Happy World Goth Day, fellow creatures of the night!
Last year on this day, I shared my own unofficial guide to goth. This year, I’m just going to showcase some of my favourite gothic songs, stories, and films, for your listening, reading, and viewing pleasure.
Type O Negative – “Black No. 1”
New Release: Ravens in the Attic, Issue One (featuring “Broom”)
My witchy flash fiction story “Broom” is included in Issue One of Ravens in the Attic, now available as an e-book:
“I push past him, grab my broom, and head down the stairs to the porch that will never be swept as clean as the old man’s wife used to keep it. But she’s gone, I think, with a touch of bitterness. She left you in the middle of the night.”
I can’t say enough good things about this gorgeous gothic lit mag, which showcases wonderful work by writers like Kristin Garth, Erin Moran, Megan Russo, December Lace, and others.
Sinister graveyards and seductive vampires. Communion with crows. Heiresses destroyed by their family history, and the ghost of Rasputin giving up his gift of life. Editor Sarah Little has compiled a darkly beautiful collection of prose and verse.
Reading Recommendation: Bayveen O’Connell – “Rasputin’s Gift”
There are few things I enjoy more than fictional depictions of Rasputin, so it’s no surprise that one of my favourite stories in Ravens in the Attic is Bayveen O’Connell’s romantic folk tale about two lovers reunited across the divide of death.
Read it here.
New Song: Evanescence – “Wasted on You”
Evanescence haven’t put out an all-original album since their 2011 self-titled effort, but this mournful new track has them picking up right where they left off.
Their forthcoming album is entitled The Bitter Truth.
Goth Cinema: The Hunger (1983)
Tony Scott’s stylish vampire romance stars David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve as a pair of immortal lovers who take an interest in a scientist played by Susan Sarandon.
The film isn’t content to rest on its star power, however; it boasts a creative, genuinely disturbing story-line and one of the most evil vampires in the history of film. It also begins with Bowie and Deneuve hunting at an alternative club while seminal goth band Bauhaus performs “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.”
Reading Recommendation: Anne Rice – The Vampire Lestat
My favourite gothic novel of all-time. This sequel to Interview With The Vampire follows the mercurial Lestat from 18th century France to the decadent 1980s, with stopovers in Paris theatres and ancient Egyptian temples.
Anne Rice pulled a brilliant bait-and-switch with this one. Reading Interview, you get the impression of the vampire as a classless brute – charming at first, but devoid of any redeeming qualities. You wonder how you’re going to tolerate a whole book about Lestat. But within a few chapters, Rice has you weeping for him. By the end of the book, he almost feels like a friend – albeit one who may sink his teeth into you on a whim.
Bauhaus – “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”
Goth Cinema: The Crow (1994)
Second only to The Hunger, Alex Proyas’s The Crow is one of the most goth films of all time. Based off James O’Barr’s acclaimed comic, this is essentially a superhero movie where, instead of a training montage, we see our hero slather corpse paint over his face while a Cure song plays in the background.
The tragic tale of a murdered rock singer resurrected to avenge his girlfriend’s death, the film boasts creative sets, an iconic industrial rock soundtrack, and a powerful performance by the late Brandon Lee.
Reading Recommendation: James O’Barr – The Crow
James O’Barr’s original comic is an entirely different beast from its cinematic adaptation, which admittedly incorporated some 1990s action movie cheese alongside its heartfelt story.
O’Barr’s Crow is a nihilistic nightmare, a gorgeously illustrated tale of a man so consumed by rage and grief that even death can’t save him.
The Cure – “Burn”
Original Poem: “The Idyllic Pre-Death of Isaac Plank”
A companion piece to an in-progress horror novella, this poem is a flashback featuring my own gothic anti-hero, doomed occultist Isaac Plank.
Scroll through this thread for the full poem, accompanied by some spooky photos I took when I lived in Calgary in 2017.
New lit mag: The Haunted Dollhouse
P.S. If you enjoyed the poem above, you will want to check out its original home: The Haunted Dollhouse, a companion journal to Pink Plastic House (both edited by Kristin Garth).
Exclusively devoted to the macabre, The Haunted Dollhouse features well-written and mysterious verse about death, decay, witchcraft and murder most foul.
(I’m a Wizard of Oz girl, so my personal favourite here is Juliette Van Der Molen’s deliciously dark “Enter, Emerald City”).
Enter the dollhouse here.
Goth Cinema: Beetlejuice (1988)
I agonized for a moment over which Tim Burton film to include on this list, tempted by Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride, and even Nightmare Before Christmas.
But it had to be Beetlejuice, a manic horror comedy featuring a cast of gonzo ghosts and Winona Ryder as cinema’s greatest goth.
Reading Recommendation: Gwendolyn Kiste – And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe
Gwendolyn Kiste’s 2017 short story collection spans horror, dark fantasy, and dystopian science fiction, united by a dramatic sense of dark romance.
My personal favourites are opening story “Something Borrowed, Something Blue,” “The Man in the Ambry,” and suburban fairy tale “The Tower Princesses.”
Siouxsie and the Banshees – “Peek-A-Boo”
Hook of a Book feature: “Holy War,” “Cemetery Way,” and “The Last Poem”
If you like your poetry with a darker edge, you should be following Erin Al-Mehairi’s “Hooked on Poetry” project.
