Of Book Reviews Concerning Gothic Fantasy, and of Disapproving Parents

Hello Snarklings! The Lady of the Manners apologizes for not posting anything for a bit, but would like to make it up to you all with a book review and a reply to a reader letter.

(“Waitaminute”, the perceptive among you might be thinking, “At the end of the last lesson, she said she was going to review a book, and answer reader mail! How is this making it up to all of us?” You would be absolutely correct. But the Lady of the Manners isn’t able to bring all of you cupcakes or bat cookies, and so begs you to accept her heartfelt apologies.)

So, book reviews! The charming people at Immanion Press sent the Lady of the Manners a copy of Tourniquet: Tales from the Renegade City, by Kim Lakin-Smith. The Lady of the Manners is very thankful that they did, because it is a marvelous book. A dark urban fantasy, it imagines a world where a wildly successful Gothic Rock band called Origin devotes themselves to creating a Mecca for those of a dark and flamboyant temperament. An entire city populated by various stripes of subcultures, all held together by the magic of Belief and consensual reality. Oh yes, Snarklings; the denizens of Renegade City have recreated themselves into their dreams and nightmares, and divided into tribes. But Roses, the lead singer of Origin, is dead. Signs of turmoil and decay are creeping around the edges of the tribes, and Druid, Roses’ brother, finally drags himself out of his self-imposed reclusive ways to try and find some answers.

Now, the Lady of the Manners feels she must state very clearly that Tourniquet: Tales from the Renegade City may not be to every-one’s tastes. The writing is lush and overblown, if not verging on lurid and over the top in some sections. If you are a reader that does not want to wallow in descriptive and purple prose, the Lady of the Manners regretfully must tell you that this is not a book you would enjoy. However, if, like the Lady of the Manners, you are a fan of authors such as Tanith Lee, Storm Constantine, and Ray Bradbury, then Tourniquet is for you.

The book is short (237 pages), and ends in a way which doesn’t so much telegraph “sequel” as shout it while waving its arms, but is a satisfying story that doesn’t spend pages and pages on dry exposition or backstory. The conceit of a city of Goths and other subcultures founded on consensual reality (Belief with a capital B, as it is referred to in the book) is simultaneously new and familiar; familiar, at least, to the Lady of the Manners, who has long entertained idle daydreams of such a thing. The descriptions of the denizens and tribes of Renegade City are note-perfect: when the Lady of the Manners re-read the book, she amused herself by figuring out which tribe would apply to various friends. The Lady of the Manners also amused herself by playing “spot the influence”; Kim Lakin-Smith is obviously immersed in the Goth subculture, and her sly references throughout to songs, movies, and bands are obviously meant as heartfelt compliments, and never cross over that nebulous line into “cheap gimmick” territory. The Lady of the Manners has placed Tourniquet: Tales from the Renegade City on her “Books to Re-Read” shelf, which is as high of praise as the Lady of the Manners can give.

Next is a letter from a young lady calling herself “A rather exasperated Snarkling”. The Lady of the Manners is asked this sort of question fairly often, but the Lady of the Manners felt it was time for another round of answers:

Dear Lady of the Manners,
I am impressed with your site and the advice that you give to the Gothic community.
So now I have decided to write to you with a question that you most likely get all
the time from teenagers.

What do you do when you’ve tried your best to explain the Gothic subculture to your
parental units either by (please forgive my long list with run on sentences)
-patiently explaining that you are not in a cult, worshipping the devil or ‘evil’,
-redirecting them to your site with your article on the advice to parents, and in a last ditch attempt,
-try to get them to get to know the Gothic English teacher at your school on a band trip to prove that not all goths are satanists.

BUT they still are (again I apologize for the length);
-prejudice against all things creepy and macabre because they weren’t “raised around that sort of stuff”
-make a point of flat out saying in front of your friends that the way you dress embarrasses them (even though you could introduce them to more than 5 people who are more hard core)
-Playing the guilt card to come to family reunions with cousins who live in preppy land and actually got on a hit list for tormenting the goth/emo/hardcore/alternative/other kids at their school
-makes a show of standing outside Hot Topic declaring it an “evil devil-worshipping store” loud enough for the people walking by to glance?

I’ve tried and tried and tried. Although my problem is mainly with my mom. My dad
doesn’t really care as long as I don’t get anything pierced that God did not intend
to be pierced or walk out of the house inappropriately dressed. But my mom on the
other hand has done everything on the list in my question. I tried redirecting her
to your page, but she said she only got about a third through it because it was late
and she was tired and has not gone back to read it since (this was about 2 months
ago).

