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Thread: Give me your spooky Victorian era horrors, please!

  1. #1
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    Give me your spooky Victorian era horrors, please!

    So my inspiration well has run dry. However, I've got at least one manuscript request just off a test pitch with an editor, so I know I need to jog myself to get those revisions done.

    I'm writing Victorian-era Adventure/Horror, "Dreadpunk" is the latest term I've heard for it. But I'm bone dry on inspiration. Give me some works, classic to modern to read or watch to see if I can jog my brain. I'm working with the undead and ghosts, so things that feature those are a plus (especially if they're not vampires.)

    I've been watching Penny Dreadful & Reading Spirit and know I need to watch Crimson Peak since they're in my spooky wheel house. Any other thoughts or suggestions for this particular subgenre as standout works?

  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW anakhouri79's Avatar
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    MR James is my go-to Victorian ghost story author. Charles Dickens also wrote ghost stories. I love Saki but he might be too late for the right time period...?

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    I think I'm allowed some wiggle room as to era. Maybe as far as 1920-ish, since there was still a lot of Victorian influence, and some Edwardian would be fine.


    The characters ARE going to travel, starting in London, and then eventually America and India, and possibly beyond, so anything from any place during that spread of time would be great.


    And ghost stories of any type, really. Joe Hill's 20th Century Ghosts wasn't perfect for what I was looking for, but it was still a great read and gave me a lot of ideas.

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    AW's Most Adorable Sociopath TedTheewen's Avatar
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    M. R. James is pretty much the standard. Incredible, moody, atmospheric stories and prose.
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    Mostly harmless SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Project Gutenberg links, M.R. James Saki Dickens

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    If you haven't already, try doing a search on Goodreads for Victorian Gothic or something like that. It should return a bunch of ideas.
    And by came an angel who had a bright key,
    And he opened the coffins and set them all free. -- "The Chimney Sweeper" -- William Blake

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    knows a hawk from a handsaw Shakesbear's Avatar
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    The British Library has an interesting selection of Gothic articles and suggestions here:
    https://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-vict...mes/the-gothic




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  8. #8
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    Can I offer something other than books that may help as inspiration? Try watching Penny Dreadful, its a great TV show set in Victorian London, but spreads to the US in the third season. Might help you visualise the time period. Also, there is a game called The Order 1886 for the PS4 that is set in a slightly altered Victorian London as well. Not the best game ever but captures the feel of London really well. Outside of the what has been recommended above, these might help get a visual feel for the period that can transfer to your work. I'm planning something set in Victorian London myself (as well as some other places in the UK; Whitby and York) and these two things have helped me.

  9. #9
    AW's Most Adorable Sociopath TedTheewen's Avatar
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    I was forced, at gunpoint, to read Victorian novels by a cruel and sadistic English professor many years ago. I can tell you that anything that doesn't read like a guide to Etiquette While Drinking Tea is a winner in my mind.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaterso View Post
    Project Gutenberg links, M.R. James Saki Dickens

    THANK you! I'll get into those links. Nice free things to read while at work, no less.


    Quote Originally Posted by soapdish View Post
    If you haven't already, try doing a search on Goodreads for Victorian Gothic or something like that. It should return a bunch of ideas.

    I hadn't really gotten that idea; Google's only been so helpful; I've gotten some good stuff, but it butts up against gothic subculture. It's not what I'm looking for even if I was That Kid in my teens. (As an adult, i can finally enjoy the Urban Decay I was denied by my mother in the 90s!)


    Quote Originally Posted by LeeMountford View Post
    Can I offer something other than books that may help as inspiration? Try watching Penny Dreadful, its a great TV show set in Victorian London, but spreads to the US in the third season. Might help you visualise the time period. Also, there is a game called The Order 1886 for the PS4 that is set in a slightly altered Victorian London as well. Not the best game ever but captures the feel of London really well. Outside of the what has been recommended above, these might help get a visual feel for the period that can transfer to your work. I'm planning something set in Victorian London myself (as well as some other places in the UK; Whitby and York) and these two things have helped me.

