When I read fantasy, I read for the bizarre, the wrenched, the undertone of difference & weirdness that defamiliarises the world I know. I want the taste of the writer’s mind, I want to feel I’m walking about in the edges of the individual personality.
I think for me genre—-sf and fantasy and horror—-is not about science, or even about extrapolation. I think “cognitive estrangement” obscures as much as it explains. There’s simultaneously something rigorous and something playful in genre. It’s about the positing of something impossible-—whether not-yet-possible or never-possible—-and then taking that impossibility and granting it its own terms and systematicity. It’s carnivalesque in its impossibility and overturning of reality, but it’s rationalist in that it pretends it is real. And it’s that second element which I think those who dip their toes in the sf pond so often forget. They think sf is “about” analogies, and metaphors, and so on. I refute that—-I think that those are inevitable components, but it’s the surrendering to the impossible, the weird, that characterizes genre.
The true weird tale has something more than secret murder, bloody bones, or a sheeted form clanking chains according to rule. A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; and there must be a hint, expressed with a seriousness and portentousness becoming its subject, of that most terrible conception of the human brain — a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the daeligmons of unplumbed space.