The Fright Stuff

Dystopian Worst Case Scenarios

It’s felt like the end of days for a while now… and while we’d all like to hope the cycle rebirths us into a kinder new world, the literature just doesn’t support that. By that, I mean, horror literature (in particular when it crosses over with science fiction) just won’t allow the future to be anything but bleak. If you don’t believe me, you’ve come to the right place. You’re in The Fright Stuff, Book Riot’s weekly horror newsletter about the latest and greatest in horror. I’m Mary Kay McBrayer, and I’ll be your Virgil through this realm of hell, dystopias and worst case scenarios.

Earworm: “Sleeping In” by The Postal Service: “Again last night I had that strange dream / where everything was exactly as it seemed. / No concerns about the world getting warmer. / People thought that they were just being rewarded / for treating people as they’d like to be treated, / obeying stop signs, and curing diseases. / For mailing letters with the address of the sender, / now we can swim any day in November.”

Blue Ticket by Sophie Mackintosh

In this dystopia, on the day of your first period, women are assigned tickets to determine whether they will get marriage and children (a white ticket) or a career and freedom (a blue ticket). “You are relieved of the terrible burden of choice.” Calla, who received a blue ticket, starts questioning that assignment when she becomes pregnant, and she has to go on the run while considering if “the lottery knows her better than she knows herself.”


Killers Keep Secrets: The Golden State Killer’s Other Life by James Huddle

Joseph D’Angelo has been arrested, we know, but do you want to know more about his family life? This work of nonfiction is told by someone who knew him IRL, his brother-in-law. (Think of it as the Golden State Killer’s Extremely Wicked, Shocking and Vile Bundy equivalent.) It may not be a dystopia per se, but finding out decades later that one of your family members raped and killed tons of people? WORST CASE SCENARIO.


Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay

This new release from acclaimed horror author Paul Tremblay tells the story of a pregnant couple at the start of a super-rabies epidemic in New England as Natalie and her best friend Dr. Ramola race to get the baby delivered before Natalie succumbs to infection. It’s a true stress-inducing horror story.



Lakewood by Megan Giddings

Everyone is loving this novel–so much so that most online booksellers have it on back order. Described as a combination of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, this medical dystopia follows Lena Johnson as she undergoes medical experimentation in order to pay off her family’s debts.

Cryptkeepers (FKA horror from the backlist):

Kindred by Octavia Butler

It’s a classic, and you’ve likely already heard of it, but it’s such a page turner that I had to mention it here. Though some consider dystopia to happen only in the future, when Dana, a Black woman living in 1970s California, gets sucked back in time and place to the antebellum south… well, I’ve never understood why ANYONE would want to travel back in time. I mean, even though times are tough right now, this is nothing compared to the atrocities of, for example, slavery. Anyway, time traveling horror dystopia coming up hot!

Paradise by Toni Morrison

The unsung hero of Morrison’s novels, this one shows what happens when refugee women settle outside of town, in a decadent edifice known as “the Convent.” The townsfolk see them as a threat, and I’m not spoiling anything when I say the book opens on a multiple murder crime scene.



Harbingers (FKA news):

HBO’s Lovecraft Country finally gets its August premiere date.

Want to learn more about the women authors behind Alfred Hitchcock’s films? Here’s how reading Patricia Highsmith and Daphne Du Maurier changed one reader’s understanding of the Master of Suspense.

Ottessa Moshfegh, author of My Year of Rest and RelaxationHomesick for Another World, and Eileen, talks in-depth and reads from her latest novel of haunting, metaphysical suspense, Death In Her Hands, about an elderly widow whose life is upturned when she finds a cryptic note on a walk in the woods.

Anton Chekhov’s trip to Sakhalin puts lockdown in perspective… When he crossed the strait to the island prison colony, the writer felt he was entering hell.

Perched above the Yoshino River in Japan’s Iya Valley is a small museum that tells the history of the many monsters, demons, and spirits that inhabit the region.

Want to hear a brief history of queer women detectives in crime fiction? Uh, of course you do.

A miniature fairy village lies nearly forgotten in the forest by the side of a major highway in Waterbury, CT… and if you don’t know why fairies=horror, go ahead on and pick up The Cooper’s Wife is Missing: The Trials of Bridget Cleary by Joan Hoff.

Want to know why in England, coroners decide what is treasure and what is not? “It’s a bizarre holdover from a previous age.”

According to the A.V. Club, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, “the supernatural Archie-verse series, will wrap up later this year, when Netflix airs the fourth season (part, whatever) of the well-received mixer of teen angst and immortal stakes.”

Enter to win a copy The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix.

Enter to win 12 hardcover books chosen for YOU specifically.

Enter to win $250 to spend at Barnes & Noble.

Until next week, follow me @mkmcbrayer for minute-to-minute horrors or DM me there to let me know of other books I should include. I’m also on IG @marykaymcbrayer. Talk to you soon!

Your Virgil,


Mary Kay McBrayer
Co-host of Book Riot’s literary fiction podcast, Novel Gazing

The Fright Stuff

Cryptids and Anthropomorphism

When I was teaching English composition, nothing gave me more delight than starting off a semester by close-reading “Siren Song” by Margaret Atwood. I’d hear a couple of students giggle at the end, and when I’d ask, “What’s funny?” they’d clam up. When I rephrased the question, “No, you’re right. It’s funny. In a macabre sort of way… what is a siren? Google it right quick.”

Then they’d read about them being birds from the chest down, and I watched the confusion materialize on their faces: “But not THIS siren. She’s a human.”

“Oh, nope. She got you. You died.” Because that’s the thing about animal/human hybrids, right? You can never tell which part is human and which part is animal, and that’s what makes those monsters dangerous.

You might have guessed by now, you’re in The Fright Stuff, Book Riot’s weekly newsletter about the latest and greatest in horror. I’m Mary Kay McBrayer, and I’ll be your Virgil through this week’s realm of hell, the cryptids.

Ear worm: “Committing Love” by Lynx & Kemo… but the performance here, with Zoe Jakes the bellydancer, complete with antler headdress, is exactly the visual interpretation of this song to cement its creepiness.

Fresh Hells (FKA new releases): 

the only good indiansThe Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

According to popular culture, Indians use every part of the animal… but when the ill-willed game warden shows up just before a blizzard to a group of First Nations hunters who have hit the jackpot out of season, the warden makes them abandon the elks’ carcasses. One doe’s spirit does not take this slight on the chin…


Bunny by Mona AwadBunny by Mona Awad

Weird things happen at Warren University, not only with the bunnies ubiquitous on its campus, but also with the women in the MFA writing program who call each other “Bunny.” This novel perfectly illustrates the kind of false intimacy that can happen among artists as well as the exploitation that female friendships often foster. But more than that, it’s a dark fairy tale for the creative imagination. I can’t recommend this one enough.

little eyesLittle Eyes by Samanta Schweblin

There’s a new toy on the market, a Furbee-like robot that you can host in your home… except for the fact that, rather than operate like a computer who learns, there’s a dweller inside, a stranger operating the robot from somewhere far away. Though the robots’ shells look like different animals, inside, they’re all human… or maybe monster.


