Tag Archives: Gothic

The Science Behind Dark Gothic Feels

12 Mar

by Madeline Iva

Hello lovely people! How are you? I’m pretty obsessed these days with one thing and one thing only: dark, gothic feels.  I like all aspects of suspense–preferably set in intriguingly gloomy surroundings, and chock full of complex, morally ambiguous or hard to read characters.  I love how gothic reads make the heart race from a pinch of fear, a heaping amount of romantic tension, and a bit pit of secrets. But that obsession has branched off into more basic question: If you’re feeling a bodily reaction to someone — is the other person feeling it too? This is often an underlying question in gothic romance, where Things Must Not Be Said.  But how can we not question this in the times we’re living in?

I’ve had moments in the past where suddenly out of the blue, my radar begins pinging around someone.  I’ve later found out that the other person was *really* into me at the time.  Because of that, I’ve come to trust my inner radar–and my advice to friends is always: if you’re feeling it, it’s cause there’s something there.

Of course, I always add, the knowledge may not do you any good whatsoever.  Most of us are not ruled by our heart or groin.  With most of us, our head is firmly in charge. There can be multiple reasons–exponential reasons even–why the guy or girl in question may decide not act or want to act on the vibe between you.  They may be committed elsewhere, they may think that despite chemistry you’re a dork, or crazy, or difficult, or for whatever reason you just don’t match (either inwardly or outwardly) what their head requires in a date, mate, or f*ckbuddy.  😦  And they may deny that there is any chemistry at all if you try to initiate something.  SEE BELOW.)  The last thing you want to do is start off a conversation asking for an admission that ‘there’s something going on between us.’  Trust me, more than half the time that conversation is not going to go well.

But am I even right that if you’re feeling it, then the other person is too?  Science has been bending the microscope towards this question as well, and so far the answers are hacking big chunks out of my theory.  For one thing — if you present a sense of danger and even mild stimulants, it will raise levels of sexual attraction in men. (Artificially?)

The Science of How Thrills Leading To Feels: the article below from Scientific American reveals how men are much more likely to risk engaging with an attractive woman out if they are near a high suspended bridge and have had a major shot of caffeine.

How We Misinterpret Emotional Arousal

In fact, both men and women are very susceptible to mixing signals of danger for emotional feels towards another person.  The TED talk below explores the dangers of SSRI’s like Prozac in our society — because they inhibit dopamine.  Without dopamine, we have a hard time feeling attraction, or falling in love.  But we also get a dopamine rush from a sense of thrilling adventure, or danger.

The Brain In Love

And finally, science is starting to reveal that as more men and women feel it’s acceptable to form mixed gender relationships, a very high proportion of men assume that at the core of the friendship is a mutual attraction for each other that is being deferred for some reason–like one of them is in a committed relationship.  Women however, do not report similar assumptions at anywhere near the same rate.  They see the guy friends more often than not as “just friends” and there is no attraction on their part.

Dubious Aspects of Cross-Gender Friendships

What can we understand from these limited studies?

The bad news: just having a vibe around someone all of a sudden is not definitive proof that they’re feeling something too–even just sexual chemistry.  One hopes that men all across the world will take this message to heart and that many of them who do assume this will immediately stop being creeps.

The good news: men are REALLY susceptible to having feels for women they’re around. If you *are* feeling something for a cis-man, and you’re a woman–the chances are pretty high he could be feeling it too. Again–he may not want to do anything about it–or even acknowledge it.

In the face of this scientific news–and compounded by the sexual harassment issues we’ve been facing lately as a society, I simply must revise my theory:

Here’s my new version: If you’re feeling vibes coming off someone, can you assume they’re feeling it too? No.  But they *might* be. And the best thing you can do in that situation is hug that knowledge to yourself.

