Abhuman, distinguished from inhuman, is a term used by William Hope Hodgson in his novel The Night Land and his Carnacki stories. 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.
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, such as a vampire or werewolf. 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."
Creation of concept
Hurley says that she created the "concept of the abhuman...on the basis of Kristeva's notion of abjection." Hurley argues "that through depicting the abhuman," the Gothic genre "reaffirms and reconstructs human identity at the point at which it is dissolved."
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..."
In popular culture
In the Warhammer 40,000 games and related media, "Abhuman" is used to refer to visibly mutated descendants of humans, including:
- Ratlings, based on hobbits
- Ogryns, based on ogres
- Beastmen, based on minotaurs, satyrs, and similar half-human, half-animal creatures (restored to canon as of 6th Edition)
- Squats, based on dwarves (restored to canon as of 6th Edition)
- Claire Valier, Crime and Punishment in Contemporary Culture page 121 (Routledge, 2004), .
- Kelly Hurley, The Gothic Body: Sexuality, Materialism, and Degeneration at the Fin de Siècle (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 168.
- Roger Luckhurst, The Invention of Telepathy: 1870-1901 page 188 (Oxford University Press, 2002).
- Jerrold E. Hogle, The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction page 190 (Cambridge University Press, 2002).
- Peter Day, Vampires: Myths and Metaphors of Enduring Evil page 22 (Rodopi, 2006).
- Chantal Bourgault Du Coudray, The Curse of the Werewolf: Fantasy, Horror and the Beast Within page 132 (I.B.Tauris, 2006).
- 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).
- Konstanze Kutzbach and Monika Mueller, The Abject of Desire: The Aestheticization of the Unaesthetic in Contemporary Literature and Culture page 153 (Rodopi, 2007).
- Ian Conrich and David Woods, The Cinema of John Carpenter: The Technique of Terror page 84 (Wallflower Press, 2005).
- Allan Lloyd Smith, American Gothic Fiction: An Introduction page 114 (Continuum International Publishing Group, 2004).
- 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?)