Gothic Council Starts Gothic Book Club

Your friendly neighborhood goth is going on a little vacation next week to a magical place where deadlines don't exist, bands answer their emails promptly, and where hopefully I'll stop having that dream where Clippy beats me with a comma. Yes, I know I'm the guy they pay to play video games and judge steampunk dildos. Doesn't mean a bloke can't get burnt out a bit.

Seeing as I write about 2,500 words a day, I haven't really had time to read much lately. Books used to be my biggest personal expense in terms of both cash and time, but it's much easier to fit in 45 minutes of Doctor Who than eight hours of quiet reading. So I think I'll spend my vacation with my nose in a book and a drink at my elbow.

I decided to summon the Gothic Council for reading suggestions. Joining me this week is stylist Carol Simmons, fashion designer Batty, artist Ugly Shyla, co-founder of the Age of Decay festival Alethea Carr, webmistress at Morticia's Morgue Becky Plexco, and living historian Morrighanne Burns.

Carol Simmons: I don't really know that I read many "gothic" books. Of course I tend to lean to obscure, out of print novelists, so I guess that's pretty goth. The Gods are Thirsty is a pretty good read from Tanith Lee. Very dark portrayal of Robespierre, as if there were any other way to portray him.

I've always enjoyed Tanith Lee's sci-fi (Silver Metal Lover is tres gothique!) and fantasy books but they are all fairly quick reads, a little like cupcake frosting. This foray into historical fiction was a little slow at the beginning but so was the French Revolution.

I bought a really cheesy leather-bound edition of the complete Edgar Alan Poe. It's deliciously goth with black, red and silver lettering and artwork. The best part is when I got it home and opened it I found that it had been bound upside down and backwards!

Batty: Okay, I am going to mention the Silver Metal Lover, too. It's got rich characters, it's both romantic and sad (a goth favorite right?), and has a dark sci-fi mixed with bohemian romance sort of feel to it.

The story follows a young lady that falls in love with an Android used for pleasure, who has silver skin and happens to have a real soul trapped inside him, and is also a great musician. One of those books that asks if something synthetic can indeed host a soul and how society would react to that.

Ugly Shyla: I read constantly. It keeps me from hurting people. Not exactly a goth book, but something that is absolutely horrifying is Will There Really Be a Morning, the true story of Frances Farmer. It recounts what she went through in the mental institutions. It will stick with you for the rest of your life!

Alethea Carr: I'm going to put a dark horse in the race, and recommend Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca. It is a gothic novel in the truest sense, with a haunted mansion, a female protagonist beset by evil forces, and a Byronic hero.

What sets it above the rest is its unflinching narrative and psychological suspense, propelled by all-too-human wickedness. It has an edge that older gothic literature lacks: The soft padding of lace and corsets are stripped away, and real emotion, realistic moral quandaries, and honest consequences are told in the raw.

Hitchcock made a film based on it, of course, and although I love that man to death, it hardly does the story justice. Everyone is much, much better off reading it instead.

Becky Plexco: My current favorite is the Rachel Morgan series by Kim Harrison. It has everything, supernatural adventure, suspense, mystery and a little romance mixed in. It's a sci fi/fantasy/horror hybrid set in the not too distant future where the human population has been almost destroyed by a genetically altered food source and the supernatural world has come out of the closet because they now outnumber the mortals.

The main characters are a female witch and living vampire (which is why I started reading it, because I don't usually read fantasy related books, I kind of stick to horror) but her world includes werewolves, pixies, elves, banshees, gargoyles, demons [and] ghosts in the most believable universe I've ever read. And you care about every character.

And a classic throwback to read from my favorite author, is We Have Always Lived In the Castle by Shirley Jackson, an excellent piece of psychological suspense about two young sisters living together and the strange deaths that surround them. It's being made into a movie right now, which kind of worries me after the ridiculous remake of The Haunting (of Hill House, not Hell House). But the original version of the film by Robert Wise is a classic.

Morrighanne Burns: I'm a voracious reader so my pick for this year so far for new fiction would be The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which is set in Victorian England, Europe and America. The book is full of dark beauty, magic and fantasy following the stories of those involved in the circus which is the venue for a challenge between a naturally gifted illusionist and a boy trained from childhood by a mysterious benefactor.

My go to book when I want to read an old friend is Perfume by Patrick Suskind. I first read the book as a teenager and the world of old Paris and the repugnant Grenouille always entices me with the author's descriptions of the city and the hopelessness of all the major characters. Cry to Heaven and the Mayfair Witch trilogy would be close seconds.

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