    I'm midway through Season 2 on Penny Dreadful (bless you Netflix, now get me Crimson Peak!) and I own The Order: 1884 which was just beautiful but godawful to play. I have never been so angry or burnt by a pre-order. Things like that is why I don't pre-order games unless I know the studio is solid and delivers what they advertise.

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    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Oh yeah, I'm with you - it was sooo frustrating and a massive missed opportunity. It did give a good representation (if slightly altered) of that time period in London. Something to draw from, maybe. Hope you're enjoying Penny Dreadful! I am a big fan, though I do think it meanders somewhat.

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    In TV, there is BBCs The Living and the Dead. Really creepy.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_...ad_(TV_series)

    I also quite liked LTC Rolt's Sleep No More, but its pushing the boundaries of your era.

  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW anakhouri79's Avatar
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    Rudyard Kipling also wrote some ghost stories, set in colonial India though.

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    JoeBrat JoeBrat's Avatar
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    The Turn of the Screw is old but I thought is was a good read.

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    MR James' Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad' is one of the most compelling and disturbing horror stories/hauntings I know.

    You know, I might need to go away and think about this because I'm fascinated by the Victorians and their Gothic colonial projections around Anglo-India -- Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone touches on this and so do some of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories but I am trying to recall something I read a long time ago about a Calcutta memsahib who encounters a bean chaointe (keening woman) in an Anglo-Indian bungalow. There were fictions too about phantom rickshaws and the spectral colonised subject as a vanishing guru or ghostly ayah, young English children who died of cholera and came back to haunt the household, imaginary poisonous snakes and exotic birds giving warning cries late at night.

    I did some research a while back into the Society for Psychical Research supported by William James and to some extent his brother Henry James, the interest in haunted houses (as opposed to graveyards or lonely shorelines, a Victorian domestication of horror), telepathy, spirit guides, seances, ectoplasm, all that wonderful creepy stuff. Other writers who wrote about this kind of table-rapping supernatural and revival of fairies and sprites were Algernon Blackwood and a favourite of mine, the Welsh author Arthur Machen, often referred to as the first Weird Fiction writer. You might take a look at The Great God Pan. Machen was also involved with Victorian esoterica, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, (before Crowley arrived and disrupted it) and Machen inspired early Lovecraft.

    And of course Robert Louis Stevenson's Jekyll & Hyde, Bram Stoker's Dracula (though that is a vampire), and in a different key, Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper which doesn't horrify us as much as it did the Victorians.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MurderOfCrows View Post
    So my inspiration well has run dry. However, I've got at least one manuscript request just off a test pitch with an editor, so I know I need to jog myself to get those revisions done.

    I'm writing Victorian-era Adventure/Horror, "Dreadpunk" is the latest term I've heard for it. But I'm bone dry on inspiration. Give me some works, classic to modern to read or watch to see if I can jog my brain. I'm working with the undead and ghosts, so things that feature those are a plus (especially if they're not vampires.)

    I've been watching Penny Dreadful & Reading Spirit and know I need to watch Crimson Peak since they're in my spooky wheel house. Any other thoughts or suggestions for this particular subgenre as standout works?
    No vampires were harmed in the penning of this reply.

    A personal favorite of mine, since Edwardiana seems admissible, is the collection of ghost stories by William Hope Hodgson gathered under the title Carnacki the Ghost-Finder. For my money, it is really hard to surpass "The Whistling Room".

    If you've not already read it, there's The King in Yellow, Robert W. Chambers, 1895. It was an inspiration from Lovecraft, who references the script-with-a-curse-on-it in the Cthulhu Mythos. The atmosphere is more decadent than dreadpunk-but Dorian Gray would certainly have read the play-or tried to read it . . .

    Again, this may be coals to Newcastle, but rereading "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" might help put you in the mood. There's something about the way Stevenson always writes as if he has a hidden agenda that he won't share with you, no, no, no! that makes his writing get under my skin.

    For the adventure side of things, Kipling, always. "The Man Who Would Be King"-short story AND movie; Kim.

    Finally, although published in 1983, The Woman in Black is a splendid recreation of the Victorian ghost story. (Disclaimer: I've not seen the Daniel Radcliffe film version).

    I hope you find inspiration!

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