The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado, illustrated by Dani

You’re likely familiar with Machado from her collection of short stories, Her Body and Other Partiesor her memoir, In the Dream House, and this graphic novel does not fall short of the high bar she’s set for herself. Best friends Vee and El wake in a movie theater to an absence of memory–what just happened to them? And when the animals in their hometown Shudder-to-Think start acting weird, well, there’s more to that amnesia than the reader anticipates.

Cryptkeepers (FKA horror from the backlist):

“The Mermaid in the Tree” by Timothy Schaffert

You’ve heard me sing this author’s praises before, in the form of his novel The Swan Gondolaamong his other writings, but this short story is the one that first grabbed my heartstrings. It’s located in the anthology My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, and it tells The Little Mermaid narrative from the perspective of the non-mermaid woman that the prince DOES marry. More than that, though, the mermaids in their coastal town are treated like monsters, embalmed and set afloat in their personal aquariums to be literally paraded by bicycles through the gritty fairy tale.

Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges, illustrated by Peter Sis, translated by Andrew Hurley

A classic for y’all: this bestiary compiled by Jorge Luis Borges is a compendium of cryptids, or mythological creatures that inspire fear and imagination. And, bonus, it’s full of illustrations! (This one is truly amazing–when I taught it to gifted middle-schoolers, they loved it, and it inspired them to imagine their own cryptids.)

Harbingers (FKA news):

“Why are horror and fantasy so queer-coded?”: LGBTQ celebs discuss the appeal of magic and monsters at The A.V. Club.

Art Young’s Dante-Inspired Satire Replaced Demons with Exploitative Capitalists: Steven Heller on an Old Master of Political Cartoons.

What’s the deal with eels in literature? They don’t show up often, but when they do, they’re gross and creepy.

You have to read Octavia Butler’s motivational notes to herself!

Here’s what Patton Oswalt has to say on surviving his late wife, the author of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, the horrifying true crime book about the now-pleading-guilty Joseph DeAngelo, or as she called him, the Golden State Killer.

Near the allegedly haunted pub, The Witch Stone of Great Leighs, you can find strong spirits on the rocks.

Atlas Obscura is hosting a number of “wonder from home” virtual tours. Check out the list of freaky literary spots here. (Past tours have included Weird Homes: Ghosts in the Machine, and Ascend Ascend: A Poetic Performance.)

While we’re on the Atlas Obscura trail, co-founder Brian Thuras interviews an auctioneer of “the unusual” (like catalogs detailing “magic-related material,” Ernest Hemingway first editions, automatons, taxidermy, sideshow and circus, and more), on their Show & Tell series.

And, more in the worlds of cascading disappointment, J.K. Rowling tweets praise for Stephen King, deletes it after he voices support for trans women. But… glad we got King in our corner!

Everything gets reborn, including the Midsommar Director’s Cut. Now available in a special edition Blu-ray exclusively at

Speaking of Midsommar, Ari Aster, along with horror director Robert Eggers, horror actors Florence Pugh, Lakeith Stanfield, Cynthis Erivo, and most of the cast of Parasite are all now part of the Motion Picture Academy.

Want to see the 50 different covers of The Plague by Albert Camus? Of course you do.

Enter to win a copy The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix.

Enter to win 12 hardcover books chosen for YOU specifically.

Enter to win $250 to spend at Barnes & Noble.

Until next week, follow me @mkmcbrayer for minute-to-minute horrors or DM me there to let me know of other books I should include. I’m also on IG @marykaymcbrayer. Talk to you soon!

Your Virgil,


Mary Kay McBrayer
Co-host of Book Riot’s literary fiction podcast, Novel Gazing

The Fright Stuff

The Movies

The things I’m missing the most during social/physical distancing are weirdly nuanced. Most things can be adapted by taking them outdoors or wearing a mask, but there are two things for which there are no close substitutes:

1. Overpriced cups of “drip” coffee that I can sip at my leisure in a semi-public over-air-conditioned space while eavesdropping to inane and unequivocally boring conversations while pretending to write, hunched over my dusty-ass laptop.

2. Going to the movies by myself, sitting in the exact center of the theater and watching some obscure horror movie in the middle of the day.

The closest we can come to substituting those experiences at a time like this is reading books about horror films. The only way to do that (that emulates the things I miss) is while sitting on our own patios or porches in the afternoon, pouring your morning’s leftover coffee over ice. Or in parks with a makeshift fence staked with your kids’ tent spikes and wrapped with crime scene tape (don’t pretend like you don’t have a roll or two from Halloween still stashed above your fridge in those cabinets that there is no point to because NO ONE CAN REACH THEM. They are literally behind an appliance and taller than any human can go-go-gadget their arms. Who decided?) while your sun-deprived skin absorbs all the vitamin D it can get.

By the way, you’re in the Fright Stuff, Book Riot’s weekly horror newsletter about the latest and greatest in horror. I’m Mary Kay McBrayer, and I’ll be your Virgil through this realm of hell, THE MOVIES.

Earworm: “Prototype” by Andre 3000.” “Do something out of the ordinary, like catch a matinee… / / Let’s go… let’s go / to the movies.”

Fresh Hells (FKA new releases):

Final Cuts: New Tales of Hollywood Horror and Other Spectacles edited by Ellen Datlow

This new anthology centers around the mythology we’ve created by looking at screens. The horrors that lie just offscreen or on the cutting room floor, or even hide in plain sight are all fair game for this collection of horror authors such as Josh Malerman, Stephen Graham Jones, Laird Barron, and Nathan Ballingrud, among others.


Inteinterior chinatownrior Chinatown: A Novel by Charles Yu

Though this novel itself is a satire of noir tropes, particularly those of Asian men in Chinatown, more than a horror book itself, the tropes that it satirizes have a horrific sting. The book is described as “a deeply personal novel about race, pop culture, immigration, assimilation, and escaping the roles we are forced to play.” (And if you’re interested in the film Chinatown, check out the biography of the film itself, The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood by Sam Wasson.)


Hitchcock Blonde: A Cinematic Memoir by Sharon Dolin

This “cinematic memoir” releases in one week (on July 7), but I, of course, had to put it on this list. The book is described as a “heady cocktail of sex and trauma,” but told through the lenses of the famous horror films by director, Alfred Hitchcock. Go ahead on and pre-order this one. You’re welcome.


Cryptkeepers (FKA horror from the backlist): 

The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones

If you’re a horror fan (and I know you are), you are also unquestionably familiar with the trope of the Final Girl. This horror book is THE horror book for horror movie fans. It’s not quite a screenplay and not quite a novel, but it’s chock full of film references. The premise itself is an homage to the most famous final girls (Jamie, Ripley, etc.), and a competition among them. And if you’re a big SGJ fan (which you will be, if you’re as yet unfamiliar with his work) his book The Only Good Indians is finally releasing (after being postponed for COVID) on July 14. And Night of the Mannequins is hot on its heels (it releases in September)!

