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Old 11-12-2016   #1
Robert Adam Gilmour
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Are weird fiction fans more likely to be creators than other genre fans?

Hoping to get some discussion going again and this has been on my mind a few years.

I've seen weird fiction and horror being criticized for being insular and most of the readers and reviewers being limited to aspiring or established writers.
It's also been said many times that being a big fan of these things requires a relatively rare sensitivity most people don't possess.

Does this sensitivity make them more likely to be creators? (whether it's fiction, art, music or something else)

Is this sensitivity always going to be rare or could it be passed on to/brought out of more people until it's a much bigger phenomenon? Would it make more people creators or mostly expand the audience of non-creators?

I wonder if there was ever the potential for it to be mass culture and what the world would be like in that situation.

I'd certainly like it to get bigger. If there's not many readers there'll not be many editors and gatekeepers whose tastes shape the variety of fiction being written. *

I think sometimes fellow creators can be too soft and forgiving as critics, not only because they want to win favour in the scene but because they understand how difficult it is to create good work. I think it's necessary to have critics who don't care how difficult it is but simply demand writing of a very high standard.

====
* Johnny Mains Years Best was cancelled. Stephen Jones Best New appears to be stopping and he's doing less anthologies. I've heard that Ellen Datlow's Years Best is cancelled but I don't know if it's true. Are we in a transition with editors and anthologies?

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Old 11-12-2016   #2
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Re: Are weird fiction fans more likely to be creators than other genre fans?

Quote Originally Posted by Robert Adam Gilmour View Post
Hoping to get some discussion going again and this has been on my mind a few years.

I've seen weird fiction and horror being criticized for being insular and most of the readers and reviewers being limited to aspiring or established writers.
It's also been said many times that being a big fan of these things requires a relatively rare sensitivity most people don't possess.

Does this sensitivity make them more likely to be creators? (whether it's fiction, art, music or something else)

Is this sensitivity always going to be rare or could it be passed on to/brought out of more people until it's a much bigger phenomenon? Would it make more people creators or mostly expand the audience of non-creators?
These are good questions. I myself have always wondered why the short story is preferred over the traditional novel amongst writers of weird fiction. I believe its partially because of the acute sensitivity you mentioned. I say this mainly because the sensitivity in question often leads to depression, which typically causes mental fatigue. It's more difficult for such a person to sustain one's creative powers over the course of an entire novel than it is within the span of a short story. That's not to say that short stories are somehow easier to write; it's just that short stories are ideal for a certain kind of temperament. There are, of course, aesthetic reasons why the short story is preferred over novels.

Something else I've been thinking about, and I think it accompanies the aforementioned sensitivity, is the underlying belief on the part of most writers of weird fiction that they have failed at being human in some deep-seated way. I suppose this might apply to loyal readers of weird fiction as well. Perhaps there's also a certain desire to be elsewhere, a desire to transcend the world. Religion, whether lost or attained, plays some significant role here.

Sadly, I don't think these things are all that prevalent, which is why it's important to seek some solidarity with other likeminded individuals. Places such as TLO serve as sanctuaries for rare types, assuming everyone refrains from discussing politics.

"In a less scientific age, he would have been a devil-worshipper, a partaker in the abominations of the Black Mass; or would have given himself to the study and practice of sorcery. His was a religious soul that had failed to find good in the scheme of things; and lacking it, was impelled to make of evil itself an object of secret reverence."

~ Clark Ashton Smith, "The Devotee of Evil"
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Old 11-12-2016   #3
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Re: Are weird fiction fans more likely to be creators than other genre fans?

Most weird fiction fans seem to me as if they are in it for the comfort of the geek culture identity aspect rather than being particularly sensitive and artistic. For every decent TLO poster there are a hundred Lovecraft geeks elsewhere recommending the works of Lin Carter and August Derleth over Thomas Ligotti or Robert Aickman.

As with every fanbase, most people don't have much of interest to say or offer.

'I believe in what the Germans term Ehrfurcht: reverence for things one cannot understand.'
― Robert Aickman, An Essay
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Old 11-12-2016   #4
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Re: Are weird fiction fans more likely to be creators than other genre fans?

To appreciate the weird tale in its finest form, requires only three things. A sensitivity to language, a sensitivity to atmosphere and a sensitivity to wonder. Nothing insular about that.
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Old 11-12-2016   #5
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Re: Are weird fiction fans more likely to be creators than other genre fans?

Mr Veech- I'm definitely into the transcendence thing. I've never felt this world was good enough and I like the idea of redesigning it, then hopefully life imitating art in some way.
I've never felt like a failed human and religion has never had a big role in my life.

