Regional Gothic
April 9, 2015 6:09 PM   Subscribe

It is summer. The sun is shining. It is winter. The sun is shining. You aren’t certain, upon reflection, when the last time was that the sun was not shining. Tumblr's latest meme is Regional Gothic, in which the established Southern Gothic literary genre meets Welcome to Night Vale, and is applied to short, creepypasta-esque fiction of other regions, cities, and communities. The Meme Documentation tumblr provides an explanation and examples of the meme, more of which can also be found under the global regional gothic tag.

Seemingly started by this post about how Australia needs regional gothic, tumblr user Korvidian's post a couple months later set the meme's bullet point list form. The meme caught on, expanding from Australian regional gothic, to other regions and cities like Southern California, the Midwest, Florida, New York City, Chicago, Washington DC, and many others.

And because this is Tumblr, the meme has also gone a little far afield, yielding Regional Gothic posts for things that aren't, strictly speaking, regions: Eurovision, Tumblr itself, a Traveler's Gothic, early 2000s Internet fandom Gothic, and of course, Regional Gothic Gothic.

And before you English majors get ready to bust out with how none of this is really like Southern Gothic at all, don't worry, Tumblr user cremisius has that covered, and Tumblr user opalborn notes that "Southern Gothic is social critique." But Tumblr user sashayed reminds you that "the term is an evocative rather than narrowly taxonomic shorthand 4 a genre which, ps, didn’t just MAGICALLY APPEAR with NIGHT VALE. It’s like how “literally” doesn’t mean “literally” anymore. GET WITH THE PROGRAM, GRAMPS!! YOU’RE ON THE INTERNET NOW!!!!"
posted by yasaman (54 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you're having trouble reading any of the individual tumblr posts, just append /mobile to the URL to get a clean, text only view.
posted by yasaman at 6:10 PM on April 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


New England Gothic:

literally just New England.
posted by The Whelk at 6:11 PM on April 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


Regional Gothic is a neat idea. Is there one for Northern California or the Bay Area? I'm too old to find things on Tumblr without help. I just get lost in a thicket of Cumberbatches and reblogs and forget what I came for.

Does anybody else think the Night Vale house style has the cute-to-creepy ratio a little out of whack?
posted by prize bull octorok at 6:22 PM on April 9, 2015


I dunno. Calling it "Regional Gothic" seems to automatically absolve it from expectations of having to be southern.

And yeah, seconding The Whelk; the American northeast had their regional gothic literature done and done a long time before Faulkner walked the lands. Ghosts of the Bronte sisters might want to have word about things, too.
posted by ardgedee at 6:25 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's only been a few months but this is obviously the POTY
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:32 PM on April 9, 2015


Already added "regional gothic" to my blacklist, but it still appears on my dashboard.

(tumblr gothic)
posted by betweenthebars at 6:42 PM on April 9, 2015


I love these! As a former Floridian I think this one was a shade closer to the Central Florida/Orlando experience. I love the inclusivity of this meme, they've even made one for the fun police.
posted by Slurms MacKenzie at 6:43 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I came across Midwestern Gothic a few weeks ago and considered doing a FPP (felt it was a little thin with just the one blog). I didn't realize it was a whole trend on Tumblr. Great post!
posted by codacorolla at 6:44 PM on April 9, 2015


Rhode Island Gothic in 2015 - The real horror is the sister-in-law who made your brother skip out early, leaving you and your beloved to clean all of the pots and pans your sister's amazingly talented life-partner left for us after constructing the Most Gourmet Easter Dinner Ever. I brought home-made apple-sauce, which the kids ate by the bucketful, and root veggies that involved both bacon and maple syrup. Sis-in-law brought a lot of stuff she bought from the bakery down the street, and took home the leftovers.

Then a man who was garbed in black, who had skin the color of darkest outer space and eyes without whites offered to take a turn at the sponge, but we instead asked him to keep our kids busy with piping for his blind, idiot god on their dollar-store recorders while the grownups talked crap about the other in-laws.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:45 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Florida:
You see the crevice, and the huge pair of antennae sticking out, waving slightly against the current. They're bigger than any spiny you've ever seen, and you can't quite see any eyes or anything else in the shadows. You ready your tickle-stick, sticking it down into the hole, looking for the tail. It just goes in and back, not finding the end.
You decide against sticking your hand in to get it.