Harbingers (FKA news):

Here’s how the “Shoot the Book adaption market — a staple at the Marché du Film since 2014 and a rising player on the global film scene — continues to evolve.”

Congratulations to horror author Grady Hendrix, who will be releasing his next two novels with Berkely Publishing. Can’t wait to get my hands on The Final Girl Support Group, due to release in June of 2021. Till then, y’all can enjoy The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires. 

Here’s how The Twilight Zone season two premiere softly skewers male presumption.

Want to read about award-winning Tayari Jones (author of Leaving Atlanta) and her search for writing success? Of course you do.

Read 8 horror novels that are set in Maine (and not by Stephen King).

Check out this horrifying list of queer true crime, too. 

Speaking of true crime and film adaptations, I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, “HBO’s new docuseries about late crime writer Michelle McNamara and her obsession with finding the predator she dubbed the Golden State Killer, is a complex story that embodies both of these points and more.”

Rest in peace, Joel Schumacher, director of horror cult classics like The Lost Boys, thrillers like A Time to Kill, The Number 23, and Phone Booth, among many other writing and directing credits.

Boots Riley (director of the wild film Sorry to Bother You) announced his new TV series I’m A Virgo, which will “be dark, absurd, hilarious, and important.”

Want to know how lockdown has changed the publishing industry? Here you go.

Enter to win $250 to spend and Barnes and Noble.

Enter to win a 1-year subscription to Audible.

Tell us more about yourself and potentially win an ereader! We’re doing a Reader Survey, it’ll only take a few minutes, and you can see the questions and giveaway details at

Until next week, follow me @mkmcbrayer for minute-to-minute horrors or DM me there to let me know of other books I should include. I’m also on IG @marykaymcbrayer. Talk to you soon!

Your Virgil,


Mary Kay McBrayer
Co-host of Book Riot’s literary fiction podcast, Novel Gazing

The Fright Stuff

Horror Pride

It’s Pride Month! Let’s talk about one of the most famous and problematic trans characters in horror, Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs.

Let me get this out of the way: I love the book, I love Ted Levine’s performance and also find the actor/that character irresistibly magnetic, I know the movie is set in the 1990s, and so the language in the film is dated and not the most sensitive, and I realize that Thomas Harris had the expertise of Robert Ressler (author of Whoever Hunts Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI) for the sake of authenticity.

And yet, in that movie at the exact middle mark, Agent Clarice Starling and Dr. Hannibal Lecter have a really important conversation that sets the tone for the rest of the book/film AND sticks in my craw:

LECTER: Our Billy wants to change, too.
STARLING: There’s no correlation in literature to transsexualism and violence. Trannsexuals are very passive–

LECTER: Billy is not a real transsexual, but he thinks he is. He tries to be. He’s tried to be a lot of things, I expect… There are three major centers for transsexual surgery, Johns Hopkins, the University of Minnesota, and Columbus Medical Center. I wouldn’t be surprised if Billy had applied for sex reassignment at one or all of them and been rejected… Look for severe childhood disturbances associated with violence. Our Billy wasn’t born a criminal, Clarice. He was made one by years of systematic abuse. Billy hates his own identity, you see, and he thinks that makes him a transsexual, but his pathology is a thousand times more savage, and more terrifying.

When I taught the film to my ENGL 1102 class several years ago, I had a long discussion with one of my students who realized (admittedly) before I did that this representation is problematic, despite that the dialogue above seems to disclaim, “Buffalo Bill is not a REAL trans person, so don’t let this character represent all trans people as serial murderers so ‘covetous’ of women’s bodies that they would literally steal their skin.” My student pointed out, for one, why should we or Agent Starling trust the cannibal psychiatrist for expertise on gender identity? And though the rejection from numerous hospitals might have been historically accurate for the time, why are we perpetuating the concept of disavowing someone’s own identity in popular culture? And though in the conversation they seem to parse a separation between his nonbinary identity and his violent tendencies… the movie as a whole has us remember differently. Furthermore, outside the film’s zeitgeist, many would argue that trans stories should generally be told by trans voices.

I learned a lot from that conversation, particularly from hearing the views that I had not considered. Here we find ourselves, though, with Buffalo Bill as one of the most iconic trans/not-trans figures in horror lore. Granted, his character is loosely based on Ed Gein, an actual serial murderer with a complex relationship to gender, but this version is largely dramatized.

In observance of Pride Month, I’m highlighting LGBTQ+ writers and characters in the horror world, featuring horror by LGBTQ+ authors and/or with central LGBTQ+ characters. As you may have guessed, you’re in The Fright Stuff, Book Riot’s newsletter about the latest and greatest in horror. I’m Mary Kay McBrayer, and I’ll be your Virgil through this realm of hell. LET’S GO.

Ear worm: “Goodbye Horses” by Q Lazzarus. It’s just such a great song.

Fresh Hells (FKA new releases):

This Town Sleeps: A Novel by Dennis E. Staple

When Marion Lafournier, a mid-twenties gay Ojibwe man, unknowingly brings to life the spirit of a dog buried beneath a playground, he also unearths secrets of a murdered Ojibwe basketball star. This book explores the connections between inherited culture, personal identity, and legend all develop together.


*bonus that could not wait* Lockdown: Stories of Crime, Terror, and Hope during a Pandemic edited by Nick Kolakowski and Steve Weddle

In this anthology, a fictional virus sweeps the U.S. It’s perfect for our time, and it’s a really interesting approach to a pandemic similar to the one we are currently experiencing. Over 20 authors contribute stories of different experiences and characters in similar settings. Say it with me: ADD TO CART. (Bonus: Proceeds from LOCKDOWN will go to support BINC, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, as it seeks to help booksellers recover from the devastating COVID-19 crisis.)

Cryptkeepers (FKA horror from the backlist):

House of Sighs by Aaron Dries

In this novella, Liz the local bus driver decides not to die by suicide, but to wait one more day. Nine people board her bus, and from them, she tries to make a family, against their wills. (This edition includes the novella’s sequel, too, The Sound of His Bones Breaking.)



The Devourers by Indra Das

In this novel, Indra Das imagines a world of werewolf-like beings in 17th century Mughal India. I can’t summarize the book better than this: “On a cool evening in Kolkata, India, beneath a full moon, as the whirling rhythms of traveling musicians fill the night, college professor Alok encounters a mysterious stranger with a bizarre confession and an extraordinary story. Tantalized by the man’s unfinished tale, Alok will do anything to hear its completion. So Alok agrees, at the stranger’s behest, to transcribe a collection of battered notebooks, weathered parchments, and once-living skins.”

