Weird Fiction and Pessimism

Why Weird Fiction is a better vehicle for Pessimism than philosophy:

Weird fiction often spurns more rationalistic and normalized narrative types of creation and fulfillment, seizing instead on the nonrational structures of dreams and hallucinations, exploiting the episodic rather than the logically continuous. Weird fiction overcomes isolation because its pessimism is hazy, inducing the reader into a dreamlike state where reality and narrative blur and pessimism slowly intrudes into the edges of consciousness. As Ligotti says, “Everything that happens in every story ever written is merely an event in someone’s imagination—exactly as are dreams, which take place on their own little plane of unreality, a realm of nowhere in which outside and inside are of equivalent ontological status.”1 The notion here is in some ways similar to the old post-structuralist “nothing outside the text,” but with one caveat, for Ligotti the polarities of unreal/real have exchanged places and the inside is outside and it is all nightmare. The point here is like the ancient Gnostics the world is malevolent through and through, and there is no escape from this nightmare land. Weird fiction in portraying this nightmare uses a rhetorical strategy that softens the blow of extreme pessimism allowing the reader to feel the subtle truth of our horrific situation without being too explicit, entertaining the reader while instructing her in the dark ways of our ontological status.

  1. Carl T. Ford, “Interview with Thomas Ligotti,” in Born to Fear: Interviews with Thomas Ligotti, ed. Matt Cardin (Burton, Mich.: Subterranean Press, 2014), 22.

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