The sun dapples across the hood of your car, as the live oaks reach across the road and the spanish moss gets thicker. The tunnel over the road gets greener and darker, and the sun slowly disappears. Eventually you stop and look back, and can't see the road behind you. Or under you. The only way out is forward.

You can hear the music coming from the honkytonk, but not quite see it, no matter how far you go.

As you dig, the sand gives way to clay, which gives way to limestone, which gives way to coral. The coral resists all attempts to break into it - even dynamite.

posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:56 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just discovered these last night, and although the example above is a little silly, many of the other Chicago Gothic posts out there are spot on.
posted by eamondaly at 6:57 PM on April 9, 2015


The strangest thing about Mount Rainier is how we can forget about it.

We grow up with it. When the sun’s out, we navigate by it: water and Olympic mountains to the west, the Cascades to the east, Baker to the north, and Rainier to the south. But then the clouds cover it again, and you don’t even remember that there’s a mountain there until the odd sunny day comes round again.

It’s well over 14 thousand feet high, but we still forget it’s there.

posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:12 PM on April 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Is there one for Northern California or the Bay Area?

A man passes you wearing Google Glass. When you twist to see him, fine spurs of bone and glass grow from his temples, covering his eyes in light. When you check a third time, no, he’s actually wearing Google Glass. You cross yourself and hurry on.

Here's one for San Francisco. There's also Silicon Valley.
posted by yasaman at 7:16 PM on April 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Gothic gothic in 3, 2, 1...
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:42 PM on April 9, 2015


Does anybody else think the Night Vale house style has the cute-to-creepy ratio a little out of whack?

Yes! I wanted to like WtNV so much, but after a few episodes it became clear that the tone was just wrong--smirky, not creepy.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:42 PM on April 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


TIL that apparently "Southern Gothic" now basically just means weird twitter

(good post though)
posted by threeants at 7:42 PM on April 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


You're sick in bed and in the haze of fever you click on a hyperlink that promises mild divertissement.
A page header loads and with a creeping sense you scroll down the page only to discover to your utter horror that for some fucking reason in the year 2015 people still use white text on a black, or some other highly saturated-color, background. You turn away as quickly as you can and shut your eyes to block out the overwrought sensibility of misguided graphic choices, only to find that the text has burned itself onto your retinas. Like a hard to read-death sentence the letters seem to mock your very vision and proceed to dance up your optic nerves like the hellish .gifs of some animated MySpace sprites. You try to erase the awful experience by watching the new Tina Fey show on Netflix, but that's not really funny either so you compose a bitchy retort in the comments section of the original referring post only to find yourself again looking at white text on a highly saturated background in the preview section of your comment, ridiculed and blinded by simultaneous contrast, you read book instead.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 7:43 PM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Does anybody else think the Night Vale house style has the cute-to-creepy ratio a little out of whack?

No, you're definitely not alone. I really wanted to love Night Vale but I never even finished the first episode because the whole thing felt so hammily done and on-the-nose to me that I wondered if I was listening to the same thing as everyone else.
posted by threeants at 7:44 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I guess for me there's this weird thing where, like, this one very specific conception of sublime eldritch dread has been having a bizarrely ubiquitous cultural moment that's gone on quite a bit too long for it to feel refreshing anymore.
posted by threeants at 7:47 PM on April 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


It’s like how “literally” doesn’t mean “literally” anymore.

You might get me eventually to come around on people misusing begging the question, but not this.
posted by JHarris at 7:50 PM on April 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've been very charmed by stuff like WTNV because I've always liked some of the weird/creepy sort of elements, but on the other hand I find the jump scare sort of thing very uncomfortable so a lot of horror is very much a turn-off. Night Vale is a joyous celebration of weird, encouraging and uplifting and strange. But it's also something that, as someone who's spent time in the southwest... you get these people who just cannot give up the idea of having a lawn no matter how pitiful and inappropriate it is and you realize that they're really all a hair's breadth from thinking a harbor and waterfront recreational area is a fantastic idea.