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

From the much-beloved noir writer of classics like The Talented Mr. Ripley comes the cult classic story of romantic obsession. Originally published in 1952, it’s kind of the unsung hero of forbidden Lesbian romance thrillers. And it comes highly recommended by In the Dream House author, Carmen Maria Machado.


in the dream house book coverIn the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

Celebrated author of Her Body and Other Parties released this horrifying memoir in fall of 2019. It depicts the experience of an abusive Lesbian relationship through numerous literary and film tropes, from the bildungsroman to the haunted house. It’s a real piece of art.



The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Daniel Mallory Ortberg

Cannot emphasize enough how sincerely terrifying this collection is–and it’s anything but “everyday,” unless you consider the Velveteen Rabbit an enemy, or if folktales come alive in your nightmares. Seriously, if you want to be freaked out (and you do. I mean, you’re in a horror newsletter, after all), go on and buy this one.


The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez

“This remarkable novel begins in 1850s Louisiana, where Gilda escapes slavery and learns about freedom while working in a brothel.” … Sold, am I right? But more than the description of the book itself, when this book released in 1991, it examined the cross-section of Black, Lesbian identity in the speculative fiction and horror world as few novels had before–plus, this novel has the erotic slant that vampire tales so easily lend themselves toward.


Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite

Referred to by one author as the “guidebook to hell,” this novel tells the story of a prison-broke serial killer, his lover who is also a vicious murderer, and the artistic nature with which they view their murders. It’s Bonnie and Clyde, minus the heteronormativity and alleged do-good motivations.



Harbingers (FKA news):

Heads up! Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix will be adapted to film–and the novel’s author will be writing it!

A museum celebrating Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein just had plans approved in Bath.

Check out this list of nightmare hotels in books and movies, provided by Quirk.

According to Tara Isabella Burton in her article, “Searching for Meaning in Times of Despair: A Reading List,” “In times of cosmic confusion, in other words, people search for meaning: whether through witchcraft or politics, drugs or sex or mysticism.”

Learn about the deadly Irish epidemic that brought Dracula to life.

Look at this interview with Silvia Moreno-Garcia, author of Mexican Gothic. 

These authors (including our horror fave Carmen Maria Machado) weigh in on what Pride means today.

Here’s how one author learned early from Alfred Hitchcock that nightmares can be real.

Isaac Newton’s horrific notes on the Bubonic plague just sold for $81,000.

In a new VR adaptation of the Russian folk horror Baba Yaga (that’s right, the crone-y witch that lives in the house with the chicken legs), Daisy Ridley plays the POV character, Magda.

While you’re doing your lockdown re-watch of the ultimate crime horror, The Sopranos, give Made Women a listen: Drea de Matteo (who played Adriana on the show) and Chris Kushner host the re-watch podcast with other guests and stars.

In Bloody Women’s on-going series, Comfort Viewings, filmmakers, fans, and writers talk about what they’re finding comfort in right now, while we live through a real-life horror film. The fourth one comes from award-winning producer Jennifer Handorf.

Check out these 4 Apocalyptically Good Books.

Enter to win $250 to spend and Barnes and Noble.

Enter to win a 1-year subscription to Audible.

Tell us more about yourself and potentially win an ereader! We’re doing a Reader Survey, it’ll only take a few minutes, and you can see the questions and giveaway details at

Until next week, follow me @mkmcbrayer for minute-to-minute horrors or DM me there to let me know of other books I should include. I’m also on IG @marykaymcbrayer. Talk to you soon!

Your Virgil,


Mary Kay McBrayer
Co-host of Book Riot’s literary fiction podcast, Novel Gazing

The Fright Stuff

Horror Dads

Let’s be honest: horror films are full of dads. In case you are interested, here are my six favorite father figures in film (GET IT? SIX? SEE WHAT I DID THERE?).

  1. Gregory Peck in The Omen
  2. Jack Nicholson in The Shining
  3. Winston Duke in Us
  4. Gabriel Byrne in Hereditary
  5. Gong Yoo in Train to Busan
  6. Ralph Ineson in The Witch–or, alternatively, Black Phillip in The Witch, depending on where your allegiances lie.

But let’s be even more honest: family takes all forms, and so do fathers. In horror literature, the dynamics of fatherhood get infinitely more complicated…and they’re never really simple in films, either. You might have already deduced it, but you’re in The Fright Stuff, Book Riot’s latest and greatest in horror. I’m Mary Kay McBrayer, and I’ll be your Virgil though this realm of hell, horror dads, in observance of Fathers’ Day.

Earworm: “Father Figure” by George Michael. (Okay… it’s not scary so much as THE BEST SONG EVER.)

Fresh Hells (FKA New Releases):

Garden of Monsters by Lorenza Pieri, translated by Liesl Schillinger

Though this novel certainly has an air more of “family drama” than “horror,” it definitely has a deep root in the occult. Even its contents are drawn up based on the Major Arcana. Set in the urban Italian countryside, tourists and artists from Rome show up to build sculptures based on the tarot in the mountainside. Annamaria navigates coming of age and her father’s libertine nature.

Are You Afraid of the Dark? by Seth C. Adams

When 15-year-old Reggie’s father passes away, he finds a father figure in the injured stranger whom he takes care of in his treehouse. Reggie is faced with a pretty significant dilemma when the new stranger reveals himself as a killer for hire.



Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett

In the macabre Florida setting of the Morton family taxidermy shop, the daughter Jessa-Lynn works hard to fill the role of her father in taking over the store… after she comes upon him having died by suicide in the skinning room. Meanwhile, her mother makes erotic artwork in the store window with the taxidermy pieces, and the entire family grieves the abandonment of Brynn, everyone’s love.

Cryptkeepers (FKA horror from the backlist):

cabin at the end of the world paul tremblay book coverThe Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

While seven-year-old Wen vacations with her parents, Eric and Andrew, she meets Leonard, a friendly stranger. While they are playing, three more strangers approach the family cabin with weapons. I can’t say any better that this narrative is an “unbearably tense, gripping tale of paranoia, sacrifice, apocalypse, and survival that escalates to a shattering conclusion, one in which the fate of a loving family and quite possibly all of humanity are entwined.” And if you like Paul Tremblay, be sure to pre-order his next novel, Survivor Songtoo.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

I recommended this novel last week, too, but it’s just so truly amazing that ICYMI, here she is again. In this narrative, Jesmyn Ward illustrates the hereditary nature of pain in the form of racism and the prison industrial complex, and a boy-ghost who really looks up to the patriarch of their family. (If you only get to read one book on this list, this one should be THE one, IMHO.)


Skin Folk by Nalo Hopkinson

According to Caribbean folklore, the Skin Folk take shapes because of their skin. In this collection of stories ranging from science-fiction to folklore retellings, father figures take many different forms, whether the superstitious new husband, the elder brother, or your own skin. Regardless, it’s a must-have for this summer’s reading.


The Road by Cormac McCarthy

In many ways, the dad in The Road is the horror dad gold standard: his only mission is to protect his son, perhaps the only good person left in the world, from the post-apocalyptic society that has degenerated in every conceivable manner. Get this book. I mean, it won a Pulitzer for a reason, y’all.



Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel García Márquez

The Marquis of Casalduero is maybe the worst father figure, period. He ignores his daughter, allows her to be raised by his slaves, until she turns 12 and gets bitten by a rabid dog. Convinced she has rabies, he hires every cure practitioner that he can manage. When she is not cured of her weirdness, he takes her to a convent to be exorcised. Actually, I take back my earlier statement: her exorcist is the worst father figure, period. He falls in love with her. (I’ve taught this book several times in world literature, and I can promise you IT SLAPS.)

Harbingers (FKA news):

In case you were wondering how the film, Shirley about legendary horror writer Shirley Jackson was received, viewers say that it’s basically a fanfiction… and awesome.

Want to know the latest on FANGORIA’s relationship with the #metoo movement regarding Cinestate? According to one article,Fangoria and Birth.Movies.Death joined together for a statement saying that, ‘since our initial statement, we have come to understand and respect that Fangoria and Birth.Movies.Death cannot continue under the Cinestate banner.’”

If you loved our recommendation Catherine House by debut horror author Elisabeth Thomas, check out these books that she recommends.

“No Name Woman” by Maxine Hong Kingston is an essay that gives me chills through every re-read. If you want to know about this genre-defying author and her life and inspirations, click here.

Here’s your summer full of YA horror books, courtesy of Book Riot.

And we also did you the service of discussing the vast and violent and sublime imagery of Tim Lebbon’s Eden.

This week in 1976, Octavia Butler’s classic sci-fi/horror novel, Kindredreleased for the first time!

Win a 1-year subscription to Audible.

Enter to win $250 to spend at Barnes & Noble.

Until next week, follow me on Twitter @mkmcbrayer for minute-to-minute horrors, or on IG @marykaymcbrayer to see them come to life. Happy Fathers’ Day to you and yours!

Your Virgil,


Mary Kay McBrayer
Co-host of Book Riot’s literary fiction podcast, Novel Gazing

The Fright Stuff

Horror By Black Authors

Last week was the 25th anniversary of Tales from the Hood, the horror anthology film directed by Rusty Cundieff, and produced by Spike Lee. Its stories are as relevant today as they were when the movie released. In case you need a refresher, in the episode “Hard-Core Convert,” the gangster Krazy K (played by Lamont Bentley) is basically Clockwork-Oranged with a montage/barrage of all of the trauma of the Black experience. As my friend and writer Mary Beyer (who is Black) stated after we re-watched the film last year, according to this film, hell is a funeral home in which we watch the myriad sufferings of Black people, and we have to watch and wonder at what point in the series of cascading failures anyone could have intervened to change its progression.

And right now especially, how can we talk about anything else? This edition of The Fright Stuff, Book Riot’s latest and greatest in horror, will celebrate horror written by Black authors. This list is by no means exhaustive, and if you know of anyone whom I have left off, please don’t hesitate to DM me so that I can include them in our next newsletter. I’m Mary Kay McBrayer, and I’ll be your guide through this realm of hell, horror by Black authors.

Fresh Hells (FKA new releases):

Catherine Housecatherine house by Elisabeth Thomas

In her gothic novel debut, Elisabeth Thomas tells the story of an exclusive and formidable liberal arts college. Though its prestige is enviable, admission comes with a high price.




Lakewood by Megan Giddings

This novel examines the dilemmas which many working-class families face. When her grandmother dies, Lena Johnson inherits her family’s debts and takes a job that seems too good to be true. In the face of medical advancement that the company tells Lena will change the world, this book examines “the horror that has been forced on Black bodies in the name of science.”


Are You Afraid of the Dark? by Seth C. Adams

When Reggie’s father passes, he tries to cope by spending time in his treehouse. He takes in an injured stranger whom he grows to think of as a father figure… but the situation becomes infinitely more complex when Reggie learns that the new man is a killer for hire.


deathless divideDeathless Divide by Justina Ireland

In this much-awaited sequel to Dread Nation, Jane McKeene travels west in search of her mother. She teams up with Katherine Devereaux, from Summerland as well, and the girls trained in fighting the resurrected corpses work together, at least for as long as they can.



Cryptkeepers (FKA horror from the backlist): 

hadrianaHadriana in All my Dreams by Rene Dupestre, translated by Kaiama L. Glover

This incredible horror-fairy tale was just translated into English for the first time in 2017, despite its original publication in French in 1988. If you want a story about a human butterfly with an insatiable libido and a zombie bride… well. How could you NOT want that? Get this immediately.



Beloved by Toni Morrison

I spend so much time telling people how this is my favorite book of all time. It literally changed my life. Though I would say this book is Toni Morrison’s only HORROR book, everything she wrote is incredible, and there’s no time like the present to fully develop your love for her talent and skill.


Kindred by Octavia Butler

To be honest, all writing by Octavia Butler should be on this list because her work in science fiction and horror is unprecedented, but in this narrative, Dana, a 26-year-old woman living in contemporary California, is transported through time and space to the antebellum south. Her time-travels extend in length every time she gets sucked into the past, and they grow increasingly harder to bear.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

I love this novel. I’d classify it as a contemporary work of southern gothic, wherein a family navigates the pressures of race, the prison industrial complex, and of course, angry ghosts. (Seriously, I can’t oversell this one. It’s truly amazing.)



Darkly: Black History and America’s Gothic Soul by Leila Taylor

The title of this book nails it exactly: Leila Taylor traces America’s Gothic nature back to the time of slavery and since. This work of nonfiction is a must-read for anyone looking to educate themselves on the Black presence in American Gothic works.


gingerbread by helen oyeyemi cover the fright stuff newsletterGingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

I love a good twisted fairy tale, and everything I’ve read by Helen Oyeyemi delights and disturbs me. This one retells the trope of the gingerbread house throughout folk and fairy tales, and it includes everything from a nightmare country that may or may not exist to a changeling named Gretel with two pupils in each eye.


the good house by tanarive due book coverThe Good House by Tananarive Due

This haunted house narrative is out of the ordinary–everyone in Sacajewea, Washington, calls Angela’s ancestral home the Good House… but what kinds of curses and protections did her grandmother invoke in it?



Leaving Atlanta cover imageLeaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones

I am putting this one on here, though many people classify it as general fiction, because the Atlanta child killings are horrific. Especially when you consider them from children’s perspectives, which this novel does. This book is so important, and Tayari Jones is ineffable.



Harbingers (FKA news):

Blood Bath magazine’s vampire issue is extending their submissions deadline for Black voices only through June. Click here for more information.

Similarly, The Mary Sue is requesting pitches from Black women authors on all topics they cover.

If you want/need to know more about Blackness in horror film, look to the resource of Horror Noire. You will also likely enjoy the work of Ashlee Blackwell, host of the now-archived (but still accessible) site Graveyard Shift Sisters.

