Here’s one of the excellent panels being presented at Readercon this year:

Down There in the Gutter: The Fiction of the Unpleasant. In a recent online essay, Peter Straub argues that the only difference between the best horror and “literary” fiction is that the former acknowledges that life is dominated by unpleasantness, by “crappy, low-rent feeling states.” But in making this argument he mentions neither fear nor disgust (the staples of genre horror) but shame, loss, envy, panic, greed, insecurity, and loneliness. There’s no question that we are oddly hardwired to enjoy fear when we intellectually recognize that there is no actual threat. There is, however, much less of a case to be made for the vicarious enjoyment of the other emotional states that Straub lists, so it is harder to see them functioning in a story the same way fear does in genre horror. Is Straub here in fact defining a new literary sub-genre entirely, one that just happens to include (but is hardly limited to) the best of horror? If so, can we trace the history of this secret genre and its influence on and interaction with more conventional literary fiction?