It's definitely not for everybody. It's for the people it's for. I'd have trouble imagining something similar set in my current environs, though. I think northern Ohio has much to sell it as a place to settle down, but I just have too hard a time picturing anything interesting happening. I guess in a way that's part of what sells it as a place to live, and I fill my interesting quota elsewhere.
posted by Sequence at 9:00 PM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thanks for this post - this stuff is amazing. Apart from the general cleverness, I'm so impressed by the remaining strength of sense of place. There really are very specific, well-observed qualities to these pieces.

New England Gothic:

literally just New England.


When my now-husband moved here to New England about 10 years ago, during his first week at one point he was walking around and said he got scared. I was like "what do you mean, you got scared?" "The houses scared me." He often referred to New England as "creepy." I had a hard time getting this. Quaint? Sure. Preppy? Reserved? Practically invented it. Flinty? Sure. Nostalgic and charming? We bank on it. Backward? Sometimes. But creepy? I really didn't see it. Now, though, I do. Everything is old, and there's a fair amount of weirdness. I used to trot out this story about an old woman in Maine was getting ready to move, and people were helping her, and they found a mummified severed hand in her garage.T hey called the police, who showed it to her, and she said something like "Oh, yes, that old thing." There was some story about how somebody working for her father lost the hand in an accident and they decided to...keep it, or something. So yes, we have our own Gothic.

Off to look for some New Jersey Gothic now, though.
posted by Miko at 9:07 PM on April 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh man, the SF one above is maybe a little too silly (except the bit about the 43 Masonic) but the Silicon Valley one is just mwah, perfection.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:10 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Prescriptivist gothic:

"Literally" doesn't mean "literally" any more. It hasn't meant "literally" for hundreds of years. It didn't mean "literally" to Fitzgerald or Twain or Dickens. You wonder if it now means "watching you from a hidden place."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:44 PM on April 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


some New Jersey Gothic now, though.

I have been thinking about this for two years and it basically boils down to:

teenage Diner Witch
posted by The Whelk at 9:46 PM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Somewhere along Kensington Avenue there's a hospital, but there isn't a single doctor in the city who can rid you of the thing that grows inside you. Sure, there might be an ice cream parlor down the street from the old grow house, but the same sickness that destroyed the generation before you will destroy you and every other yuppie gentrifier in your zip code. It's in the water. It's in the air. It's inherent in your own goddamn nature.

You can't get to Heaven on the Frankford El;
The Frankford El goes straight to Frankford.
posted by The White Hat at 9:58 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


As a Southern Ontarian I guess my powder is already spent here.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 10:19 PM on April 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


My friend made one of these for East Anglian Gothic, and our other friend added to it.

- You are in the Fens. You have just passed Chittering. There are no landmarks. It is so flat that you think you can see the Alps shimmering in the distance. It is a mirage, you have driven into a ditch and are being eaten by eels.
posted by daisyk at 11:13 PM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


DC Gothic:

The new Republican federal administration starts today...
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:56 AM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm trying to imagine what twin cities gothic would be, and it's mostly like a dismal Prairie Home Companion.

The Mall has it all, they tell you. The mall has everything: your hopes, your dreams, your best kept secrets, your worst nightmares. Come to the mall. You must go to the mall.

Be nice. Smile, or the lutefisk will find you.
posted by dinty_moore at 5:48 AM on April 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


It’s not the cold, it’s the wind. It’s not the wind, it’s the sound of howling the wind carries with it.

There is a lone figure in the skyway. No one knows how they got there. No one knows where they’re going. There is no way to enter that skyway. There is no way to leave.

Also, for real, when I was growing up in Chicago, there was a man in a trenchcoat and a briefcase that would always seem to be walking away from the commuter rail station. But if you’d look closer, he’d be walking at times when the metra would not be running, and his trenchcoat was ragged and worn. Nobody knew who he was, but they let him be.
posted by dinty_moore at 5:58 AM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


So, the obvious next step is Hyper-regional Gothic, which then reduces to local Gothic, then neighborhood Gothic, finally to "That corner of the room really creeps me out; I think it's the moose head."
posted by leotrotsky at 6:46 AM on April 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Andrew Eldritch is frowning at this thread.
Wayne Hussey has recorded an album about it.
posted by Mezentian at 7:43 AM on April 10, 2015


This is so fun. Here's my contribution:

Office Gothic.

