Reading Queer Fear

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a thousand times more: nobody writes horror like the queer community. All across the genre, LGBTQIA+ authors are redefining the monster that emerges from the closet, reclaiming familiar horror tropes—hidden identities, bodily transformations, possession, the casting out of "evil", dark curses, the endangerment of children, fear of otherness—and revising harmful narratives. Seeing as the horror genre is best at putting society under a microscope and revealing obscure imperfections, queer horror is no exception, oftentimes leading readers to realize the monsters of myth aren't to be feared nearly as much as the monstrousness of man. This Pride Month, I want to highlight some incredible and absolutely terrifying horror written by queer authors for you to add to your ever growing summer reading lists. 

Bound in Flesh

“Trapped in a suffocating cocoon that leaked and rotted about him, so ill-fitting around his screaming bones, so tight and constrictive: his soul, he often felt, was caught in the gullet of a great python in the shape of a human man. Joints! Teeth! Hair! The vagaries of smell and taste! The virus of language! The purgatory of custom and culture! Why, why was he cursed to be human?”

The common theme for Bound in Flesh was the human body itself—bodily changes, bodily modifications, bodily acceptance, loss of bodily autonomy. Whether unconditional self-love makes the body a home or whether the constricting structures of human society make that body a prison, the stories told in this anthology center both queerness and the flesh we walk around in. The fantastic trans and non-binary authors brought together by editor and author Lor Gislason provide us with 13 short stories, each one gory and frightening, hopeful and harrowing.

In L.C. von Hessen’s Wormspace, a man seeks out a physician in hopes of surgically modifying his body into something that will let him “just be”. Theo Hendrie’s The Haunting of Aiden Finch uses found-footage horror to document events leading up to a body found in the woods while Derek Des Anges’ Coming Out creatively utilizes fungal horror to tell a tale of isolation and incarceration. Another story (Mama is a Butcher by Winter Holmes) tackles shame and internalized hate when a mother hides her child’s true identity by sewing pig skin onto his body, claiming their true form is monstrous to a society that is cruel. Another unique story I loved ( Lady Davelina’s Last Pet by Charles-Elizabeth Boyles) brings fantasy and horror together in holy matrimony when a sorceress kidnaps a trans man and uses magic to transform him into whatever she pleases.

This anthology is imaginative in the most beautiful (and horrific) ways and should certainly check it out! 


Bury Your Gays

“The lake was a dream the day Eric drowned in it.”

Bury Your Gays is a raging hurricane of emotions that will leave an impact on whomever endeavors to read it. It is horror and “queer tragedy” in the form of pain, anger, heartache, fear, violence, longing, loneliness, grief, and it will leave many feeling weary with anguish. (Yes, this book requires all the trigger warnings). But there’s also powerful beauty to each story.

The very first story by author M.V. Pine ( Your Honor, I’d Like to Put You in the Shoes of One of Dr. Morehouse’s Thirty Proven Clients ) is an absolute punch to the gut, with visceral body horror and an absolutely devastating ending. Another story crafted by author August Clarke (Cleodora) follows a siren in a toxic relationship with a ship captain. In author November Rush’s Black Hole, fungal parasites desperate to stay together throughout centuries invade human bodies, while in author Charlene Adhiambo’s Lost and Found, a lonely ghost dwelling in a dilapidated house longs for companionship.

Quite a few stories (at least 5 out of the 16) are told in second person, referring to “you”, putting readers intentionally in a character’s shoes which I always feel heightens the reading experience. Some stories magnify discomfort and the grotesque, painting vivid images of vitriol and violence on the page, while other stories twist at the heart with melancholic lyrical prose. This anthology is a mixed bag of honest, gritty, dark queer experiences placed front and center. Editor and author Sofia Ajram assembled a brilliant group of queer and trans authors to bring this creative collection to life. If you’re in the mood for some emotionally tough reading, you should definitely put these stories on your radar.


The Scourge Between Stars

"She had seen corpses before--that was the reality of war, even if they were just the ones caught in a cosmic crossfire beyond their perception--but never with viscera hanging out like the wires of an opened console."

It's books like this that remind me why I love space horror so much. This is a debut novella from author Ness Brown--who, by the way, studied astrophysics as a graduate student and was actually an astronomy instructor! (hardcore!)

The story follows Jacklyn Albright, acting captain of a starship carrying thousands of colonists--the last of humanity--back to Earth from their failed colony on another planet. They've been traveling for a long time, passengers have grown restless and hostile, the food supply is dwindling, and just when one thinks matters can't get any worse, it is discovered that an intruder is on board. Members of the crew are found brutally murdered, and if Jacklyn wants to get her passengers safely back home, she'll have to hunt down what's hunting them.

A diverse cast of characters, quick pacing, a claustrophobic setting, building suspense, and a strong, relatable, intelligent, Black queer protagonist. What is there not to love?! 

