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Weird Peril

August 23, 2006

weird peril: The dread that comes from the possibility of a work’s imminent failure to fulfill expectations, continue excellence or achieve its artistic goals, especially in genre fiction (across all media). Also, a sensation that occurs in writers and informed genre fans while partaking of a work from within an area of their expertise. While experiencing weird peril, the audience gets a psychological rush of meta-jeopardy that comes from doubting the ability of the creator or the work itself to succeed, rather than doubting the success of the protagonists depicted in the work.

Through weird peril, a reader may feel palpable fear that the writer is not going to “pull it off” and will instead “cop out” at the tale’s climax, perhaps relying on deus ex machina or a cliched rescue to let the protagonist(s) “off the hook.” Alternately, a viewer may experience weird peril during a favorite episode of a television series he fears will “jump the shark” at any moment. (see Lost)

Weird peril is similar to meta-suspense, but more immediate. Whereas meta-suspense is the broader effect that occurs between artistic works (e.g., the meta-suspense that the follow-up to a favorite album will be shit), weird peril occurs while the work is being read or viewed.

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