Because there are a ton of reasons a person can be sending out the sparky feels.  The passion of what they’re engaged in–career, hobby, or creative endeavors–can explain so much of why you’re getting those tingles down low.  The truth is men benefit from women’s company and friendship in so many ways — from the feeling of being able to confide in someone, to basic career assists, to the care-taking that women often provide.  There are TONS of reasons why a man may be in a state of high anticipation around you that has nothing to do with actually being into you–either sexually or romantically.

Which brings me back to the glorious wonder of Dark Gothic Feels. What we can no longer assume in the real world we can heartily assert in the fantasy world of the gothic.  Is he a vampire? He’s totally into you.

Is he a reclusive member of the upper class, harboring dark secrets in his decayed castle mansion? Into you.

Crimson Peak

Secrets….LOTS of secrets…

Is he an elf lord amidst rotting splendor and magic, cursed with the power of bespelling women? Oh he wants you.

Is he a nice guy who happens to be ridiculously hot and because of some misunderstandings between you early on, sincerely wants to help you fight the vicious demon eating your soul? Yeah, he not only wants dirty sex with you–asap–he luuuuvs you.

Retreat with me to these fantasy fictional worlds where every twinge of a vibe means something hot, pure, and true.

I’ve got a free novella you can check out — about the hot guy and demon infected heroine.

I’ve got a brooding elf-wizard in his lonely tower — sample the first 100 pages of WICKED APPRENTICE.

If your pleasure poison is the reclusive guy with dark secrets and a mouldering castle follow me and you won’t miss out on the glorious gloom.Wicked Apprentice

 

 

 

I Vote October Sexiest Month of the Year

3 Oct

by Madeline Iva

I’m just orgasmic when it comes to October.  I wish it was three months long.  Seriously.  October is the perfect time to dive into a hot, paranormal romance or to enfold oneself in an elegant, gothic thrillfest.  It’s the home of fantastical fantasies–whether they take place on other worlds or with paranormal sexy beasts.

The season delights my senses. Between leaves crunching, the low angle of afternoon sunlight or the smell of apple cider on the stove, one is in an orgy of sensual delights.  Wool sweaters come out. Your thinking turns all crispy with the cold.  But more importantly, this is the time that we touch fingers with the otherworld.  This is the time to let sensual urges begin to bubble, toil, and cause you trouble.  The time to let primal passions ripen.  The time to welcome an unexpected knock on the door.  No one knows what you do in the dark; in October darkness begins to engulf daylight.  Witches, vampires, along with other things unseen and only grasped in the shadows tease and taunt you to come out and play.  Aren’t you already shivering with delight?

My Halloween pleasures come in a variety pack:

Creepy, Kookie, Mysterious & Spooky:

Over on Facebook, I’m part of a new, fun Halloween Romance FB group.  Yesterday we were talking about what kind of Halloween movies we adore: Beetlejuice, The Adams Family (I like the old TV shows best), and all that other cute fun Halloween-y stuff.  It’s all about the embrace of ‘the other’ isn’t it?

I have a feeling as the days roll by we’ll be shuffling through the leaves and into hotter, more forbidden Halloween topics. ; >  But for now, I love the innocent, goofy “if-you’re-weird-and-ya-know-it-clap-your-hands” kind of vibe as much as I love anything else about Halloween.

We’re having a THE CRAFT movie watching party  on facebook Wednesday night, October 4th.  Join us! It’s at 8:30pm CDT.

Fantastical & Romantic:

October is the perfect time of year for one’s over-the-top urges, whether it’s dressing up, or more fully exploring your pagan side.   For me there are many movies & TV shows that are so flawed, and yet…they feature the kind of fantastical costuming & majestic vibe I lurv so hard.  Here are a few:

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (directed by Francis Ford Coppola) — This movie is flawed, but this side story where poor Lucy is mesmerized, ravished, and then succumbs to Dracula–and how her relationship plays out with her bestie Mina–is to me the most evocative and best part of the movie.

#sowrongsoright —
Lucy having erotic-no-holds-barred sex w dracula inmonster form. On one hand: ew. On the other hand, she’s clearly getting off big time.

