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Abhuman, distinguished from inhuman, is a term used by William Hope Hodgson in his novel The Night Land and his Carnacki stories.[1][2][3] Similar concepts, although not the term itself, also appear in the works of Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, and Bram Stoker among other notable modernist American and British authors.[4]


In Literary Studies of Gothic fiction, abhuman refers to a "Gothic body" or something that is only vestigially human and possibly in the process of becoming something monstrous,[4] such as a vampire[5] or werewolf.[6] Kelly Hurley writes that the "abhuman subject is a not-quite-human subject, characterized by its morphic variability, continually in danger of becoming not-itself, becoming other."[7]

Creation of concept[edit]

Hurley says that she created the "concept of the abhuman...on the basis of Kristeva's notion of abjection."[8] Hurley argues "that through depicting the abhuman," the Gothic genre "reaffirms and reconstructs human identity at the point at which it is dissolved."[9]

Allan Lloyd Smith writes that among "the sources of abhuman Gothic horror for many writers at this time were the urban squalor and misery of overcrowded cities..."[10]

Contemporary Usage[edit]

Neal Asher describes humans possessed by hostile "Jain" technology as "abhuman figures" in his science fiction novel Polity Agent.[11]

In popular culture[edit]

In the Warhammer 40,000 games and related media, "Abhuman" is used to refer to visibly mutated descendants of humans, including:


  1. ^ Claire Valier, Crime and Punishment in Contemporary Culture page 121 (Routledge, 2004), .
  2. ^ Kelly Hurley, The Gothic Body: Sexuality, Materialism, and Degeneration at the Fin de Siècle (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 168.
  3. ^ Roger Luckhurst, The Invention of Telepathy: 1870-1901 page 188 (Oxford University Press, 2002).
  4. ^ a b Jerrold E. Hogle, The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction page 190 (Cambridge University Press, 2002).
  5. ^ Peter Day, Vampires: Myths and Metaphors of Enduring Evil page 22 (Rodopi, 2006).
  6. ^ Chantal Bourgault Du Coudray, The Curse of the Werewolf: Fantasy, Horror and the Beast Within page 132 (I.B.Tauris, 2006).
  7. ^ Kelly Hurley, The Gothic Body: Sexuality, Materialism, and Degeneration at the Fin de Siècle (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 3. This quotation also appears in Robert Eaglestone, Reading The Lord of the Rings: New Writings on Tolkien's Classic page 55 (Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006).
  8. ^ Konstanze Kutzbach and Monika Mueller, The Abject of Desire: The Aestheticization of the Unaesthetic in Contemporary Literature and Culture page 153 (Rodopi, 2007).
  9. ^ Ian Conrich and David Woods, The Cinema of John Carpenter: The Technique of Terror page 84 (Wallflower Press, 2005).
  10. ^ Allan Lloyd Smith, American Gothic Fiction: An Introduction page 114 (Continuum International Publishing Group, 2004).
  11. ^ Polity Agent by Neal Asher, Chapter 12 (page references unreliable in eBook version), Tor, 2009, iBooks edition: ISBN 978-0-330-46536-6 (Adobe Digital Editions format?)