Categories
The Fright Stuff

A Gilead for a New Age

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.

Few horror readers would argue that we are absolutely awash in amazing horror books these days, but every once in a while I read ond of those books that really stops me in my tracks. Makes me think. Makes me criiiiiiiiiiiinge in the best and worst ways. I had the pleasure of reading Polly Ho-Yen’s Dark Lullaby earlier this year and it certainly falls into that category.

Cover of Dark Lullaby by Polly Ho-Yen

Set in a bleak future in which the world’s population has shrunk dramatically due to widespread infertility, the remains of society are clustered together in highly regulated, closely managed pods of urban existence. Resources are at a minimum, and the larger portion are allotted to those who choose to have children, leaving the willingly childless scraping around the edges. And it’s not just resources like food and square footage – promotions, financial incentives, cars, every possible privilege is withheld for those who choose to go through Induction, a dangerous and difficult process of conception that kills women nearly as frequently as it succeeds in impregnating them.

If you are picking of strains of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, you’re not far from your mark. But what fascinated me as I read Dark Lullaby wasn’t the chilling similarities between these two books, but rather the differences that separate them. They share a fundamental core of themes and anxieties, and a critical examination of how our society treats things like fertility, pregnancy, and motherhood. But whereas Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a stark depiction of a deeply dystopian society that bears little resemblance to life as we know it, Ho-Yen has buried her horror a little deeper in Dark Lullaby. Comparatively, the world in Dark Lullaby is only softly dystopian. People are still free to lead what seem to be, on the surface, ordinary lives. The only thing that appears to be out of place are matters relating to children. The world that Kit inhabits is a modern, evolved, tolerant world! No one is hanging people who don’t conform from walls in the center of the city. People aren’t being exiled to death colonies. And the only people disappearing are the children – and that’s only because the Office of Standards in Parenting (OSIP) just want to be sure they’re reared in safe, supportive, nurturing homes that meet their exacting standards. For their own good.

Right?

If the very name of that very insidious organization did not make your stomach twist a bit, just give it time. Because the further you read into Dark Lullaby, the more you begin to realize what the “freedom” people in Kit’s world possess is little more than an illusion. Especially those unlucky enough to have uteruses. Pressured to undergo dangerous Induction procedures, knowing that if you survive that and your pregnancy, you will then face the almost inevitable pain of losing your child, because OSIP’s standards of perfection are nearly impossible to meet. Lose your child to OSIP? That’s okay! You can try again! The data shows that second time parents are much less likely to lose their children! Choose not to play the baby lottery a second time and say goodbye to the nice house they gave you when you got pregnant – houses with space and lawns are only for families.

Chose not to get pregnant? “Outs” as they’re known in the media, certainly have that right. Though they do risk being labelled as “selfish, egotisitc maniacs, who are sabotaging the survival of our species”. (35)

The Handmaid's Tale Book Cover

Atwood’s classic was inspired by the rise in power of conservative religious and political forces at the time she was writing, and the world she presented was the extreme (but not entirely impossible) end result of increasingly restrictive repression of women’s rights and reproductive freedoms. But while both Atwood and Ho-Yen created world where a half of society is reduced only to the value of their uteruses, Dark Lullaby’s world is, to me, the more frightening one because the oppression is so much more subtle. It’s resemblance to our own world is at times uncanny, and as far as futures go it feels terrifyingly possible. Its heart isn’t religious conservatism, but rather a critical look at what might happen if society’s anxieties about diminishing birth rates and people with the ability to have children deliberately choosing not to, collided at full speed with a toxic “mommy culture” that idealizes a certain type of mother and passes judgement on mothers who don’t meet their standards (even though these standards often disregard important factors like class or cultural differences). It’s hypercritical mommy blogs turned public policy. It’s Motherhood/childbearing wielded like a cudgel in a society that pretends to be enlightened and modern.

When all is said and done, all that really separates The Handmaid’s Tale and Dark Lullaby is time. The Handmaid’s Tale was very much an accurate, terrifying product of its time, and Dark Lullaby is a product of all that has happened since. In the differences between the two we can see a roadmap of how far we’ve come, and in some ways, how little we’ve gained.

Fresh from the Skeleton’s Mouth

Have a new horror reader in your life? Addison Rizer has a guide to Horror Books for Beginners over at Book Riot.

