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The Gothic

A Reader


Edited By Simon Bacon

What is the Gothic?

From ghosts to vampires, from ruined castles to steampunk fashion, the Gothic is a term that evokes all things strange, haunted and sinister.

This volume offers a new look at the world of the Gothic, from its origins in the eighteenth century to its reemergence today. Each short essay is dedicated to a single text – a novel, a film, a comic book series, a festival – that serves as a lens to explore the genre. Original readings of classics like The Mysteries of Udolpho (Ann Radcliffe) and Picnic at Hanging Rock (Joan Lindsay) are combined with unique insights into contemporary examples like the music of Mexican rock band Caifanes, the novels Annihilation (Jeff VanderMeer), Goth (Otsuichi) and The Paying Guests (Sarah Waters), and the films Crimson Peak (Guillermo del Toro) and Ex Machina (Alex Garland).

Together the essays provide innovative ways of understanding key texts in terms of their Gothic elements. Invaluable for students, teachers and fans alike, the book’s accessible style allows for an engaging look at the spectral and uncanny nature of the Gothic.

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China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station (2000) – Gothic Literary Science Fiction (Sara Wasson)


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Sara Wasson

China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station (2000)

Gothic science fiction is a blending of two modes that are themselves always already hybrid and plastic (Luckhurst 2011; Wasson and Alder 2011). The Gothic literary mode must always of necessity be understood as emerging from the particular historical and material circumstances of the eighteenth century, at a moment when advances in science and medicine were transfiguring human understanding of the body and world alongside the profound upheaval of industrialization and urbanization (Monleón 1990; Punter 1996). Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) famously captures the way that the emerging discourses of science were inflected with profoundly dark and fantastical tropes. While the term ‘science fiction’ did not emerge as we understand it today until 1926, when Hugo Gernsback founded the magazine Amazing Stories, Shelley’s disturbing fantasia prefigures many of the concerns that characterize work now approached through the lens of Gothic science fiction. Shelley represents technological transformations of the body, which are traumatic rather than wondrous. The soubriquet ‘gothic’ has been critically applied to fiction by China Miéville, Stephen Donaldson, M. John Harrison, Jeff Vandermeer, and a wide range of authors who inflect their scientific fantasies with tropes of the grotesque, horror, and the monstrous.

Yet, might ‘Gothic science fiction’ actually be a contradiction in terms? Some critics have seen a Gothic mode as incompatible with science fiction, and these critics have often rooted their differentiation in the idea that science fiction...

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