I guess what I’m trying to ask, is there any other way to educate my extremely
stubborn mother about the Gothic subculture and hope she understands my personality
and see that I’m more comfortable in black velvet skirts and lace instead of short
skirts and polos, or should I wait a few years until I’m in college to get back into
the Goth scene when I’ve moved out and she can’t complain?

-Sincerely,
A rather exasperated Snarkling

Oh you poor dear. It sounds like your mother has very firmly Made Up Her Mind that the Gothic subculture is Something To Be Frightened Of, and that she is not in the slightest bit interested in being shown differently. The Lady of the Manners hates to break it to you, but it doesn’t really sound like there is any other way for you to try and change your mother’s views. According to your letter, you’ve already tried the various things the Lady of the Manners would have suggested. Does this mean the Lady of the Manners is going to tell you that you will need to wait until you’re in college to get back into the Goth scene? Heavens no. What the Lady of the Manners suggests is a combination of stealth and boundary-setting.

Stealth, because the Lady of the Manners feels that you are probably going to have to tone down your Gothy ways a bit. No, not by dressing in short skirts and polos, but by trying not to discuss anything connected to Goth when your mother is around. That isn’t going to stop her making comments, you understand, but by not bringing up the subject, you might cut down on the number of comments and rants. Also, do everything you can to prove you are a Good Kid. Do well in school. Do all your chores and help out around the house without grumbling. Don’t break any curfews, and avoid being untruthful about where you are going or what you are doing. Try to make sure that the only thing your mother could object to is your appearance and your “creepy and macabre” tastes, and when she does object to them, point out what a Good Kid you are in other areas. Perhaps over time, she’ll realize how lucky she is to have a child that is smart, articulate, and has a strong sense of self. If she doesn’t come to realize how lucky she is, perhaps she’ll at least notice the marked contrast between your behavior and the behavior of other “normal” kids. Yes, the Lady of the Manners is aware that she is telling to you to try and become an unnaturally perfect person. The Lady of the Manners doesn’t actually expect that you will be completely flawless, but wants to stress that the fewer “normal teen” things your mother has to complain about, the more ludicrous her reaction to your Gothy self will be. Just be sure that there are people you can safely vent to when the stress of trying to appease your mother occasionally drives you mad.

You also need to start … oh goodness, the Lady of the Manners doesn’t want to say “talking back to your mother”, because that conjures up images of disrespect and arguments, but you do need to handle her as you would handle anyone else making rude or unkind comments. The next time your mother says she’s embarrassed by the way you are dressed, reply that you are embarrassed for her when she insults you or shows how close-minded she is. But! DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS IF YOU CANNOT KEEP YOUR TEMPER UNDER CONTROL. (Yes Snarklings, that statement absolutely needed to be in capital letters and bolded.) The Lady of the Manners realizes that it is a hugely difficult task to keep one’s temper when a parent is being condescending, insulting, or dismissive about one’s interests. But the instant you switch from a matter-of-fact tone to one that sounds upset or angry, your parent can (and probably will) retort with something like “You’re being childish and over-emotional!”, and will not take what you’re saying seriously.

The Lady of the Manners is afraid to say that keeping your temper in check is something you’re going to to need to practice often, because in addition to trying to make it clear to your mother that you do not appreciate being insulted and harassed by her, you are also going to need to make it clear that you are your own person with your own interests and tastes, and that you are not going to stop being your own person just because your mother doesn’t approve. You say that your father doesn’t really care; have you tried talking to him about why your mother is so hysterical about and afraid of the Gothic subculture? Even if he says that he can’t change your mother’s opinion (or, heaven forbid, that he doesn’t want to get involved), perhaps your talking to him about Goth and why it interests you will help in making communication with your mother less fraught with tension.

The Lady of the Manners would like to finally remind you that while it seems like you are going through endless suffering and annoyance right now, it really will be only a few short years until you can flee to college and start being your own person without constant parental criticism. Just try to remember that your mother probably thinks she has your best interests at heart, and that she is trying to make you happy. Of course, her idea of happy does not AT ALL match yours, but at the heart of everything she probably means well.

Upcoming installments at Gothic Charm School (which will, the Lady of the Manners hopes, happen much sooner rather than later) include a question from a Goth-inclined mother who wants to know what she should do when other parents make false assumptions about her spooky youngster, and possibly a brief digression about the seemingly never-ending pop fashion trend for adorning everything with skulls (and why that is both gratifying and a smidge annoying.) And just like the Lady of the Manners says at the end of every lesson, please feel free to send her a letter!

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