A partnership between her Hook of a Book blog and Kendall Reviews, the project showcases amazing work by Cina Pelayo, Marge Simon, Christina Sng and many others. I especially enjoyed Patrick Tumblety’s trilogy of poems depicting the sea in all its myth and mystery.
She also kindly reprinted two of my most macabre poems from Truly U Review – “Cemetery Way” and “The Last Poem” – as well as my previously unpublished “Holy War” (the companion piece to a heavy metal horror story).
Goth Cinema: Rocky Horror Picture Show
No goth list would be complete without something where a couple stumble upon a gloomy old house filled with monsters and mad scientists. There are plenty of examples of that, but none of them are more fun than Richard O’Brien’s iconic Rocky Horror Picture Show.
A queer tribute to B-movie horror and old-school rock-n-roll, Rocky Horror is the musical account of what happened when conservative couple Brad and Janet experienced car trouble and sought refuge at the gothic castle of sinister Dr. Frank N. Furter. It’s a staple of midnight movie houses, where audiences can be found dancing along to the songs, throwing toast at the screen, and screaming vulgarities at poor, innocent Janet.
While I’m a staple at my local midnight showings, I’m somewhat of a contrarian in that I believe it’s best watched in a quieter environment, to better appreciate the clever humour, campy performances, and countless obscure references to classic horror and sci-fi.
Reading Recommendation: Clive Barker – Cabal
I discovered this wonderful novella by happenstance, and it has been my all-time favourite ever since.
I knew of Clive Barker by reputation only back in 2013, when I stumbled upon a paperback copy of Cabal while picking the carcass of a Zellers that was on the verge of closing. The book was, of course, deeply discounted, and featured the most tantalizing back cover copy I’ve ever read.
I expected (and received) a grisly read with horrors playing out on an epic scale across the boundaries of life and death. But what I did not expect was to fall in love with the quirky, tormented, and passionate characters brought to life by Barker’s evocative, erotically-charged prose.
Cabal chronicles the Nightbreed, a race of monsters who hide from a hostile world in the mythical land of Midian, a kingdom hidden beneath a graveyard. They are forced out of the shadows by the arrival of Boone, an accused murderer who believes Midian will be his salvation – followed by his grieving lover, Lori, and a psychopathic psychiatrist with sinister intentions.
The first (and so-far only) entry in an uncompleted trilogy, Cabal is at turns a gothic romance, a coming-out-story, and a tragedy about xenophobia and discrimination. Fusing the raw sexuality and brutal gore of his early stories with the mysticism of his later works, it stands as one of Barker’s most powerful and haunting tales.
Sisters of Mercy – “More”
Goth Cinema: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
It would be cliche to say that Dracula’s been done to death. But honestly, I never get sick of this story (okay, the long sea voyage kind of bores me), and we’ve had plenty of good adaptations over the years, from F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu to this year’s clever BBC adaptation.
But as fond as I am of the iconic Christopher Lee and Bela Lugosi vehicles (as well as William Crain’s Blacula, which I watched for the first time last October), none of them can match the sumptuous grandeur of Francis Ford Coppola’s take, starring Oldman as the titular Count, Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Van Helsing, and Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves as Mina and Jonathan Harker.
Reading Recommendation: Michael Moorcock – Elric: Stealer of Souls
What’s a sword and sorcery book doing on this list, you may ask? Moorcock’s frail, tortured sorcerer – the doomed emperor of a once powerful realm, a man dependent on a vampiric sword which he can no more control than he can suppress his crippling depressions and violent manias, a fierce warrior who destroys himself and everyone he loves – is every bit a gothic anti-hero.
Trading triumph for tragedy, the Elric saga is a subversion of the traditional sword-and-sorcery tale, using dark humour and surrealism to critique the might-makes-right mentality that the genre sometimes falls prey to.
Florence + The Machine – “Queen of Peace” & “Long & Lost”
Original Short Story: Outsiders in the Hawthorne Tomb [American Gothic]
I’d be remiss not to mention my participation in Flame Tree Press’s American Gothic anthology, which included my short story “Outsiders in the Hawthorne Tomb.”
At the time, I discussed the inspiration for the story at their official blog…
After seeing the American Gothic submission call, I set out to write a tale rife with classic gothic themes (death, decline, family curses) and macabre imagery, as well as oddball characters and some dark humour. Stylistically, the story ended up absorbing a lot of influence from H.P. Lovecraft and Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. The mythology was inspired by an earlier short story of mine, ‘Behind the Music’, which featured an eighties rock star transforming into an arachnoid creature.
…where I also rambled and my favourite gothic literature:
My favourite examples of gothic lit would have to be the dark fantasy sagas of Clive Barker and Anne Rice (particularly Cabal and The Vampire Lestat), as well as Edgar Allan Poe’s stories and poems. Not to mention beautiful comics like James O’Barr’s The Crow and Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. I’m also partial to gothic music (particularly Type O Negative, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Evanescence, Sisters of Mercy, Danzig, and The Cure), Tim Burton movies, and the stunning artwork of Anne Sudworth.
The book is bursting with great stories, from older classics to new contributions to the canon. You can buy it here.
Type O Negative – “Love You To Death”
Thank you for reading – I hope you found something you enjoyed!
How are you celebrating World Goth Day? As always, please feel free to send me any of your recommendations!