Written by: Drake Morgan
In the introduction to Exotic Gothic 4, editor Danel Olson describes Gothic fiction as “that genre of things wrongly hungered for and things wrongly alive.” This is an apt description for the tales enclosed here. The themes here represent the Gothic tradition as it was meant to be, but updated and fresh for modern readers.
The unique element to this collection is its diversity. The stories here are often set in places of the world we either least associate with “gothic” or fail to even consider in the genre. While the windswept heaths of Northern England raise the hair on the back of our neck, Olson reminds us that fear lurks in every shadow of every culture. Themes of cultural oppression, the evil claws of colonialism still deeply embedded in the back of certain nations, feminine sacrifice to ancient traditions with hidden shackles, and other literary facets pepper the tales and elevate them beyond mere horror stories. In “Blooding the Bride” by Margo Lanagan for example, we meet newlyweds on their wedding night. But the bride awakes to discover she is in a nightmarish world populated by dead brides and poison. To give away the end a bit, she awakes from this dream to find all is well. But is it? What poison remains in Loriane’s soul toward her marriage? Lanagan presents a strong feminist subtext on the nature of the marriage rite as an oppressive trap for women, even in our modern, post-feminist movement time. Hers is but one example of how the authors here are not afraid to step out of genre and into literature in order to create a more compelling story.
The authors here clearly understand the Gothic literary tradition and Olson has assembled a powerhouse of new masters. Deftly weaving the haunting siren songs of Gothic (pain, madness, illusions, fear) within a modern framework, this collection lures you in from start to finish.