The 2020 Shirley Jackson Award winners have been announced!

Need more stabby slasher books? (Trick question, you always need more stabby slasher books.) Sadie Hartmann put together a TikTok of recommendations just for you!


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

Categories
The Fright Stuff

“Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”

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.

Lately, I’ve found myself haunted by a recurring thought while reading. One that won’t let me be. I suppose it could be because of the books that I’m choosing, or the stories that I find myself drawn to, especially as fall closes in. It first appeared when I was reading The Scarlet Letter last month. Then it subsided for a little while, only for me to get to the end of Plain Bad Heroines the other day, and there it was again. Alright, I thought, well that’s not surprising. It takes place in New England, after all, and centers independent, queer women.

Then, just a few nights before sitting down to write this week’s newsletter, I read Sarah Orne Jewett’s “The Foreigner” for the first time, as part of the same New England Gothic reading project that had me picking up The Scarlet Letter. And low and behold, as I neared the thick of the story, there again comes that same old thought:

“It always comes back to this.”

The this, in this case, being witchcraft. Or, more accurately, the accusation thereof against someone living outside the mold of society, in one way or another. I’ve found that a witch panic is one of those things that I never build up a resistance too. It is always consistently upsetting when the whispering starts, and the dread begins to build, and you know – because we all know – how ugly it’s going to get once the word “Witch” finally manifests. And I guess that’s what makes it such good horror. One of the genres strengths is taking things that frighten or disturb us in real life, amplifying them, and giving us a safe place to deal with what they make us feel.

What they make me feel, specifically, is rage. The incandescent sort of rage that I often feel when I look at what’s going on in the world around me. The difference being that bad things happen to judgmental, persecutory puritans in fiction. Every cruelty they visit upon the victims of their witch panic is returned to them in full. Whether their targets were already witches, or whether the violence and fear visited upon them made them turn to witchcraft in search of justice, evil reaps what evil sewed. And there’s something delightfully cathartic about that cosmic comeuppance. Don’t you think?

So this week we’re celebrating books that flip the cauldron – so to speak – on the human-shaped monsters that hunt down “witches”, only to realize that they have bitten off much more than they chew. So light the fires, and get ready to dance! Let’s conjure a little vengeance.

Cover of The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

Immanuelle Moore is an outcast. Among the pious, obedient people of the lands of Bethel, where the word of their Prophet is law, she is viewed as an aberration despite her best attempts to submit and conform. Nothing that Immanuelle does, or doesn’t do, will ever erase her mother’s shame, no matter how obedient or devoted she tries to become. But when a mishap lands her in the terrifying Darkwood that surrounds Bethel – a places of witches, spirits, and evil – leads Immanuelle to unexpected answers about her mother, and about the dark truth behind the Church of Bethel, she finds herself faced with a difficult choice. Bethel is her home, whether she “belongs” there or not, and it is being threatened by forces not from the Darkwood, but from within the walls of Bethel itself. Immanuelle may hold the key to saving the people from themselves, if she wishes. Or she can leave them to their grim fate.

Cover of Boneset and Feathers by Gwendolyn Kiste

Boneset and Feathers by Gwendolyn Kiste

Odette knows the danger of crossing path with the witchfinders. Her entire family is gone, executed for witchcraft, and she was lucky to escape with her life. No amount of magic was enough to save her mother and sister, and now Odette is alone, living in an exile of her own choosing. She lives deep in the woods outside her village, swearing off magic and hoping only for peace. But she ought to have realized that in a world of superstition and witch-hunts, peace was too much for a known witch to ask. When her magic begins to spin out of her control, menacing the village, it summons the return of the witchfinders. And this time they will not stop until Odette is dead, leaving her no choice but to defend herself. By any means necessary.

Cover of Slewfoot by Brom

Slewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery by Brom

Abitha is already betrothed to a stranger when she arrives at the Puritan colony that is to become her home, only to find herself widowed almost as quickly as she became a bride. Now she stands alone, trying to keep hold of her sudden freedom in the midst of a pious and patriarchal society that would rather see her tucked neatly under the thumb of another man. Slewfoot is a newly woken spirit who, like Abitha, is searching for his place in the world, for good or for evil. When suspicious deaths in the colony give rise to rumors of witchcraft, and Abitha and Slewfoot must decide who they will be and how they will survive in a world determined to see them hang.

