We knew that we were going to like this book from the very first page.
Ask a Goth person, "What is Goth?" and they'll likely tell you, "I'm not Goth." Which is a sure sign that they are, in fact, 666 percent Goth.
Amen, sister. As head of the prestigious and influential Gothic Council, we can tell you right now that defining what is goth and what is not goth can be an arduous task requiring painstaking research and an uncommon amount of snark. Or rather, it did. Now we can just look up the answer in the Encyclopedia Gothica.
Liisa Ladouceur delves right into the heart of the matter in her introduction, namely that what constitutes goth has grown so widely since its birth in the 1970s that most Goths take to identification by denial. Luckily, Ladouceur, like us, is an egalitarian goth who believes that any and all aspects of life that attract the black-clad masses should be included under the umbrella.
The encyclopedia is a wonder of brevity and accuracy. Subjects range from historical facts like the lives of Vlad Tepes and Elizabeth Bathory, to modern music and actors, to fashion, and even the world of pornography, "if you're into that sort of thing," quips Ladouceur on the entry for Liz Vicious.
Humor abounds in the work, as anyone will tell you being goth is defined by a good deal of snark and bite. Ladouceur's dry, witchy style is enough to make you shoot absinthe out of your nose. You'll find yourself treating the book like some kind of quippy Choose Your Own Adventure story as you look up Azrael Abyss from the classic Saturday Night Live! segment Goth Talk and notice, what the hell, why is there an entry for Cinnabon?
Should you look up goth in the encyclopedia, it will helpfully point out that the answer can be found from pages 1 to 295, and it's pointless to seek the meaning of the secret gothic cabal. We were particularly pleased to have someone agree with us that the Sisters of Mercy's Floodland is the number one goth album of all time.
The book is quite easy on the modern crowd that tends to fall in with the goth scene, though of course Ladouceur can't resist a few barbs and condescending pats on the head. The Twilight novels are acknowledged for their significant, albeit really, really stupid, contribution to vampire pop culture.
"It's really too bad the whole thing is about abstinence. And sparkling."
Even the much maligned Evanescence gets some grudging props for leading younger fans into gothdom...where hopefully they will discover better music.
It did sadden us that Houston apparently has contributed nothing worth an entry. We searched for Numbers, but the famous home of Houston goth that has held acts like Siouxsie and the Banshees and Faith and the Muse wasn't listed. Ditto for Tone-Zone Records, Asmodeus X, model Dana Dark, fashion designer Batty or even Ex-Voto. Hopefully our loyal readers in the scene will take this as a cue to ramp it up a couple of notches.
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There is a least one note of seriousness in the encyclopedia, and one that hits home hard with us. Ladouceur makes the argument that after the tragedy at Columbine high, many goths were simply lumped into the devil-worshipping killers category that seems to hold a nice amount of real estate in Middle America's head along with all that meat. Having been in high school when Columbine went down, we can tell you that getting your car searched every damn day because they thought you were "scary looking" was a big fat pain in the ass as well as probably illegal.
There are entries for the Columbine shootings and for the term Trenchcoat Mafia, and it is only here that Ladouceur ceases with the love bites and goes all out for a hunk of flesh. She takes the tar-and-feathering of the subculture from association with the murderers personally. Her mothering of the goth scene reappears as well in her heartbreaking entry on the death of Sophie Lancaster, who was beaten to death becaue of her gothic dress in a 2007 attack.
Those are minor moments out of a work that is largely hysterical. Ladouceur is a rare gem of a commenter that has the ability not only to laugh at herself but to be able to get you to laugh at yourself, too. Does anyone need the Encyclopedia Gothica? Nah, but trust us, you want it.
Encyclopedia Gothica is available from ECW Press.