Saturday, September 19, 2009

Taking the Sparkles Out of Your Gothic

Gothic! Ten Original Dark Tales
edited by Deborah Noyes
Cambridge, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2004

Gothic! is a fantastic collection of short stories by some of the best contemporary writers of YA and horror fiction, including Neil Gaiman, Garth Nix, Caitlin R. Kiernan and Vivian Vande Velde. Like all good collections, the stories in Gothic! explore the theme from a number of angles, ranging from loving homage to wry satire (and sometimes both at once).

Hands down, my personal favorite is "Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Nameless House of the Night of Dread Desire", by Neil Gaiman; it's probably not as funny if you aren't familiar with old-school penny dreadfuls, but if you are it's a laugh riot. My other two favorites come right in the beginning of the book: "Lungewater", by the late Joan Aiken (who died the year this book was published), tells a modern story in the language of gothic horror, while "Watch and Wake", by M.T. Anderson, blends contemporary suburban fantasy with traditional (but terrifying) folk myths.

Some of the stories in this collection are more silly than scary, but all delight in the morbid and macabre. All of the authors are current or rising stars of their craft, so for the teen reader who's looking for something with all the aesthetic flavor of Edgar Allan Poe or HP Lovecraft (but have read the entire collected works of both, repeatedly), this is the place to start. The beauty of a short story collection is its ability to showcase new talent, and connect readers to the authors of the sort of story they are looking for. This is especially true for the YA set, who might not want to commit to a whole book without having a taste of the author's style first.

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