Bibliographical Essay - Volume 1: From Gilgamesh to the End of the Nineteenth Century

Unutterable Horror - A History of Supernatural Fiction - S. T. Joshi 2014

Bibliographical Essay
Volume 1: From Gilgamesh to the End of the Nineteenth Century

Space restrictions prevent my supplying, in my bibliography, anything approaching an exhaustive bibliography of primary and secondary sources pertaining to the authors, works, and topics discussed in this book. However, an array of reference works should assist the reader interested in pursuing additional research on any of the subjects I have broached. Criticism and analysis of supernatural literature may not, in some respects, have progressed very far, but bibliographical charting of the field has made considerable headway.

One of the pioneering reference works in the field was E. F. Bleiler’s Checklist of Fantastic Literature (Shasta, 1948; rev. ed. as Checklist of Science Fiction and Supernatural Fiction [Firebell, 1978]), and it retains usefulness. More recently, Bleiler has made good use of his exhaustive knowledge of the field to compile Guide to Supernatural Fiction (Kent State University Press, 1983), a bibliography (with plot synopses) of thousands of novels and tales of supernatural horror. Mike Ashley and William G. Contento’s The Supernatural Index (Greenwood Press, 1995) is a comprehensive and immensely helpful index to anthologies of supernatural fiction. Ashley is contemplating the compilation of an analogous volume for single-author collections, but the pressure of other work may delay completion of this project for some years. In the meantime, readers can make do with Donald H. Tuck’s still useful Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy through 1968 (Advent, 1974—82; 3 vols.), although of course it is very much out of date. The Locus Index to Science Fiction ( has fair coverage of weird writers.

Several encyclopedias that contain both bibliographies and brief critical discussions of a wide array of weird writers can be cited. The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural, ed. Jack Sullivan (Viking Penguin, 1986), although somewhat limited and idiosyncratic in its selection of topics, features articles written by leading critics. David Pringle’s Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers (St. James Press, 1998) is of considerable value, as is Gothic Writers: A Critical and Bibliographical Guide, ed. Douglass H. Thomson, Jack G. Voller, and Frederick S. Frank (Greenwood Press, 2002). (The title of this book is somewhat misleading, as it covers writers from the eighteenth to the late twentieth centuries.) Primary and secondary sources for many leading authors of supernatural fiction can be found in Horror Literature, ed. Marshall Tymn (Bowker, 1981), and Horror Literature, ed. Neil Barron (Garland, 1990), the latter revised and fused with another volume as Fantasy and Horror (Scarecrow Press, 1999). Supernatural Literature of the World: An Encyclopedia, ed. S. T. Joshi and Stefan Dziemianowicz (Greenwood Press, 2005; 3 vols.), has the virtues of comprehensiveness and recency.

H. W. Hall’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Reference Index, 1785—1985 (Gale Research Co., 1987) is an extensive listing of secondary sources, but without annotation or commentary. Hall has followed up this work with supplements covering the years 1985—91 (Libraries Unlimited, 1993) and 1992—95 (Libraries Unlimited, 1997). More recently, he has taken his work online: see his Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Database (

Of more specialised reference works there are a fair number. Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Weird Fiction Magazines, ed. Marshall B. Tymn and Mike Ashley (Greenwood Press, 1985), is enormously useful for discussions of magazines devoted to supernatural fiction. Along the same lines, Frank H. Parnell and Mike Ashley’s Monthly Terrors (Greenwood Press, 1985) provides issue-by-issue indexes to hundreds of important periodicals devoted to the supernatural, including Weird Tales. My own compilations, Icons of Horror and the Supernatural (Greenwood Press, 2006; 2 vols.) and The Encyclopedia of the Vampire (Greenwood Press, 2010), benefited from strong work by a variety of contributors. The latter volume in no way supersedes J. Gordon Melton’s The Vampire Book (Visible Ink Press, 1994; rev. ed. 1999), which discusses several topics not covered in my own work.

I have suggested in my introduction that I am disappointed with most of the standard histories of supernatural fiction. The first, chronologically speaking, is Dorothy Scarborough’s The Supernatural in Modern English Fiction (Putnam’s, 1917). H. P. Lovecraft’s “Supernatural Horror in Literature” (1927; rev. 1933—35) may still be the soundest general historical treatment, although of course it is now nearly a century out of date. Peter Penzoldt’s The Supernatural in Fiction (Peter Nevill, 1952), has some penetrating discussions of early twentieth-century writers. Les Daniels’s Living in Fear: A History of Horror in the Mass Media (Scribner’s, 1975) is a sound study written by a critic who later became a distinguished horror novelist. I do not find much value in Glen St. John Barclay’s Anatomy of Horror (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1978), David Punter’s The Literature of Terror (Longmans, 1980; rev. ed. 1996), or Walter Kendrick’s The Thrill of Fear (Grove Weidenfeld, 1991). Some studies of more limited scope are much more useful, such as Julia Briggs’s Night Visitors: The Rise and Fall of the English Ghost Story (Faber & Faber, 1977), Jack Sullivan’s Elegant Nightmares: The English Ghost Story from Le Fanu to Blackwood (Ohio University Press, 1978), José B. Monleón’s A Specter Is Haunting Europe: A Sociohistorical Approach to the Fantastic (Princeton University Press, 1990), and Faye Ringel’s New England’s Gothic Literature (Edwin Mellen Press, 1995). I hope that my studies, The Weird Tale (University of Texas Press, 1990), The Modern Weird Tale (McFarland, 2001), The Evolution of the Weird Tale (Hippocampus Press, 2004), and Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction (Hippocampus Press, 2009), are of some use. My Emperors of Dreams: Some Notes on Weird Poetry (P’rea Press, 2008) is a brief treatment of a topic that demands much greater discussion.

Some collections of essays are useful, among them The Haunted Dusk: American Supernatural Fiction, 1820—1920, ed. Howard Kerr, John W. Crowley, and Charles L. Crow (University of Georgia Press, 1983); Discovering Modern Horror Fiction, ed. Darrell Schweitzer (Starmont House, 1985—88; 2 vols.); Discovering Classic Horror Fiction, ed. Darrell Schweitzer (Starmont House, 1992); Discovering Classic Fantasy Fiction, ed. Darrell Schweitzer (Borgo Press, 1996); and American Supernatural Fiction: From Edith Wharton to the Weird Tales Writers, ed. Douglas Robillard (Garland, 1996). Survey of Fantasy Literature, ed. Frank N. Magill (Salem Press, 1983; 5 vols.), has a number of essays on supernatural writing. Supernatural Fiction Writers, ed. E. F. Bleiler (Scribner’s, 1985; 2 vols.), and Supernatural Fiction Writers: Contemporary Fantasy and Horror, ed. Richard Bleiler (Scrbner’s, 2003; 2 vols.) are more useful compilations of the same approximate sort. “A Hideous Bit of Morbidity”: An Anthology of Horror Criticism from the Enlightenment to World War I, ed. Jason Colavito (McFarland, 2008), is useful and entertaining, although some of the selections are rather slight.