My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

The Gothic subculture is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, and looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Tim Burton, Siouxsie Sioux and Anne Rice et al.) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. Goth should not be limited by what is considered "goth", inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Goth, Individualism and Conformity - 5 Years Later


Eight years ago I wrote ::this:: article, then re-posted it in 2011, five years ago, on conformity in the Goth subculture - and while I still agree with the main gist of it - that just because we don't want to conform to mainstream society, it does not mean that we are against societies in general or against having our own norms - there are quite a few things upon which my perspective has changed over time, and some things I feel I should have addressed and didn't. In 2012 I wrote ::this:: both echoing these themes of conformity vs. individuality, and also specifically targeting the accusation or assumption that Goth is 'middle-class rebellion'. This article was inspired by listening to the September edition of Cemetery Confessions, which discusses in depth the seeming paradox between individuality and conformity within the subculture, and which can be listened to ::here::.

Firstly, I still think that the notion of Goths being failed non-conformists because while we sometimes vocally distance ourselves from mainstream culture, we still have norms within our own culture is a flawed notion - I've never felt that Goth has been about pure individualism, and that it has always been about a group of people with shared interests, primarily musically and in terms of an aesthetic and a mindset that is both cynical and Romantic in terms and which finds beauty and interest in darker and more morbid themes. I still think that just because we don't want to participate in mainstream pop culture and dislike any form of mindless consumerism, it doesn't mean that we disagree with the notions of cultures and sharing interests with others, in general. We often find that mainstream society devalues the things we like, and often devalues us for liking them, and that we also don't have much interest in many mainstream things, but this is just why we do something different from the mainstream. However, it is not that Goths can't like the odd bit of popular culture too! Also, some things many Goths like, such as The Addams Family or Tim Burton's better films, are part of popular culture as well as Goth culture, so there is no clear separation. 

(I've been a geek and a nerd since I was a child, and a lot of what I like were considered fringe interests 20+ years ago, but have now become mainstream - especially in terms of science fiction and fantasy franchises; it's no longer weird and uncool to like something like Star Trek, and Game of Thrones is thoroughly mainstream! I still like these things, and I'm not going to suddenly stop liking them because they gained mainstream acceptance and popularity.

Goth does not define itself as the antithesis to something; we don't exist in opposition to the mainstream, we exist alongside it, and to some degree independent of it, but we're not there to simply oppose whatever is currently popular in some sort of contrarian stab at rebelliousness. We like what we like, regardless of whether or not its popular.

Sometimes we lament when something we like is suddenly trendy, because of those who like it only because it's trendy without any deeper understanding or appreciation, but that is really railing against consumerist misappropriation rather than at popularity. Most of us agree that if something becomes popular, but people who now like it become genuinely interested in whatever it is, then that is fine - it's only when people are hopping onto the metaphorical bandwagon without any real care or consideration that we have a problem. This isn't something that just Goths face - it's a general issue, and is part of the problem with any form of cultural and artistic misappropriation; something becomes a trend, lots of people do something to be 'cool' and a few big corporations make a lot of money off someone else's work and culture, usually in a tacky and misrepresentative way, and often while whoever originally had the thing were previously denigrated for it, and may continue to be denigrated for it... It's the same mechanism, but at a variety of scales and level of severity depending on what is being misappropriated and who from.

I think it is also important to acknowledge that Goths are fully aware that they're being to a greater or lesser degree, like other Goths. We are not involved in search for pure individualism, we're looking for other people whose authentic selves are similar to our own. We pride ourselves on being our true selves, and on not being dictated to by outside forces, but we are also happy to socialise with likeminded individuals. Yes, a certain amount of cattiness and peer-pressure can occur, but one refrain I hear over and again from Goths to others interested in the subculture is that it is more important to be your truest self than it is to be as 'Goth' as possible. Also, outsiders may see a monolithic group of people all dressed in black as 'the same' but really, someone into something like Cybergoth (which I think was better termed 'gravers' and is a hybrid of electronic, industrial and Goth, not a sub-style) may have common interests with someone that is an Elizabethan-esque Romantic Goth, but their modes of personal self expression are probably going to be quite different!

Another thing that is worth addressing is that many Goths (but not all), feel like mainstream society rejected them - one common thing I find when talking to other Goths is that even before they joined the subculture, they were somehow 'different' and felt alienated, even ostracised, by their peers and mainstream culture. This could be because they were considered 'overly' academic  - "nerdy"
, interested in weird or unusual things - "geeky" or "freaky" - or maybe they were just a bit sensitive ("emo" used as a pejorative rather than as a subcultural group), or maybe there's other intersectional factors, but a lot of us feel like we've been marginalised for having a personality that isn't what mainstream society demands, and instead of bending to the will of the majority and trying to become someone more acceptable, we've met with people who like the same music as us, like the same books as us, the same aesthetics, and share a similar underlying mindset, and joined with them. Why we have become Goths rather than joining any other subculture is because our interests happened to be those of darker nature,  and our personalities those with at least a hint of morbid curiosity, and a blend of Romanticism and cynicism. As I've written about before, once we're Goth we often encounter prejudice, intolerance and plenty of negative stereotypes about us, too. Some people remain angry and bitter at the world for constantly rejecting them, others find that in meeting others like them, there is enough community and solace, and others find different ways of processing past rejection, and some people find that as they get older, the world judges them less for what music they like and what books they read, and maybe more on other criteria - what sort of car you drive, how financially successful you are, where you live, etc. 

Some people within the subculture, and in general, react to mainstream ostracisation defensively - "You can't sit with us" say the preppy high-school girls "I wouldn't want to, anyway" says the teenage babybat - but the purpose of the subculture isn't to oppose mainstream society or sneer down on the "conformists", it's to give us a haven away from it, a space where we can express ourselves to others who appreciate similar things - and while we don't expect to do that without challenge (after all, challenging ideas helps hone them, as does constructive criticism of creative endeavours, and it is unhealthy to live in an echo-chamber), there's a difference between challenge and hatred.

The things I would disagree with in my earlier blog post is just how negative my opinion was of mainstream society was - I think 8 years ago I was a lot less worldly and travelled, and most of my experiences with mainstream society had been profoundly negative, and I had been exposed primarily to its ugly side, and this had given me an overly negative opinion. I still criticise aspects of mainstream culture - primarily celebrity worship, mindless consumerist capitalism and the 'throw-away society', and the parts of society that still denigrate those outside of a narrow spectrum of 'acceptability' - but now I know that actually, quite a few people criticise those aspects of society, and from a variety of view-points.

I think I also still carried the dregs of defensiveness from when I was a teenager, trying to distance myself, defiantly and provocatively, from those who were trying to push me into being something I simply cannot be.  I don't think criticism of society in general is mere teenage rebelliousness, but I think the way I was doing it at the time was immature, and more about my personal anger towards the alienation, bullying and abuse I had experienced than a productive criticism. Even by the time I wrote the article in 2008, when I was a then an adult, I still held on to some of that bitterness - unaware that while I may have been significantly less angry at the world than I was an angsty 14 year old, I wasn't free of bitterness. I must admit I am probably still a little bitter at the world - but I recognise this, and try not to let it contaminate my being Goth. Bitterness is something I talk to my therapist about, not lash out at the world with.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Steampunks Storm The Castle!


