Friday 6 June 2014

Kitchen Sink Gothic

Wild Bill, an excellent example of a kitchen sink thriller

What is Kitchen Sink Gothic?

M. John Harrison used the term in relation to Robert Aickman: "John Coulthart on reading Robert Aickman: “like finding the quotidian Britishness of Alan Bennett darkening into the inexplicable nightmares of David Lynch.” I often return to BBC4′s The Golden Age of Canals, which features Aickman as a broody, nerdy TE Lawrence of the waterways, for its footage of decaying tunnel entrances, drained locks & Kitchen Sink Gothic clutter embedded in wet mud."

Kitchen Sink as a genre description was coined in the late 1950s, early 1960s to describe British films, plays and novels generally set in the North of England which depicted working class life in a gritty, no-nonsense, warts and all style, sometimes referred to as social realism.

For me, within the horror genre it is the antithesis of Jamesian or Lovecraftian horror. There are no distinguished scholars in these stories. The settings are unglamorous, perhaps even unatmospheric in the accepted use of that word in supernatural horror.

I first became aware of it when someone reviewed my story Scrap (Dark Visions 1, Grey Matter Press, 2013): "Scrap by David A. Riley could easily have been a kitchen sink drama, depicting the lives of two brothers growing up in a poverty-stricken council estate in England. Riley chooses to inject a healthy dose of horror, elevating his story to a different, altogether more gruesome level."

Of course I’m not the only writer to use such settings. Which is why I am interested in editing an anthology of stories under the title Kitchen Sink Gothic, to see how diverse this sub-genre can be and what riches it can produce. I'll post more details soon about pay rates, etc. At the moment this project is still in the planning stage.

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