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The dual themes of World Fantasy 2012 are Northern Gothic and Urban Fantasy. Programming will springboard from definitions / discussions in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant.
Excerpts from the relevant entries are used with permission.


The starting point of Gothic literature is usually given as The Castle of Otranto (1765) by Horace Walpole, but its antecedents are evident in much earlier work, ... Although most Gothic Fantasy is tragedy, its key component is the Edifice. Walpole's novel introduced all the main plot devices.

Gothic fiction usually takes place in an ancient castle or abbey whose owner discovers his noble line is doomed, usually because some past misdemeanour has caused the family to be cursed. All fate seems against him as he strives to overcome massive odds (frequently of either genuine or fabricated supernatural origin), and he usually fails. The story may be told from the viewpoint of another character, one dispossessed of his inheritance, who may regain it. Walpole's Otranto abounds in supernatural manifestations, and is thus a true Gothic fiction; but not all Gothic Fantasy is genuinely supernatural. The devices may be rationalized.

Pure or High Gothic aims to terrify; the supernatural may appear in Low Gothic without the need to terrify—indeed, towards the end of the Gothic Age the novels tended to self-parody. Later writers have used the setting for atmosphere and as a device to simplify explanations to readers well versed in the material.

Psycho by Robert Bloch Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake Vathek by William Beckford Necropolis by Basil Copper

The usual pedigree of the Gothic Fantasy passes from Walpole to Clara Reeve's The Champion of Virtue (1777), to The Recess: A Tale of Other Times (1783-85) by Sophia Lee, which established the Historical Gothic, through William Beckford's Vathek (1786), which merged Oriental Fantasy with the Gothic, to Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), to Matthew Lewis's The Monk (1796), the peak of the Gothic Horror to The Midnight Bell (1798) by the prolific Francis Lathom, culminating in Melmoth the Wanderer (1820) by Charles Maturin which mingled all the elements to produce the ultimate Gothic romance. By this time, the Gothic trappings were being supplanted by a deeper psychological exploration of the doomed hero, a furrow already ploughed by Mary Shelley in Frankenstein (1818). The tragic elements of the Gothic remained but, with the removal of the Edifice, the Gothic flame dimmed...

...The same brooding atmosphere occurred in many works of German Romanticism especially by Johann Friedrich von Schiller with the first part of Der Geisterseher (1786; trans. as The Ghost-Seer 1795 UK) and by Lawrence Flammenburg (real name Karl Friedrich Kahlert; 1765-1813) with Der Geisterbanner (1792; trans. Peter Teuthold as The Necromancer 1794 UK), and in the short stories of Johann Karl Musa, Johann Apel and Freidrich Schulze. Their work in turn influenced Washington Irving, Charles Brockden Brown, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe in the USA, while the Gothic movement in France, picked up partly from the work of Beckford, continued through the Marquis de Sade, Honoré de Balzac and Eugène Sue.

The Terror by Dan Simmons Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson Grimscribe His Lives and Works by Thomas Ligotti The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

The Gothic influence continued with the growth of Supernatural Fiction at the turn of the 19th century, especially that fuelled by Decadence—evident in the work of Robert Louis Stevenson, M.P. Shiel and Bram Stoker—but the day of the doom-laden Gothic Fantasy had long passed...

.... The return of the Gothic to Horror can probably be traced to Alfred Hitchcock and his adaptation of Robert Bloch's Psycho (1959). In the 1970s and 1980s there was an increase of Gothic elements in Supernatural Fiction, mostly evident in the work of writers like Mary Stewart, Tanith Lee and Angela Carter, and in the unique work of Thomas Ligotti. ... Patrick McGrath—who has produced his own neo-Gothic fiction in Blood and Water (coll 1988) and The Grotesque (1989) ... The cityscape has replaced the old castle and Urban Fantasy is the new Gothic.
—Michael Ashley

The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake


A city is a place; urban fantasy is a mode. A city may be an icon or a geography; the Urban Fantasy recounts an experience. A city may be seen from afar, and is generally seen clear; the Urban Fantasy is told from within, and, from the perspective of characters acting out their roles, it may be difficult to determine the extent and nature of the surrounding reality. Urban Fantasies are normally texts where fantasy and the mundane world intersect and interweave throughout a tale which is significantly about a real city. There are many exceptions—Mary Gentle's Rats and Gargoyles (1990), is set in a fantasy city "that is called the heart of the world"—but the general principle still holds: the city of an Urban Fantasy may be located in a Secondary World, but in such a case it has been created not just as a backdrop but as an environment. ...

Taproot texts from which Urban Fantasy evolved are not easy to find before the 18th century...

...The headings under which Frederick S. Frank anatomizes the form in The First Gothics (1987) also work to describe the early forms of Urban Fantasy: claustrophobic containment; subterranean pursuit; supernatural encroachment; "extraordinary positions" and lethal predicaments; abeyance of rationality; possible victory of Evil; Parody; supernatural gadgetry, contraptions, machinery, and demonic appliances; and "a constant vicissitude of interesting passions".

Early Urban Fantasies tended to be described in terms beholden to the Carceri d'Invenzione (1749-50) and Vedute (1745-78) of Giovanni Battista Piranesi—two sets of drawings in which urban scapes are seen in unmistakably theatrical terms. The first set depicts shadowy, illimitably complex imaginary prisons; the second confabulates ancient and modern Rome in images whose chiaroscuros are haunted and echoic. Piranesi was deeply influential in shaping the early 19th century's sense of the nightmare of the city...

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara Gate of Darkness, Circle of Light by Tanya Huff Moonheart by Charles de Lint

As the 20th century has advanced, Urban Fantasy writers have intensified the model .... as well; they tend—fairly enough—to treat the late 20th century as an essentially urban drama, so that conflicts within the city resonate throughout the worlds; and, like most fantasies, tend to try to achieve a sense of Healing.

Imagined cities in which Urban Fantasies are set are legion, from Batman's Gotham City (a much fantasticated New York) to ... Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar to Terry Pratchett's Ankh-Morpork, scene of the partly Urban Fantasy City Guard/Night Watch sequence. The mirroring cities of Gene Wolfe's There Are Doors (1988) are never identified, either in "this world" or "the other", but they are fully realized in a way that makes this one of the most profoundly urban of all Urban Fantasies.

There is an increasing sense that writers may well be conceiving the typical inhabitant of the great cities as a kind of hunter-gatherer figure, one better able than suburbanites or farmers to cope with the crack-up of the immensely rigid world system created over the previous few thousand years...
—John Clute

Rats and Gargoyles by Mary Gentle Wizard of the Pigeons by Megan Lindholm Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin There Are Doors by Gene Wolfe


Programming Programming

For details on the confirmed Panels and their participants, author Readings and Interviews, along with details of where special events such as the Mass Autographing, follow the link below to find out when and where they're are taking place. For example, the World Fantasy Awards will be presented Sunday, November 4, following (and in the same room as) the afternoon banquet, which will be held in the York Ballroom A. Seating will begin at 12:30pm and the banquet itself will begin at 1PM.

For complete details...

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