Fresh from the Skeleton’s Mouth

This Nightfire essay on the use of Killer Color in Mexican Gothic is amazing! I totally nerded out, and now I need a re-read so that I can circle every mention of color inside of High Place. Obsession INTENSIFIES.

Make sure you head over to Book Riot and add some terrifying YA graphic novels to your reading list for the fall!

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

Categories
The Fright Stuff

Life Eternal? No Thank You, I’m Tired

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.

I have always loved vampires, and even when I shifted away from reading horror for several years, vampires were the one thing I held onto. But I would not want to be one.

I mean sure, on the surface being a vampire seems like The Best. You get to see the world, living for hundreds of years means getting to do all the things that your short mortal lifespan suggested you’d never get to do, and you’ll finally have time to read all those books in your TBR that you’ve been staring at for years. (Oh. Self-burn.) But the older I get the more I realize: yeah, a vampire never needs to sleep. They get to travel the world. They’re too strong for anyone to fuck with, and they no longer have to fear death or the ticking clock.

But wow they must get tired.

Look, I can barely make it to Friday most weeks. Live forever? Maybe I’ll just take a nap. I love vampires, and I love to read about vampires, but like a lot of things in horror (I see you, evil clowns), vampires are definitely a lot more fun when they’re fictional. So let’s toast to the fangy friends we love the most in this week’s Fright Stuff, as we explore some truly tasty vampire reads.

Cover of A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson

A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson

Oh, hey, it’s me, once again begging you to read A Dowry of Blood, because I am obsessed with this book. It’s the perfect vampire book; it’s gorgeous, romantic, dark, violent, and polyamorous! A Dowry of Blood is the story of Dracula’s brides, told from the perspective of Constanta, the first of three brides whom Dracula creates to be his companions over the course of the novel. It is written as a farewell letter to the man she loved and hated in equal measure, detailing a hundred lifetimes of tenderness, abuse, and the unexpected love that develops between she and her fellow brides.

Cover of Mina and the Undead by Amy McCaw

Mina and the Undead by Amy McCaw

If you’re looking for a fun, creative, somewhat creepy vampire book for your TBR, you want Mina and the Undead. It’s a love letter to the 90’s vampire craze, and you know I love my nostalgic retro-horror reads. 17-year-old Mina travels from England to New Orleans to visit with her estranged sister Libby, excited to explore a city as steeped in vampire literary references as her home town of Whitby. But Mina gets more than she bargained for when she becomes embroiled in a series of violent murders that all seem to point to Libby. Technically, Mina and the Undead has only been released in the UK, but you can still order a copy through Book Depository, and you definitely should!

Cover of Vampires Never Get Old anthology

Vampires Never Get Old

I always love a good anthology, but this anthology in particular was one of my favorite books of 2020. Vampires Never Get Old, and vampires also never go out of style, but there’s no denying that for a while there they did fall somewhat out of favor. So I was super excited for Vampires Never Got Old, and the resurgence of my favorite undead. Authors with stories in the anthology include Samira Ahmed, Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker, Tessa Gratton, Heidi Heilig, Julie Murphy, Mark Oshiro, Rebecca Roanhorse, Laura Ruby, Victoria “V. E.” Schwab, and Kayla Whaley, which is quite a line up! And one of the things that I love best about this collection is that it runs the gamut of vampire fiction, from the genuinely creepy to the romantic. But whether scary or dreamy, each of these stories pays homage to the vampire stories and myths we love so much.

New Cover of Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (September 7)

One month to go, people! One month and I will finally get to read Certain Dark Things, with it’s drop dead (ba dum tish) gorgeous new cover in its shiny new edition from Tor Night Fire. Of the vampire books on my to-read list, this one has been sitting right at the top for ages, and I’m so glad that it’s finally going to be back in print. In Mexico City, street kid Domingo is just trying to survive when he meets vampire-on-the-run Atl. Atl is the descendent of Aztec blood drinkers, on the run from a rival vampire clan. Their meeting happens by chance, but as time goes on the two find themselves working together to escape the dark streets with their lives (life and un-life?) intact.

