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What is Gothic Fiction?

My current work-in-progress takes cues from Gothic fiction. Instead of an old manor house or castle, I’ve got a residence hotel inspired by the legendary Chelsea Hotel in New York. Rather than literal ghosts, I have a protagonist who can’t help but wonder what people from her past would think about her current circumstances. There are desperate circumstances, a society in clear decline, and abusive authority figures. Everything that I wanted to write about aligns almost perfectly with Gothic tropes.

I got here through doing an analysis of H.P. Lovecraft’s Supernatural Horror in Literature for my day job. His essay was heavily influenced by Edith Birkhead’s The Tale of Terror: A Study of the Gothic Romance. I mean, it parallels it down to the structure and chronology used, a lot of the works mentioned, even in some of the opinions expressed. I’m not saying that Lovecraft ripped her off, because his work was focused on the horror elements, but he certainly used her book as a template.

What is Gothic Fiction?

The Gothic fiction genre, sometimes called Gothic Horror or Gothic Romance, has its roots in the late 18th century. I jokingly tell people that it exists at the intersection of love, death, and architecture. The name comes from the late Medieval building style, with old houses and crumbling castles serving as the settings. While there aren’t always supernatural elements, there’s always the presence of death in some form. Either someone has died, or is about to die, or death is a metaphor for decline and decay (going hand-in-hand with the old buildings in ill repair). Hopefully it’s easy to see how I can imagine a modern story overlaid onto those elements.

Some Example of Gothic Fiction

Below are some example of Gothic fiction. A few might stretch the definition a bit (don’t come for me), but they are all to some degree influential on Cold Sunrise. Where possible, I’ve linked to the free Project Gutenberg versions of these works. Otherwise, they’re Amazon affiliate links.

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