Friday Book Club: Poe and Genre Fiction

SWT-Book-ClubsWelcome back to Friday Book Club!  Hop onto the comments to participate.  Today we’re going to talk about Poe’s legacy – not only in the world of horror, but in science fiction and fantasy.

Let’s start with some tropes that Poe made excellent use of.  He may not have been the first to use these, but he was a very early adopter.  In the genre of horror, he’s influenced – well, everybody, from H.P. Lovecraft to Stephen King.  Here’s a few devices that Poe either introduced or made early, and vivid, use of:

  • Body horror
  • Unreliable narrator
  • Psycho killer narrator (seen later in Hannibal, Dexter, and American psycho)

Edgar Allan Poe as a pioneer of science fiction

Poe was one of the earliest science fiction writers, and influenced Jules Verne in particular.  His story, The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfall (1835) tells of a man who takes a hot air balloon ride to the moon.  He also did several stories that could be considered postapocalyptic, including The Masque of the Red Death, which deals with a plague, and The Conversation of Elros and Charmion.  The latter story tells about a comet that approaches, and eventually hits, Earth.  As the comet comes closer, it burns nitrogen from the atmosphere, which causes people to behave in a succession of extreme ways, until finally the earth is destroyed entirely.

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Murder in the Rue Morgue:  The First Detective Story

If you like mystery, thank Edgar Allan Poe.  In Murder in the Rue Morgue, (1841) he created the first literary detective.  In this and subsequent stories (The Mystery of Marie Roget and The Purloined Letter) he created the following tropes:

  • The detective who solves the case using logic and observation
  • First person narration by a loyal sidekick
  • The locked room mystery
  • The lost object that is hidden in plain sight
  • The detective who is brilliant but eccentric
  • Bumbling police

So – if you like the works of Agatha Christie, or the deductions of Sherlock Holmes, or if you enjoy kicking back with Dexter, or watching sci fi, remember – Poe was there first.

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