Sounds gay and scary, I’m in.
My love of horror is pretty well documented at this point. I’ve discussed Lovecraftian horror and gothic horror in Halloweens’ past. Now let me share some queer horror to terrify you this Halloween.
Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield
I am somewhat cheating with this one, as it’s more gothic than pure horror, but I say it counts due to its promising premise.
Miri was delighted when her wife Leah finally returns home. Leah has been away on a deep-sea mission that went horribly wrong. At least she is home now, or rather what’s left of her. Leah seems to have brought something out of the deep and into their home. Worse yet, the little she has left of her wife is slipping away from her.
A slow gothic tale about love, loss and grief, with a bit of magical realism thrown in for added spice.
The Route of Ice and Salt by José Luis Zárate
If you are looking for a slow, creeping dread rather than in-your-face gore, this is the novel for you.
In this retelling of Dracula, we get a firsthand account of the horror the doomed ship that carried the boxes of soil to Whitby faced. The narrative is told by the captain, a man struggling with his sexuality at a time when being a gay man was a sin on par with murder. While battling his inner demons and trauma, he comes face-to-face with an undead horror feeding off his crew.
The Route of Ice and Salt is my favourite book on the list. It’s so good that I keep ranting about it at any opportunity.
Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu
Speaking of Dracula, this novel predates Bram Stoker’s classic by 26 years.
In this haunting novella, Laura is a lonely noblewoman living in an isolated castle. Things are dull for her until a fateful carriage accident leads to another young woman, Carmilla, being entrusted into her family’s care. The two get along very well, they share a deep bond almost from the get-go. Unfortunately, despite their care (and perhaps more) for one another, things go south when Laura starts to notice her dear friend acting odd under the cover of darkness, she also starts growing weaker and suffering from terrible nightmares.
The lesbian aspect isn’t vilified, or at least that was my experience, which was unexpected for a novella written in 1872. It’s a short read, perfect for this time of the year.
It Came From the Closet: Queer Reflections on Horror Edited by Joe Vallese
I’ll be honest, part of the reason this book made the list is simply the fact I love the cover and the title.
Queer and trans writers discuss the horror movies that shaped them. The queer community has a bit of a compilated relationship with the genre. Sometimes we are vilified, and sometimes there is an accidental message with possible subversive readings. In these twenty-five original essays, we read about how horror movies reflected their own life stories. Maybe helping or hurting on their journeys of self-discovery.
A Dowry of Blood by S. T. Gibson
Another gay take on Dracula. I was going to make a joke along the lines of “have vampires always been this queer?” but Carmilla proves that, yeah, they kinda have been.
Jokes aside, in this retelling we get to hear from Dracula’s brides. Namely, Constanta, who Dracula “saved” from the brink of death. She loves her husband but soon realises the horrors he is capable of when he adds two other women to their marital bed. She finds comfort in the arms of her sister wives, perhaps more than just comfort.
Polycule drama with sapphic yearning at the opera served with a splash of blood or two. It is a novel to die for.
If you know any other queer horror novels that chill your blood, please let me know!