I am sad this is a tad blurry.
Ok, technically I was being Steam-Goth that day, and we didn't really storm the castle, we just stood i front of it. Inverness Castle is currently the city courts (I did jury there in the first year after I moved up to Scotland; it felt a bit surreal sitting in a Gothic Revival courtroom in a Scottish Baronial castle to attend a trial presided over by the Sherif... ), and therefore storming it would be a really bad idea. Instead we stood in front of the large front door and used it as a back-drop for this photo-shoot because I thought the red sandstone walls would be the perfect colours to accentuate the outfit. The current castle was built to replace the original medieval castle in the Victorian era. It's built in the Scottish baronial style, and was built as a courthouse, police station and prison. 

Sean without goggles on his face. Photograph by myself. 

This is another set of photographs for my project documenting the Goth and nebulous dark alternative scene in Inverness. This is my friend Sean, and he's a Metalhead/Romantic Goth/Steampunk hybrid. The outfit (and re-painted Nerf gun) he wore that day typify that - stompy boots worn with a Romantic Goth jacket from Punk Rave, a decorative top hat from Raven SDL which could easily be either Romantic Goth or Steampunk (perhaps verging more on the side of Steampunk due to the brassiness of the buckle), steam-punk paint-job on his goggles and the repainted Nerf gun... a mixture of styles. 

Sean, looking for air-ships or something. Photograph by myself.

One thing that I find differentiates the Goth scene in the Highlands from the scene in other areas is how much overlap there is in participation by individuals here - very few people in the Goth scene here like only one alternative genre of music, and participate in only one subculture, to the point where most events are mixed, and it's all one merged scene rather than a Goth scene substantially differentiated from other subcultural groups. There are plenty of Metalheads here that aren't into Goth, but not many Goths here that aren't also into Metal, or also into Hippie stuff, or Steampunk stuff. When I've been in other cities, the Goths seemed to be very much their own group, and there were specific Goth club nights, and there was less overlap. 

You have to be wary of those air-ships - sometimes they have pirates!
Photography by myself, Sean modelling. Look at that awesome jacket!

I guess the overlap here is partly because we have fewer scene-specific events and resources - our club nights are mixed, it's the local hippie shop - FarFetched - that also sells Goth clothes (after the closure of Hot Rocks and Pyramid over 5 years ago), virtually no major bands take their tours to Inverness let alone anywhere else this far North, and the scene is mostly in their late teens and twenties, with fewer elder Goths still active in the scene here, so fewer direct ties to the scene's musical core and roots. There are elder Goth here, though, however, and hopefully I will be photographing a few for later in my project. 

Sean has impressive boots. Photograph by myself. 
Those who follow me on Facebook will know that I injured my left eye this summer - I accidentally flicked the sun-shade for the view-screen on the back of Raven's camera after being startled while on a photo-shoot (borrowing his camera), and it gave me a wee nick on my cornea that was really rather painful, but is mostly over my iris so does not permanently impede my vision. It did put a bit of a delay on my processing photos - but I did finish the shoot that day, and take a second! The next day however, my eyelids had swollen shut on my left eye and I hadn't much sleep because it hurt as if I'd rubbed chillies in my eye, and I had to go to the hospital... Anyway, there are definitely more photos in this series to be poster up. I will continue to photograph my local scene in all its variety and diversity.

I hope you enjoy this photographs. Please credit me and the model (Sean M.) if you decide to share these anywhere (eg. Tumblr) and link back to me. I've seen my photographs shared about on Tumblr before, and I don't mind it - to me, it shows people appreciate it - but I do want to be properly credited. This may only be a hobby for me, but it's still my work and I spend hours organising shoots, travelling, taking shoots and then processing the images, so I'd like to be credit for that!

The Steam-Goth outfit I wore that day is the same one I wore for a shoot for Carpe Nocturne magazine, so you will get to see that shortly too! 

Monday, 15 August 2016

Body Positivity, Goth and Weight Gain

Content warning: this is a post about my struggles with weight and body-image, and therefore may include topics that people may be sensitive about. 


I've been struggling to write this post. I'd like to write a post saying that I accept myself as beautiful regardless of the fact I've put on weight since starting college - not a lot of weight, I've probably only gone up a dress size, but enough to be noticeable - and that all Goths should take confidence, that we're an inclusive bunch... However, that would be disingenuous and not an accurate reflection of how things really are.

My getting fatter has been the result of unhealthy lifestyle changes;  spending all day sitting in front of a computer working on CAD projects, presentation projects and essays, pulling too many all-nighters, going from doing martial arts 3 nights a week to virtually no exercise, taking the bus instead of walking places, eating less healthily because I'm too busy studying to cook for myself, eating the unhealthy options from the college cafeteria so I can be in and out as quickly as possible, drinking lots of sugared drinks (tea, coffee), etc. etc. All of these things are unhealthy in ways beyond weight gain.  I know that when I'm on holiday, as I am now, I'm more active, have lost some of the weight, am eating a lot more healthily, etc. and that this is a temporary state of being, something I can change, and hopefully next academic year I will have more time (and money) for exercise and sport, and make changes like bringing a healthy packed lunch to college, cycling to college instead of taking the bus, trying to be better organised and less stressed (stress is not healthy in and of itself, ignoring its contribution to my weight gain).

As most people who have followed this blog for a while will know, my natural build is tall and stocky - the female version of the body-type prevalent on my father's side. I have hormonal issues that result in a few masculine traits (including receding hair-line and facial hair, unfortunately), and which possibly contribute to my being more muscular than a lot of women (in combination with having been sporty). I'm nearly 5'10" and have broad shoulders and hips, too. I used to be a bit self-conscious about this because I will never be the thin sort of figure that is seen by mainstream society as feminine, elegant and beautiful, but over time I came to embrace it because I was fast, powerful and strong - things that are more important to me than what I look like. I might not have thin limbs and a graceful figure, but I do have a side-kick like a mule and used to do manual labour alongside men and keep up.

Firstly, I'm sad that with not exercising properly and gaining weight I'm not as fit as I was. I can't chase down and over-take the bus to catch it at the next stop if I miss it at mine (it's not a side-by side race, I have the advantage of taking the diagonal and not having to deal with the same junctions as the traffic...) and I can't do as many push-ups as I used to, and I get tired walking up to the top of the hill. That athleticism I used to be proud of isn't what it was, I have taken a loss in that sense of pride. It is also impractical to be slower, to get tired quicker, to be less fit; things that were once easy have got harder.