Kristen Arnett (author of Mostly Dead Thingsinterviews Carmen Maria Machado about pleasure reads on The Kristen Arnett Show.

Want to know why some release dates are changing? Rachel Kramer Bussel interviews three different publishers about their reasons.

People say that Disney’s Snow White is for children, but it’s got a lot of elements of fairy tale horror in it… including the evil witch being based on this statue.

Click here to read about the copyright battle that led to numerous legal and illegal film adaptations of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

The Castle Rock Historical Society is offering horror-themed incentives for anyone who is able to donate to support the protesting of George Floyd’s death.

Win a 1-year subscription to Audible.

Enter to win $250 to spend at Barnes & Noble.

Until next week, follow me @mkmcbrayer for minute-to-minute horrors or DM me there to let me know of other books I should include. I’m also on IG @marykaymcbrayer. Talk to you soon!

Your Virgil,


Mary Kay McBrayer
Co-host of Book Riot’s literary fiction podcast, Novel Gazing

The Fright Stuff

The Uncanny House

After my freshman year of college, I went to my then-boyfriend’s hometown to visit, up in the corner of Georgia where time on any automatic programming clock shifted between eastern and central at random. We stayed the night with one of his friends and his sister, who also ran a daycare of 10-20 small children out of her home, which could not have been newer than 100 years old. It was hot and humid, and the ceiling fans were running so high that their blades were blurred circles around their fixtures. Really, that whole experience is kind of a blur. Even the photos from my old digital camera are streaked. All the doorknobs kept falling off, and we could hear the kids running on all three floors.

Y’all, I’m FROM the south, and I’ve never heard or seen anything more southern gothic since then–or, you know what, just regular Gothic.

But not all horror about houses has to do with hauntings or ancestral manors, though of course we can’t forget those classics like We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson or The Amityville Horror by Jay Hanson. I mean, just look at one of the most famous weird-horror YA (kind of?) books, Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews.

If you haven’t guessed yet, you’re in The Fright Stuff, Book Riot’s weekly newsletter about the latest and greatest in horror. I’m Mary Kay McBrayer, and I’ll be your Virgil through today’s realm of hell, the Uncanny House.

Earworm: “You Only Live Twice” by Nancy Sinatra.

Fresh Hells (FKA New Releases):

We Need to Do Something by Max Booth III

Though all the books in this list will deal with the house, this novella takes place entirely in a bathroom. A family on the verge of self-destruction has barricaded itself in the bathroom during a tornado, debating and arguing about whether the tornado exists and its severity.



mexican gothicMexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

As the title suggests, this novel invokes many of the traditional Gothic tropes, like, for example, the newlywed cousin in an Englishman’s mansion who sends a letter begging vaguely to be rescued. Noemi, the rescuer, is a debutante and unlikely savior, but she heads to the house in the Mexican countryside, where the house itself begins to invade her dreams. (This title releases on June 30, so be sure you pre-order!)

Are You Afraid of the Dark? by Seth C. Adams

Fourteen-year-old Reggie finds a new father figure while he is mourning his own father. The stranger in distress wanders out of the woods, where Reggie gives him shelter in his tree house and nurses him back to health before learning that his new semi-role model is a killer for hire.



the unsuitableThe Unsuitable by Molly Pohlig

A Victorian woman on the cusp of spinsterhood believes her dead mother’s spirit lives in the scar on her neck. As the date of her wedding with a medical experimenting suitor (that her father arranged) approaches, her father’s and mother’s wills grow increasingly at odds.



Harbingers (FKA news):

Author of horror-memoir In the Dream House and collection of short stories, Her Body and Other PartiesCarmen Maria Machado talks about her first graphic novel, The Low, Low Woods at Book Expo 2020. The compendium will release in September. You can hear more about it on the Book Expo’s 2020 Adult Book & Author Dinner Facebook livestream.

AMC bought the rights to Anne Rice’s vampire novels.

How dark books and essays help during coronavirus: “We don’t read or write to be reassured — at least I don’t. We read and write to reckon with all the things we cannot know.”

Remember Little: A Novel, the book I recommended back when it released about Madame Tussaud? Its author, Edward Carey, is staving off the quarantine with an illustration a day. If you don’t already follow him on social media, go ahead on and do it!

Part two of Maya Alexandri’s “Being an EMT during a Pandemic” is now live… it’s a truly intense read.

I loooove weird fiction author Etgar Keret, and if you want to hear how he uses humor to “cope with the indignities of everyday life,” which… I mean, how else can we cope? Check out this link.

Here’s a take from one author who states that serial killers are usually NOT geniuses.

Have you ever remembered every detail of an engrossing horror book… except for its title? There’s an app for that.

Want to read some books in which the apocalypse sneaks up on you? Check out these eerie books.

Florence is trying to get back the body of Inferno author, Dante Alighieri.

Did you know that the Gates of Hell are in Turkmenistan?

Until next week, follow me @mkmcbrayer for minute-to-minute horrors or if you want to ask for a particular theme to a newsletter. I’m also on IG @marykaymcbrayer. Talk to you soon!

Your Virgil,


Mary Kay McBrayer
Co-host of Book Riot’s literary fiction podcast, Novel Gazing (be sure to check out tomorrow’s episode for a very special interview!)

The Fright Stuff


My boyfriend and his two best friends are Eagle Scouts, and yet I still would not go camping with them. I told them it was because I’ve hit my quota on sleeping and shitting on the bare ground (which I have done plenty in my younger and more vulnerable years), but really it might be because why would I want to sleep on the ground when my whole species has evolved so that I won’t have to do that? Not to mention, if something happens involving The Wild, I would feel about myself the way I feel about the Final Girl when I’m watching a horror movie and she’s like, “What was that noise??” and the boys are all like, “It’s your imagination! Chill out!”

Reader, in case you don’t know this about me, I have zero chill, and I have accepted that, and made peace with it, and moved on with my life. And for that reason, I will sleep in the house like a normal-ass person.

Don’t get me wrong: I CERTAINLY appreciate the survival skills and will insist that “Eagle Scout” goes on anyone’s resume who has that title. But I’m not going to, like, just, like, walk into the woods and tempt fate.

To their credit, and my younger self’s credit, too, there is a sort of comfort in learning about the dogs running wild at the site of Chernobyl, or the dolphins swimming up canals. It’s kind of nice to see nature flourish in the absence of humanity. That’s what I thought about the Area X in the film adaptation of Jeff Vandermeer’s AnnihilationI mean, that’s what I thought at first, before it turned into a fever dream and Tessa Thompson turned into one of those evil topiaries from The Shining. But in general, it’s also kind of horrible to think about the planet without us on it, because in our understandably egocentric view, what is the planet without us? Like, who would be here to care that nature was so beautiful?

In the books listed here, not only does the natural world bloom to its full potential, but nature fights back specifically against humans. By the way, you’re in The Fright Stuff, Book Riot’s weekly newsletter about the latest and greatest in horror. I’m Mary Kay McBrayer, and I’ll be your Virgil through this realm of hell, nature.

