Halloween reads (ghosts, monsters, ghouls, and also the terrors of true stories)
Here's a quick roundup of my top October readers, generally grouped by seasonal spookiness and heebie-jeebies.
What Moves the Dead by T Kingfisher
Kingfisher takes the imagery of despair and decay in Edgar Allan Poe's Fall of the House of Usher and turns it into a spine-chilling tie-in novella replete with eldritch horrors. There was also some unexpected and fun trans worldbuilding via a POV character from a speculative historical country.
They by Kay Dick
Recently republished and lauded (maybe... wrongly) as one of the first truly “gender-neutral” and “bisexual” novellas (despite being published well after some ground-breaking sci-fi that plays much more directly with both gender and bisexuality), it was kindof more... philosophically queer, than anything. But! Eerie dystopia! Artists and dilettantes fleeing a strange government-adjacent threat to creative life! A fun read.
Queer Little Nightmares ed. David Ly & Daniel Zomparelli
Fantastic collection of horror shorts. A few standouts (Andrew Wilmot's sci-fi piece about technological glamours prompted me to immediately order Wilmot's published novel), but no true duds in this one. Also appreciated the inclusion of poetry (notably, two pieces by Kai Cheng Thom). Other reviewers have noted that the collection was less horny than expected — it's definitely less sexy, more freaky.
Unreal Sex ed. Adam Zmith & So Mayer
Fantastic collection of erotic shorts across a few speculative genres (including horror). Once again a few standouts but no duds. And maybe a better option for anyone looking for queer romance or erotica with a horror flavor. Lots of monsters in this one.
The Bruising of Qilwa by Naseem Jamnia
Not an obvious shoe-in for this list, but it does deal with blood magic and has some gruesome scenes, as well as a throughline of dread, so although it's marked as “dark fantasy,” it felt like it had more roots in horror at a number of points. Still, this novella is deceptively rich for its size, packed with complex navigations of refugee identity, queer coming-of-age and trans adulthood, and colonial violence. “What if someone took the idea of bloodbenders from Avatar: the Last Airbender” and really ran with it.
Virology: Essays for the Living, the Dead, and the Small Things in Between by Joseph Osmundson
Nonfiction! But, you know what! The COVID-19 epidemic is certainly a horror all its own. Osmundson's essay collection explores queerness through the lens of epidemics (old and new), via personal and intellectual writings on COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS. A really interesting collection of work, with a scientific and humane bent.
- Rescued by the Married Monster Hunters by Ennis Rook Bashe as R Bird caught my attention as a polyamourous book involving a trans man character. Didn't float my boat due to the prose style (I've preferred Bashe's other work), but worth mentioning.
- Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey. As a big Gailey fan, this felt like more typical/rote fare than their usual work. Still, a big blast of a serial murdery, haunted housey tale. That said, I preferred their short story Haunted on similar themes.
I'm a data journalist and media educator based in the Pacific Northwest. Follow what I'm reading live on Storygraph. You can subscribe to this blog via email or via the Fediverse @firstname.lastname@example.org. Find me at @petrinkae on Twitter or on Mastodon.