Secondly, I don't look the way I used to. I know that this is shallow of me, and I shouldn't be annoyed with myself over something as meaningless as appearance, and that I shouldn't think I've got ugly just because I've got larger... However, I do. I guess it's partly because the person I see in the mirror doesn't look like the sporty person I was - fat has softened defined muscles, my face looks puffy, and all the softness is a reminder of martial arts classes missed, of eating instant noodles instead of home made vegetable dishes, of not going to archery practice, of not spending time training my body because I've been training my mind. It's a reminder that I've sacrificed one version of myself to pursue another, and that I need to find a way to balance the two.


But it's also because I look even further from the lean and angular ladies in polished Gothic photo-shoots, with their defined cheek-bones and thin frames cinched narrow with corsets, long slender limbs and generally slight but tall frames... 

I know it is pointless to compare myself with these images - most of them are digitally edited anyway; even my professional photographs are often edited a little, so I should know this! Intellectually, I do, and for the most part I can remind myself that comparing myself to others is an exercise in futility that will only make me miserable, but on some level, I compare myself anyway. I want to be one of the fierce but elegant angular women I see in these pictures. Glances as sharp as their cheek-bones, wasp-like waists - the vampire aesthetic, dead-undead.  I can't blame the images for my not living up to them; I only have myself to blame for comparing myself in the first place, and not being satisfied with who I am, and I only have myself to blame for not adapting to the changes in my lifestyle brought on by college. I know intellectually that beauty is divorced from a specific set of measurements and proportions, and while I can apply this to other people, I struggle to apply it to myself.

I've actually been in Gothic Beauty magazine, and will be in the fall issue of Carpe Nocturne - tall and thick-limbed as I am. The photos for Carpe Nocturne are fairly recent, taken this summer so after I'd lost some of the weight, but not back to the size I was before. I still compare myself negatively to the other women who appear in these glossy magazines - on both occasions I'm only depicted to put a face to an interview, not because I've been picked out as a beautiful model, and I look at the models and think I cannot compare. I can be well-dressed, polish my make-up skills and pose artfully, but even when I'm at my thinnest, I think I just don't have the figure to be beautiful like that.

I think that the Goth subculture does reinforce many of the beauty standards of mainstream society - when you see the photos that make it to Goth fashion magazines and which are popular on social media like Tumblr and Facebook, the ones that are most popular are the above mentioned thin and angular beauties. They are the ones which saturate Gothic fashion. They're are certainly beautiful women, and I don't begrudge their success, I just think that there's a lack of diversity of body-types. I don't even see many women of the body-type I had before I gained weight, strong limbed, powerful.

I look up to women like Gwendoline Christie portraying a strong and tall Brienne of Tarth on Game of Thrones and still being beautiful, or to female MMA fighters, more muscular and powerful than I am, an inspiration to me - Gabriella Garcia, for example is powerfully built and 6'2". I don't have anyone to look up to in Goth fashion that is tall and powerful. There's also a dearth of larger women, curvier women, women who aren't very pale, and of men and masculine people in general - I would estimate that 90% of Gothic fashion photos and images I come across are femme women.

I would like to see a broader diversity of body-types in Gothic fashion imagery, especially in that which is promoted. I would like to see more people who are androgynous and gender-non-conforming, and I would definitely like to see more men. Goth used to be a space where the men were as interested in fashion and style as the women, and where gender-non-conformity was common. I still meet plenty of non-binary Goths, but I don't see them in the fashion imagery. I'm seeing an increasing representation of Goths who aren't very pale, which is excellent - dark-skinned Goths are as valid as pale-skinned Goths. Don't get me wrong, as someone who was bullied for so long for being naturally very pale and not wanting to get a fake tan and darkening foundation, I like being in a space where my complexion is celebrated rather than denigrated, but it's important that we don't become exclusionary in turn, or even racist. 

Before this becomes another rant going nowhere, I know I'm not the first person in the Goth subculture to notice this narrowness, this continuation of mainstream beauty standards even though as a subculture we should have the autonomy to decide against that sort of thing. Things are being done - Goth magazines are showcasing a broader range of models, especially a more ethnically diverse range, and plenty of Goth bloggers outside narrow beauty standards are putting themselves out there with their own content and images,  more made-for-Goth fashion ranges come in larger sizes and smaller sizes (I know many very petite Goth ladies who have struggled to find things that fit well on them, especially shoes), and there are groups and events setting out to celebrate body-positivity and beauty in many shapes and forms. Each time people raise the topic and speak up against having a narrow definition of beauty in Goth, it erodes that narrowness. There's also groups like ::Club Bodice:: in San Francisco work to create body-positive spaces within Goth and have shame-free club-nights - Club Bodice is the first to organise a deliberately size and body positive Goth night. Nobody should be made to feel they don't have the right body or look to have fun.

Progress is being made, it just needs to keep being made. 

In the meanwhile, I will try my best to balance being a student with looking after my health, sleeping properly, exercising more and eating nutritiously. And I will try to remember that whether or not I am beautiful is not based on how closely I measure up to the thin-framed women with sharp cheek-bones in Gothic photoshoots. Being mindful of when I'm falling prey to external pressures is the first step to not letting them get to me. 

☆♕☆

I was contacted via FaceBook by Club Bodice, and their body-positive club nights in San Francisco. I was invited to their first anniversary David Bowie themed event, but being all the way over in Scotland, I can't attend. I was asked to share details of the event, and will.

The 'It's Only Forever' event will be held at the Stud Bar at 399 9th Street, San Francisco, California (US of A), 9410. It is for those over 21 only, and the door admission is $10 and it runs from 21:00 on 21st August to 02:00 the next morning.  Kitty Von Quim will be doing a burlesque performance, and there will also be belly-dancing by Ariella. I think there's also going to be a prize give-away. The Facebook page for the event is ::here::.
 

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Being An Adult Goth

Being an adult Goth has its own challenges.

I wrote about being an adult Goth before, ::here::. After watching ::this:: video by Mama Bat on YouTube, who wanted to hear from Goths over the age of 25, I was inspired to write about it again. I know I'm probably repeating myself, but I hope I am not repeating myself too much.

Firstly, some clarification. I'm not an ElderGoth; I don't remember the most of the '80s  as I wasn't even born until the latter end, and I wasn't part of the scene in the '90s, and I only started getting interested in Goth in the early to mid '00s - that's still well over 10 years ago, but it's only a fraction of the time some people have been in this scene, and I don't want to claim experience that I don't have. However, I am an adult, and I've had to live in the 'big wide world', beyond education institutions (school, college, university) and there's definitely a shift that takes place when you have different considerations in your life. This entry is mostly about the differences in my experience being a Goth as a teenager and as an adult. 

It's NOT Just A Phase
As a teenager, I did go through phases of experimenting with subcultural identities, starting with Goth and eventually returning, and this, coupled with the general misconception that Goth is unilaterally an expression of temporary teenage angst and rebellion, meant that it was very often presumed that it would be something I would grow out of. Adults around me often refused to support me in being Goth, because of this - it wasn't based around disapproval of the content, more that when I was still dependent on my family financially and was fixated on the idea of made-for-Goth clothes and buying my music as CDs, I wasn't going to get bought anything Goth as it was seen as something too transitory to invest in (this was less of an issue when I realised that charity shops sold non-mainstream things and adaptable things, and how to customise things, and as I got older and could earn my own money, etc.). As I did flit between subcultural identities this was understandable, and as stroppy as I may have been about this when I was 13/14, I don't begrudge it now. The other problem I had was how my mental health issues, as real and obvious as they should have been, where dismissed as me "attention seeking" as some sort of angsty teenage phase connected to my being Goth, but that is another issue. 

