Monday, November 16, 2009

CSFF Blog Tour Day 2 - Curse of the Spider King - A Few Words on Genres.

First, a warning, in today's post spoilers will be present.

Day 2: Curse of the Spider King: A word on Genres

This is going to be, by far, my most boring post in this tour, here I'm just dissecting a bit of the genre-blending that Curse of the Spider King contains, or at the very least, seems to:

Genre One: Curse of the Spider King as Gothic horror.
Curse of the Spider King has several elements that one might find in a typical work of Gothic fiction. From old ruined castles to skeleton-like ghoulish creatures to spiders, to darkness, to the fear of the unknown or the familiar being made frightening.

Frightening creatures galore. You have the Drefids. Ghoulish monsters with knifelike hands. They are nothing hpwever to the horrific Wisp, with the Wisp it is their familiarity that makes them so terrifying. They take the form of people you know or someone you trust, they could be anyone, and then attempt, usually, to kill you. Another familiar horror is these trees. They kill. These forces of darkness are far more terrifying then I'm accustomed to seeing except for in books that have Gothic horror as an influence. It may not have ghost, but the wisp are pretty close and yes, ghostly, they can go through places you wouldn't expect, vanishing, and more importantly they seem to like taking the form of dead people more often then not. The Drefid have skeleton or ghoul like features, empty eyes that see with a glowing ember, inhuman strength, and they have a projection of fear. Then there is the spiders. Great big spiders and The Cragons, black-hearted killer trees in alliance with the Spider King.

Speaking of the Spider King, he remains offstage, and is thus more terrifying. Like Sauron he's just in the background and is all the more terrifying for it. Will he remain offstage in Venom and Song? I don't know, but I suspect he'll make an appearance or two.

This is without mentioning the scene in the old abandoned psychiatric hospital. You could hardly ask for a better Gothic horror setting except the old castle ruins where the battle at the end of the books takes place. I don't know if it was intentional, but the ghostly wisp, skeleton-like Drefid, and spiders are all what I would expect to find in a horror novel. Particularly in the Gothic tradition. A strong resemblance at any rate does exist to that genre. Somewhere between the tales of Poe and Lovecraft there is this genre of horror that the Curse of the Spider King certainly taps into.

Genre Two: Curse of the Spider King as Science-Fiction.
Not really a lot there, but it does have a few minor Science-Fiction aspects. The existence of more then one world, portals between worlds, and the fact that in a sense, though perhaps not entirely, the Elves are aliens. While it doesn't seem to have a lot of emphasis on a human made dystophian future there is the scene near the end of the book where some humans become aware of the existence of another world, and it is hinted that there will be consequences of that.

Genre Three: Curse of the Spider King as Fantasy.
Elves, portals, special supernatural abilities, ancient curses, giant spiders? This is fantasy. Lovely, wonderful, fantasy. Magic flowing untamed and wild through the pages of the book, and as expected there is a story within the story. The lessons are taught through the use of the symbol rather then the use of direct teaching or even allegory. While I do not have suspicions that it was built upon the scaffolding of literary alchemy like you might find with Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter, but it does have the transforming power that this, most sacred of the fictional genres holds. I mention this one last, but doesn't mean it's the least present. It is probably the most present genre in the book. In fact I would say that Fantasy is the scaffolding that surrounds and supports the entire book and that the other genres are woven throughout.

Fantasy has many sub-genres, but Curse of the Spider King appears to me to be what is known as wainscot, a subcreation or society hiding within our own world. In one book of mine Travis Prinzi says:

"J.K. Rowling puts the two worlds very close - in fact, her subcreation is hiding right underneath the primary world. Harry Potter, then, is a wainscot fantasy, because the Wizarding World is a "wainscot society" (Clute 911). Wainscot societies are "invisible and undetected societies living in the interstices of of the dominant world" (911). That's a good description of Rowling's subcreation." (Page 26, Harry Potter & Imagination - The Way Between Two Worlds, Travis Prinzi, Zossima Press, 2009)

It was this sub-genre that I was reminded of by the notion of a bunch of Elves hidden in amongst the Earth, in many ways a fantasy world that is hidden amongst our own.

Of course there are other fantasy sub-genres that make up the book and it isn't tied to that particular one, but that is what I was reminded of when I read it.

There are, naturally, other genres woven throughout with the ones I mentioned above, including mystery, tragedy, and comedy, but I'm not quite familiar with those genres to do more then recognize their presence, and in some cases I don't recognize it at all, even if it's there.

Tomorrow I'll be posting something a little different then I originally planed, it is still what I was going to do, but I am unable to post it in it's entirety as of yet. Therefore I'll be posting the entire thing over the next couple of weeks, but the first part of it tomorrow.

Curse of the Spider King - Link

Wayne Thomas Batson’s blog -

Christopher Hopper’s Web site -

The Berinfell Prophecies Web site -

Participants’ Links:

Brandon Barr

Justin Boyer

Amy Browning

Valerie Comer

Amy Cruson

CSFF Blog Tour

Stacey Dale

D. G. D. Davidson

Shane Deal

Jeff Draper

Emmalyn Edwards

April Erwin

Karina Fabian

Todd Michael Greene

Ryan Heart

Timothy Hicks

Becky Jesse

Cris Jesse

Jason Joyner


Carol Keen

Krystine Kercher

Tina Kulesa

Melissa Lockcuff

Rebecca LuElla Miller



John W. Otte

Cara Powers

Chawna Schroeder

James Somers

Speculative Faith

Robert Treskillard

Fred Warren

Jason Waguespac

Phyllis Wheeler

Jill Williamson

KM Wilsher


WayneThomasBatson said...

Very cool analysis, Shane. I esp. love the gothic horror passages. Funny, I never really thought about it, but you're right.

KM Wilsher said...

Nice, Shane, loved your breakdown

Cara Powers said...

This was not the most boring review I've read. I hadn't heard of the "wainscot" sub-genre. I'm glad to know it has a name.

S. J. Deal said...

Thanks Wayne. I had been already studying that particular genre when I read the book for review, I was surprised how much of it fit.

KM WilsherL Thanks. :-)

Cara: Thanks, I didn't really hear about it until just recently, I was listening to a talk on Fantasy and it was mentioned in passing, then I found it in the book I quoted. I thought it fit quite well with Wayne and Christopher's book.


Fred Warren said...

Any day my vocabulary expands is a good day. Nice discussion, Shane!

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

I thought of the horror parts, too, but didn't think of the entire story fitting into that genre. I did wonder what a 13-year-old would think. Too scary? Just right? Or, we've seen it all before. For me, it was just right.


S. J. Deal said...

Thanks for the comments:

Fred: That is always a good day for anyone.

Becky: I would say more it has elements of more then one genre as far as the whole story goes, with fantasy as the one that ties it all together.