For Christmas my wife got me a three-book set by S.T. Joshi – The Weird Tale, The Modern Weird Tale, and The Evolution of the Weird Tale. I haven’t gotten very far in The Weird Tale but I’ve read enough to spur my thinking about a couple of topics. The first is about the term weird tale to describe a type of short story. I’ve always had a problem with the term. One reason is because of the eponymous magazine where many of the authors who are identified with the genre published their stories. By calling a story a weird tale it automatically makes me think of the magazine. Another reason that I don’t really care for it is because it seems to be such a huge umbrella term. For me, I like short stories that aim to convey horror and think that horror short stories belong in a different category than stories that aim to convey fantastic or strange worlds. For example, Lovecraft wrote many stories that are sometimes referred to as his “dream cycle” stories and I really don’t like them. I think they are very different in style from his horror stories. So as I’m reading about Lord Dunsany I’m wondering if his being classified as a weird tale writer makes him a writer of horror or a writer of fantasy. I get the impression that his aim was for fantasy and not horror. But the usage of weird tale has been co-opted to be synonymous with short horror story. At least I believe that to be the case.
The other thing that got me thinking was that Joshi says that by understanding an authors philosophy, you can understand their writing. This may be true for some but not for all. When I write a short horror story I’m not trying to make a philosophical statement. I’m a pantheist who detests religion and believes that there is no God or Satan as depicted in Western Religion. But I use the archetypes to portray a battle of Good vs. Evil in my stories. I don’t believe in ghosts but I’ll write ghost stories. I suppose that if I were to try and express my philosophy in a horror story it would be similar to Lovecraft’s portrayal of a world where humans encounter alien forces that either perceive them as minor beings (as we would a bug) or they don’t even perceive them at all. Except where Lovecraft was atheist, I would try and show that there is no true good or evil from the global perspective. God – or the Universe – evolves as it wills without any concern for kindness or compassion to the tiny beings that are spawned within.
Then I started thinking that if someone were to try and psychoanalyze me based on my horror stories, what sort of themes run through them? This is very telling in way I never noticed till I did this. There are two main themes that I explore in my stories: possession and curse. Virtually every one of my stories involves some type of curse or some sort of possession by malevolent force. I’ll refrain for now from delving too deep into the meaning of these two themes.