Originally planned for longer ago than I care to admit, today’s blog post is one I have been eager to share with you. It is one that feels increasingly relevant as we strive towards global anti-racism, and one that I hope you will agree was worth the wait.
If you weave in and out of the same, or similar, circles as I do across the web, the following may not be an introduction. For those uninitiated, I am delighted to be your guide. Either way, today’s is a particularly special post. It is part teaser, part interview; taking traditions old, making something new…
The New Gothic Review is an online literary magazine dedicated to bringing the Gothic to the 21st century. Volume I is composed of six short stories, each with a strong sense of place and culture. The narratives, largely set in traditionally ‘un-Gothic’ spaces such as Florida, Hawai’i, and an alleyway outside a nightclub, challenge our conceptions of what makes something Gothic, and how over time, even old literary genres are able to grow.
I am joined with Ian McMahon, co-founder and managing editor of New Gothic Review, to talk about the importance of representation and fostering space for all voices within the contemporary Gothic.
In a separate post I will discuss each of the six short stories and take a classic Generally Gothic deep-dive into just one, so the following interview will remain spoiler-free. Tread boldly, fellow spooks!
What is the intention, or mission statement, of New Gothic Review?
“One of the biggest objectives of the project is to widen the margins of what people generally think of [as] Gothic literature. I think most would say that they think of England or the South (US) when they hear the term (and rightly so). But in reality, a Gothic story can take place anywhere. Likewise, people often think of “old” or “haunted house[s]” when they think of Gothic, but these are really just tropes — they themselves do not make the genre. Our goal is to shine light on stories that are giving the Gothic genre something new to think about. We don’t want to shy away from what everyone loves about the genre; we just want to cast it in a new light.”
What is your relationship with the Gothic?
“My personal relationship to the Gothic is not very straightforward. I didn’t read all the Gothic classics and decide it was the genre for me. The Gothic is a very malleable genre that becomes embedded in many other genres, and that’s how I found my way to it — through various novels and writers who wrote gothic-esque stories but who didn’t get a clear Gothic label. I’ve since read many of the Gothic classics, but my love for the genre lies mostly on what others might consider to be the edge of the Gothic.”
How does the rich history of Gothic literature influence the submissions you select?
“We actually believe that knowledge of the foundational texts is not critically important for selecting the works we publish. Having an appreciation is crucial, of course, but I think there’s actually an advantage to being slightly removed from the source material because it helps one keep an open mind. We love Gothic literature but I would never claim to be any kind of expert. If anything, we do like to keep classic Gothic stories and constructions present in our minds as we read if only to make sure that the submissions we’re reading are indeed doing something different.”
What does ‘Gothic’ mean to you?
“This is the big question! There are many precise, academically vetted definitions out there of what the Gothic is, but we wanted to blur the lines and be imprecise. To us, it’s a genre where one is able to manifest one’s fears and anxiety and then confront them.
“So often it’s the story of when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object; when the forces of change and “moving on” come against a past that refuses to be buried or a way of life that refuses to die. It’s when something wants to be but, by nature, never can be.”
How do you seek the Gothic out in the contemporary submissions?
“This is great question! We don’t abide by any sort of checklist. We keep an open mind, obviously, but we are looking for stories that are atmospheric, creepy, and thought provoking. Ultimately the key is that there’s a richer, often-psychological subtext under the surface of these spooky elements. We don’t want scary stories that exists for the sake of being scary. We want to see the protagonists of these stories wrestling with or confronting some serious “demons” (and the quotation marks are very important here if you know what I mean).”
Beyond New Gothic Review, who are you currently reading in the field of contemporary Gothic literature?
“I just picked up a copy of Mouthful of Birds by Samantha Schweblin and City of Ash and Red by Hye-Young Pyun, and they both seem very uncanny and very promising. The authors are Argentinian and South Korean, respectively. My personal goal is to read as many Gothic writers from countries we don’t associate with producing Gothic fiction as possible.”
What was the process like with artists?
“The artists we worked with were all truly phenomenal! We found almost all the artists on Instagram or from seeing their work in other literary magazines. We spent a lot of time deciding which specific piece each illustrator would work on. For example, ‘Royal Palm Court’ has some very unique and precise Florida imagery, which was very special to us because 2/3 of us (myself included) are from Orlando, FL. So we went out of our way to find a Florida illustrator who already “spoke that language,” so to speak. When we eventually found Katiana Robles‘ haunting (yet bright and eye catching) work in a literary magazine based in Orlando, FL (which happens to be my own hometown), it was clear that she HAD to be the illustrator for this story.
“Once the stories were assigned, from there we basically told each illustrator to illustrate any part of the story they wanted. Even the feedback we gave was pretty minimal. We really wanted this to be their unique take on the story – I don’t think we could have gotten the illustrations we got if we made ourselves more involved. The one exception to all of this was Heather Parr‘s illustration of ‘Espejos/ Ojos.’ She had this existing print that was simply perfect for the story if only one detail could be changed. She made the print yellow and suddenly that was it. If you didn’t know, I think every single person would swear that that illustration was entirely based on the story.
“The cover was a little bit different of course. We weren’t even sure we were going to do a cover since it’s not a printed collection. When we finally decided to do it, we wanted to take a very classically Gothic image (which Heather has no shortage of) and give it a very modern presentation. We started playing around with her print, using this color gradient, and when we tested it out on friends, the reaction was: “It’s cool, but it doesn’t seem very Gothic.” For some reason, that seemed like the exact confirmation we needed that it was the right idea. I love the cover; I love all of Heather’s work.”
Submissions for the second issue are open now. Is there anything particular you’d like those considering submitting to know?
“Yes! Something that was very important to us in Volume 1, which will continue to be very important to us moving forward, is that we work with a diverse mix of authors and stories. Many would say that horror magazines have a reputation for publishing mostly white men and not much else. The whole mission of the magazine is to open the doors to the Gothic genre to let more people in; therefore, we have to take that seriously when it comes to selecting stories. While we can only publish in English, we want the authors we publish to represent a mix of genders, nationalities, cultures, etc. We want there to be a Gothic story for everyone in New Gothic Review.”
New Gothic Review: Volume I is, very generously, free for all to read and available now. You can read each story, with accompanying artwork, here, or download a PDF of the complete magazine to enjoy on an eReader/offline.
Submissions are open until the 15th of August. You can find information on submitting your own previously unpublished 21st century Gothic short stories here.
Fundamentally dedicated to representing global Gothic voices, since we chatted for this interview, New Gothic Review have released the following statement in support of Black Lives Matter, amplifying melanated voices, and anti-racism campaigns:
“We founded New Gothic Review with the intent to give a platform to new voices and new perspectives in contemporary Gothic literature. Incorporating more stories from BIPOC is a part of this commitment, so we encourage writers from all minority backgrounds to submit their work for consideration.”– New Gothic Review
Cheers to that!
Be sure to read New Gothic Review: Volume I as I will soon be diving into story specifics. Make sure you Hex Yourself (in the right-hand panel on desktop, and below on mobile) to receive a notification when new posts are up. And, if you enjoy reading Generally Gothic, please consider making a donation to keep me caffeinated and writing! Thank you.