**Editor’s Note: ”7 Essential LGBTQ Horror Authors for Your Summer Reading Lists” is a continuation of iHorror’s Horror Pride Month celebrating the queer community’s involvement in the horror genre.
Ah, Summer. A time for sitting on the beach under a huge umbrella with a good book in one hand and a strong adult beverage in the other.
I mean…could there be anything more relaxing?
Let’s not forget that we’re horror fans, however, and we crave that certain chill to the spine and slight paranoia that comes from a really great horror novel, even at the beach with an adult beverage.
The authors on this list bring plenty of that to the table in their collected works with a special bonus for the LGBTQ community because they themselves are a part of the community.
So, let’s get those Summer reading lists started with a man who needs no introduction at all.
#1 Clive Barker
I mean, could we even have this list without him?
I will never forget what it meant to me the day that I found out that Clive Barker was an out gay man. I really should have known before, but as a closeted gay horror fan in a small town in East Texas, I learned never to assume anything about anyone regardless of the subject matter they covered in their writing.
It was the early days of the internet, my freshman year in college, when I found an article featuring Barker, and I think my heart stopped slightly when I saw the words “Barker, a gay man from Liverpool…” I know for a fact that a tear or two ran down my cheeks.
It was a powerful and empowering moment.
Barker, who is also a fantastic painter, screenwriter, and director, penned some of the most terrifying novels and short stories I’ve ever read. Never mind that he created iconic horror villains like Pinhead and Candyman, his Books of Blood, filled with some of the most original short stories the genre has ever seen, should be required reading on any horror readers list.
The author is a masterful storyteller, creating nausea-inducing gore-filled scenes that never seem gratuitous, but what I truly came to appreciate in the years since I started reading his books is simple. When he does include queer characters in his stories, the fact that they’re gay or lesbian, bisexual or trans is never the most important thing about them, nor is it the reason that they’ve found themselves surrounded by horror.
Really, anything by the author is perfect for your Summer reading list, but if I had to pick and choose I would recommend Books of Blood, Cabal, Sacrament, and Weaveworld.
#2 Jewelle Gomez
Jewelle Gomez has lived one of the most fascinating lives.
A founding board member of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), she has spent her life on the front lines fighting for equality for all people. In fact, the author, playwright, critic and poet once wrote, “No one of us should ever feel we can leave someone behind in the struggle for freedom.”
Her writings have been published in numerous volumes, and she has contributed to such anthologies as Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora, but it is one book in particular that held Gomez’s place on this list.
The Gilda Stories, Gomez’s debut novel, was published in 1991. In it, a young unnamed slave woman in 1850 escapes her doomed life on a plantation and finds herself taken in by a group of female vampires who teach her about life, and eventually make her one of them.
She takes on the name Gilda, after the vampire who rescued her, and over the next two hundred years, the reader is treated to her life and her observances of the world around her. Gilda is presented as bisexual and each of the moments we’re presented in her life not only relate to the lives of the black community in that time period, but also to issues of sexuality and female empowerment.
The Gilda Stories is a stunning piece of vampire fiction that is more than the sum of its parts and is a perfect addition to any reading list.
#3 Billy Martin aka Poppy Z. Brite
Horror fans might not necessarily know the name Billy Martin, but there’s a good chance that if you were an avid horror reader in the 1990s, you read his work under the pseudonym Poppy Z. Brite.
I don’t think any of the fans knew until much later that Poppy Z. was actually a transgender gay man, but then again, I don’t think any of us were at all surprised when we found out, either.
Much of Martin’s fiction from the 90s had a distinctly queer male sensibility to it filled with numerous gay relationships as well as characters who blurred gender conformity lines.
Writing in a range of styles, Martin gave us the most unusual family of vampires in Lost Souls and introduced us to a young man named Nothing who was just trying to find his way in a world in which he never seemed to quite fit.
(Author’s side note: I really have Billy/Poppy to thank for helping me find the man that I eventually married. He was in a Yahoo chatroom under the name Zillah, a character’s name from the book Lost Souls, and I took it as a sign that he was someone I needed to know!)
Martin also penned a novella called Exquisite Corpse that might be the most vile thing I’ve ever read, and I mean that in the best possible way. What happens when a serial killing necrophiliac meets a serial killing cannibal and they fall in love? Read Exquisite Corpse, and you’ll find out.
Just know that there are certain scenes that cannot be un-read in that book. They will stay with you forever.
