Supernatural fiction

Supernatural fiction or supernaturalist fiction[1] is a genre of speculative fiction that exploits or is centered around supernatural themes, often violating naturalist assumptions of the real world.

Description and types

In its broadest definition, supernatural fiction overlaps with examples of weird fiction, horror fiction, vampire literature, ghost story, and fantasy. Elements of supernatural fiction can be found in writing from the genre of science fiction. Amongst academics, readers and collectors, however, supernatural fiction is often classed as a discrete genre defined by the elimination of "horror", "fantasy", and elements important to other genres.[1] The one genre supernatural fiction appears to embrace in its entirety is the traditional ghost story.[2]

In the twentieth century, supernatural fiction became associated with psychological fiction. The result is that the supernatural is only one possible explanation for what has been described. A classic example of this would be The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, which offers both a supernatural and a psychological interpretation of the events described. The ambiguity is considered to add to the effect.[3] A similar example is Charlotte Perkins Gilman's story "The Yellow Wallpaper".

Occult detective fiction combines the tropes of supernatural fiction with those of detective fiction.

Supernatural fiction and drama has supernatural elements blended into a story about the characters internal conflict and/or a dramatic conflict between the protagonist, human and/or supernatural world, society and between groups.


  1. Cavaliero, Glen (1995). The Supernatural and English Fiction. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
  2. Wilson, Neil (2000). Shadows in the Attic: A Guide to British Supernatural Fiction, 1820–1950. London: The British Library.
  3. Bleiler, Everett F. (1983). The Guide to Supernatural Fiction. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press. pp. 277–278.

Further reading

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