Have I got a tale to tell you. Hands down best part of Bram Stoker’s Dracula was the homoerotic/innocent scenes between Lucy n Mina. Thus a thousand fan fic stories were born….

Lucy gets the best and worst of it, clearly. But her costumes were definitely the best part.

Penny Dreadful — I’ll confess I couldn’t make it through this TV show.  Slow pacing and just unorganized weirdness.  But on the other hand, I slobberingly adore Eva Green–esp in her “we’re all doomed” kind of mind-set.

Crimson Peak — didn’t care for the bloody slithering spooky parts of this film that tried to add a dash of horror in what otherwise was a perfect gothic set piece.  The costumes and the set were to die.  I worship it in this Lady Smut blog post and again talking about women in Gothic romances & movies.

What are those things hanging down from the ceiling? I wants them.

Sleepy Hollow —  Just watched this the other night.  There’s a complicated backstory that’s hard to follow–and we just don’t care.  There’s a complicated mystery that Johnny Depp must piece together, but it’s hard to stay focussed with all the over-the-top mayhem and Christopher Walken magnificently chewing the scenery.  The story just gets lost, people.  BUT — Christina Ricci (though her role is dumb) is so angelic and yummy and delicate you just want to strangle her to death.

A+ costumes for Sleepy Hollow!

Underworld — the styling of the first movie is as good as any of the rest of it.  The vamps are cool as f*ck.  Just sayin’.

A Sense of Wit & Humor:

If Halloween were a hero, he’d be the one quietly laughing at himself.  I love humor in all Halloween movies & TV shows. Have you seen all of these?

  • Crazy Head (British, TV)
  • Santa Clarita Diet (Netflix)
  • iZombie (TV)
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV)
  • Warm Bodies (Movie, Romance)
  • Shawn of the Dead (Movie, Zombies, Satire)
  • Scream (Horror Movie)
  • Ghostbusters (Movie, Humor)
  • An American Werewolf in London (Old 80’s Horror Movie)

Gothic, Perverse, & Grotesque:

Something about fall gives me an almost manic sense of possibility.  A go-to-hell attitude that spurs my imagination, allowing me to uphold my true love for all things a wee bit twisted.  In fact, my Pinterest board Halloween Smexy is a document of my favorite Halloween cultural delights.

Today I’m fixated (again) on AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN.  There’s such a dark-girl-power theme, I can’t f***ing get enough. Shivers.

Speaking of dark-girl-power! I’m going to be at this Barnes & Nobel event in Charlottesville, VA on Saturday October 28th, from 12 to 3pm. (singing) It’s gonna be freaking awesome…We’re talking about the world of genre fic — specifically the world of SFF–and ‘what it feels like for a girl‘ in this genre, whether we’re attending cons or being someone with a vagina amongst all the writer-men.
Queens of Damned postcard, Barnes & Nobel event

In summation, because of the ebullient change of seasons, the dark embrace of Halloween, and all it’s fantastical, twisted, grotesque excellence–I vote October sexiest month of the year.

But Wait! There’s More!!!!

Here are two other events I’ll be attending this season:

This Sunday, Oct 8th, 2017, I’ll be at the HEARTS TO YOU, WRW Luncheon for bloggers and readers.  You want to sign up? It’s not too late.  Click the link for the registration form.

Click on this photo to go to the registration page…

The other event on Nov 4th is at the LOUDEN COUNTY Library. I’ll be talking plot and how character is king! Click on the link:

BASICS OF THE ROMANCE FICTION GENRE

And if that’s not enough of me, you know you can always subscribe to my newsletter or find me on fb.

Witchy kisses & hugs to you! XOXO, Mads

 

Red As Blood: Women & Gothic Romance

1 Jun

Lovely readers — I attended a panel at #WisCon that made me cry out with perverse desire.  It was called Red As Blood — a panel on women and the Gothic genre.  Loosely organized, it revolved around the interesting desires and situations that comprise Gothic joy and perversity.