Earworm: “All of the Sudden I Miss Everyone” by Explosions in the Sky

New Releases:

growing thingsGrowing Things and Other Stories by Paul Tremblay

In the title story alone, shoots of a new plant infiltrate the home of children, but in all of these stories, there’s an element of the natural becoming overtly territorial, and it is soooo creepy. If you haven’t checked out this book yet, definitely do that–plus Tremblay has another forthcoming release, Survivor Song


orange world“The Bad Graft” and “The Tornado Auction” from Orange World and Other Stories by Karen Russell

I know, I know: I can’t shut up about this book, but Karen Russell has out-Karen-Russelled herself in this collect. The story “The Bad Graft” talks about a Joshua Tree spirit possessing a girl, and “The Tornado Auction” happens in a rural future where farmers cultivate the weather, and that obviously does not go well. If you ain’t picked up this book yet, do yourself a favor. And then message me all of your extreme reactions because I clearly need to process the experience of reading it.


The Hole by Hye-Young Pyun, translated by Sora Kim-Russell

Oghi wakes from a coma bedridden and disfigured by the car crash that killed his wife. His caretaker is his mother-in-law, and though she says she is continuing the work her daughter did on their home’s garden… Oghi notices that, actually, she is pulling up the vegetation and obsessively digging holes.


Crota by Owl Goingback

In this retelling of a Native American myth, the town sheriff goes to investigate a double homicide unlike any he’s seen before. The bodies have been torn apart. Though many assume a bear as the killer, Crota, a cryptid from the natural pre-historic world, is at hand.



Harbingers (FKA News):

Hold the phone: the new movie about the Shirley Jackson novel starring the inimitable Elisabeth Moss, just released their trailer! Click here to view the first trailer of SHIRLEY.

According to Emily Alford at Jezebel, “(T)he thing missing from much of both Jackson criticism and adaptations is her work’s simplest theme: madness is born of too much time alone.”

Mike Flanaghan, director of The Haunting of Hill House Netflix adaptation, is dusting off some Christopher Pike paperbacks….

Are people reading more horror during quarantine? Click here to see what the BBC thinks.

The Dutch are responding to disease by inventing new ways to swear at each other. Apt, people. Apt.

Why do readers still sympathize with unsympathetic narrators of Lovecraft’s writing? Scott Kenemore at CrimeReads suggests it’s because they “tend to encounter clues that point to the fact that humans—their hopes and dreams, their institutions and religions, and most certainly their accomplishments—don’t, for lack of a better word, matter. That the universe doesn’t give a damn what we do, and that our opinion of ourselves is a case of vast overestimation.”

Click here to find out how having kids can change your life… and your horror fiction.

Protect your library the old-fashioned way, with curses.

Speaking of witchcraft, see this IG video of Madeline Miller talking about Circe’s witchcraft…

What makes a book more thriller? More sci-fi? More horror?

Pandemic time reminisces a lot on Gothic literature… and here’s how.

Learn about comics themed on vampires through the ages here.

Click here and enter to win a 1-year subscription to Kindle Unlimited.

Click here and enter to win $50 to spend at your favorite indie bookstore.

Until next week, follow me @mkmcbrayer for minute-to-minute horrors or if you want to ask for a particular theme to a newsletter. I’m also on IG @marykaymcbrayer. Talk to you soon!

Your Virgil,


Mary Kay McBrayer
Co-host of Book Riot’s literary fiction podcast, Novel Gazing

The Fright Stuff

Preserved Corpses

The Mummy (1999) is, as S.A. Bradley calls it, my “first kiss” with horror. Though it’s absolutely a summer blockbuster action film, Stephen Sommers’ love story between Imhotep and Anck-su-Namun will forever be my #relationshipgoals. After all, death is only the beginning.

The movie about the preserved corpses didn’t scare me so much in Imhotep’s reign of evil, but rather his punishment of being mummified alive. I know now as an adult that the “hom dai” is not a practice supported in concept by archaeological research, but rather the Hollywood-ified Planet Egyptland version of Ancient Egypt that popular culture has come to know and love. (Make no mistake: I know it’s bullshit, and problematic, and yet I also love it.)

In fact, you’ll notice as we navigate through this realm of hell, preserved corpses, that while many of the corpses are of people of color, very few of the authors are of color. I attribute that disproportion to Orientalism, or the long-enduring Victorian obsession with Egypt and its remains, but that’s just my opinion. The fact is that we don’t have many books about preserved corpses by authors of color, though the corpses themselves are often non-white. Take, for example, this Diorama surprise, which featured a human skull. Or the amazing Mary Roach’s how-to guide on the historical practice of shrinking human heads. Even the inimitable David Sedaris has his story “The Gift of Owls,” in which he says, “It would have been disturbing to see the skeleton of a slain Pygmy in a museum, but finding him in a shop, for sale, raised certain questions, uncomfortable ones, like: How much is he?”

Nonetheless, you’re in The Fright Stuff, Book Riot’s weekly newsletter about the latest and greatest in horror. I’m Mary Kay McBrayer, and I’ll be your Virgil through this realm. Call it Duat, the bog, the funeral parlor… wherever preserves your body after your death.

Earworm: “Back to Life” by Soul II Soul–However do you want me? However do you need me?

New Releases: 

Death by Shakespeare by Kathryn Harkup

This new release talks about the deaths that Shakespeare wrote about in his plays, and whether they can be validated by science. For example: can you really kill someone by pouring poison in their ear? Shock? Sadness? Fear? Shame? And, most relevantly, how did Juliet look dead for 72 hours and then rise to perfect health?


orange world“Bog Girl: A Romance” from Orange World and Other Stories by Karen Russell

I’ve loved Karen Russell’s writing for a long-ass time, but these stories rival my long-time favorites in the weirdly horrific. I know I told y’all about one of them in last week’s newsletter, but this one, about the boy who works the peat bog and then finds a bog girl and then falls in love with her… deeply unsettling in the most romantic way.


The Mummy of Canaan by Maxwell Bauman

Though this novel utilizes the trope of the mummy’s curse, American teens are the ones who wake it from its rest in Israel and allow its rage to begin. The noir-like narration lends itself well to this interesting retelling.




Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor

You know I had to include this most classic southern gothic tale if we were talking about mummies! Flannery O’Connor at her epoch-Flannery-O’Connor, here. Featuring an anti-religious prophet, a sex worker, and a stolen museum artifact… you won’t regret reading this one in one sitting.



mostly dead thingsMostly Dead Things by Karen Arnett

If you have a macabre sense of humor–and you must, because here you find yourself–this novel is for you. After her father’s suicide, Jessa takes over the family’s taxidermy shop in Florida. From there, things get out of hand.



El Negro and Me by Frank Westerman

In this book of nonfiction, Frank Westerman writes about his interactions with a centuries-old mummified man, displayed in a Spanish museum, from present-day Botswana. In this book, he not only details his personal emotional reaction to the obvious disrespect, but also the man’s return to his homeland. (This title has yet to be translated into English, though it is currently available in ten other languages.)

