Is this Gothic fiction?

Question: I never really put any label on my stories because I just write them for fun, but a friend of mine said he could have sworn they counted as Gothic fiction. I always thought that Gothic fiction centered around combining horror with romance, is that right? My stories, although they do involve romance (sort of...) are more centered around human taboos. I myself have NO clue why I enjoy writing this kind of stuff, but I can't help but find artistic satisfaction in writing the most thoughtful, well-developed and stylish stories I can think of, all about topics that most people would get sick just thinking about. Deformity, cannibalism, incest... I don't always write about things like that from a conventional viewpoint, but if I can force my reader to set the book down for a minute and go "What is wrong with this guy?!", I feel like a winner. So, I know I haven't given the world's best account of what I write, but do you think my friend is right? Does my work count as Gothic fiction? Thanks!

Answer: In my opinion, the essence of Gothic fiction is the emergence of light out of darkness. It is an exploration of the world of human darkness and evil - supernatural horrors, ghosts of our barbaric past, sexual taboos, cruelty, dark secrets, etc - out of which emerges the triumph of true love and human goodness. The brave and strong hero rescues the pure, kind-hearted, and virginal female who has unearthed the secrets and been horrified by them.

It is, in the end, an affirmation of moral progress. We dip into the horrors of the past, re-conquer them, and emerge at the end with an appreciation of why we abandoned them in the first place.

A great example of this is the SF film classic, Forbidden Planet, in which an extremely cultured man, a scientist, investigates the buried secrets of a fallen civilization, only to re-awaken a monster that was dormant in his own subconscious. (It is implied that this monster is related to an incestuous, possessive desire for his innocent and naive daughter. Not that he would ever consciously act on this desire, but the alien technology gives life to the monster within.) Eventually, a very noble, civilized, and brave spaceship captain finds true love with the scientist's daughter and manages to rescue her from the monster, at the cost of the scientist's life.

I think you have to ask yourself about the ultimate message of your stories. Are you simply exploring these taboos to shock or appall your reader? Or are you using darkness to make the light seem brighter? If the latter is true, then you have a Gothic story.

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