Friday 28 August 2015

Kitchen Sink Gothic - Introduction

For anyone who may be interested this is my introduction to Kitchen Sink Gothic:

M. John Harrison used the term kitchen sink gothic in association with Robert Aickman. After quoting John Coulthart’s description of Aickman as having the “quotidian Britishness of Alan Bennett darkening into the inexplicable nightmares of David Lynch”, he added: “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."
Coined in the 1950s, Kitchen Sink described British films, plays and novels frequently set in the North of England, which showed working class life in a gritty, no-nonsense, “warts and all” style,  sometimes referred to as social realism.
It became popular after the playwright John Osborne wrote Look Back In Anger, simultaneously helping to create the Angry Young Men movement. Films included Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, The Entertainer, A Taste of Honey, The L-Shaped Room and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner.  TV dramas included Coronation Street and East Enders. In recent years TV dramas that could rightly be described as kitchen sink gothic include Being Human, with its cast of working class vampires, werewolves and ghosts, and the zombie drama In the Flesh, with its northern working class, down to earth setting.
It’s an area of writing that fascinates me, especially coming from a working class background and having been brought up in a terraced street in a solidly Lancastrian mill town which any viewer of Coronation Street would recognise as typical of its type. My formative reading in weird fiction, though, came from middle-class Americans (Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury and H. P. Lovecraft) or from upper middle-class British writers like M. R. James, Algernon Blackwood, the Bensons. etc. I always felt there was a place for working class horror fiction whose characters were more than merely just comic constructs.
For me, within the horror genre, kitchen sink gothic is the antithesis of Jamesian or Lovecraftian horror. There are no distinguished scholars. The settings are unglamorous, perhaps unatmospheric in the accepted sense of the word in supernatural literature. And gritty.
I was reminded of my own occasional leanings in that direction after someone reviewed one of my stories (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."
Shortly afterwards I came across John Braine’s novel The Vodi, listed by M. John Harrision as amongst his top ten novels: “Constructed round the fantasies of a recovering tuberculosis patient, this novel was the defining moment of an as-yet-unreported genre, kitchen sink gothic. One of my favourite books of all time, it doesn’t seem to be in print with the rest of Braine’s backlist.” Fortunately, Valancourt Books rectified this situation, republishing it in paperback in 2013.
In the anthology you are now holding you will find stories that cover a wide range of Kitchen Sink Gothic, from the darkly humorous to the weirdly strange and occasionally horrific.  I hope you find the genre as fascinating as I do.

David A. Riley, 27th July 2015

 trade paperback:   £8.99  $11.99


Kitchen Sink Gothic includes:

1964 by Franklin Marsh
Derek Edge and the Sun-Spots by Andrew Darlington
Daddy Giggles by Stephen Bacon
Black Sheep by Gary Fry
Jamal Comes Home by Benedict J. Jones
Waiting by Kate Farrell
Lilly Finds a Place to Stay by Charles Black
The Mutant's Cry by David A. Sutton
The Sanitation Solution by Walter Gascoigne
Up and Out of Here by Mark Patrick Lynch
Late Shift by Adrian Cole
The Great Estate by Shaun Avery
Nine Tenths by Jay Eales
Envelopes by Craig Herbertson
Tunnel Vision by Tim Major
Life is Prescious M. J. Wesolowski
Canvey Island Baby by David Turnbull

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