I’ve got all your gay goths right here. These are all the gay gothics I’d like to read and I also would like to discuss some conversations the community has been discussing lately. What is A Gothic?
This discussion all surrounded a gothic norror novel: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. A lot of readers are confused by the definition of Gothic. At one point some booktubers also seemed to be generally befuddled at whether Moreno-Garcia’s book is a gothic romance. Just an acknowledgment but I have not read Mexican Gothic yet but I do know Gothics and what defines it. This is not about Mexican Gothic but rather a discussion on what defines genre. It is important not to write reviews based on your perception of gothic vs what Gothic actually is defined as.
First of all. The question.
Gothic fiction is a subgenre of Gothic Horror, a genre dating back to the 18th century and combining horror, death, and romance. Gothic fiction, started later in the 18th century, takes on passion and dread, decaying architecture and medieval castles, grim cemeteries and southern mansions, ghosts and madness, blood and death. Gothic is emotional and all about the pleasure and sins of the world but alway the setting is key.
The word Goth comes from the germanic architecture of medieval Europe. If anything the old white colonizers were creepy.
Gothic has spread its roots to new found literary traditions such as Maori Gothic, American Gothic, Southern Gothic, and Postcolonial Gothic, which features landscapes from a violent colonial past. Hence the deeper meaning of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s title: Mexican Gothic.
Remember that Gothic is not exlcusive to privileged colonizers. It does not have to include a setting in Europe or in the U.S. This is what Moreno-Garcia has said she wanted to do with her own gothic. To redefine people’s U.S./UK viewpoints about the Gothic. Just giving it that title is a slap in the face for anyone trying to make it exclusive to U.S./UK settings.
The early gothic includes works like Frankenstein, Dracula and the Raven. Those bleak settings and foggy moors and old rotting colonial structures are overwhelmed by the modern world, where characters are drawn into a plot of torment, depression, and anxiety. The book is macabre and gruesome.
Lets talk about the romance connection to gothic literature.
The Gothic came after Romantic literature. Romantic is not the same as a romance, as in the genre. Literary definitions do not always equal genre. It is not a romance story in the sense that they fall in love. It is romantic in the settings, tones and moods of the novel, referring to the heroics and high drama of the novel. Romantics often deals with passion and heroics. The Gothic aspect of a novel is more deadly, sinister, supernatural, and destructive. However, Gothic and Romantics can occur in both to the extent that there is a subgenre named gothic romance (not to be confused as a subgenre of the romance genre).
What people often think about Gothic is not actually IT. It is very broad with many different categories and crossovers. So if you are expecting every Gothic to look like Dracula or the Haunting of Hill House than you don’t understand Gothic. If you think a Gothic Romance is going to have a HEA you don’t understand what Gothic means. If you think it’s going to be gory or bloody in every one? Again. Gothic is such a wide definition that stems from literary traditions. Gothic is not another word for Horror.
Now that is Gothic. Lets talk about the gays. Gothic is very gay. Lets talk about how gay Dracula is okay? He sleeps in a coffin during the day and then comes out at night. Really…really gay.
The whole of the Gothic subgenre explores sexual transgressions of the 18th and 19th centuries. So of course many of the books deal with queerness in a time period known for suppressing queer people. Oscar Wilde for example.
Speaking of Oscar Wilde, I’d like to talk about some of these gay goths I’d like to read.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Dorian Gray is most famous for this novel and also for being arrested for being in consensual gay relationships. The Picture of Dorian Gray is a gothic interpretation of Faust. Dorian Gray is a beautiful man and sells his soul to prevent his flawlessness from fading. However as he galavants and parties, the painting displays his age and sins. British reviewers called the novel decadent and homosexual and not in a positive sense. I need to read it immediately.
The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab
Like Mr. Wilde, Madam Schwab wrote her own very Faustian and very gay gothic. The characters, Addie Larue and Henry Strauss, are very romantic and very goth about their bisexuality.et in France during the 17th century, Addie makes a deal with the devil to escape her marriage. The price is she is invisible from memory. It sounds magically gay.
Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth
In a cursed New England boarding school for girls, two girls are obsessed with each other in the year of 1902. Yup that’s gay.
They start The Plain Bad Heroine Society. The girls bodies are then discovered with a copy of a book splayed beside them. A century later, a new writer celebrates the queer and cursed institution. This book just strikes me as deadly and hauntingly sapphic.
The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez
This is a sexy gay gothic vampire novel. Set in 1850 Louisiana, Gilda escapes slavery and works in a brothel. With two women, she ‘shares the blood’ and becomes eternal. Published in 1991, it is groundbreaking in its exploration of Blackness and Queerness.
We don’t often discuss how Gothics veer into not just the privileged centuries old castles of England and the haunted manors of New England but of the lushness and atmopheric dramatics of the author’s writing makes the novel gothic. Black authors’ work doesn’t often get to be seen and recognized as gothic, especially one that deals with racism and queerness. I would love to venture into this book and see what it does with gothics, specifically of the vampire/supernal set.
Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
Some more gay gothic vampires for me. A gothic horror published in 1872 (and predates Bram Stoker’s Dracula), a woman is preyed upon by Carmilla, a romantically gay vampire. Vampires are best when gay.
White Is For Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
A family and a house mourns the loss of a family member, Lily. Creaks in the house, winter apples in the garden, women inhabiting the houses walls. On a dark night, Miranda vanishes. The Silver house is a racist and xenophobic house haunting generations of women living within its walls. White Is For Witching directly addresses the hatred POC in the UK experience and uses gothic horror as the medium. It’s a gothic with queer ladies. Adds to cart.