If you’re looking for novels Lost Souls, Drawing Blood, and Exquisite Corpse should be at the top of your list!
#4 Aaron Dries
I was introduced to Aaron Dries by Lisa Morton, president of the Horror Writers Association, when our Editor-In-Chief Timothy Rawles put me in touch with her for recommendations for new voices in LGBTQ horror. Morton quickly responded with Aaron’s name and related a story about his getting homophobic hate mail after his first book was published.
I have to say this cheerful, always smiling, Australian pulled the rug right out from under me with his very first novel, and I never saw it coming.
It was called The House of Sighs. It sounds like one of those wonderfully romantic books about people falling in love in Britain in the 1800s, doesn’t it?
Yeah, no…that’s not what this is at all.
The House of Sighs centers on a group of people trapped on a bus with their insane, drug addled bus driver holding them at gunpoint. It’s a situation that becomes even more inflamed when she drives them to her parents’ home in the middle of nowhere and her equally deranged family becomes involved.
The story in itself is brutal, but to make matters worse, Dries has the genius idea of numbering his chapters backward so that you slowly begin to feel like time is running out as events in the book rush to their bloody conclusion. That’s right kids; he put a doomsday clock on his novel and nearly gave me a heart attack with it.
Then there was The Fallen Boys, a treatise on the relationships between fathers and son, abusers and abused, and the cold, hard fact that some (not all!) men really will destroy everything around them in an effort to make themselves feel powerful.
And don’t even get me started on A Place for Sinners which comes complete with ravenous monkeys, a serial killer on the prowl, and a deaf woman caught between them on a remote tropical island. It’s just magically terrifying.
I’ve joked with Aaron many times since our first conversation that I feel like Joey from “Friends” when I read his books. Sometimes, I just need to put them in the freezer where they can’t hurt me for a while.
Meanwhile, he really is one of the most well-adjusted, genuinely optimistic young men I’ve ever met.
All this is to say that I cannot recommend this author or his fiction enough. These are stories that will leave you emotionally drained, but you’ll be so glad that you allowed yourself to experience them.
#5 Dane Figueroa Edidi
Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi fairly radiates feminine power and mystery. The black, trans performance artist and author from Baltimore grew up surrounded by uncertainty with an abusive brother, absent father, and a matriarchal family who often tried to squash her connection to the Divine Feminine.
Still, she persevered; she sought out the truth that she knew deep inside herself and ultimately she became the powerful woman that she is today. In an online essay, she discusses this family life and her connection to the Goddess Way, and also the powerful moment in which she discovered historic practitioners who today would also be called trans as a life defining moment.
“Contrary to what Hotepism, misogyny, white supremacy, colonization and anti-trans perpetrators of violence would have us to believe,” she said, “people like me were there and essential to the maintaining of spiritual and ephemeral order to indigenous societies. I was in Nations in Africa, I was in Sumer, I was in Rome, In Asia, I was on this very soil in countless Indigenous Nations. And, I am still here.”
Among her many writings is the Ghetto Goddess series. The novels center on a young trans woman named Arjana Rambeau, and her coming to grips with her identity as a woman and a powerful witch.
The novels blur the lines between fantasy and horror, and they simply must be read to understand that powerful intersection Edidi creates where the supernatural meets terror in ways you’ve never seen.
Make sure Brew, Keeper, and Incarnate are on your lists!
#6 Thommy Hutson
Thommy Hutson is a name that serious fans of the the big 80s horror franchises should know. Not only did he write the book on A Nightmare on Elm Street, but he was also one of the producers that brought Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy to life in the ultimate documentary about the franchise.
In similar fashion, he also helped bring together Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th for all of us horror geeks out there in the world who can’t get enough trivia about our favorite machete-wielding maniac, and the men and women who brought him to life and killed him repeatedly.
Hutson has also written movies for Syfy, directed feature films, and just this year produced his very first novel by the name of Jinxed. Not bad for a charming, slightly geeky, genuinely nice guy in LA.
I previously reviewed Hutson’s novel and you can read that full review here, but I cannot stress to you how much you NEED to read this book if you’re a fan of old school franchise horror.
It’s simply one of the most entertaining horror novels of 2018 so far, so what are you waiting for?!
#7….You Tell Me
No seriously, fill in the blank. Recommend queer horror authors to me that I might like. Turn me onto a world that I haven’t experienced yet, created by talented LGBTQ authors who want to terrify their audiences.
I’ll be waiting.