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Ghost and Horror Fiction  
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Both male and female homosexuality or homosexual elements appear throughout the broad scope of ghost and horror fiction.

Fear of the "other" has provoked fantasies and stories of the occult and supernatural for centuries. Behavior that appears to be contrary to society's norms has traditionally been regarded as unconventional, perverse, antireligious, or taboo. Throughout literature, but particularly since the nineteenth century, ghosts and goblins, witches and vampires, and other demonic creatures are evoked to symbolize the radically different and are ascribed thoughts and deeds that are marginalized or suppressed in daily life.

It is no wonder that homosexuality appears so often in the context of the supernatural since it transgresses the conventional imaginations and violates the religious practices of average readers.

Homosexuality is not, however, the only "other" to be found in ghost and horror fiction. Members of minority racial, ethnic, and religious groups, the emotionally disturbed or physically disabled, and the cloistered religious all also lead lives beyond the narrow scope of everyday life for most readers. In ghost and horror fiction, they too are evoked--alongside homosexuals--as the feared and despised but nonetheless fascinating "other."

Ghost and horror fiction is an umbrella term for stories of the occult, of terrifying acts of antisocial behavior, of physical and psychological horror, as well as of witchcraft, vampirism, and the demonic. The category encompasses elements of the Gothic tradition, such as dark castles, sadistic monks, ruined maidens, and bloody vampires, while its more contemporary examples add such horror fixtures as homicidal psychopaths, voodoo cults, pastoral evil, and science experiments gone wrong.

Heathen rituals, blasphemous practices, and ghostly figures appear throughout the category's long history, but quite apart from its external features, the genre's primary and defining focus is the element of evil itself. Horror allows us to confront the issue of evil in our everyday lives by vicariously confronting unknown creatures and events, or, even more alarmingly, by exploring the evil within our neighbors and inside ourselves.

Unlike fantasy or science fiction, most of the events in horror fiction take place in the natural world as we know it, instead of in constructed futures or on planets beyond the galaxy.

The Gothic Tradition

Homosexuality or homosexual elements appear throughout the broad scope of horror fiction beginning with the early Gothic tradition. William Beckford's enormously popular History of the Caliph Vathek (1786) helped set the terms in which homosexuality was to be incorporated into the Gothic tradition.

Since Beckford was widely rumored to be a homosexual, his tale was regarded as loosely autobiographical; indeed, the beautiful male prince who is the romance's protagonist may have been patterned on Beckford's lover. If the story is autobiographical, however, it reveals a great deal of self-loathing and perhaps a desire for punishment.

It concerns a greedy Arabic hero who will do anything for money and power. His adventures take him through every conceivable vice and crime until he is finally doomed to everlasting misery.

Another early work with lesbian elements is Denis Diderot's La Religieuse (1796), which tells the story of a young woman placed in a convent by her parents. She is lustfully pursued by the evil mother superior and assaulted by other demonic nuns. This work clearly views the cloistered religious environment as the source of "unnatural" desire, a frequent motif in gothic fiction.

The Nineteenth Century

Oscar Wilde's The Portrait of Dorian Gray (1890) pivots on a gothic plot device by which a narcissistic young man makes a Faustian bargain to preserve his youthful beauty. The novel depicts a triangular relationship between the beautiful Dorian Gray and two older men, the painter Basil Hallward and the cynical aristocrat Lord Henry Wotton.

The diabolism of the plot--as epitomized in Dorian's exchange of his soul for a portrait that grows old in his stead--culminates in the protagonist's murder of Basil. Finally, in an attempt to destroy his conscience altogether, he stabs the portrait, only to kill himself. The novel can be read as an allegory of homosexual ambivalence in which homosexuality is guilt-inducing and dangerous, yet also creative and alluring.

The nineteenth century's preoccupation with death found an outlet in its popular fiction, which reflects the attraction of spiritualism. Horror stories of the period frequently concentrate on the interaction between the living and the dead.

Dead children, ancestral ghosts, vampires, mediums, and seances all regularly appear as characters or plot elements. Spirits walk among the living, spreading evil and influencing behavior. They have the most effect on women and their sexuality.

Two poetic examples of female interaction with unearthly creatures are Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Christabel" (1816) and Christina Rossetti's "Goblin Market" (1859). In each poem, the consequence of a young female protagonist's encounters with a supernatural being is an initiation into lesbian experience.

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Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market (1859, illustrated above) is a poetic example of female interaction with unearthly creatures.
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