Hey there horror fans, I’m Jessica Avery and I’ll be delivering your weekly brief of all that’s ghastly and grim in the world of Horror. Whether you’re looking for a backlist book that will give you the willies, a terrifying new release, or the latest in horror community news, you’ll find it here in The Fright Stuff.
Hello all, and welcome to the final Monday in June. Though I am sad to say goodbye to Pride month, I am so excited to be one step closer to fall! As far as I’m concerned, once we hit July I’m officially counting down to Halloween. Pumpkin time is nigh!
But first, to celebrate the end of this month of queer horror I wanted to share some love for one of my favorite subcategories of queer horror fiction: queering the classics. There’s just something about someone taking a classic work of literature and making it gay AND scary (that is, if it’s not already scary to begin with!) that brings me endless joy.
Horseman: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow by Christina Henry
I have been waiting absolutely forever for a chance to sing the praises of Christina Henry’s queer retelling of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. This book the epitome of a seasonally, thematically perfect Halloween read! Now I have to confess something: Horseman is not strictly a retelling. It is in the sense that every aspect of the original story is revisited and retold to some degree, but Horseman is technically more of a sequel than a retelling. But don’t let that stop you! Our protagonist, fourteen-year-old trans boy Ben, is the grandson of Brom Bones and Katrina Van Tassel from the original story, and his world is upended suddenly when the headless body of a child appears in the woods outside Sleepy Hollow, raising questions no one wants to answer. But Ben must find answers if he wants to protect his family and friends from the sinister forces stalking the village.
The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo
So they might take away my English degree for this one, but I never liked The Great Gatsby. (Opps.) BUT I do love general idea of the story – separated lovers, pining, tragedy – and the glamour and excess of the 20’s as a setting. So give me a dark, queer version of that and you officially have my attention. And while I suppose you could argue that The Chosen and the Beautiful is more of a dark fantasy novel, I don’t think horror fans will be disappointed. As a woman raised in the upper echelons of 20s American society, but one who also happens to be queer and Asian, Jordan Baker walks a fraught line between social standing and societal prejudice as she navigates a Jazz Age setting steeped in demon blood and danger.
What Moves the Dead by T Kingfisher (July 12)
I have been salivating over Kingfisher’s queer retelling of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher ever since it was announced, and with good reason! I was promised frightening fungi and fucked up hares and wow did Kingfisher deliver. What Moves the Dead was grim, Gothic, frightening, and A+ fungal horror. The story begins in familiar fashion: Alex Easton received word that their childhood friend Madeline Usher is dying, and they make the long journey to Usher House to see what can be done or at least to say goodbye. But here’s where things make a rather creepier turn than Poe’s original Gothic gloom: it’s not just Madeline and Roderick who are acting strange, even the wildlife around the house has turned odd, and deep in the lake a strange green light is glowing.
Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste (August 23)
Okay, so again, less of a full retelling, more of a reimagining of certain unfortunate fates and a new lease on life for two mistreated women of classic literature. But I mean how does it get better than this, really? Bertha Rochester from Jane Eyre and Lucy Westenra from Dracula, are immortals living their best undead lives in Los Angeles in 1967. At least until Dracula and Rochester, equally unalive, make a sudden reappearance, throwing Bertha and Lucy’s new lives into disarray. I’ve already read an excerpt of Reluctant Immortals, courtesy of Nightfire’s Blog, and ya’ll I honestly could not be more excited.
My Dear Henry by Kalynn Bayron (February 28, 2023)
Did I plan this whole list so I could talk about a book that’s not coming out until February of NEXT year? Very possibly. I’m already a huge fan of Kalynn Bayron’s work, and when I found out about My Dear Henry, a queer reimagining of Jekyll & Hyde, I was instantly on board. Gabriel Utterson knows that that something is wrong with his friend Henry Jekyll. Returned to London after scandal imploded his and Henry’s lives two years ago, Gabriel is desperate to find out what has become of his friend, and why Henry stopped writing to him. What he finds instead is a Henry who coldly refuses to acknowledge Gabriel’s existence, and Hyde, the strange and charismatic young man who claims to be Henry’s friend.
Fresh From the Skeleton’s Mouth
To celebrate 5000 ratings of The Dead and the Dark Courtney Gould released a lovely little epilogue story about Logan and Ashley’s life together after Snakebite. And she made me cry. Again.
It’s early, but never to early to mark your calendars! Because Mysterious Galaxy Books is going to be hosting a virtual event on August 24th, featuring Gwendolyn Kiste in conversations with A.C. Wise about Reluctant Immortals!
Dr. Sam Hirst of Romancing the Gothic is asking the important questions in their most recent blog post: Is the Gothic gay? And the answer (of course) is: Yes. Super gay. But don’t take my word for it, because Hirst’s post is fantastic and you should definitely read it for yourself!
As always, you can catch me on twitter at @JtheBookworm, where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.