Tag Archives: Gothic

The Gothic Tradition

22 Jul

The Gothic tradition has been with us for over two hundred years, and is most strongly identified with the works of Horace Walpole and Ann Radcliffe, which are full of heroes and heroines menaced by feudal villains amid crumbling ruins. While the repertoire of claustrophobic settings, gloomy themes, and threatening atmosphere established the Gothic genre, later writers from Poe onwards achieved an ever greater sophistication, and a shift in emphasis from cruelty to decadence. Modern Gothic is distinguished by its imaginative variety of voice, from the chilling depiction of a disordered mind to the sinister suggestion of vampirism. While writers such as Le Fanu, Hawthorne, Hardy, Faulkner and Borges are the earliest literary exponents of the form, the central role of female writers from Anna Laetitia Aikin to Isabel Allende and Angela Carter in its development should also be emphasised. While the Gothic tale shares some characteristics with the ghost story and tales of horror and fantasy, it also boasts a number of distinctive features that define this powerful and unsettling literary form.

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Ghost Writers

6 Jan

Tales of mystery and the supernatural hold an almost endless fascination for me, as all regular readers of this blog will be well aware. I remember that the first ‘grown up’ ghost stories that I read were in an anthology named Ghost Breakers that I picked up in the library at my old primary school. This volume had been cunningly packaged to appeal to younger readers and I must admit that, as a child who had grown up in the 1980s, it was mainly my interest in Ghostbusters (and perhaps the hope that the anthology was somehow related) that led me to pick it up. My initial disappointment that the tome had nothing to do with the aforementioned Hollywood blockbuster faded rapidly when I was sucked completely into a world of haunted mansions, ancient curses and restless spectres. I finished the half dozen or so supernatural tales in the Ghost Breakers anthology in the space of a week and immediately afterwards sought out more of the same – a process which has absorbed me ever since and which indeed goes on to this day. Although my initial attraction was to the old-fashioned (that is ‘Victorian’ as opposed to modern) ghost story, it was not long before my interests widened. I looked to the past for the Classical, Medieval and Gothic predecessors to the Victorian ghost story as well as to the present for the modern horror fiction that was inspired by these traditional tales of the supernatural. I grew fascinated by the continuity I saw in hundreds of years of story-telling – the linked themes, the literary techniques and the recurring settings. I also noted the differences, how each generation adapted the ghost story to its tastes, adding something new to continually refresh and expand the genre. I became familiar with the founders and foremost exponents of the ghost story form, from its misty beginnings in antiquity to those pushing its boundaries in the modern age. Most of all I became determined that the short ghostly tale should remain alive and well. I wanted future generations to enjoy the stories that I had grown up with and also, for those (like me) who feel so inspired, to add to the corpus of supernatural fiction. It was this desire that led me to write my own  ghost stories and create this website, where I’ve so far talked about ghost stories and their writers in a somewhat haphazard manner. To provide some context, I thought that it might be useful at this stage to say something about the evolution of the ghost story from its very beginnings to the present day.

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Galveston: The Eternal Carnival

18 Sep

It feels odd to be saying that a book which, not so long ago, won the World Fantasy Award is little known, but unfortunately that seems to be the case with Sean Stewart’s Galveston (I was amazed to see that Amazon does not even have a review of this book on its UK website!).

Galveston is a real town in Texas, described in the book as a ‘thin ribbon of sand’ not far from the Gulf of Mexico. Due to its position it has always been vulnerable to the elements and in 1900 it was hit by a Katrina-sized hurricane which basically obliterated everything in its path, leaving no structures standing and one-sixth of the population dead. Galveston the book imagines a time in the near future when the town is drowned not by water but by magic, when reason and rationality are washed away to be replaced by gods, ghosts and monsters in a bizarre and deadly Mardi Gras. This cataclysm, called the Flood, basically splits Galveston in two, with one half of the town trying to carry on their lives as normal while the other half is trapped in an endless carnival ruled by the malevolent entity known as Momus, who is part clown and part devil – a sort of psychotic version of the Greek god of mockery from whom he takes his name. Life away from Momus is not much better since the ‘free’ half of Galveston is overrun by dangerous and unpredictable ‘Krewes’ (basically gangs, but run by criminals who love dressing up in carnival gear). Eventually someone decides to take on both Momus and the Krewes and that’s when the fun really begins! Continue reading

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