Fans of the film Alien or readers who are looking to get into the sci-fi horror genre blend will devour this! 


Tripping Arcadia

"With each step on the aging carpet, a new and terrible thought blossomed. An idea so cruel that I was helpless to resist it. One that pulled at every bit of rage in my sinews, begging to become real. Poison."

Tripping Arcadia is more of a gothic thriller than pure horror but it's still a compelling read! The story follows Lena, a medical school dropout who’s been desperate to find work ever since her father lost his job. When she’s offered a position as the assistant to the doctor of the wealthy Verdeau family, it seems almost too good to be true. But Lena discovers more is being asked of her than the job description entailed. The elite Verdeaus have dark secrets, secrets Lena is conflicted about getting tangled up in. (I say “conflicted” because what wouldn’t YOU do for a hefty paycheck?)

Author Kit Mayquist created a suspenseful read with lots of my favorite ingredients for a page turner: decadence, wealth, family secrets, revenge, cover-ups, a queer protagonist, poisonous plants! I thoroughly enjoyed it. Many are comparing the book to Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic colliding with Gatsby-esque vibes and I can agree. Definitely check this book out if it sounds up your alley!

Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke

“What have you done today to deserve your eyes?”

Let me tell you why I think Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke is probably the horror novella you need in your mentally disturbed life.

For starters, written on the back of the book in bold, uppercase letters are the words: “obsession, sadomasochism, death”. From the jump, the reader is warned about what they are getting into, but when one opens up to the first couple of pages, the reader is eased into a false sense of security with a simple chat room message about an apple peeler. Intrigued yet? This is an epistolary novella told through an exchange of emails and instant messages between two lonely women. What starts out as an intimate friendship between these characters develops into something more.

At this point you’re probably thinking: “Christina, nothing you’ve said about this book sounds out of the ordinary or appealing to my horror-loving self.” But you’ll get no more from me on the plot. That’s all I’m going to reveal about this brilliant work of Eric LaRocca. The rest you’ll just have to experience blindly as I did. But I will tell you, this is a story where the pacing has a momentum that picks up and gets rolling like a large boulder you can’t keep from charging down a steep, menacing hill. After a point, the dark and grotesque happenings you start experiencing on the page will begin to reveal themselves through facial expressions as you start wincing, cringing, and defiantly shaking your head while screaming “Nope! Nope! Nope!”

This novella is for the brave reader who can stomach some pretty disturbing storytelling and triggering themes. I personally loved it in spite of my need to sit in front of a blank wall and try to register what I’d just read. I loved it so much, I will probably be recommending it to any sick soul who will listen. If you choose to pick this one up, it’s best read in one sitting. Give yourself an hour, hunker down, and brace yourself for pure terror.

Walking Practice

“The roles that were assigned to you without your consent are stuck to your body like a label: A label that you can’t remove before death. A label that can’t be removed even after death. The labels are invisible. They’re not really there, you know. They’ve melted into your flesh. They may have even made their home in a deeper, more abstract part of you. You won’t be able to fish them out even if you’re sliced up to the point that your bones are exposed and your guts are spilling out of your carcass.”

Translated from Korean and written by non-binary South Korean author Dolki Min, this novella is about a shapeshifting alien who crash lands on Earth and is struggling to get around under the weight of the planet’s gravity. Realizing the life-forms of Earth label themselves by gender, the hungry alien takes advantage of online dating, shifts its physical appearance and gender based on the sexual preferences of hook-up partners... and well… gruesomely devours them. I promise you, this is a queer, sci-fi, horror-comedy you need in your life. 

Queen of Teeth

"Love came naturally to her, but she could be inspired to the art of hatred. She had only needed a muse."

Listen. If you aren’t certain where to start when it comes to author Hailey Piper’s bibliography, I recommend Queen of Teeth. Especially if you’re a lover of cosmic, dystopian, and sci-fi horror!

In less than 200 pages, readers will follow our protagonist, Yaya Betancourt, as she goes from discovering razor sharp teeth in her vagina to being hunted by pharmaceutical corporate goons for the monster becoming sentient between her legs! This is a story about bodily autonomy, about otherness as a queer individual, about how terrifying our own bodies can seem, and how powerfully revolutionary it is to be comfortable in our own skin. This novella also gets bonus points for a balanced dose of romance and comedy as well!

Compelling from the first page, complex, cosmic, heartwarming, and chilling. Trust me, you need this book in your life!

Below are some honorable mentions you should absolutely check out this Pride Month (and all year)! 

-Christina James is a Readers' Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.


The Z Word

The Woods All Black


Patricia Wants to Cuddle

Inside Out

Your Shadow Half Remains

The Salt Grows Heavy

Exquisite Corpse

Bad Cree


Camp Damascus

This Skin Was Once Mine and Other Disturbances


Queer Little Nightmares

All the White Spaces


It Came From the Closet