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Are contemporary Gothics possible?
#1
Period settings are a big part of the attraction to this genre for many of us.  But I've noticed that a few publishers seem to be (timidly) putting out what they're calling "Gothic" fiction (more romance -- or barely disguised erotica -- than suspense, from what I observe) while insisting on modern/current settings.  This seems misguided and backward to me -- or I should say personally problematic since many of the elements of a Gothic story that appeal to me are antithetical to the present time and world we live in (I want to escape the real world when I read for fun, not have it rubbed in my face).  

A big part of this issue for me has to do with atmosphere: it's hard to generate the right mood and sense of mystery when the story takes place in a too-familiar and therefore pedestrian and unromantic world (though I try to be open-minded enough to accept that it can be done, at least in theory).  But contemporary Gothics also present a practical challenge for writers.  There are fewer and fewer places on earth where the heroine's cell phone can suddenly go dead because there isn't any coverage, preventing her from calling 911 -- and it's already a genre cliché for her phone to run out of juice at the critical moment when she's locked in the turret room because she forgot to recharge it . . . Authors must contort themselves into pretzels trying to avoid these hackneyed situations just to make the story mechanics of the traditional genre work in the present environment.  It can all be very tiresome for the reader.

So, yes -- I personally have a hard time relating to a "Gothic" story that takes place in a world of cell phones, strip malls, the internet, GPS, valley-speak, muffin-top jeans, and orange presidents.  Yet I can accept Gothics set as late as the '70s for some reason, perhaps because it was the last pre-digital era.  

What do other readers think? Is a period setting a must for a Gothic? Or am I prejudiced? Can the genre be tweaked to work in a current setting without losing its identity and basic core defining qualities?
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#2
Great topic, Penfeather! I AGREE! I love the period gothic romances for the same reasons as you do. Perhaps the author could set up a situation in a remote castle/mansion or on a private island in the present day in which the heroine's cell phone could be taken away from her and/or no computers or network is available on the premises. Then the story might be palatable in the present day. Someone could always unexpectedly arrive who is carrying a working cell phone (or a fast boat), though, so that's a risk and an "easy out."

I also eschew the presence of cars and other non-horse-drawn means of transport, as they present opportunities for the story to move at too quick a pace. Maybe this preference is influenced by my personal love of horses (hate those heroines who are afraid of them!), but I think it gets back to the pace issue. Life today rolls along at such a hectic pace with so many external distractions and complications caused, at its root, by over population of our planet. I, like you, want to escape from that world to a slower one when I read for pleasure.

The speedy appearance of EMTS, ambulances, skilled doctors, and access to a high level of health care and knowledge also affects the plot and pace of a story and its "clean up" after a life-threatening event. The internet provides so many answers to health and personal questions that the heroine could easily find them on her cell phone, plus do a rather thorough background check on the potential hero or villain in just a few minutes. This also affects the pace of the plot.

Those who are enamored of their cell phones and internet/service access may have a different take on this issue. They may find their absence in period novels to be totally unrelatable...?

Thanks for posting! I hope others on this list will respond with their thoughts.
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#3
Couldn't have said it better myself. But period settings have to be used effectively. If the author does a poor job it sounds like modern day characters thrust into the past. Everything does not need to be perfectly accurate but I would hope the author does sufficient research to have people talk and behave in an appropriate manner.

I feel the same way about modern mystery novels. The old mysteries create that suspense the same way the old Gothics did. Today's mysteries are divided into cozies and thrillers. I like the British cozies because they often have settings in villages that retain their old-world charm and character but set in today's times, it doesn't feel the same. On the other hand, the thrillers set up suspense based on modern technology and it's the villains who predictably have the advantage in this. Many times, the hero/heroine is trying to play catch up, unless you read a book from one of those authors who like to create superhuman heros (I will not name names).
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#4
I prefer historical settings as well. I buy a lot of 1960-70s printed Gothics at the local flea market and based on the cover art and description it's often difficult to judge when it is set. One I started last night, Brecon Castle by Caroline Farr, is one such book. I was slightly disappointed when I began reading that it took place in the era it was written (70s) as opposed to 50+ years before. 
   
