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Horror or Weird Fiction? A Short Genre Discussion

There’s this dreaded thing called “genre” that everyone agrees is either discussed too much or too little, and I‘ve somehow found it necessary to dredge it up here in connection to Silent Motorist Media.

Genre has bugged me before. I’ve prodded the concept informally on social media and in an experimental “essay” on what I’ve playfully called “deliriant noir,” but I’ve yet to connect any public discussion of it to this press. Insofar as genre entails real-world consequences for Silent Motorist Media, both in terms of reader expectations and submission material received in the event of open calls, the topic has become unavoidable. I intend to address it briefly and clearly here.

Ironically, I’ve realized that my personal resistance to writing about genre is precisely why I feel the need to address it. Genre has a knack for getting in the way of a theoretical entity called “the book itself.” This is the work (in Barthes' sense), published or unpublished, considered from some abstracted perspective and evaluated for sheer style and effectiveness. Of course, such a separation is highly artificial and produces innumerable problems, the foremost being that style and effectiveness are both elements that are determined within the context of what the book sets out to do, which is largely an issue of genre in the first place. Nevertheless, elements I often value in a work, qualities like “formal innovation,” “uniqueness of expression,” and others (which could, unhelpfully, also be reduced to discussions of “style”) tend to transcend and challenge concepts of genre as much as define them. In short, nothing about the words “horror” and “weird fiction” are fundamental to the central aesthetic vision, or “style,” I want to promote with Silent Motorist Media.

At the heart of this potentially labyrinthine explanation, which I’ll deliberately truncate here, is the problem in horror long established by the work of Thomas Ligotti and other authors with one leg in genre and the other in the literary avant-garde, namely, that horror means vastly different things to different readers. Even external to the obvious opposition of the King--Koontz / Ligotti spectrum of horror, there are readers who appreciate Ligotti insofar as he resembles Lovecraft and readers who thrill to find in Ligotti traces of Beckett and Kafka.

“Weird fiction” seems to be the obvious solution, and it has served Silent Motorist Media fairly well. I don’t want to distance SMM from this designation. Rather, I intend to throw the doors open to others. I am achingly proud to have published Hymns of Abomination, a tribute to an author who himself has transcended traditional boundaries of weird fiction with stylistic singularity. I’m excited to soon introduce to the world Rohit Sawant’s gothic and weird fiction collection, The Endless Walk, and not for its adherence to classic genre conventions, but for its unique and striking syntactical flavor. I’m equally thrilled to establish an environment in which writers who prefer the distinction “Neo-Decadent” feel welcome, along with authors working in experimental strains of dark fiction as represented by presses such as Schism and Apocalypse Party.

In short, weird fiction, yes, (so long as it has style) and more… After all, the overarching tendency in newer fiction, in my opinion, is toward formlessness, a wholesale rejection of structures in the spirit of Bataille, Derrida, and other thinkers who have long ago signaled the dissolution of reality as a narrative form. Poetry, essayistic nonfiction, and fiction blend together more and more readily (yet another element that Ligotti favored in weird fiction long before it was the norm). It is clear that a certain fluidity is required to accommodate the flickering of this strange bleeding edge.

“Strange” fiction? “Dark” fiction? How about simply “Undefinable” fiction? I don’t know what to call it exactly, but to SMM readers (and potentially, writers), I don’t think a clear statement of this press’s publication goals is altogether remiss. I sincerely hope this has provided a clearer conception of what SMM stands for. Here's to all the dark and strange fiction of the future.

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