Still being Goth now, all those years laters, has proven that this time, it wasn't a phase; this actually is who I really am. Some of my family are now more accepting because of this, and others are less accepting. I think there were some who tolerated it because they thought it was something I would have abandoned soon enough anyway, and now that I've demonstrated that this is who I am, they have more of an issue with it. I feel that there is a sentiment that if it had been a feigned interest done for temporary rebelliousness, then that was something tolerable because it wouldn't have been a reflection of me, just an affected pose, and therefore while pretentious and annoying, not an indication of my truly embracing values and interests that they are opposed to. 

I also get criticism from strangers - often variations on "aren't you too old to be trying to piss off your parents?" and "how are you supposed to get a job when you look like that". My rebuttal to the first is that my father's completely accepting of my dress sense. He doesn't personally really like that style and I think he liked it better when I was into more hippie/bohemian things as that is closer to his interests, but he also accepts that there's nothing wrong with it, and has no problem with me being Goth or dressing the way I do. As to the underlying idea that Goth is inherently for teenagers, I explained in previous article that it's actually aimed more towards adults, especially when the club scene is such a major component. My reply to the second usually was "I have a job!" but now I'm at university and had to quit my job to study (architecture is an intensive course, and I personally can't juggle the course and a job), my response is a bit more detailed; there are plenty of Goths who have jobs, but I accept that some employers prefer a more conservative appearance, and I can change my look to be appropriate to the situation.
This brings me on to the next topic..


Balancing Employer's Requirements And Goth
This is something I touched on in my previous blog article about being an adult Goth.

One thing I worry about is if employers and potential employers would deem my subcultural affiliation as a sign that I might be a bad employee - there are reasons I keep this blog under the pseudonym of 'HouseCat', and where I do use my real name, only use part of it,  and one of those is that if potential employers search me on the internet under my full name, they won't immediately find my work in the subculture. I'm not ashamed of being Goth, but I am worried about the prevalence misconceptions and misinformation; a lot of people think we're deviants and delinquents, when we're really nothing like that. When I do things with a subcultural leaning that can be relevant work experience, I get very conflicted, and think very carefully about how I word things, often leaving out the word 'Goth'. 

Each employer and each job will have different dress-codes, some have uniforms and some are very strict about a homogenous appearance. Some are also more likely to look down on anything relating to subcultural identity - I worked in one place that had a policy of "pale" nail-varnish colours only, and where I got reprimanded for silver nail-polish (definitely pale!) while another girl with a more mainstream aesthetic was allowed to wear neon yellow and I got told that there wasn't going to be a colour I would be allowed to wear that would fit in with my style, and that they'd prefer pink... In general, however, I've found that my aesthetic quirks are usually accepted as long as I am smart and well-groomed and wear whatever attire is required for the job in hand. 

I know that architecture, the field I will be going into, requires a more conservatively professional aesthetic than some, but it is also a creative field, so there is some leniency for eccentricity. I expect that it will be beneficial to me in the search for employment to dye my hair a natural colour, for example. One of my friends, a purple-haired Goth lady, has recently got an internship with a firm in the US, and she is dyeing her purple hair a more natural colour for that. When the time comes for me to sacrifice my emerald green hair, I will either seek out either a PPD free black dye (SUGGESTIONS WELCOME!) or go for a redhead look. I have been ginger before, and I liked it, however I do sometimes miss my jet-black hair, hence the collection of black wigs. In the meantime, I will continue to revel in the freedom being at university gives me. 

While, in an ideal world, aesthetic preference wouldn't be taken as a measure of competency, and whether you prefer dyed green hair to dyed blonde, or have piercings and tattoos would be irrelevant as long as you maintained a smart and well-groomed appearance, we're not living in an ideal world, and I accept that compromises have to be made. All my tattoos are planned for parts of my body that won't show under usual office attire, and I took most of my piercings out years ago. I have a real passion for architecture and especially for historic buildings, and if modifying my appearance makes it easier for me to do what I love, then I'm willing to make compromises, especially as Goth is so much more than just fashion, so even if I'm making compromises with my appearance, it doesn't stop me from having an '80s 'Trad. Goth' playlist for my bus commutes or going out to a Goth event on a Friday night instead of a regular bar, or whatnot. 

Benefits Of Being An Adult Goth
The obvious benefit of being an adult Goth is that I'm old enough to participate in the club scene; I'm above legal drinking age (18 in the U.K.) and to go to gigs at venues that sell alcohol, and therefore take part in a huge portion of the subculture I couldn't take part in as a younger teen, but that's not the only benefit. As mentioned before, having my own independent income means I am free to chose what I spend it on (even though often times that has meant spending what little I earned primarily on rent, food and utilities, with little spare for things like music, clothes, books, etc. - being an adult also means adult responsibilities) and even though I certainly don't think how Goth you are should be measured by disposable income spent on Goth, it certainly does make things easier now that I can buy records or velvet skirts for myself, or tickets to gigs, entry fees to clubs... As I've progressed in terms of employment and had more income, that has allowed me to afford to spend more on Goth, too. I'm now a student again, and gave up my job to study, so I'm back to thrift shopping on the rare occasions I can afford even that, but when I was working, that certainly helped with how much I could participate.

I think the best thing about being an adult and a Goth is that I can travel around more independently. Personally, I am unable to drive due to health reasons, but there's still a lot of benefits to being able to travel independently rather than having to ask my Dad for a lift, or always having to travel with friends, in terms of flexibility of participation. I only have to fit travel around public transport and my own schedule, not everyone else's. While I am limited by my schedule and by the reach of my disabled person's travel pass (Scotland only), it's nice to be able to go beyond the town I live in to access Goth gigs and events, and meet up with friends in the subculture. As I live somewhere a bit more rural, this is definitely useful, as even nearby towns don't have much in the way of Goth events and gigs, and it usually means a trip to Glasgow or Edinburgh.

Having my own space, free of parental rules, or the rules of dorms and student housing (eg. no posters on the walls was frequently a rule, as this was seen as a fire-hazard, and also all electrical items must be safety-checked, including string-lights, and this had to be paid for so a £1 set of Hallowe'en scary-lights suddenly would also have to cost an electrician's safety-check fee, and seemed a less attractive proposition, and again another fire-safety rule was absolutely no candles or incense) meant the ability to have a space I could make more homely, and more in keeping with aesthetic and musical tastes. Rental properties often didn't let me make any major changes to the decor, but I was free to put my own pictures up, to have string lights and candles, to put in my own furniture, etc. Now I've got a mortgage on my 'own' house (well, it doesn't feel like it's completely mine all the time the mortgage is fairly new and the amount we've paid off is tiny compared to the size of the loan) I can completely re-decorate - a process I am thoroughly throwing myself into.


