All righty, here we go with my first blog post and I know the question everyone is just begging for the answer to is “What do you mean by ‘Welcome to the Weird South’?” and “What is southern weird?”.
…Okay so probably no one was actually asking themselves that question, but I like being nerdy and analytical so bear with me.
Southern weird is my own amalgamation of two previously existing fiction genres (southern gothic and weird fiction) that I feel best describes my book Black Flowers. First, I’m going to describe these two genres and provide some examples of their seminal works, some literary and some not, then tell you how I’ve worked to combine these two genres into something, hopefully, new and unique.
Southern gothic fiction is a subgenre of the larger category of gothic fiction, which I imagine most people are probably somewhat familiar with already. Gothic fiction is the literary genre that later evolved into horror, but was originally far more subtle and populated with mostly upper-class, Victorian folks. The timeless classics Frankenstein, Dracula, and the majority of things written by the goth-father himself Edgar Allan Poe are all good examples of your standard gothic fare.
Southern gothic is similar to those works in atmosphere and darkness of tone, but takes place specifically in the American South. The setting, instead of simply being a backdrop for the stories like in traditional gothic, is essential to the messages, characters, and values discussed in southern gothic works. It is thought that the reason Southern literature took this turn towards the “dark side” was due to its loss of the Civil War. The Civil War left the Southern economy in shambles, since it had formerly rested on the backs of the unpaid workforce of slaves, and many Southerners were dragged kicking and screaming into a new way of life, one where they were forced to face their sins of enslaving their fellow human beings when they should’ve treated them as equals, you know, as originally stated in the Constitution.
Anyways, this new moral territory for many Southerners eventually led to some classic works of literature, such as Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, William Faulkner’s “A Rose For Emily” and “Barn Burning,” and Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard To Find.” Many southern gothic works dealt with the lingering racism in the South and typically had strange or unusual misfits as their main characters often used as a way to reevaluate what should or could be considered “good” or “normal.”
Some more modern, non-literary examples of the southern gothic are HBO’s vampire drama True Blood or their crime anthology series True Detective, (especially season one and season three).
While True Blood is a good example of the supernatural side of the southern gothic genre True Detective, and no I don’t know why HBO is prone to naming their stuff True this or True that either, is a good example of the more grounded, realistic side of the genre, only hinting here and there at the possibility of something supernatural occurring.
True Detective also serves as a good segue into the next part of this explanation of the southern weird, which I will continue in part two next week when I delve into weird fiction . . .