Cover of The Lost Girls by Sonia Hartl

The Lost Girls by Sonia Hartl (September 14)

See, the joy/danger of writing these newsletters is all the new books I discovered that would have otherwise slipped under my radar! Which would have been terrible, considered that The Lost Girls is 100% everything I could possibly want in a book. Elton Irving is a serial vampire maker. He prays on teenage girls, promising them eternal love then abandoning them when the shine wears off his newest toy. Holly Liddell was one of Elton’s victims, turned in 1987 and now she’s stuck at sixteen forever, in a dead end job with no future and no end in sight. But things get interesting the night she meets Rose and Ida, two of Elton’s previous victims, who want her help to finally destroy him before he can harm another girl. Holly may be angry with Elton, but she’s not sure she’s angry enough to kill until she finds herself unexpectedly falling for Parker, Elton’s next victim.

Fresh from the Skeleton’s Mouth

Speaking of vampires, did you see Rin Chupeco’s recent announcement!?

Over at Book Riot we have some stellar Horror coverage going on, from bookish references in the Fear Street trilogy, to horror books that will have you definitely reconsidering your next camping trip.

And Gwendolyn Kiste is serving up some scary fairy tales for you on the Nightfire blog!

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

Categories
The Fright Stuff

Ringing in the End of (Summer) Days

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.

It is my favorite day of the month, ghouls and goblins. It’s new releases day! Every month on the first Monday of the month it is my pleasure to list for you some of the forthcoming releases that I am most excited about. Let me tell you, from here until that most haunting of holidays, Halloween, our months are jam-packed with horror! It’s going to be a great season. The humid, sweaty slog of summer is nearly over, Autumn is in the offing, and what better way to welcome in the dying of the year than with some new books?

So clear your calendars and make room on your TBRs for these fantastic August new releases!

Cover of Queen of Teeth by Hailey Piper

Queen of Teeth by Hailey Piper (August 1st)

Oh yeah. Months of waiting, but folks it is finally time! What better way to kick of your August reading than with Hailey Piper’s newest, teeth-tastic horror novel. When Yaya Betancourt discovers that she has spouted teeth in her vagina, she assumes that it is a side effect of a pharmaceutically induced genetic condition that she and thousands of others developed in the womb with a little help from AlphaBeta Pharmaceutical. Whoops. But when she realizes that ABP is determined to hunt her down after her incident of toothy sprouting, and when her condition suddenly… worsens… Yaya has to consider the possibility that there may be another, darker motive behind ABP’s pursuit.

Cover of Tidepool by Nicole Willson

Tidepool by Nicole Willson (August 3rd)

You know how sometimes you trip across one of those books that’s just an instant purchase/preorder? Yeah. I have been (im)patiently waiting for Tidepool, and I am so glad that’s almost here! It’s 1913, and Sorrow Hamilton’s brother Henry has gone missing from the small town of Tidepool. Despite her father’s demand that she remain home in Baltimore, she sets out to find her brother. When eviscerated bodies start washing up with the tide, Sorrow has to consider the possibility that when it comes to Tidepool and its secrets, she may be in way over her head.

cover of the dead and the dark by courtney gould

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould (August 3rd)

Finally. Come to my arms delightful, queer small town YA horror novel. Two girls – Logan, whose dads are the stars of the popular TV ghost hunting show ParaSpectors, and Ashley, a Snakebite native whose boyfriend has gone missing – face off against a small town full of secrets, slipping slowly into chaos. Ashley’s boyfriend was only the first in a string of missing teenagers, and now he’s returned to haunt her. The only one she can trust is Logan as the pair’s investigation into the town’s secrets threatens everything they believe they know about Snakebite, their families, and themselves.

Cover of Mine by Delilah S. Dawson

Mine by Delilah S. Dawson (August 10th)

You know that horror trope where the unsuspecting family movies into a new house in a new town and a new state and it’s supposed to be their fresh start? Forget the past, honey! Everything’s going to be great here in Haunted House in Murder, U.S.A.! (Okay not really but you get the point.) Well for Lily’s family, the move to Florida that really was suppose to be their beginning couldn’t be off to a worse start. The house is disgusting, full of trash with a slime ridden pool in the backyard and an old dock crumbling away into the creepy swamp out back. But the worst part is that Lily is pretty sure the house is haunted, and no one will believe her.

Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis (August 24th)

Hang onto your bookmarks, folks, because I’ve been hearing some amazing things about Jessica Lewis’ Bad Witch Burning. If you like your books dark, emotional, and witchy (with a side of necromancy for good measure) this is going to be one YA horror novel you will not want to miss! Katrell makes her living talking to the dead. But while clients are happy to pay her for access to their dead loved ones, they don’t pay well enough. So when a routine summoning goes wrong, resulting in Katrell accidentally raising a spirit from the dead and her realizing how much money there is to be made from a little light necromancy, she jumps at the chance to put poverty behind her. Even warnings from the dead themselves can’t slow her down. But the bigger the magic the higher the price, and the dark is circling, waiting for Katrell to fall.

My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones (August 31st)

I am absolutely going to die a slow death waiting for the end of August when I can finally get my hands on My Heart is a Chainsaw. I have been making grabby hands at this slasher-inspired horror for months, and I am so excited. Jade Daniels has always been an outsider in Proofrock, the small lake town she grew up in that is now slowly being over run by gentrification. In her anger and her loneliness, Jade turns to horror for comfort, letting herself get lost in a world of masked killers and revenge. But when Proofrock’s wealthy newcomers begin dying in bizarre ways, Jade realizes that there is a familiar pattern to their deaths. A pattern that only she can see, and that may foretell a massacre in the making.

Fresh from the Skeleton’s Mouth

As always, if you are looking for even more exciting August horror releases (particularly since I ran out of room for all the amazing titles being published this month) be sure to visit the grand champion of lists that is Nightfire’s “All the Horror Books We’re Excited About in 2021”.

Speaking of TBR additions: The Ladies of Horror Fiction Award recipients have been announced!

This article by Ally Russell (@AllyOutThere) is a wonderful (and all too relatable) discussion about growing up as a horror fan.

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

Categories
The Fright Stuff

Set Phasers to Scream

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.

Ah, space. The final fright-tier. These are the voyages of the starship Fright Stuff as she ventures deep into the furthest reaches of dark, creepy space. And most likely gets eaten. Or stranded on some remote planet. Or possessed/terrorized/murdered by a haunted/evil space ship that was definitely abandoned for no good reason and should definitely be boarded without a second thought. (I see you, Event Horizon.)

I honestly don’t know how I’ve gone almost a year writing Fright Stuff without doing a newsletter on space horror yet, to be honest. I have a lot of genre niches that I would happily drown myself in, but aside from the Gothic, the one thing that always gets me going is the vast, terrifying depths of definitely-not-haunted space.

Cover of We Have Always Been Here by Lena Nguyen

We Have Always Been Here by Lena Nguyen

Dr. Grace Park is a psychologist stationed on the survey ship Deucalion, bound for the distant planet of Eos on a colonization mission. There are thirteen crew members, not including herself, all highly trained and educated specialists, all part of a team meant to assess Eos’ potential for colonization. But Dr. Park might not have been the best choice for this mission. She’s the opposite of a people person, and prefers the company of the ships androids, whereas the other humans can’t stand the androids and certainly don’t trust them. As you might expect, things start to deteriorate rapidly once the survey ship reaches Eos, stranding its occupants in a massive radiation storm amidst a sudden epidemic of paranoia and waking nightmares. We Have Always Been Here is high on my to-read list, and I am particularly excited to see how Nguyen explores the complex relationship between humans and artificial lifeforms, which seems even more fraught than usual on the Deucalion!

Cover of Alien: Into Charybdis by Alex White

Alien: Into Charybdis by Alex White

I can hear you saying “Jessica, no. Please. No more Alien.” But shhhhhhhh. Just one. Because not only is Into Charybdis my favorite Alien novel, it’s also a gripping sci-fi horror in its own right that will appeal to lovers of space horror whether they’re Alien fans or not. Part of the reason that I love Into Charybdis so much is that White takes the themes of greed, corporate corruption, and militaristic capitalism (among others) that have been apart of the franchise since the beginning and weaves a nail-biting action horror novel in which the iconic xenomorphs are actually the least scary monster in attendance. A communications crew arrives on a distant planet to set-up environmental systems for the new Hasanova Data Solutions colony, a massive, deep space data bank. But this new station has old bones, and something even older is lurking beneath the surface, waiting to be rediscovered. And when a strange new organism is unleashed on the surface by an unknown vessel, what should have been a routine tech operation quickly devolves into chaos and terror.