The fluorescent lights seem brighter each day. They are banding together and pushing out the dimness and shadows from every corner and crevasse. The light is sickly, pulsating, and hostile.

The ambient noise in the office could be a recording, played on a continuous loop. There'd be no way to know for sure.

Sometimes you think you see a shape move by your office door. It looks like Bob, out of the corner of your eye, or maybe Margaret, who used to work down the hall. It's hard to tell sometimes.

The elevators can be heard in the hall, going up and down. Moving people from floor to floor is pointless, there's no one really here.

Tim across the hall is typing with despair on his keyboard. I can only assume it's Morse code and he's calling for help. No one will come. His computer has been unplugged for weeks.

The coffee pot gurgles plaintively every time you walk through the break room. Sometimes it sounds like it's begging, between the spitting and bubbling, to be put out of its misery.

You saw your boss once, a long time ago, standing by the exit. He seemed like he wanted to leave, but couldn't bring himself to take the final three steps through the door. He was still there when you came back from lunch. You haven't seen him since.
posted by polywomp at 8:41 AM on April 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


We covered Office Gothic
posted by The Whelk at 8:57 AM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


New England Gothic has been A Thing for as long as I can remember.

I've read some examples of Old West Gothic, that reminded me of Phantom Manor.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:05 AM on April 10, 2015


And I've often wondered whether Sunset Boulevard counts as L.A. Noir, or whether there's an L.A. Gothic category with other examples. I've always felt it had more of the Gothic than the Noir about it.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:06 AM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


True regional gothic would take the literary traditions and local tone and infuse them with gothic sensibility rather then just making local landmarks or traditions sterotypically "new werid."

Like say the Midwest? That's Serial Killer country, all our suburban horror tropes feel Midwestern to me, friendly quiet people, big families, basements with locks and unmarked white vans and Isn't it a pity? the train used to stop here ...not anymore.

Hollywood Gothic would be more fantastical, stories told at parties, secrets in the hills, cars with blacked out windows, rumors of vast organizations and occult societies, platinum bloods with lips as red as blood, how does she look so young?

Bay Area gothic, while now would be some kind of Googler nightmare situation (I'm thinking like, The Secret History, Randian start up bros who decide to self actualze via hobo murders.) but I'm learning toward social experiments gone wrong, group living fostering outright santanism, hippies in the woods who decided to REALLY go back to the old ways.
posted by The Whelk at 9:06 AM on April 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


(True New Jersey would play up its status as a liminal place, a place between major metropolitan areas, and the uneasy mixture of cheaply built suburbia and lush wilderness.)
posted by The Whelk at 9:08 AM on April 10, 2015 [2 favorites]




Yeah LA Gothic is Mulholland Drive, both in the unsettling sense of Gothic and the social commentary sense.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:39 AM on April 10, 2015


More Florida:

Bending down, you recognize the manatee bones in the scree left by the phosphate mines. The next day, snorkeling on a ridge twenty miles out in the Gulf, you find a chert arrowhead.
Later on, you forget these as you look at plans for a resort on a barrier island
.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:40 AM on April 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Er, sorry, Hollywood Gothic, not LA in general
posted by en forme de poire at 9:43 AM on April 10, 2015


Since people have made some noises about the general theme and tone of Night Vale, I thought I'd just drop in and give my own thumbnail analysis.

Lovecraft is kind of the platinum-iridium rod of horror for many people. His ability to evoke dread is legendary, and he's also a problematic figure. Cleverer minds than I have pointed out that his real power to make you feel the horror is that after all the uncanny effects of whatever it is have taken hold, the narrator in his stories is always profoundly alone in a number of ways. So yeah, racism and fear of "miscegenation" drove Lovecraft's setting, but it was loneliness that hurt his characters most.

Fast forward half a decade or more and you get Ghostbusters. Ghostbusters was a comedic take on Lovecraftian horror. But being a product of the 1980s, it was a distinctly Reaganomical response: the real enemy is an agent of the government who wields the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency. The heroes leave cushy academia to form a startup to combat ghosts, and then hire a black man to help them with the grunt-work once all the interesting technical problems have been solved.

