Reception Claims in Supernatural Horror in Literature and the Course of Weird Fiction
In Supernatural Horror in Literature, H. P. Lovecraft identifies weird fiction as a rarified form of supernatural horror, characterized by atmospheric effect and violation of natural laws. He correlates reader receptiveness to these elements with heightened sensitivity to the best fiction published in pulp horror magazines. Lovecraft’s views on the reception of weird fiction persisted for decades after his death, propagated by many authors, critics, editors, and publishers. Developments from the 1980s onward, including the hybridization and evolution of weird fiction, have led to a weakening consensus. Even as Lovecraft’s claims seem to weaken, however, ongoing debates about the character of weird fiction are reanimating them, with some writers celebrating the form’s specialness, even as other developments have devalued weird fiction as a meaningful label.
I am grateful for Sean Moreland’s collegiality at ICFA 36, invitation to this volume, and patience as I completed this chapter. Selena Chambers was my cheerleader and supporter, listening for hours as I maundered about the formation of the field of weird fiction. Conversations with Ann and Jeff VanderMeer helped my thinking about publishing networks and ecosystems. I am grateful for the support of VCU Libraries colleagues past and present, in particular Dennis Clark, Bettina Peacemaker, and Sara Williams. Finally, I am grateful to Kyla Tew for her patience, love, and encouragement as I have sought to write everything that I want to write.