Nine Years Under: Coming of Age in an Inner-City Funeral Home by Sheri Booker

More macabre humor! This memoir tells the rites of passage of Sheri Booker, who grew up in her family’s West Baltimore funeral home. Their funeral home was “never short on business,” and she witnesses every form of grieving from brawling to bawling.


Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses by Bess Lovejoy

This book of nonfiction is almost an ethnography: it’s a series of detailed accounts of famous corpses. Want to know what happened to Elvis Presley’s body? Osama Bin Laden’s? Grigori Rasputin’s? Eva Peron’s? All of them are in this book. It’s. so. fascinating!




hadrianaHadriana in All My Dreams by René Depestre, translated by Kaiama L. Glover

Though this novel is less about a preserved corpse and more about the traditional folklore of the Haitian zombie, I think it still deserves to be on this list. For one: zombies in the traditional sense are NOT walking corpses, but rather souls imprisoned in their own bodies and controlled by another person. The narrative of this book follows one such victim who, on her wedding day, drinks the zombie-making potion. It’s a must-read for any zombie lover who needs to be disillusioned about their origins, but who also loves a rapt plot.

Harbingers (FKA news):

Stop the press: a posthumous story by Katherine Dunn, beloved author of beloved horror novel, Geek Lovehas just been released. Click here to read “The Resident Poet.” I cannot wait.

Click here to read about the Doomed Mouse Utopia That Inspired the ‘Rats of NIMH.’

Want to see how the economy fared in other pandemics? Click here to read about the 1381 Black Plague peasant revolt. And if you want to read about Bloody Saturday, the 1918 strike after the Influenza pandemic, click here.

I guess we can call it horror? Stephenie Meyer is releasing her spin-off to Twilight, entitled Midnight Sun.

One of my favorite horror authors, Samanta Schweblin, talks about tackling writer’s block (or not), inspirations, and book she wishes she had read in this interview! (Her book Little Eyes just released, too)

In case you missed it, James Baldwin wrote about the Atlanta Child Murders. That’s some real life horror, right there.

Check out these super-trippy, mind-melding illustrations commemorating the 155th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland’s release.

Atlas Obscura is launching the Obscura Academy. This challenge is to create your own map, including history, or monsters, or krakens of the deep. You know, chart your own course.

Rest in peace John Lafia, Child’s Play co-screenwriter.

Joe Keery (Steve Harrington) hints at a “scarier” season 4 of Stranger Things.

Don’t forget to enter to win $50 to your favorite Indie Bookstore!

And, click here for a chance to win a 1-year subscription to Kindle Unlimited!

Until next week, follow me @mkmcbrayer for minute-to-minute horrors or if you want to ask for a particular theme to a newsletter. I’m also on IG @marykaymcbrayer. Talk to you soon!

Your Virgil,


Mary Kay McBrayer
Co-host of Book Riot’s literary fiction podcast, Novel Gazing

The Fright Stuff


I’m not a mom, but as y’all know, that decision or circumstance is just as loaded with feminist biases as any decision or circumstance inhabited by a woman. Regardless, motherhood, the concept of being completely in charge of another human life, is absolutely terrifying. Because, like, what if you get it wrong?

I know I’m not the only one with this paranoia because 1: I’ve heard about it my whole life from various moms; and 2: literature is obsessed with the trope (think Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin, Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson, or even the film Alien); and 3: as soon as I got to my car after watching Darren Aronofsky’s 2017 film mother! I started crying. I don’t know why. I just did, okay?

By the way, I’m Mary Kay McBrayer, and you’re in The Fright Stuff, Book Riot’s latest and greatest in horror. Join me, won’t you, in this realm of horror, an observance of Mothers’ Day.

Earworm: “K-Hole” by CocoRosie

Fresh Hells (FKA new releases):

orange world“Orange World” in Orange World by Karen Russell

Though every story in this collection is fascinating, this one focuses on what happens when a woman makes a deal with a devil to preserve her geriatric pregnancy.




This Is All I Got: A New Mother’s Search for Home by Lauren Sandler

I suppose this isn’t horror in its most distilled sense, but this reported chronicle of one homeless woman’s life for a year, “as she navigates the labyrinth of poverty and homelessness in New York City” definitely qualifies for real fear among stories of survival.


the needThe Need by Helen Phillips

When mother of two, Molly, hears an intruder in her home, she first attributes it to her sleep deprivation. Then she realizes that the trespasser knows far too much about her family. This novel embodies “the ecstasy and the dread; the languor and the ferocity” of motherhood.



Cryptkeepers (FKA horrors from the backlist):

Bloodchild by Octavia Butler

Our classic favorite speculative fiction author, Octavia Butler, composed these six short stories in her collection Bloodchild. The titular story is “set on a distant planet where human children spend their lives preparing to become hosts for the offspring of the alien Tlic. Sometimes the procedure is harmless, but often it is not.”


“Summer” by Tananarive Due

Danielle takes care of her infant, Lola, while her husband is at National Guard Army training. She swats a fly that does not move, twice, and she sees it as an omen, in her grandmother’s voice: “Anything can happen once… When it happens twice—listen. The third time may be too late.”

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

This retelling of the Snow White story comes from the perspective of the evil stepmother, who learns only because of the birth of her first daughter that her husband’s family is Black. Though the stepmother loves her stepdaughter, Snow, rather than send away her own daughter for the darkness of her skin (as her husband’s family has been doing), she sends away Snow.

Harbingers (FKA news):

Speaking of content with a focus on motherhood, there’s a new reveal about the surrealist self-portraitist and cultural icon Frida Kahlo! What would you do if a stranger revealed that she had an affair with your father?

What’s going on with this witchy literary trend on TikTok?

During these quarantined times, our generations-long obsession with writers’ houses expands even wider.

Looks like a lot of writers hear their characters’ voices in their heads… and believe that the characters have agency of their own.

I know we can’t really leave the house right now, but Seattle has a troll under one of its bridges.

Want to read the fake news article that almost ruined Lizzie Borden?

These 7 spectacular and spooky libraries have virtual tours available for you.

Halloween’s David Gordon Green is directing an “elevated” Hellraiser series for HBO.

Want to know how indie bookstores are faring in this hellscape?

Check out this list of crime novels set amid plagues and pandemics.

One of my first horror loves was Alvin Schwarz and Stephen Gammel’s Scary Stories to Tell in the DarkI had the whole set (viva Scholastic Book Fairs!). Now, we’re getting another film adaptation installment!

Until next week, follow me @mkmcbrayer for minute-to-minute horrors or if you want to ask for a particular theme to a newsletter. I’m also on IG @marykaymcbrayer. Happy Mothers’ Day to you and yours!

Your Virgil,


Mary Kay McBrayer
Co-host of Book Riot’s literary fiction podcast, Novel Gazing