We’re almost halfway through June, so you’re well into your Summer reading lists, right?
Some of you are thinking, “Do people even do that anymore?”
When I was a kid, my mom and dad kept a tight leash on what I was viewing. I come from a particularly stringent religious background, and the few horror movies that made it into the house were not meant for my consumption.
They didn’t, however, monitor my reading habits too closely. I’m still not sure how it slipped by them that I was bringing home horror books from the library. All I know is that books were the foundation of my horror education. They were also the foundation for defining my identity as a gay man.
It has been my honor and privilege over the years to recommend many of these books to other horror fans, and I am constantly on the lookout for new and terrifying books that combine horror with the queer experience.
With that in mind, I decided to create this Summer reading list. Some of the titles here are very old and some have only been published in the last couple of years, but they’re all quite good and I cannot recommend them enough to all you horror fans!
Point Pleasant by Jen Archer Wood
Jen Archer Wood’s Point Pleasant was first published in August of 2013. Sadly, I did not discover it until about a month ago when it was recommended to me by a good friend.
Wrapped in the mystery of the famed Mothman of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, the novel tells the story of Ben Wisehart who, as a boy, encountered the creature late at night with best friend Nicholas.
As the two grow up, their response to this encounter diverges, as do their paths in life. Ben leaves town at the age of 20 after he receives the cold shoulder upon admitting that he’s fallen in love with Nicholas.
When a series of events brings Ben back to Point Pleasant, he finds the town once again haunted by the beast that plagued his childhood nightmares. He also finds that Nicholas has worked a few things out for himself in Ben’s absence.
Wood brings something new to the legends of the Mothman that makes the story incredibly terrifying. She also manages to–narrowly–avoid the “gay for you” plot device between Ben and Nicholas that has become a stale trope in these kinds of stories.
Point Pleasant is available in digital and paperback editions on Amazon!
Sacrament by Clive Barker
Clive Barker’s fiction is some of the most effective and terrifying of the last 40 years. Evocative images combine with master wordcraft to create worlds more terrifying than most could ever dream.
An openly gay man, many of Barker’s stories and novels feature queer characters, though rarely is their sexuality the most important thing going on in the plot. This was one of the things that drew me to his writing long before I realized he was gay.
I’ve written before of what it meant to me when I found out that Barker was gay. It was a moving experience to say the least and almost immediately after finding out I read the novel Sacrament.
This novel is a bold existential nightmare tailor-made for anyone who has ever asked the question “Why was I born?”
The answers in Sacrament are ephemeral and fleeting, but rarely have I been so terrified and moved and uncertain if I was prepared for the ending of a novel as when I found myself lost in its pages all those years ago.
Pick your format and pick up a copy here.
Affinity by Sarah Waters
Sarah Waters has made a name for herself with erotically charged lesbian genre fiction. Her stories are vividly told and her characters are often brutally emotionally raw.
Her talent for storytelling is abundantly clear in Affinity. The novel tells the story of Margaret Prior, an upper class Victorian woman, who after a failed suicide attempt begins volunteering at an horrific women’s prison.
There she meets spiritualist Selina Dawes. Margaret soon finds herself captivated by Selina and perhaps more dangerously, she comes to believe in Selina’s gifts.
It’s a hair-raising, diabolically plotted tale that you have to read for yourself to believe.
The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez
Evocative and thrilling, The Gilda Stories was Jewelle Gomez’s debut novel.
It tells the story of a runaway slave in Louisiana who finds herself taken in by Gilda, a vampire woman and brothel owner. Eventually, the slave herself becomes a vampire and takes on the name of Gilda, as well.
She learns about life and love from the women of the brothel and takes those lessons forward through her seemingly endless eternal life.
Gilda is openly bisexual and Gomez’s novel explores the convergence of blackness and sexuality beautifully, ultimately winning two Lambda awards for the novel.
If you’ve not read it, you must pick up a copy today!
Drawing Blood by Poppy Z. Brite
I had a hard time choosing just one of Poppy Z. Brite’s novels for this list, but ultimately, it had to be Drawing Blood.
In the novel, Brite takes us back to Missing Mile, North Carolina, the location of Brite’s debut novel, Lost Souls.
At five years old, Trevor McGee somehow escaped the night his father murdered the rest of his family before killing himself. Now grown up and a burgeoning comic book artist, Trevor has returned to the old family home to attempt to figure out why he was spared.
Enter Zachary Bosch. A bisexual computer hacker on the run from the FBI, Zach also finds himself in Missing Mile, a nowhere place that’s perfect for hiding.
Zach and Trevor, of course, meet and begin a heated relationship, but the dark spirits and insanity that haunted Trevor’s father are never far away in the old family home.
It’s a fun haunted house story with a queer twist and one that I cannot recommend enough. Back in the 90s when a lot of us were discovering Brite, we had no idea that the author was coming to terms with their gender identity. Though Poppy Z. Brite remains their professional name, he has since come out as a trans man by the name of Billy Martin.
Also, if haunted houses aren’t your thing, and you’re looking for something more extreme, Brite wrote a novel called Exquisite Corpse back in the day. There are things in that book that you cannot un-read, but I highly recommend if you’re looking for something more extreme.
Pick up a copy of Drawing Blood here.
The Drowning Girl by Caitlin R. Kiernan
Twisting and turning, Caitlin R. Kiernan takes us into the mind of a schizophrenic woman named India Morgan Phelps aka IMP in her 2012 novel The Drowning Girl.
This is one of those books that nearly impossible to explain without giving anything away. It switches back and forth between first and third person storytelling as IMP navigates the strange occurrences around her with the help of her transgender lover Abalyn.
Kiernan is an adept storyteller and she uses all of those skills to take her readers in the midst of IMP’s mental illness as respectfully as she can while leaving much open to debate.
The use of this trope has come under fire in recent years with rightful discussion about the portrayal of mental illness in the horror genre.
Are the horrors here born of IMP’s mental illness? Is she able to experience because of the way her mind works?
The final scenes in the book will leave the reader with almost as many questions as answers. It is certainly open for interpretation.
Pick up a copy of the novel today and decide for yourself!
Queer Fear Volumes 1 & 2 edited by Michael Rowe
Is it cheating to do at once? I don’t know, but a good anthology is hard to come by, and Michael Rowe did his level best in assembling both volumes of Queer Fear.
It should be noted that most of the stories contained here are decidedly on the erotic side, but that doesn’t take away from the horror aspect and in some ways, actually enhances it.
There’s something here for everyone in these collections and while tonally they land all over the place, the overall assembly is quite good.
What’s more important here, as it is with any collection of short fiction, is that readers can find the stories and authors they like and use that as a jumping off place to discover even more queer horror stories and novels.
And that, I think, is winning.
Order yours and being your own journey through Queer Fear.
The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice
Say what you will, but Rice’s Vampire Chronicles may be one of the longest running series of novels filled with pansexual protagonists and antagonists alike.
Rice’s vampires, rendered unable to perform sexual acts after turning, nonetheless spend countless pages expressing a love for other characters regardless of gender expression. They love deeply and profoundly, reaching out to each other for companionship through their immortal lives constantly searching for one to walk with them.
It’s incredibly romantic. It’s also, at times, incredibly violent, especially when the Brat Prince Lestat de Lioncourt is involved. Still, the search for connection across centuries is one of the most compelling points of Rice’s novels.
What’s more, the sheer beauty of that writing has compelled her legion of fans to fall in love with the characters she’s given us in return over the course of four decades.