So what about Night Vale? It's also a comedic take on Lovecraftian horror. But it takes a different approach: everyone lives through unspeakable monstrosities, but they hang together as a community. The hokey community radio station may be under the control of The Old Ones, and does tend to lose interns right and left, but the themes are always about the triumph of fellow feeling over blind power. If you banish evil, more will spring up: security comes when you can band together to survive it.

The difference in perspective isn't just skin deep. It's not just that the central voice in the story is in a committed gay relationship, or that there's some astonishingly great writing around sensitive use of pronouns. The most recent episode I've listened to on the podcast, "There Is No Part 1: Part 2", is great because Cecil discovers that he's been saving the life of someone he cares about with no memory of it. He believes he is being used to perform these acts (which he'd have wanted to do anyway). It's a confusing topic, but you're carried along on this thread that of course he is happy about the outcomes and would have loved to do these things willingly, but the monster here is his lack of consent in the situation. And so the comedic situation is revealed to be something far more profound.

The whole show's camp is a way to present a sensitive worldview in a way that people can accept. So you build an arc around a local mayoral election, getting people to think hard about democracy and corruption. You make a terrifying corporation describe its concentration camp as a company picnic and let the victory only come when everyone joins together in revolution to overthrow them.

I guess I've wandered a lot, but my point is that Night Vale has shown how the genre of "Regional Gothic" has allowed its creators to show me an entire century worth of untapped potential that has me unnerved for half an hour and punching the air at the end.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 10:22 AM on April 10, 2015 [15 favorites]


Microsoft Gothic has also long been a thing.
posted by Zarkonnen at 10:39 AM on April 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Microsoft Gothic being part of a larger cultural trend of All Older technology is Evil and Or Spooky.
posted by The Whelk at 10:51 AM on April 10, 2015


> Microsoft Gothic has also long been a thing.

Only a couple years, but I guess that's a long time on the Internet.
posted by ardgedee at 11:02 AM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Bay Area gothic, while now would be some kind of Googler nightmare situation (I'm thinking like, The Secret History, Randian start up bros who decide to self actualze via hobo murders.) but I'm learning toward social experiments gone wrong, group living fostering outright santanism, hippies in the woods who decided to REALLY go back to the old ways.

We have the Bohemian Grove up where I'm at; when you have Henry Kissinger performing naked oblations IRL to a giant owl statue that represents Moloch I have no fucking idea where your gothic/creepy regional fiction can go from there.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:15 PM on April 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


From the maker of that Microsoft Gothic tumblr, oh my god I want to go to there
posted by en forme de poire at 1:20 PM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


England Gothic
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:44 PM on April 10, 2015


There was a thing called "urban gothic" that included "The Mysteries of London", "The Mysteries of Paris" and "The Mysteries of New Orleans". I highly recommend the last; it is wonderful. It's not Southern Gothic; it's unique.
posted by acrasis at 4:23 PM on April 10, 2015


Miko: Off to look for some New Jersey Gothic now, though.

My favorite one.
posted by tzikeh at 7:57 PM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not New York. Not Philadelphia. Proud to be New Jersey!” your radio declares. You scoff. As if they’re the only radio station in New Jersey. You scan through the stations until you find another one from New Jersey. “Not New York. Not Philadelphia. Proud to be New Jersey!” your radio declares. You scoff. As if they’re the only radio station in New Jersey. You scan through the stations until you find another one from New Jersey. “Not New York. Not Philadelphia. Proud to be New Jersey!” your radio declares. You scoff …

Spot on.

“Why is New Jersey even called the Garden State?” they ask. “It’s just a bunch of highways, landfills, and industrial complexes.” They can’t see. They’ll never see. We won’t let them see. We won’t let them take it from us.

Yesssss.....
posted by Miko at 7:08 AM on April 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Because I'm a masochist, I've been working on a mod of D&D 5th Edition for a campaign that is meant to be Welcome to Nightvale meets the SCP Foundation meets Silent Hill meets The Secret World. So thanks. This should help.
posted by Caduceus at 7:27 PM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


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