I give up. I've tried trimming and compacting, but it sprawls all the same. So here you go, and I'll try to fill logic potholes in later posts.
The Wikipedia page is a good summary of horror vs. terror. But when I talk about horror fiction (and, I would wager, when most readers who read horror talk about horror fiction “horror” is a portmanteau term for terror, horror, revulsion. (I’m not sure this would apply to horror fans mainly interested in film, though.) While the classic ghost story may be more genteel than a given Stephen King novel, each has a common lineage. So I have less trouble seeing Aickman as a horror writer than you do (or than Aickman did, for that matter); I see Aickman carrying on the tradition of weird/strange/ghost stories descended from Le Fanu, both M. R. and Henry James (more so Henry, though), Edith Wharton and Walter de la Mare, all of whom form a line of descent to the contemporary horror story.
Which brings me to the crux of our disagreement:
I disagree because the basic intent of any good writer is to comment on life, even the writer who says her/his sole reason to write is to entertain; I would agree that with the horror writer whatever his/her other intentions may be, they are likely focused through creating an emotion and/or mood ensuring the comment will be about the darker side of life. But that answer isn’t sufficient because,
[…]Fantasy that uses unicorns and dragons can be of that flavor (as with Lord of the Rings, to take a blindingly obvious example), or it can be something, as you well put it, as prosaic as a suburb, wherein the "magical" elements have no real relation to the heart of the tale and are just there to provide pretty window treatments (so to speak). But that is a distinction between well-crafted and poorly crafted fantasy fiction. With the horror tale, it seems to me that the basic intent of the author is qualitatively different: it is not primarily to comment on Life, The Universe, and Everything, but rather is focused on creating a single emotion and mood
1) If we discuss short fiction, then a lot of short fiction aims at creating, or at least at ending with “a single emotion and mood”, to dismiss that aim would be to dismiss other works that do the same outside of horror, like Frank O’Connor’s “Guests of the Nation” (the final emotion of which comes very close to that of a horror story) or “My Oedipus Complex” (humor).
2) If we’re talking novels, in spite of examples like Frankenstein and Dracula, early horror novels were a bit one-note (probably one reason why most were short). But horror has evolved: I seriously doubt you care much for Stephen King, and there’s plenty to criticize, but his main contribution has been to show that a horror novel can contain, in Faulkner’s terms, “love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice” in various tones, including humor and melancholy, and still leave the reader uneasy (or revolted; apparently King really isn’t proud). Some fine novels have come in his wake, notably from Peter Straub and Ramsey Campbell. Like s.f. and the mystery before it, what is horror has changed over time. It is a more various kind of fiction than it once was.
I’ll grant that writers from an earlier era were in the main trying for an effect. I’d say that of M. R. James, although James’ stories achieve a kind of charm similar to the charm of the Sherlock Holmes stories, whisking us away to another time and place. Other writers expanded the tool kit, especially after Henry James showed that the novella could accomplish “Boo!” and more than “Boo!” but even some writers earlier than James achieved more: As Peter Straub owes Shirley Jackson and Shirley Jackson owed Henry James, James owed Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. Le Fanu, roughly contemporary to Poe, was among the earliest horror writers to fold in psychological observation with his horror stories (for instance, “Green Tea”), and Le Fanu arrived at the beginning of the modern tale of horror. The seeds of the psychological horror story were there from the beginning. (See also, Wieland by Charles Brockden Brown.)
Lovecraft may be closer to what you were thinking: His stated intent was to aim for cosmic awe. But he achieved something more by avoiding Christian symbols and incorporating modern science. Currently, if you’re not reading Caitlin Kiernan, I would say you are missing out on some of the best fantasy written in the last twenty or so years, fantasy with a decided darkness that pulls from horror conventions, especially from the work of Lovecraft and Arthur Machen, and her work frequently slips over into horror.
I’ll partially disagree with this, too: Allowing that much of the material of fantasy and horror overlaps, much of non-horror fantasy leaves us with hope, with an appreciation of how expansive and various are the world, the universe, the possibilities before us. Much of horror leaves us with no hope, with an appreciation of how expansive and various are the world, the universe, the possibilities before us. In the former we are led to revel in the enormousness, in the latter we are invited to collapse in upon ourselves, undone by our inability to encompass it all, and fearful that the vastness is malicious or, perhaps worse, uncaring. I will agree that the palette of horror may be smaller than the palette of fantasy (though I suspect that may depend on the writer), but I strongly disagree that horror can’t be about anything but the emotion. More on this below.
A skilled horror writer can craft a definite feeling of unease and even fear, but that is like a fine brandy compared to a meal: it may be elegant to the taste, but it does not, and cannot by its nature, nourish. (I know, I know, arguing by analogies is a slippery slope).
That is my distinction: the ultimate goal (or nominal goal) of the horror writer as opposed to the fantasy writer; the second is just larger than the first. That does not disparage horror: Heaven knows fine brandy is a wonderful thing. But it does, i feel, provide a reasonable critical tool with which to meaningfully divide "horror" fiction from "fantasy" fiction.
I’d agree this is one area with the most thorough overlap. Another would be Sword & Sorcery, and some of that overlaps with weird.
