The Uncanniness of Unspeakable Anxieties in Weird Fiction

Daniel Nyikos

Daniel Nyikos’s collection of essays fills a major gap in the Hungarian literary critical reception of fantastic literature. It explores weird fiction, a curious subgenre of speculative fantasy rooted in dime-store pulp novels, tales of the macabre, ghost- and adventure stories, noir thrillers, detective comics, and overall horror. His case studies demonstrate how weird fiction blends supernatural, mythical, and scientific tropes with the central theme of transgressing taboos, of coming face to face with the Uncanny, that is beyond our understanding and hence permeates with fear the irredeemably thinning fictional universe and the reader’s extradiegetic consensus reality alike. Treading in the footsteps of literary theorist Rosemary Jackson who defended the fantasy genre against charges of escapism and claimed that the border crossings fictionalized in “the literature of subversion” are symptomatic of a particular era’s unconscious drives, desires, dreads, and socio-cultural anxieties, the author argues that weird tales dwell in unfamiliar places but engage with social crisis and cultural angst familar to us all. A fertile garden it is, but surely an Eden after the fall, when the bite from the tree of knowledge brings mankind the recognition of unknowability. Nyikos’s volume is a fine introduction to weird fiction’s tremulous reveries and “dark epiphanies.”
Anna Kérchy