This is mostly my own experience as an adult Goth, and I would love to hear about the experiences of other adult Goths. Also, as someone who feels like they missed out on the first 25-ish years of Goth, I also love hearing about Goth before I started being one in the early/mid '00s (although that is somewhat tangental from this blog entry). 

Saturday, 23 July 2016

My Reaction and Analysis of Lisa Ladouceur's 40 Years of Goth Style Video

This is a response to ::this:: video by Liisa Ladouceur, author of 'Encylopedia Gothica' and 'How To Kill A Vampire'. It is entitled '40 Years of Goth Style (in under 4 minutes).

Originally I had a (not much) shorter version of this as a comment on YouTube, but it was still pretty long for a YouTube comment, and I don't anyone wants to read a miniature essay as a YouTube comment, so I am posting my full critique here.

Personally, I didn't really feel like the video fulfilled its own purpose. I think for the most-part it's a good show of different sub-styles, but it's not very chronological and doesn't really seem to show 40 years of Goth fashion. It's vaguely chronological about when the various sub-styles came in, or peaked in popularity, but that's about it. Part of the problem is that Goth fashion is not a linear procession, but a complex 'family tree' of interrelated and divergent styles, so it will not fit easily to the format, so I feel like the video is trying to force it into a sense of linearity, of one thing following on from the other, rather than concurrence, that was never going to work. I am certainly not first to notice this.

I understand the decision to include Punk as the progenitor of Goth, but I can't really comment on its accuracy because it's outside my knowledge base. I would like to have seen some sort of information on screen informing non-subcultural types about Goth and Punk being separate, but related.

The Batcave look is definitely more Batcave than general 1980's Goth - when I see picture of 1980's Goths outside the specifically London club scene, I see mostly thrifted or DIY outfits which definitely share aesthetic inspiration, but which aren't sourced the same way. That DIY creative spirit is something I hear 'Eldergoths' mention so much, and which is still an important part of the scene, and I would loved to have seen this video honour that personal creativity, that 'if you can't buy it, make it' ethos. Personally, while I understand why the PVC-and-bondage gear sort of Goth look would be chosen as both being a leading edge in fashion at the time, very reminiscent of what musicians of the period were wearing, and in being more easily replicable in the age of Goth-specific clothing retailers, it just does not seem really reflective of the period as a whole, more of those who had the money and the means to access things like PVC skirts and bondage harnesses, instead of wearing pet-shop dog collars and thrifted clothes dyed black. As far as the wigs go, I think the foofy back-combed effect wig doesn't look too bad, and I think the make-up is definitely good. I would love to have seen a few chunky bangles and thrifted silver necklaces on the model, too.

The Deathrock look was more a hybrid of Deathrock Revival and Nina Hagen's hair than Deathrock to me. The hair style is definitely Nina Hagen inspired, but doesn't quite seem right even for that. It's certainly not a style that comes to mind when I think of what was happening in the US at the time, and the braid wrapped around the cone seems more 'Madonna' than Nina Hagen. The make-up, however, looks about right to me. The clothes seem far too recent and made-for-Goth, which is what makes me think 'Deathrock Revival', although I'd say that usually involves far more layering than this style. I certainly wasn't around for the original Deathrock era or its parallel evolution before it began to cross over with Goth, and unlike with British Trad Goth, I don't have the option of asking to look through the archives of various 'Eldergoths' to have a view of photographs of the style, but from what I have managed to research online and in a few books, the fashion at the time seemed to owe more to punk, and the outfit shown in the video looks more like what I'd see in a UK Goth club 5-10 years ago. The inverse cross print skirt, especially, seems just too recent. I think the bat necklace is from the '90s, too. It is an Alchemy Gothic piece, and one of the most ubiquitous of their designs (I have one), but I think it's too late to be Deathrock, and perhaps would have been suitable for the next outfit instead.

The Romantic Goth look has the perfect sort of dress - initially I thought it was a skirt and top, but it's clearly a gown now I've seen it the second time. I know how coveted the corsets were in the '90s (and how expensive...), but I do wonder if the gown without it would have been enough? However I think it's still pretty representative with the corset, and would be either way. My main criticism is that Romantic Goth is pretty broad and long lived category, and this isn't communicated or displayed in the video. Romantic Goth certainly existed before that, although I think it probably was most popular in the '90s. I'd have loved to have seen an evolution of the Romantic Goth look from the Morticia Addams inspiration and medieval/fantasy-inspired to the elaborate baroque and Victorian stuff that is seen now at Whitby or WGT or Me'ra Luna. There's been a definite evolution and diversification of Romantic Goth, something I would partly attribute to the more and more professional seamstresses/tailors/people making the elaborate historical and fantasy inspired dresses/clothing, and the headdresses, accessories etc. I'd also love to have seen some of the directly New-Romantics inspired Romantic Goths. Romantic Goth has evolved as much as any other Goth style, perhaps as much as the every other Goth style combined. I do the whole goblet and vampire novel thing... I definitely do that!

There needed to be a late '90s Goth with the big Tripp trousers or those layered miniskirts, New Rock boots, lots of chains, mesh or striped gloves and a Marilyn Manson t-shirt! That was such a big shift in the subculture, the whole shock-rock and Gothic Metal addition, at least as big as the influence of industrial/EBM and cybergoth. It might not have been something that all Goths are proud about, because I know some of the teens, especially, at the time were seen as 'mall-Goth, as pretentious teenagers trying to shock their parents and society, divorced from the origins of the subculture, especially as Manson's music isn't Goth (I'd say that he's a Goth, but his music is shock-rock/metal), but they included other hybrids such as Cybergoth, Gothic Lolita and Steampunk, which arguably could be said to have just as little, if not less in common with the '80s origins, but a lot more of that style, in terms of fashion, has become more ubiquitous as to how the average Goth dresses now than any of the more niche hybrids.

The Cybergoth definitely looks like the sort I'd have seen at clubs in the middle '00s onwards. Good job on that one, but no explanation on how it evolved from a mixture of the industrial/EBM scene, Goth and rave - it is its own branch, not just a time-specific look. The wig/falls look a little on the cheap side, however, and I don't quite get the dots above the eyebrows; I would think gluing down and obscuring her real eyebrows and putting dots over them would have been more accurate. Combining two accent colours is definitely not unheard of, but my personal preference would have been for more black and to pick either green or pink as an accent colour, but that is probably more my personal tastes than historical accuracy. Years before I ran this blog, I had a Cybergoth phase, but I found it very expensive, and also too futuristic for my tastes - it was fun for the odd club night, and I got into some of the music but it's not something I could wear regularly or the branch that was really for me. My partner Raven on the other hand...

The Steampunk look is pretty good, but it's own subculture, and although there's a lot of Goths who also like steampunk, there's a lot of people in Steampunk who have nothing to do with Goth - especially people who've come to it through geek/sci-fi/LARP culture rather than spooky Victoriana. Personally, I think it is too distantly related to Goth to be in the video. It's a bit like Emo, or certain genres of Metal; definitely plenty of people interested in both Goth and that subculture, but still a separate subculture.