“A young woman meets an interesting, mysterious man in a giant, lonely house.  It turns out he may have bad intentions.  Sometimes she wants him to have bad intentions.”–Emily Cataneo.

What I liked about this panel was that everyone on the panel–authors and fans alike, really obsessed over what I obsessed over, and had exactly the same attitudes that I had. Everyone on the panel was raving over Crimson Peak–especially Tom Hiddleston, especially the house and clothes — AND

Spoiler Alert!

…especially the end where two women fight it out with knives in bloody nightgowns.

Everyone didn’t care if there was no logical reasoning behind certain events in their favorite Gothic novels or movies.  Our love of Gothic is not about reason.

Then what is it about? It’s about a feeling of creeping doom, of impending horror.  But no ACTUAL horror, mind you.  If horror is that moment of curdling screams and blood splatter on the wall, then the gothic genre is about hearing that scream from a far distance and discovering the blood splatter on the wall by prying open a secret passage.  (Preferably 5 to 20 years after it got there.)

The gothic genre is about secrets.  About dread.  About creeping horror — yes! But it’s a psychological horror.

Notorious is supremely logical–but the sense of oppression is still intense.

Now let’s talk romance in these novels.  For my joys I hit the Goodreads best Gothic romances page. There you will find not only the old classic authors like Anne Radcliffe and Victoria Holt but also Gay Gothic Romances, and Gothic romances with witches!!!!

Now, when we turn to Gothic film, the problem is that they are often horror films and take things just a leeeetle too far for my taste. Sigh.  Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about gothic romantic films:

The Gothic romance film is a Gothic film with feminine appeal. Diane Waldman wrote in Cinema Journal that Gothic films in general “permitted the articulation of feminine fear, anger, and distrust of the patriarchal order” and that such films during World War II and afterward “place an unusual emphasis on the affirmation of feminine perception, interpretation, and lived experience”. Between 1940 and 1948, the Gothic romance film was prevalent in Hollywood, being produced by well-known directors and actors. The best-known films of the era were Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), and Gaslight (1944). Less well-known films were Undercurrent (1946) and Sleep, My Love (1948). Waldman describes these films’ Gothic rubric: “A young inexperienced woman meets a handsome older man to whom she is alternately attracted and repelled.”[1] Other films from the decade include The Enchanted Cottage (1945) and The Heiress (1949).[2]

The Gothic romance films from the 1940s often contain the “Bluebeard motif”, meaning that in the typical setting of the house, a certain part is either forbidden to be used or even closed off entirely.[3] In the films, the forbidden room is a metaphor for the heroine’s repressed experience, and opening the room is a cathartic moment in the film.[4] In addition, the layout of the house in such films (as well as Gothic novels) creates “spatial disorientation [that] causes fear and an uncanny restlessness”.[5]

In 2015, director Guillermo del Toro released the Gothic romance film Crimson Peak. He said past films had been “brilliantly written by women and then rendered into films by male directors who reduce the potency of the female characters”. For Crimson Peak, he sought to reverse this cinematic trope.[6]

And did he EVER! If you adored Crimson Peak then here are some treats for you.  Here’s my fun review of Crimson Peak for one, along with some other movie recommendations below.  First of all, I highly recommend Suspicion–a Cinderella story in which we and the heroine are gradually brought to realize that a) she’s no Cinderella and b) this is not a happily ever after.

But if you want to get your gothic horror movie on–here’s a list from Indiewire to check out.  Some of them are fabulous.  Rosemary’s Baby is excellent.  Picnic at Hanging Rock is really mysterious. It’s like the missing girls floated off into some alternative realm after enough feminine corset squeezing and hair braiding to last a lifetime.  Gaslight is excellent.  As I mentioned above, Suspicion is one of my all time favorites.  The Shining is fabulous — but something I’d put on while doing another task so I could walk away as needed…(I’d put the premise of The Shining this way: What’s the scariest monster of the 70’s? The absent dad figure suddenly returned to be a ‘part of the family’.  Shiver. Ugggggggh!) Les Diaboliques was good, Notorius is sublime.  This list also made me want to see The Haunted with Kate Beckinsale as well as The Tomb of Ligeia…