James- Are Derleth and Carter really that popular? I've never seen them in shops. Can't be more popular than Laird Barron and Jeff Vandermeer. Are there that many dedicated mythos writers? I don't know where these mythos fans hang out, I don't really see them much.
I think Lin Carter's fiction is mainly popular with sword and sorcery fans but he has wider acclaim for his curation of the Ballantine classics line and anthology editing.

Druidic- perhaps more people appreciate these qualities in music? Just not enough people know about weird fiction?

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Old 11-12-2016   #6
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Re: Are weird fiction fans more likely to be creators than other genre fans?

Quote Originally Posted by Robert Adam Gilmour View Post
Mr Veech- I'm definitely into the transcendence thing. I've never felt this world was good enough and I like the idea of redesigning it, then hopefully life imitating art in some way.
I've never felt like a failed human and religion has never had a big role in my life.
I suppose the last part is more revealing about myself than it is about others. I hope no one, including yourself, was offended.

"In a less scientific age, he would have been a devil-worshipper, a partaker in the abominations of the Black Mass; or would have given himself to the study and practice of sorcery. His was a religious soul that had failed to find good in the scheme of things; and lacking it, was impelled to make of evil itself an object of secret reverence."

~ Clark Ashton Smith, "The Devotee of Evil"
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Old 11-12-2016   #7
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Re: Are weird fiction fans more likely to be creators than other genre fans?

To answer the question in the thread's title directly probably needs statistics to be anything other than the expression of a vague hope or idea. It would be nice if ours was a special community, wouldn't it?

It probably isn't.

But if we pursue the thought anyway, then the suggestion above, that faith lost or found has something to do with it, might be a key insight. The mind of one who feels like having 'failed at being human in some deep-seated way' is, for all its apparent dispondency, an active mind, that questions its assumptions, works with them, through them; it is only natural, then, that this activeness does not end when confronted with art or entertainment; that, these, also become things to reflect upon, then work with.

Most people i've known or spoken with at some length, from all walks of life, have
1. admitted to having (from their own experience) at least one anecdote about some ghost or apparition
2. an unfinished manuscript in a drawer somewhere.

"What can a thing do with a thing, when it is a thing?"
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Old 11-12-2016   #8
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Re: Are weird fiction fans more likely to be creators than other genre fans?

I think that with short stories being the preferred mode of writing its much more inviting for fans to try their hand at writing their own material. As well as there being little to no defined rules as to what is acceptable for a "weird" story. You can write a piece that is very inspired by Lovecraft or Ligotti, or you can write something that's completely out there and if its well done people will probably like it either way.
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Old 11-12-2016   #9
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Re: Are weird fiction fans more likely to be creators than other genre fans?

Robert, I think the reason for the limited audience for the weird tale is a somewhat complicated thing. You are right, the qualities I listed are identical to the qualities needed to appreciate great music and great art in general. But the weird tale seems also to require a very specific state of mind--a state both passive and attentive that many in this hectic speeded-up world find it difficult to cultivate, assuming of course they even try. You can't just let it wash over you like a cliched television show or a lazy beach read. In some ways, it seems to belong to a more leisurely but more serious age when fiction wasn't just throw away entertainment.
In its 'purest' form--Lovecraft, Poe, de la Mare--its very much akin to poetry. And we know how popular that is, right?
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Old 11-12-2016   #10
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Re: Are weird fiction fans more likely to be creators than other genre fans?

Quote Originally Posted by Druidic View Post
Robert, I think the reason for the limited audience for the weird tale is a somewhat complicated thing. You are right, the qualities I listed are identical to the qualities needed to appreciate great music and great art in general. But the weird tale seems also to require a very specific state of mind--a state both passive and attentive that many in this hectic speeded-up world find it difficult to cultivate, assuming of course they even try. You can't just let it wash over you like a cliched television show or a lazy beach read. In some ways, it seems to belong to a more leisurely but more serious age when fiction wasn't just throw away entertainment.
In its 'purest' form--Lovecraft, Poe, de la Mare--its very much akin to poetry. And we know how popular that is, right?
Very well-stated.

"In a less scientific age, he would have been a devil-worshipper, a partaker in the abominations of the Black Mass; or would have given himself to the study and practice of sorcery. His was a religious soul that had failed to find good in the scheme of things; and lacking it, was impelled to make of evil itself an object of secret reverence."

~ Clark Ashton Smith, "The Devotee of Evil"
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