The 'pin-up' is a Gothabilly/Psychobilly. Looks correct to me, but again, it isn't a branch that I am familiar with to be certain. Not entirely sure if that's considered Goth, however. The whole vintage thing is something I am not very knowledgeable about, as I'm not generally particularly interested in it, so whether it's Goth or not is something I can really say.

Lolita is a separate subculture - Gothic Lolita is where Goth and Lolita overlap, but the other styles of Lolita are quite different from Goth; Sweet Lolita for example, is probably the most popular Lolita style and is pretty much the polar opposite of Goth. A lot of Goths did get into Gothic Lolita, and there's a lot of influence in both directions, so I feel it does have a place in this video, just perhaps with more explanation. What really irritated me, however is that the version shown has utterly wrong make-up; even Mana didn't do anything like that. The eye-makeup should be more subtle and smokey, and definitely NO KISSY DOLL LIPS. I get what they were going for with the wig, and it's the right style, but either the lighting is too harsh and making it look awful, or it's a cheap wig. The bow on the head is the right idea, but the wrong design. The co-ord (Lolita term for outfit) is approximately there; if it was posted to Closet of Frills it would get constructive criticism. It certainly looks like it was done by someone only relatively new to the aesthetic rather than a Lolita; the dress and shoes were right, but the socks would have done better with ruffles at the top, and the gloves swapped with lace wrist-cuffs, and the red contrasting petticoat is not something often done in Lolita; petticoats are usually discrete, hidden under the skirt and only there to give shape. 

Pastel Goth looked right (I'd have added a pastel strapped spiked necklace, but that's nit-picking), I am a little surprised at there not being anything galaxy print involved. Personally I would have swapped the leggings for either galaxy print or those ones with the cats or bats at the bottom. The glittery hair-clips were perfect.

As to the Nu-Goth look, it seemed more like it was 'Strega' or whatever they're currently calling 'witchy' fashion on Tumblr - Nu-Goth would have plain black leggings or perhaps the kind that look like they're wrapped up your legs, but the boots with spikes on the heels look right, and the top's about right with the hood, but the big 'Lydia from Beetlejuice' hat might have been more appropriate. Those big felt hats were SO popular last year; even I got one! Nu-Goth is more minimalist than that. Also one of those chokers with the heart at the front or an o-ring connector would have looked good. Also, a lot of actual witches, myself included aren't very happy with the 'witch' concept being used as fashion statement when that uses our religious symbols inappropriately and with 'edginess' as a primary concern. Prancing around with the black salt circle and red candle really grated on me as an actual witch.

Something that It's Black Friday mentioned in her reaction video (::here::) is that there's quite a few styles that were left out - I would definitely say that 'CorpGoth' was one of them, and that the hippie/Goth hybrid also.

I think perhaps the styling errors were more about what was available at the making of the video than Liisa not knowing how to do it; perhaps this is another fault of following the format set by Buzzfeed. Liisa's a very knowledgeable person, and I really enjoyed 'Encyopedia Gothica'. Personally, I think it would have been better to find people who were willing to model for the video who wear each of the styles regularly rather than make-over one model, or at least find people from each sub-style to style her. The wigs didn't look right at several points. The V-fringe on the Romantic Goth one, for example, looked frizzy at the edges rather than crisp, and the Lolita wig looked VERY Hallow'en and not suitable for the fashion at all. However, I also know that good quality wigs are expensive.

I understood what was meant to be conveyed, but I just don't feel like the video fulfilled its brief, and that in places there were errors in the styling. The Romantic Goth, Pastel Goth and Steampunk styles were pretty accurate, and the 'Nu Goth' and 'Pin-Up' styles were very good representation of 'Strega' and 'Gothabilly/Psychobilly' even if misnamed, but I think it did also have its flaws.

The usual response to these sort of critiques is that I should do it myself if I think it's so wrong - firstly, I don't think it's awful by any means, and secondly, I am planning to do my own 40 years of Goth fashion, but to avoid the practical issues that come with trying to style a model, I will instead illustrate each style, and probably produce eventually a blog entry, and perhaps an infographic. I know the sub-styles have already been explored in illustration by Black Waterfall as the 'Goth (stereo)Types' ::here:: but I plan on both a more realistic and detailed illustration style, and adding more information both on history and on the fashion.

Obviously, to do the best possible version of this is, I am going to be doing a lot of research. I've been talking to a lot of Goths who have been around in the subculture longer than I have, looking through archives of photos from the scene (I recommend 'Some Wear Leather, Some Wear Lace' by Andi Harriman and Marloes Bontje, and the associated Tumblr ::NOWTHISISGOTHIC:: run by Marloes Bontje as a starting point).

I'd love to hear other people's responses to the video, and if Liisa Ladoceur's reading this, feel free to rebuff my critique! I'd love to discuss the history of Goth fashion in the comments, and I especially want to hear from '80s and '90s Goths who were actually there. If you think I'm wrong, feel free to correct me, too.

[edit: fixed for improper accreditation for NOWTHISISGOTHIC ]

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

My 10 Favourite (Fiction) Books & Series Of Books

This is in no particular order. I was asked what my favourite book was, but have the problem that I have too many books I really like to pick one clear favourite, and how much I like a specific book really depends on what mood I'm in.

1) The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake (1950)
This set of books is a sprawling epic, and like many Gothic novels, the setting is key to the novel. The sprawling Castle Gormenghast and the surrounding ramshackle town and Twisted Woods are certainly one of my favourite creepy settings in literature, and how Mervyn Peake describes all of it is delicious descriptive prose. The story is part coming-of-age, part Gothic horror and part satire and social commentary on the society of the time. It follows the life of Titus Groan, son of Sepulchrave Seventy-sixth Lord of Groan, and the intrigues of his weird noble family and their scheming servants, who live lives of ancient rituals whose meanings have long since been obfuscated by time. It is spread across 3 long books, but I think they are well worth it. The first two books are set at Gormenghast, and the third is set in a weird science-fiction city that will appeal to fans of older science fiction and Steampunk

The BBC made an adaption of the first two novels, involving Christopher Lee as Flay. It's very good for a series produced in the year 2000, but it is definitely a product of its time as far as things like effects go, but I think this lends it a theatricality that is quite appealing in its own way. It also inspired the Cure songs 'The Drowning Man' and 'All Cats Are Grey' on the album Faith - which I think was definitely a return to the Gothic for them.


2) The Lord of The Rings Trilogy (and the extended tales of Middle Earth) by J.R.R. Tolkien
Popularised again recently by the two film trilogies by Peter Jackson, with a vast fandom, both of those who fell in love with the books long before the films, and those who were first introduced to the stories by the two film trilogies, Tolkien's works make him, alongside fellow 'Inkling' C.S. Lewis one of the fathers of modern High Fantasy. It's elves, orcs, wizards, ancient evils and men in armour, shield-maidens and folk that can turn into bears, an epic tale of good and evil, with a dragon, some things that aren't quite dragons but are big mean flying beasties, and creepy undead Ringwraiths. It's got plenty of content that will appeal to the Gothic heart (Shelob's lair, and Shelob herself, the vast arachnid horror that she is, the Barrow Wights, Sauron himself, the aforementioned Ringwraiths, and there are werewolves and vampires in the tales of the 'earlier' history of Middle Earth).