I'm writing a historical Gothic family saga series set in 1904-1929. While not a true romance (each book doesn't a "happily ever after"), there are romantic elements in each and horror elements in several. It's proven to be a difficult genre to shop to agents/publishers, but a romance writer friend said at the Romance Times convention this May there was industry professionals buzzing about Gothics making a comeback, but I'm not sure if that means contemporary or historical.
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#5
Gothics have made a comeback in the sense that it focuses on the paranormal, such as all the vampire fiction, as well as some supernatural, such as ghosts. I can tolerate supernatural elements if they are used well, but I do not like the paranormal. By "horror", what do you mean?
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#6
(12-10-2017, 04:22 PM)paigenumber Wrote: Gothics have made a comeback in the sense that it focuses on the paranormal, such as all the vampire fiction, as well as some supernatural, such as ghosts.  I can tolerate supernatural elements if they are used well, but I do not like the paranormal.  By "horror", what do you mean?

I started writing the story as a single "Gothic Horror" novel, but it morphed into a full family saga. Setting that is now books 2-3 is a creepy house on a cliff where haunting-like things happen. It is infested with demons (not ghosts) because of the sins committed there--which tie to the family and drives many of the issues affecting them and their friends. It's more in-line with the eerie setting/unease of Jane Eyre or Dracula (the original book) than any gruesome/heavy horror. Along the lines of Poe and Hawthorne (using religion as a catalyst), classic Gothic with horrifying elements.
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#7
(12-06-2017, 11:38 AM)Carrie Dalby Wrote: I prefer historical settings as well. I buy a lot of 1960-70s printed Gothics at the local flea market and based on the cover art and description it's often difficult to judge when it is set. One I started last night, Brecon Castle by Caroline Farr, is one such book. I was slightly disappointed when I began reading that it took place in the era it was written (70s) as opposed to 50+ years before. 

I'm writing a historical Gothic family saga series set in 1904-1929. While not a true romance (each book doesn't a "happily ever after"), there are romantic elements in each and horror elements in several. It's proven to be a difficult genre to shop to agents/publishers, but a romance writer friend said at the Romance Times convention this May there was industry professionals buzzing about Gothics making a comeback, but I'm not sure if that means contemporary or historical.

The '70s is the last era that I can tolerate as a setting for a Gothic (and only grudgingly).  Being the last pre-digital decade, at least it offers a plausible time period in which a traditional Gothic story can take place.  However, I've never really understood the need for authors to "update" the settings of Gothics except to pander to a certain percentage of readers who can't "relate" to characters from earlier periods.

Best of luck with your Gothic saga.  It does sound like a hard sell in today's publishing climate, but be persistent!
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#8
(12-10-2017, 04:22 PM)paigenumber Wrote: Gothics have made a comeback in the sense that it focuses on the paranormal, such as all the vampire fiction, as well as some supernatural, such as ghosts.  I can tolerate supernatural elements if they are used well, but I do not like the paranormal.  By "horror", what do you mean?

This is depressingly true.  "Gothic" is used in all sorts of ways but today it usually doesn't mean what we mean by it in this forum (which in itself is not all that "authentic" if we're honest).  Nowadays the term usually applies to some other genre (erotica, horror, romance, etc.) with very banalized and simplified "Gothic" elements tacked onto the surface -- the Peel-'n'-Stick school of vinyl Gothics.

If there are supernatural/paranormal elements, that can be OK in principle -- but they can be problematic because of the cliché and banal way in which they're often handled today.  Vampires are sexy? BLECH! They're DEAD! In any case so many of these "paranormal" characters come off the page as trite and strangely vapid people, for all their superpowers, with very conventional and mundane mentalities.  I imagine their dialogue in valley-speak.  There's a cheap feeling of cosplay to many of these books.  Are they "Gothics"? By today's definition, unfortunately yes.  This is the way their readers like them: basically soap operas with "Gothic" window-dressing.  But they don't have a Gothic tone.

A nice example of a more traditional "Gothic" with supernatural elements is -- although it's a movie -- The Others.  I would probably enjoy reading that in novel form.  Probably not a big market for that sort of thing these days, though.

Will the "traditional" Gothic novel make a comeback? Probably not in the commercial publishing world, because it isn't likely to garner a big enough readership.  But here and there, it might crop up among micropublishers -- and of course there's a lot of self-published stuff, most of it unfortunately pretty unreadable.
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