In “Fictional Worlds of the Fantastic,” chapter one of her Possible Worlds of the Fantastic: The Rise of the Paranormal in Fiction, Nancy H. Traill, defining a narrative or drama as “fantastic if. . . [its] fictional world is made up of. . . the natural and the supernatural”; taking a leaf from Raymond Bradley and Norman Swartz in defining “the natural domain as a physically possible world having ‘the same natural laws as does the actual world’”; and defining “the supernatural domain, in contrast” as “a physically impossible world,” posits the existence of five “fictional worlds [or “modes”] of the fantastic”: the “disjunctive,” in which the “supernatural domain” and the “natural domain” coexist separately, if not necessarily equally (or, in her own terms, “the two domains have the status of uncontested, unambiguous fictional ‘facts’”); the “fantasy,” in which “the natural domain is altogether absent or it is a framing device”; the ambiguous, in which the “supernatural domain” may or may not exist (or, in her own terms, “the supernatural domain is constructed as a potentiality, as a shifting ‘as if’ or ‘may be’” and “the narrator, or protagonist-narrator, does not fully authenticate it”); the “supernatural naturalized,” in which the “supernatural domain” of the disjunctive mode is “disauthenticated” (that is, explained or explained away); and the “paranormal mode,” in which the supernatural is subsumed under the label of the (as-yet-unexplained) “natural domain” (or, in her terms, “the supernatural domain is constructed here as it is in the disjunctive mode but is, in the end, disautehnticated when the narrator imparts a natural explanation for the strange events” (8-17). The “genesis” of each of these modes, she says, “is related to a moment in literary history” but “is not tied to that moment, but transcends it” (20). Traill cites various literary works as representatives of these five modes.
Although she does not name the following, these are likely to be more familiar to readers of Chillers and Thrillers: The Fiction of Fear than the examples which Traill lists:
- Disjunctive = J. R. R. Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings
- Fantasy = W. W. Jacobs’ “The Monkey’s Paw”
- Ambiguous = Bram Stoker’s “Dracula’s Guest”
- Supernatural Naturalized = H. G. Wells’ “The Red Room”
- Paranormal = Stephen King’s Carrie