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Is Gothic literature dead?
#1
I read a comment Desdemona made and I wondered, Is the Gothic genre dead?

It's true that it's difficult to find "Gothic" on the spine label these days. As others have pointed out, it might be due to the fear that the book might not sell if it was associated with the trash labelled "Gothic" back in the days when they were overabundant. However, I hoped that the true Gothic lovers would provide the demand for good, well-written Gothics. I'm waiting to see gothic romances become a definite genre again.
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#2
Gothics are masquerading as romantic suspense and supernatural romance at present. If you're looking for books with romance, life-threatening suspense, and some sort of puzzle or mystery (if that's your definition of a gothic), you'll find them in these categories, though most of them have present-day settings. The historical gothics that are set in mansions and castles are rare, but occasionally a few get published, mostly with spine labels of "Historical Romance." You have to read the book descriptions carefully to find these. I doubt very much that the historical gothic will have a resurgence in popularity. I've been waiting over 35 years for it to regain popularity. I don't foresee current or later generations seeking its revival, as most of them don't read well, if at all, and if they do read, they are too grounded in the present and are looking toward the future, rather than the past. I predict that books will eventually be replaced by movies entirely, as few people will have time or inclination in the future to spend that much time reading. Note the trend toward graphic novels. I think that's a step in that direction, also.
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#3
GothicLover Wrote:The historical gothics that are set in mansions and castles are rare, but occasionally a few get published, mostly with spine labels of "Historical Romance." You have to read the book descriptions carefully to find these. I doubt very much that the historical gothic will have a resurgence in popularity. I've been waiting over 35 years for it to regain popularity. I don't foresee current or later generations seeking its revival, as most of them don't read well, if at all, and if they do read, they are too grounded in the present and are looking toward the future, rather than the past.

I find that very depressing, because those are my favorites. I've been waiting as well, though no where near as long. In the meantime, I've been trying to read other romantic suspense/gothic novels. Since you have been reading longer, I would appreciate any recommendations for historical gothics that you have read and enjoyed. I started a thread on it, but have had few suggestions.

Part of the fun in reading fiction is the suspension of reality. If all you want is the present or future, you don't get to suspend some of that reality. Everything present in today's world would be represented in the book somehow. Just as a small example, I enjoy reading the older mysteries because they didn't have the modern day gadgets that, to me, lessen the intensity of suspense. They may increase action but when information is transmitted so rapidly, the angst of not knowing is lost.
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#4
paigenumber Wrote:As others have pointed out, it might be due to the fear that the book might not sell if it was associated with the trash labelled "Gothic" back in the days when they were overabundant. However, I hoped that the true Gothic lovers would provide the demand for good, well-written Gothics. I'm waiting to see gothic romances become a definite genre again.

I think that Gothic romances as a genre have morphed into paranormal romance or romantic suspense. At the risk of being controversial, I would say that part of the problem with the marketability of the traditional Gothic is the portrayal of women. The traditional Gothic heroine is the naive, virginal young woman who falls in love with the dominant, older alpha male. The independent woman is usually the villain who went crazy or the oversexed villain who is morally corrupt.

There are exceptions of course. I find that Jane Eyre is far more relevant to me in this century than the narrator in Rebecca, even though Rebecca's narrator is the one who could actually vote. But I think that the traditional Gothic would have to reinvent itself for a reading audience that wants a more proactive, independent, confident woman (of any age!) who takes action instead of being acted upon.

Just my honest opinion.
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#5
In reply to Desdemona's take on the appeal of the traditional gothic heroine in historical gothics: One of the things I find appealing about these heroines IS their virginal innocence and their being swept away romantically by a powerful older "prince charming." It is fun and romantic to identify with that kind of heroine and be vicariously swept away. We were all virgins once upon a time. This experience takes us back to that time of relative innocence, and the historical setting, sense of isolation (no fast transport, internet, or cell phones), and the gentility of society at that time lends a sense of elegance, order, and propriety to the situation, in sharp contrast to today's world. Although I am an independent, self-sufficient woman of today, I find the past to be much simpler and slower paced than life is now. I agree with Fallover about this appeal of the historical settings.

In response to Fallover's request for recommended historical gothics, you might scan the book lists of recommended reads at GothicJournal.com. Those that are flagged "(gothic)" and do not have an asterisk by the book title are traditional historical gothics. These book lists go back about 10 years. As far as which authors I'd recommend, I personally love Jill Tattersall, Victoria Holt, and Dorothy Eden. I recently read Night's Dark Secrets by Margaret Campbell (Gabrielle Margaret Long), which was very well written and had oodles of interesting historical details. I've just received an order of 4 of her books written under the pseudonym Joseph Shearing, which I'm eager to delve into.
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#6
You have quite a list on your site, GothicLover. I take it you read other romances as well, because some of the books you listed were by authors I generally regard as writers of romances, whether contemporary or historical. To add to those lists, I would say that Amanda Quick (aka Jayne Ann Krentz) has some regency romances that could fall under Gothic. Sometimes I wonder if she tries to write Gothic novels but is afraid of labelling it as such; therefore, she tries to use the regency formula.

