The Fright Stuff

Void Spaces in Horror, or Why a Little Terrible Nothingness is a Good Thing!

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.

As readers, we know that when life gets overwhelming and we need to escape, the best thing to do is pick up a book. As horror readers, we know that the terror of a good horror book adds a needed factor of catharsis to our escapism. So when things get stressful (not that I could possibly think of a reason that things might have been stressful here in the U.S. this last week…), the obvious choice is to reach for a horror book.

But there are definitely certain horror books that work best for me when I really need a reprieve. I’m talking, of course, about the terrible, soothing call of the void.

Bookish Goods

go away i'm reading skeleton blanket from everythingafterco

Go Away I’m Reading Skeleton Blanket by EverythingAfterCo

In keeping with this week’s theme of escaping from the world, may I suggest this delightful blanket that will warn away all would-be intruders on your reading time? Made of crushed velvet and lined with sherpa, it’s the perfect cozy blanket to cocoon yourself in when you need a little time away from life to read. Let others interrupt you at their peril! They have been duly warned.


New Releases

cover of strega by johanne lykke holm

Strega by Johanne Lykke Holm, translated by Saskia Vogel

You know when you stumble on a subset of horror and it just becomes an instant obsession? That’s how I feel about alpine horror. So when I spotted Strega on Nightfire’s 2022 horror list, I made a point of preordering a copy straight off. The Olympic Hotel is set high in the mountains, above the tiny village of Strega, and it’s to the Olympic that nine young women, including 19 year old Rafa, are sent to work, preparing the hotel for guests that, inexplicably, never seem to arrive. Until they do, vanishing as quickly as they arrived and leaving only eight young women in their wake.

cover of rootwork by tracy cross

Rootwork by Tracy Cross

Rootwork, on the other hand, is for those of you who prefer your stories to be set in warmer climes at far lower altitudes. Set in 1889, it’s about three sisters, Betty, Ann, and Pee Wee, who live in a small parish in Louisiana and spend their summers with their Aunt Theodora. Theodora is a hoodoo practitioner who teaches the sisters the art that has led to her being both respected and feared by the local community. But just as the girls are coming to enjoy their new found skills, their summer takes a tragic turn that will change their lives forever.

For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter!

Riot Recommendations

I have always been drawn to void spaces. There’s just something about all that vast nothingness, bereft of life. Silent, still, and empty. The far reaches of space, the depths of the ocean, the lightless caverns of deep caves, the frozen white expanses of the poles. Anywhere where, when it comes to horror, the sheer scale of the space is sharply contrasted with the harrowing claustrophobia of trying to exist somewhere where life does not thrive and is not wanted.

When I am most stressed — feeling hopeless, trapped, or lost — horror books about deep, dark, void-like spaces allow me to explore the most extreme versions of what I’m experiencing. It helps to ease the pressure, so that by the time I turn the final page I can let go of some of what’s upsetting me. Leaving it to the void.

cover of from below by darcy coates

From Below by Darcy Coates

I promise you I did not make this list just so I would finally have a chance to talk about From Below. But it’s definitely a plus, because this Ghost Ship meets Titanic deep sea horror novel was an instant favorite. It’s intensely claustrophobic, given that our cast is trapped in dive suits, inside a dead ship, at the bottom of the ocean. And every inexplicable thing that happens in the isolated vacuum of the sunken SS Arcadia is made that much more terrifying by the fraught nature of the cast’s presence there. Because while Cove and her dive team might be determined to make their documentary about the previously undiscovered wreck, the metal bones of the Arcadia do not sleep easy, and the dead have other plans.

cover of the luminous dead by caitlin starling

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

The Luminous Dead is another one of those books that I am completely obsessed with. Starling had me at “attractive caver gets (literally) in over her head with more than a little help from the equally attractive but untrustworthy person controlling her survival suit, also: giant cave worm things.” Honestly though, where do I even start with how gorgeous and terrifying this book is? Reading it means watching helplessly as Gyre is just dragged through the worst kind of hell, and all the time there’s Em, who seems just as desperate as Gyre is but for different reasons. Reasons that all but guarantee Gyre can’t trust the very woman who can control everything from Gyre’s movement to her emotions with just the push of a button.

cover of the scourge between stars by ness brown

The Scourge Between Stars by Ness Brown (April 4)

Say hello to one of my most anticipated reads for the start of 2023! As you all probably know by now, space horror is my jam and wow am I excited for this novella. The Scourge Between Stars is a bit of a flip on the sci-fi narrative of colonists going forth to seek the stars (and often finding horrors instead) in that it’s actually about what happens after the long dreamed-of colony has failed. Jacklyn Albright is the acting captain of the Calypso, a starship carrying all that remains of humanity. The Calypso is making its slow way back to Earth after humanity’s attempt at colonizing distant space catastrophically failed. And if the lack of food and the dangers of the crushing emptiness of space around them weren’t bad enough, Jacklyn has reason to suspect that there is something alive onboard her ship that shouldn’t be there — an intruder that might kill them all before they ever make it home

As always, you can catch me on twitter at @JtheBookworm where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.