Personally, I think for Tolkien to be fully enjoyed, one needs to read The Children of Hurin, the Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, etc. as well 'The Hobbit' and 'The Lord of the Rings', as it is so much more beautiful as the long and sprawling sagas of a rich and detailed world; a level of history and world-building that makes it seem like it could almost have been real. I went as far as trying to 'learn' - or at least piece together as much as can be learned, because Tolkien never really completed the endless task of compiling his languages, and all the lexicons are partial and the grammar left in a state of construction - various forms of Elvish, but I am a very, very nerdy nerd.


3) Interview With A Vampire by Anne Rice (1976)
Oh, the modern Gothic vampire tale... Of all the 'Vampire Chronicles' is the first and in my opinion the original was the best. It is sprawling in how it goes through time and it is glorious in its purple prose. Louis and Lestat are decadent, and a fascinating pair of vampires, strange opposites - Lestat's definitely the more predatory and classically vampiric, and Louis was angst ridden, but not to the point of being whiney - at least not in this volume, where he recounts his long and tragic life to a reporter. It was adapted into a film in 1994 (has it really been that long?)

I did enjoy most of the series, but I feel some were certainly stronger than others - 'The Vampire Armand' and 'Memnoch the Devil' being my least favourite. When Anne Rive went through a period of writing things with an overly religious tone it came over as a bit like she was bludgeoning the reader with her personal faith, rather than writing a narrative set very deeply into a Christian cosmology and Heaven/Hell dichotomy. I enjoy plenty of fiction set in a universe where Heaven and Hell are locked in a millennial conflict, just not when the author seems to be preaching without subtlety. There are other issues I have with some of the series, especially 'The Vampire Armand' and Marius' pederasty seeming almost glorified, but for the most part, I love the detail with which she paints the very sensuous Gothic world her characters inhabit, and the scale and historical scope. It reads more like the saga of a long-lived family than  a series with a linear plot, but sometimes it is important to have read the key novels in the series for others to make sense



4) Oryx And Crake by Margaret Atwood (2003) 
A dystopian tale of genetic engineering, love and the human condition this book is Margaret Atwood being the literary genius she can be. Nearly everyone knows of 'The Handmaid's Tale' and it is taught in schools (in fact, how I first encountered Margaret Atwood's work) as an icon of social commentary in dystopian science-fiction (or 'speculative fiction' as she prefers to call it), and one with a decidedly feminist angle, and a good few people know 'The Blind Assassin', but Atwood's more recent dystopian science-fiction seems less well known (or at least in the circles I travel, few have read it or even heard of it), and I do wish to mention it for that reason, but also because it is hauntingly dark. I will mention that it deals with sexual abuse from the perpetrator's perspective (which is all the more chilling, I feel) and has a lot of content some people might find disturbing, but I suspect most of my readers err on the darker side of fiction, and this will not be much of a bother. There are two sequels, 'The Year of the Flood' and 'MaddAddam', making this the first of a trilogy, but it also stands alone as its own novel (as I think it was first envisaged) and which I enjoyed far more, if 'enjoyed' is the right word - it left me haunted for a good few weeks after. 



6) Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Murakami Haruki (1985)
Murakami Haruki is more famous for 'Norwegian Wood', which is a classic, but is certainly not the sort of genre I really enjoy reading. This book is something deliberately confusing and twisting on itself - it is a book for fans of films like 'Vanilla Sky', 'Inception' and the like, and is about the conscious and subconscious, and in two parallel narratives (some editions involve you having to turn the book upside down and read the other version in the same book but running 'backwards' while seeming forwards), and is a mixture of cyber-punk and surreal fairy-tale, and both dark and fascinating, and also in turn beautiful and unnerving. 


7) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)
I had to include at least one Gothic horror from the genre's hey-day. I doubt that the novel requires much introduction to the readers of this blog, what with it having become ingrained in popular culture through various film adaptations. It is the tale of the mad-scientist who builds a person by re-animating the re-assembled parts of several corpses, and the results and ramifications of this act. Mary Shelley wrote the novel when she was only 18, and it was a work of inspired genius. 


8) The Ocean At The End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (2013)
It's not my favourite Neil Gaiman book (that is probably 'The Graveyard Book, which is technically an older children's book, but which I love dearly. Part of me wishes I had grown up in a graveyard with ghosts and a caring vampire, but most of me realises how terribly impractical that would be!), but I am going to put this on the list because I will do a list of children's books separately, and because it is a bloody good book. It deals with a boy who lives near two women and a girl who are pretty much the Maiden, Mother and Crone, and his adventures with the young girl after evil spirits find a gateway into the world. The story is told from the perspective of the boy as a grown man, as if it's a faded memory, one that seems true to him yet impossible. The whole thing has quite a few Neo-Pagan undercurrents about the Maiden, Mother and Crone, life and re-birth, and the spirit world - but they are handled subtly, more there for those who recognise them rather than announced in the text. 

It won Book of the Year in the British National Book awards in 2013, and was the third time Neil Gaiman won a Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel in 2014,  and thoroughly deserves both. I went to see Neil Gaiman talk about it and read some, which can be read about ::here::

I would actually recommend all of his books. 'American Gods' is amazing, 'Neverwhere' is a weird and really rather Gothic tale of 'London Below' and I loved the collaboration with Terry Pratchett 'Good Omens' and all of the Sandman Comics, and Coraline... Oh, just everything he has ever done, really!


9) Mort by Terry Pratchett (1987) 
Terry Pratchett is another author where I love pretty much everything he has written, especially the Discworld series. Out of the Discworld series, I actually like some of the earlier books better. Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of time for some of the newer books, but there was more word-play (and silly foot-notes) in the earlier books, and while the later books were longer and more immersive, the shorter books were often quite densely packed with brilliance. Mort is about a young man who ends up being apprentice to Death (the grim reaper) and is set in the Discworld. It's also not one of the meatier books, and I think is the sort of Discworld book you can read again and again and pick up funny little details you missed the first time around, rather than the sort for getting lost in a long and glorious story. For a book about death-themed stuff, Mort is riotously funny - it is a book where I cackle when reading it. 

It is the first introduction of Death as a lead character in the Discworld universe, but he's a memorable and returning character (as is his amazing grand-daughter.) and he is one of my favourite characters, alongside Granny Weatherwax and the other witches. Other books featuring Death as a main character include the more philosophical 'Reaper Man' about death, industrialisation and progress as much as character interaction, and 'Soul Music' which is not just about motorcycles and the magic of rock music in the middle of a surreal fantasy world, but is certainly also about that too.



