“I don’t think you can distinguish science fiction, fantasy and horror with any rigour, as the writers around the magazine Weird Tales early in the last century (Lovecraft in particular) illustrated most sharply. So I use the term ‘weird fiction’ for all fantastic literature – fantasy, SF, horror and all the stuff that won’t fit neatly into slots. Any list of favourites is subject to regular rapid change, of course, so what’s here is just a fast-frozen moment.”
In no particular order…
1. The Course of the Heart by M John Harrison
A towering genius of modern fiction. That he’s not won the Booker proves the bankruptcy and back-slapping generic snobbery of the literary establishment. I nearly chose his seminal Viriconium sequence, but this unforgiving story of gnosticism and loneliness worries and worries at me like a dog, so I gave in and picked it, scared.
2. Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake
The trilogy, not just the second volume, of course. Somehow this manages to be both rich and austere at the same time – the sense is of vastness, but of unbearable claustrophobia, too. The egregious BBC adaptation turned it into an Augustan costume romp and stripped out all the shadows and all the dust. Philistines.
3. Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
Not very original to choose an Alice book, but they loom so large in my head it would have been a lie not to. Both are magnificent, but this is the darker and stranger.