I'm convinced there must be other lovers of gothic fiction out there. It's unfortunate we do not hear much from them. Yes, many people's reading tastes are more for the modern, contemporary stories, but I think that some of that stems from embarrassment from having read some of the previous trash. I admit to being one from that class. I wish there was some way we can influence writers and publishers to produce more traditional historical gothics. I don't want the same formula over and over again, but there must be another Victoria Holt in the making.
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#7
MysteryMind Wrote:You have quite a list on your site, GothicLover. I take it you read other romances as well, because some of the books you listed were by authors I generally regard as writers of romances, whether contemporary or historical. To add to those lists, I would say that Amanda Quick (aka Jayne Ann Krentz) has some regency romances that could fall under Gothic. Sometimes I wonder if she tries to write Gothic novels but is afraid of labelling it as such; therefore, she tries to use the regency formula.

I'm convinced there must be other lovers of gothic fiction out there. It's unfortunate we do not hear much from them. Yes, many people's reading tastes are more for the modern, contemporary stories, but I think that some of that stems from embarrassment from having read some of the previous trash. I admit to being one from that class. I wish there was some way we can influence writers and publishers to produce more traditional historical gothics. I don't want the same formula over and over again, but there must be another Victoria Holt in the making.

Did I say that GothicJournal.com was "my site"? You must be making an assumption. I do know that all the books listed there contain all three ingredients of romance, life-threatening suspense, and a puzzle or mystery, as it states at the top of the book list pages. Some of Amanda Quick's books are on these lists, though I believe she has written many that are more romantic adventure or romantic mystery than true gothics.

Regarding the other gothic lovers out there, I agree they are there and craving more historical gothics, but I suspect that many of them are computer illiterate, being older women who didn't grow up using computers and never chose to learn how to use them. The publishers are not targeting their marketing or choice of manuscripts to reach this group of women. I suppose the publishers figure they are computer disconnected and will not hear about new titles that way (which is largely how books are marketed these days--the days of booksellers hand-selling titles is sadly long gone) , and they are going to die sooner than younger generations. The publishers are always looking for the biggest market share, and we have to face the fact that we're not included in it.

Romance Writers of America has a gothic authors' chapter called GothRom that is comprised of gothic novel authors, so there is a desire to write gothics among romance authors. Unfortunately, publication of those type of manuscripts is a hard sell. Some inroads are being made in the electronic publishing arena, where up front costs are lower because e-books can be printed/downloaded on demand to smaller audiences.
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#8
GothicLover Wrote:Did I say that GothicJournal.com was "my site"? You must be making an assumption. I do know that all the books listed there contain all three ingredients of romance, life-threatening suspense, and a puzzle or mystery, as it states at the top of the book list pages. Some of Amanda Quick's books are on these lists, though I believe she has written many that are more romantic adventure or romantic mystery than true gothics.

Sorry, GothicLover. I did make an assumption just because you understood the notation.
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#9
I, for one, would welcome a return of historical Gothics. I agree with what GothicLover says regarding the simpler, more innocent way of life. In addition, the Gothics written in the first half of the 20th century retain some of that innocence and simplicity. I definitely enjoy reading those and am constantly on the look-out for them. I have read more modern romantic suspense and while enjoying some, they do tend to focus more on sex than romance.
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#10
paigenumber Wrote:I, for one, would welcome a return of historical Gothics. I agree with what GothicLover says regarding the simpler, more innocent way of life. In addition, the Gothics written in the first half of the 20th century retain some of that innocence and simplicity. I definitely enjoy reading those and am constantly on the look-out for them. I have read more modern romantic suspense and while enjoying some, they do tend to focus more on sex than romance.

I guess I'm the holdout. I like the history and the atmosphere of gothic romances, but I would rather see a redefinition of the female heroine. I think that will be necessary for today's market. Yes, there is still a demand, but enough to reestablish a genre? I just don't think so.

Oh, and a strong female heroine does not automatically mean she has to be having sex all the time. But in my opinion, she should be either smart, brave, independent, or resourceful. Or, if she is not, I'd like to see her make that journey in the book so I can take the vicarious journey with her.

Perhaps it's because I'm in my thirties and came of age in the eighties, but I don't yearn for innocence and simplicity in my books because I don't believe the world was ever really like that. But, I don't want to start an argument about all this and I think I'll exit the thread with this comment. I just wanted to present a different opinion (which is entirely my own.)
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