compiled two encyclopedias devoted to genre fiction.

 

Bibliography


Roland Barthes, “The Pleasure of the Text”, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1975

William Patrick Day, In the Circles of Fear and Desire, University of Chicago Press, ---Chicago, 1985

A Companion to the Gothic, ed. David Punter, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, 2000

Tzvetan Todorov, The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre, Cornell ---University press, Ithaca, 1975

Gary Wolfe, “Evaporating Genre: Strategies of Dissolution in the Postmodern Fantastic” (Publication forthcoming)

 

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