Varieties of the Weird Tale by S. T. Joshi








  • 2017
  • Paperback
  • ISBN 978-1-61498-188-6
  • Cover art by Wallace Smith for The Shadow-Eater by Benjamin De Casseres (1923).
  • 355 pages




In Unutterable Horror: A History of Supernatural Fiction (Hippocampus Press, 2014), S. T. Joshi demonstrated a comprehensive knowledge of the history of weird fiction from classical antiquity to the present. In his forty-year career as a critic and editor of weird fiction, Joshi has had occasion to study many of the leading writers of fantasy and horror fiction, and this book embodies some of his most provocative discussions on weird writers over the past century or more.


The “golden age” of weird fiction ranged from about 1880 to 1940, and Joshi studies such leading writers as Ambrose Bierce and Bram Stoker, as well as little-known but fascinating figures such as Edna W. Underwood and Gertrude Atherton. Bierce’s pungent political satires—rarely discussed by critics—are analyzed in detail, and we learn of both the lives and the writings of such pioneering writers of ghostly fiction as Mary E. Wilkins Freeman and E. Nesbit.


The early decades of the 20th century saw the emergence of such titans as Lord Dunsany and M. R. James, and Joshi provides penetrating glimpses into their variegated work. This was also an era of lesser-known figures, and Joshi shows how the work of Sax Rohmer, Irvin S. Cobb, and Maurice Level contributed to the development of weird fiction. Contemporary writers ranging from Ramsey Campbell, Thomas Ligotti, and Caitlín R. Kiernan are also studied in detail.


All told, this volume provides illuminating glimpses of many of the leading writers of the weird tale over the past century and a half, and also adds to S. T. Joshi’s stature as the leading critic of weird fiction today.




Introduction: Establishing the Canon of Weird Fiction

I. The Golden Age  

Some Notes on Ambrose Bierce  

I. Bierce as Political Satirist  

II. Bierce as Fabulist

III. What Happens in “The Death of Halpin Frayser”

A Triumvirate of Fantastic Poets: Ambrose Bierce, George Sterling, and Clark Ashton Smith

Gertrude Atherton: Death and Women

Bram Stoker: Dracula and Others  

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman: The Domestic Ghost

E. Nesbit: Lying Awake in the Dark

Edna W. Underwood: Dear Dead Women

Things in the Weeds: The Supernatural in Hodgson’s Short Stories

II. The Era of Lovecraft

M. R. James and the Classic Ghost Story

Some Notes on Lord Dunsany

I. The Peg?na Mythos

II. Jorkens

III. Christianity and Paganism in Two Dunsany Novels

Sax Rohmer: The Popular Weird Tale

Maurice Level and the Grand Guignol

Irvin S. Cobb and Gouverneur Morris: A Taste for the Weird

Bran Mak Morn and History

The Novels of Donald Wandrei

III. Some Contemporaries

Science and Superstition: Fritz Leiber’s Modernization of Gothic

Master and Pupil: August Derleth and Ramsey Campbell’s First Book

Thomas Ligotti’s The Nightmare Factory

Caitlín R. Kiernan and Sensuous Prose




This product was added to our catalog on Saturday 25 February, 2017.