RARA-AVIS: Noir Horror?

From: John & Carrie ( johncarrie@sprynet.com)
Date: 05 Feb 2000

Wanted to throw something out here to see what sticks and what just slides down the wall.

There's been abundant discussion at various times regarding so-called "noir westerns" and "noir sci-fi." In this respect, it appears from the discussions that while any one of us might disagree whether a particular western or science fiction work is "noir" or not, there appears to be general agreement that at the very least, it's certainly not inconceivable that "noir" elements can exist in those genres.

I think there is also some sort of general consensus that "noir" sort of transcends genres (assuming that "noir" is a style, as opposed to genre yadda yadda yadda.)

Starting from there, does anyone have any thoughts on "noir horror?" For one thing, the modern horror novel is something of a descendant of the Gothic novel, just as the modern mystery/detective/hardoiled/noir novel. For another, Universal's horror films were an important influence on the development of film noir (at least those wacky theorists think so, anyway). And they flourished with the pulps (for whatever that's worth).

With these things in mind, it seems that, for example, Poppy Z. Brite's and Caitlin Kiernan's (maybe even Clive Barker) have substantial "noir" conventions in their work: dark atmospheres, amoral protagonists, settings and characters on the fringes of society, etc. (of course, I'm not saying that these conventions are exclusive to the noir style). On the other hand, the conventional noir novel generally seems to be set in the "real" world and the diction is generally hardboiled. The ghastly stuff that the new gothic novelists like Brite, et al. tend to not share that sort of setting.

Then again, Cornell Woolrich didn't write in the hardboiled style, and he's acknowledged as an important ficgure in noir fiction. I'd dare say that H.P. Lovecraft at times reminds me somewhat of Woolrich in his ornate and decadent prose describing lush, dark settings teeming with hidden with unknown dread.

Any thoughts or comments about this? I'm specially interested in opinions regarding Lovecraft as a noir writer.

Thanks folks.


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