THE GOTHIC ANTI-HERO OF ALL TIME? It’s gotta be Micheal Fassbender.  As I’ve commented before, Fassy seems to be all alone in his films.  That alone-ness is exactly what we want in a gothic anything. In the latest-greatest remake of Jane Eyre, he is utterly riveting.  At once flesh and blood with his long mutton chop whiskers, he seems like a Victorian that doesn’t wash everyday, that sweats, that chews his food. There is something very real and authentic about him–especially when it comes to his presence around women. Nevertheless, for all that he still seems like a very quietly haunted man who will NEVER be happy.  What I realized watching his performance is that Jane Eyre is a tale of warning: don’t fall for the man you work for.  Don’t let him seduce you.  Don’t succumb to the temptations he leads you towards breadcrumb of attention by breadcrumb of attention.  He has bad intentions and nothing good for you will result.  Fassy’s breathtaking performance is a seduction: rather slow and tender, but also deliberate enough to make one realize how wrong it all is.  His inscrutable mind is clicking behind the command of his words, looks, and touches the entire time.

Tom Hiddleston is an incredibly close second for my all time fav goth anti-hero.  His charismatic flavor however, connotes the possibility of a happier ending. If Fassy is the haunted man in his giant spooky house at the beginning of the movie, then Hiddles represents that peek of sunshine, that thin slice of spring — expressed only by a few blades of grass and one lone daffodil at the end of the movie.  There is something a little softer and more pliant about Hiddles the lover. He represents hope and escape from psychological hell into some sunnier, more mild and quietly happy place.  Tom seems like a man who needs an other to pair with him.  While Fassy, a more coporeal lover in the moment of temptation, perhaps–seems to stand alone in his blank emptiness to the bitter end.

I see Tom as more of an HEA guy–even if the HEA is with his sister.

What do you think, readers? Sound out below in the comments section — and I’m all ears for good contemporary gothic romance reading rec’s.

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

A good-old fashioned gothic romance. I think.

14 Sep

I recently finished The Lantern, a book that draws similarities to Daphne Du Maurier’s classic Rebecca in both setting (crumbly old farmhouse in Provence) and suspensful atmosphere. Author Deborah Lawrenson’s book has been labeled as “a modern gothic novel of love, secrets, and murder,” and that’s what enticed me to read it in the first place. I dug Rebecca and looked forward to this one as well. Mind you, there’s no heat in this book, but I didn’t really expect that given what it is.  (although no one said I couldn’t hope!).

In short, I really liked the story. It drew me in from the start, I enjoyed the characters, and the setting was so descriptive that I felt as if I could smell the lavender fields right by the comfort of my bedroom reading light. As promised, it had a gothic feel to it, harkening back to the era of Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney. But here’s the thing: is it really a gothic? The heroine isn’t a wide-eyed virtuous maiden, the hero is a flawed guy but not particularly heroic, and the “villain,” if you will, isn’t really front and center in the story. There is the aforementioned farmhouse, and there’s a ghostly element as well.

Reviews of this book are mainly strong, but the author’s getting dinged because her writing seems overly descriptive, flowy, taking too long to get to the heart of the matter. In short, “too many adjectives.” Too many adjectives? Isn’t that similar to the line from “Amadeus” where the king tells Mozart that sometimes his music is hard on the royal ear because there are “too many notes.” Mozart replies that his music has as many notes as he requires. I guess it’s in the eye of the reader. I felt her descriptions transported me to France, other readers felt they transported them to boredom.

My primary musing here, however, is whether or not this book is truly what one could call a “gothic” romance. Are we muddling that old description with what we call “romantic suspense” today? For those who’ve read the book, what do you think? As for me, gothic or romantic suspense, if I can be transported to France, I’m in.

Until next time,

Elizabeth

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