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Gothic Science Fiction

What is Gothic Science Fiction?

Gothic Science Fiction is a macabre sub-genre that crosses Sci Fi and Gothic literatures. Gothic Sci Fi tends to have the same atmospheric qualities of Gothic literature, but does not delve into the depths of horror. The sub-genre takes typical elements of Gothic literature and explains them scientifically. Some examples of common characteristics of Gothic fiction: mystery, the supernatural, haunted houses, castles, darkness, death and decay, romance madness, monsters. The common example of this cross over is vampires explained by disease or as aliens. Gothic Sci Fi is a rich sub-genre where seeming disparate categories--irrational and supernatural for Gothic fiction and the rational foundation of Science Fiction--weave together a revealing story where the universe can still surprise us.

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Other Features of Gothic Science Fiction

  • Level of Real Science

    Moderate. Some aspects of Gothic Sci Fi are magical. However, when technology is introduced in the story, it is believable technology. Indeed, many authors go to great lengths to explain inventions scientifically.

  • Level of Grand Ideas/Social Implications

    High. This sub-genre seeks understanding and order and explores grand ideas relating to the supernatural. For example, a Gothic Sci Fi story may explore the dangers of humans trespassing on territory that belongs to a supernatural being.

  • Level of Characterization

    Moderate. Gothic fiction has several archetypes that Gothic Sci Fi picks adopts: virginal maiden, isolated hero, evil villain, and even the setting. Setting is very important in Gothic Sci Fi because it is highly descriptive, it has an effect on plot and even has interactions. In this way, setting can be seen as a character.

  • Level of Plot Complexity

    High. Clear plots are the norm in Gothic Sci Fi, but the plots often follow a typical structure: a hero encounters some mystery and must fight some kind of monster or alien. As the sub-genre has matured, plot structure has moved away from this typical storyline.

  • Level of Violence

    High. Gothic Sci Fi has an emphasis on danger and what may be lurking in the shadows.

Related Science Fiction subgenres




    Scientific Romance. The Romantic movement spurred the creation of Gothic literature and so Gothic Sci Fi and Scientific Romance share several characteristics like using scientific speculations as a basis for story.

  • Science Fantasy. The Gothic tradition uses many characteristics typical of Fantasy--magic, the supernatural, castles--so there is some degree of overlap between the two sub-genres, but Gothic Sci Fi tends to be darker.

  • Cyberpunk. Cyberpunk is filled with dark stories embodying the sense of decay and often fear. Cyberpunk worlds have a similar atmosphere as Gothic Sci Fil, dark, ominous, and melancholic.

  • Literary. Gothic often evokes literary conventions and in some cases might strive to be a literary work completely, wrapped in the trappings of science fiction.

  • SciFi Horror. This subgenre might include Gothic elements (horror, creepiness, atmosphere, etc).

Gothic Science Fiction isn't for you if

If you prefer your Sci Fi to be about a completely rational and nameable universe. If you find the coalescing of the supernatural and the rational more absurd than engaging.

Popular Gothic Science Fiction books