10) The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (1980)
This is mostly a detective story, but it is an unusual one. For a start, it is set in a medieval monastery, but this is not a Brother Cadfael mystery. In many ways, this novel works a bit like the sort of Gothic horror where all the supernatural horrors turn out to have a rational explanation, and the isolated mountain-top monastery certainly gives it a claustrophobic and labyrinthine setting - with the library's arrangement of rooms being a deliberate puzzle/maze and the architecture itself quite a feature of the novel (the prominence of atmospheric setting of this nature is a classic feature of Gothic horror), and the deaths in their strange and gruesome manner again give the novel a macabre twist that makes the whole situation seem like it borders on the demonic, as does the story being told from the perspective of a very religious Medieval novice monk. It's quite a deliberately intellectual novel, and it is one of those books where erudite readers will probably catch who the murderer is pretty quickly from clues within the story, something I can find a little pretentious at times, but it is still a very enjoyable book, and certainly one for those who enjoy Gothic novels but not necessarily supernatural tales.

For those who are interested in the architecture in the novel, it was inspired by ::this:: real life remote monastery in Italy.

☽Ω☾

An honourable mention goes to Dracula by Bram Stoker, which I love for its place in history, but never really enjoyed as a book. I think the way it hops between perspectives due to its epistolary format meant that I couldn't really get into a 'flow' with it. I have re-read it several times to make myself understand it better, and now that it is familiar territory, it has been much easier for me to immerse myself in it and the characters presented. I love many of the Dracula film adaptations, and much else that has been inspired by the novel, but the novel itself is something I had to grow to love, rather than something I loved with from the moment of turning the pages. I collect editions of 'Dracula' with interesting covers. This is theoretically quite pointless, as they're all the same story, but aesthetically it all makes me very happy.

Another honourable mention goes to Michael Moorcock's Elric novels - the sadistic, terrifying and yet beautiful Melnibonéans, something akin to elves with the personalities of vampires, are creatures that I thought very fascinating for the same reasons I love reading about vampires. I wasn't so keen on Eternal Champion books set in other periods and worlds, but the almost dream-like surreal high fantasy worlds of Elric really captured my imagination. Elric's cursed sword Stormbringer that drinks the souls of those he slays, the immortal knight who longs for death, the ancient, beautiful and decadent city falling into ruins, all common tropes in modern Gothic fantasy (and all with much older literary histories - Stormbringer brings to mind both Kullervo's sword and the myths about swords with evil spirits from Japan), but when the Elric books came out these were much fresher, and when I read them they were new to me, plus Moorcock's style made me feel like I was travelling with the doomed Lord himself. Elric is somewhere between a Byronic anti-hero - full of angst, introspection and both tragic and heroic.

There's a few books I enjoy reading that didn't make it to this list - Jim Butcher's 'Dresden Files' series, 'The Brutal Art' (a tragic tale of murder, ableism, and abuse - half detective novel, and half family saga) and Robin Hobb's 'Farseer' novels, and of course J.R.R. Martin's 'Game of Thrones' saga... I hear he also wrote a vampire novel, so I'll have to track THAT down. I like high fantasy nearly as much as I like vampire novels and dystopias.

My guilty pleasure is reading spy/assassin/international intrigue thrillers; the stuff action movies are made of. Some of them are actually good books, many others I just read to pass the time and while exciting, are quite terribly written, and I don't care! It is like eating chocolate - sometimes it is luxurious and delicious, perhaps a twist in a familiar recipe, perhaps a decadent desert... but sometimes it's a cheap chocolate bar from the corner shop, an unhealthy indulgence that is enjoyable nonetheless! 

I would love to hear what my readers' favourite books are, and if any bloggers want to do their own version of this, consider it the '10 Favourite Books' tag, and go right on ahead! I would also love to receive suggestions for books I might enjoy, as perhaps those mentioned above give some sort of idea what things I enjoy. 

Friday, 3 June 2016

Metal Meets Goth Near Loch An Eilein

As I mentioned last year, I am slowly embarking on a project of photographing members of the local Goth community. This set is one of two I took of my friend Joel at a ruined building on the shores of Loch an Eilein, at Rothiemurchus in Speyside. This is the first of three sets of photos that will have come from that day out - these are the ones I took on my little point-and-click camera as tests of different poses, etc. I also brought the Canon camera and took proper photographs on a proper camera, but I mislaid my memory card with those on. I also took photos of Loch an Eilein's ruined castle in the middle of it. I would love to visit that castle by boat... something I may have to try and arrange in the future with the castle's owner.

Joel is both a Goth and a Metalhead, and his outfit for the photoshoot was meant to reflect that, and I had a lot of fun doing his make-up; I don't often get to do make-up on men or in different styles. 

Photograph by HouseCat
I'm not quite sure what I was aiming for, specifically with the make-up; I went with something akin to the effect of wearing a half-mask with the shading drawn on, but it wasn't refined enough to exactly create this effect, plus the make-up over the eyes and bridge of the nose doesn't fit in with that theme. I guess in the end it was abstract geometry and shading. Either way, Joel seemed to like it, and I was quite happy with how it turned out. Crisp lines were achieved with using tape to mask. Using bandage/dressing tape seems to work best for this sort of thing. 

Photograph by HouseCat
I really like all of the textures in Joel's outfit. The complex strapped arm-piece is one really cool accessory, and I'm a little jealous of Joel because it looks pretty darn cool. I actually lent Joel a few of my spikes, even though he has heaps of his own, to balance it out with an eclectic selection of spikes on the other arm. I also lent him one of my spiked chokers, to layer with his own. I don't wear spikes half as much as I used to; I guess my fashion these days leans too much to the anachronistic to embrace the punkier aspects I used to love. Perhaps some of my spikier Goth friends will end up being a better home for bits of my collection. 

Photograph by HouseCat
Taking these photographs was a scramble through rough ground. I was wearing trousers, army boots and a rain-coat, and the weather wasn't warm. I'm surprised Joel wasn't complaining about it being chilly in that mesh shirt! The building (I am not sure if it was a boat-house or fishing lodge for the loch or what) is partly mounded around by rubble and earth, and I did climb up the mound for photographs, but they will probably be in the other set when I find the memory card for the better camera. 

Photograph by HouseCat
I think my photography skills have improved since ::this:: photoshoot I took of Ducky and Catastrophe Plague at Beauly priory (not that I'm not still pretty chuffed with the photos I took then). I am going to continue with my Gothic photography project, documenting visually the variety of Goths in the Highland scene. In the not-to-distant future there will be the second set of photographs of Joel taken with 'the good camera' and also the photographs of the island castle of the 'Wolf of Badenoch'. [Who needs Game of Thrones if you live in Scotland? We've even got a Wester Ross...]

Raven took this photo of me taking a photo.
I've been taking photographs of other things too - there's more graveyards, old churches and creepy things coming up, as per usual. I'm on summer break now, and trying to make up for how little I was posting while studying. University is more work than a full-time job; I've never been so busy in my life, not even when I was studying before. I'm also working on decorating the house and sorting the garden this summer, so I won't be posting every day, but updates will now be far more regular.