The "weird"--or "strange stories"--seems to me a category that includes both types, horror and fantasy.
It is a psychological study. So is Jekyll/Hyde, “The Body Snatcher,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “Green Tea,” “Seaton’s Aunt,” “The Turn of the Screw,” The Werewolf of Paris (as well as being social satire), and many other horror mainstays. I do not believe that that disqualifies it from being horror, especially from an author who gave us “The Bus,” “The Summer People,” “One Ordinary Day with Peanuts” and “The Lottery.” Maybe this is a simplistic argument, but do you apply this reasoning to humor? If it makes us laugh, can it be about anything substantive? Both forms of fiction aim at evoking an emotional reaction, both draw on our human experience to prod us toward that reaction.
You correctly point out the "It's good so it can't possibly be horror" trap, but I don't think it's "good" or "bad" that is the distinction. A fantasy, as I use the word, can contain aspects of horror or terror, but it is by its nature larger than that. The Shirley Jackson classic The Haunting of Hill House is well-stocked with horror (actually, as the Wikipedia article on it points out, terror rather than horror), but though commonly called a horror story, the book's focus is not at all on the terror of the supernatural, but rather on the terror of a human psyche that is badly damaged: it is a psychological study, and has a lot, indeed, to say about The Human Condition, and that saying is enabled by the supernatural framing, which is exactly what fantastic fiction ought to be: insights enabled by the fantastic elements.
The way you frame your argument really makes it appear to fall into the trap we discussed before. There are certainly examples of bad horror and bad s.f., but as with s.f. there were counter-examples even at the time those most critical of it were acting as though good and s.f. could not be used in the same sentence. Like s.f., the writing of horror has evolved and grown.
Let’s consider your latest post:
1) I offered a variety of types of fiction that have been considered horror over the last century, a couple are s.f. or s.f.-like, a couple are fantasy, one is more mainstream realism. In all the primary emotional responses to these works are dread and fear, through use of narrative tactics meant to evoke terror and even revulsion. Let me repeat; primary. (Blood Meridian is probably the most debatable, but McCarthy uses the tactics of the bloody horror story to make his points.) Horror is an emotion – or maybe, in the way we usually discuss it, a group of related emotions, and those emotions cut across genre.
2) This discussion isn't big enough, we have to bring in non-fiction, too?!?! Let's not count Killer Clown: The John Wayne Gacy Murders except maybe as a reference work. (*cough*)
3) The Silence of the Lambs I’ve argued elsewhere on this forum is horror. I don’t believe horror fiction needs the supernatural to be horror fiction; reasonable folks like Bob Gray have given me a Bronx cheer, but not changed my mind. My reasoning is that TSotL uses the structure of the Gothic novel, creates scenes out of a Gothic novel, and presents Lector in particular as the larger-than-life bogeyman, implying greater than human abilities and intelligence in the service of evil, in a novel with a primary emotional trajectory toward dread and fear.
My argument is that there is a difference between having a single, sole aesthetic purpose, and having a primary aesthetic purpose. The former will most often hogtie the writing and makes for hobbled and probably irrelevant stories. The latter, used well, is a tool by which the intention makes it on the page, the lens through which the story’s events are focused.
My argument on that point is that when a tale with some element of horror, even a considerable element, does have a substantially wider focus (or goals or however one wants to put it), by that very expansiveness it ceases to be a "horror" tale, even though marketing folk may choose to put it that section of the shelves.
My contention is that J/H and Frankenstein are both. Oh, and Jekyll/Hyde is also a mystery novel, or at least Ellery Queen (half of him, anyway) claimed it was, stating it was the only mystery where the solution was more terrifying than the deeds leading to the solution. Given the structure of the novel, I tend to agree. Some of the most powerful fiction is more than one thing: for instance, one of our favorites The Land of Laughs starts like a mainstream novel using a celebrity's child as main character, moves on to mystery/thriller, transforms into fantasy and ends like a horror novel.
That, I am sure, is a matter--probably the matter--on which we disagree. By that, I say that Jekyll/Hyde, for instance, is a science-fiction story, not a horror story, and the same for Frankenstein and many of the others. But I suspect that we are now circling the drain, and must simply agree to disagree.
So, you’re citing someone who implies there is nothing to exclude a horror story from doing something in addition to inciting fear or dread? Okay, maybe we do agree.
But I might refer to the web site of the Horror Writers Association, specifically to their page "What Is Horror?" One statement there is Its only true requirement is that it elicit an emotional reaction that includes some aspect of fear or dread
And I agree with that statement, but suggest there are writers trying to incite the emotion of horror (terror, fear, etc.) and if that is the primary (though not sole) emotional reaction to a given story, it is reasonable to designate it a horror story.
Another, from a writer of such fiction, is that Horror is not a genre, like the mystery or science fiction or the western. It is not a kind of fiction, meant to be confined to the ghetto of a special shelf in libraries or bookstores. Horror is an emotion.
Last, and finally past slapping Eric’s ears: Blackwater and Blackwater II, a couple more anthologies I own but have yet to finish, are the immediate precursors to The Weird, and are terrific anthologies, wonderful and various, and Manguel’s introductions to the stories are worth the price of admission in and of themselves.