Weird Fiction and the Visual

> Notes on Writing Weird Fiction

Weird fiction is, at its core, playing on our deep fear of the unknown. When Lovecraft’s characters encounter an impossibility, language is used to weave around the subject – leaving the thing itself indescribable. My project, a Lovecraft/Cyberpunk comic with accompanying transmedia components, relies on the visual. However, to represent something visually is to give the audience knowledge of the thing. A direct visual representation provides the subject with a solid, understandable form, thus diminishing its effect. My task is to reconcile this.

I’ve enlisted the help of Lovecraft himself with this task, in a sense. Through consultation of his essay, Notes on Writing Weird Fiction, I’ve identified the key

> The Power of the Visual

“My reason for writing stories is to give myself the satisfaction of visualising more clearly and detailedly and stably the vague, elusive, fragmentary impressions of wonder, beauty, and adventurous expectancy which are conveyed to me by certain sights (scenic, architectural, atmospheric, etc.), ideas, occurrences, and images encountered in art and literature.”

H. P. Lovecraft in T. Joshi 1995, ‘Notes on Writing Weird Fiction’

Here is my  Lovecraft uses careful language to describe a feeling or atmosphere that is often based on something visual. I want to evoke this.

The Power of Visual Material: Persuasion, Emotion and Identification (Joffe, H 2008) describes disgust as one of the most powerful tools in a visual work’s arsenal for the strong reactions it evokes. This is also something I’ve noticed in my perusal of other Lovecraftian comics – disgusting imagery is used as a shortcut to building a fearful atmosphere.

If a stone is thrown into a pond, you understand what created the ripples. But if all you see are the ripples, you’re left wondering if it were a stone after all. Maybe a fish? Did it come from above the water or below the surface? Or was the water disturbed by a deep shudder in the earth below it?

Original Post on Data Eater Blog: Weird Fiction and the Visual

4 thoughts on “Weird Fiction and the Visual

  1. The idea of the ‘indescribable’ and the visual is really interesting as it creates a kind of parodox. As you explained, to represent something visually is to give the audience knowledge of the thing.
    It will be interesting to see how you reconcile this idea through portraying it in a comic, be it creating something entirely indescribable or leaving subtle hints to some other thing or force. (like your ripple analogy)
    Excited to see how this turns out!

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  2. I’m not familiar with Lovecraft’s work but it is definitely interesting to see how he creates such an eerie and disturbing ambience without specifically describing something. I look forward to seeing how you convey this into your comic series. You mentioned in your presentation that Lovecraft’s stories were based around his personal fears. Although his themes are a key part of your work, will you be trying to incorporate any of your own fears to make it more personal or will it be completely fictional?

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    1. Good question! If I drew from personal experience, though, the work could feel more vibrant and real. However, I’d be worried that a personal fear – say, spiders – might not be as universal as I’d need it to be. Also, sometimes I shy away from putting too much of myself in my work because a critique of the work feels more like a critique of myself. I’m not certain if that’s a good thing, haha.

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  3. This whole topic is new to me, so I find it really interesting! Playing into our deepest fears is defiantly something that could go both ways. As fear is up to each individual, but regardless it is a fear. And I have a fear of spiders too, so I’ll understand a story if you write one!

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