Cover of The All-Consuming World by Cassandra Khaw

The All-Consuming World by Cassandra Khaw (September 2021)

I’m sorry, did you not say that you wanted even more A.I. vs. humans in your space horror? Because listen, I can already tell that this September release from Cassandra Khaw is going to be so good. Starring a cast of former criminals, as broken as they are dangerous, The All-Consuming World pits its unusual band of protagonists against a universe ruled by powerful, evolved A.I. who will do anything to maintain their control. The answer to defeating them and regaining control of the universe lies with the secret at the heart of a plant called Dimmuborgir, but between their own traumas and a fleet of something called “sapient ageships” (just contemplating what that might mean is conjuring up some horrible potential concepts), the odds seem insurmountable. I fell head over heels for Khaw’s sinister Nothing But Blackened Teeth recently, so I can’t wait to get my hands on this one.

Cover of Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes

Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes (January 2022)

Y’all, I am so excited. Dead Silence has been giving me Event Horizon vibes since I first read the synopsis and I am so ready to add another legend to my collection of deep space haunted house favorites. The Aurora has been missing for 20 years. She was a luxury ship destined to carry the rich and famous through the stars, and had on board hundreds of crew members and guests – the elite of the elite – when she disappeared. All now presumed dead. That is, until an unexpected emergency signal from the legendary phantom pings Claire’s salvage ship and tempts them with the richest treasure yet pulled out of deep space. But, like all good haunted houses, what looks like a fine prize from the outside turns into a hellscape on the inside. The Aurora, seemingly abandoned, floats empty among the stars, her decks full of horrors. When Claire’s crew starts experiencing violent hallucinations onboard the ship, Claire has to fight against her own mind to keep them all safe and get them off the Aurora before they join the ranks of the missing.

Fresh from the Skeleton’s Mouth

Grady Hendrix’s amazing slasher tribute novel, The Final Girl Support Group, is getting adapted into a series for HBO! And horror fans rejoice because it’s being directed and produced by (among others) Andy and Barbara Muschietti of IT (parts 1 and 2) fame!

There are so many great books to read and so little time, right? If you’re looking for some shorter reads to fill out your list, check out these horror recommendations for titles under 200 pages!

This Nightfire thread of horror recommendations is broken down by geographic region and will have you screaming your way across America in no time!

Speaking of Nightfire, can we please take a minute to shout about ths GORGEOUS (and delightfully pink/blue/teal) cover reveal of Catroina Ward’s forthcoming novel, Sundial. It’s amaaaaaaaazing. I am strangely compelled to rub my face on it.

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

Categories
The Fright Stuff

Ghost in the Mycelium

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.

This week’s slightly obsessive mini-essay is brought to you by the fact that Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic has ruined me for life, and now everything is mushrooms. Okay, not really, but there is an idea in Mexican Gothic that I have been turning over in my head since I finished the book and basically it’s this: how is a colony of fungi like a haunted house?

On the surface, Mexican Gothic seems like a familiar set up: Noemí gets a panicked letter from her recently married cousin, Catalina, claiming that something is very wrong in her husband’s isolated ancestral home, High Place. Noemí goes to the rescue and soon finds herself mired in darkness and secrets. But Mexican Gothic takes a sharp, biological twist that had me seriously second guessing my mushroom-based menu choices that week. Because at the moldering, rotting heart of High Place is the dark secret of its patriarch: a horrific immortality founded in flesh and fungi. A house haunted not by spirits, but by mushrooms.

The horror genre’s affection for mushrooms is easy to understand. As far as biological life forms go, fungi (particularly molds and mushrooms where horror is concerned) are as terrifying as they are fascinating. Mold poses a risk to human health, and its easy association with the sort of slow, rotting, delicious decay that horror adores is more than reason enough for its persistence in horror fiction. It’s easily identifiable as a threat. But mushrooms? Mushrooms are an unassuming terror. Even though there are varieties of mushrooms that are so poisonous they can kill you in a matter of hours, and a variety (Ophiocordyceps unilateralis) capable of zombifying its host to increase its chances to spread and prosper, the sight of a mushroom seldom evokes the same visceral horror as rot or mold.

Mushrooms come in compelling colors and grow in a variety of unique and fascinating forms. And even though some varieties like Dead Man’s Fingers (Xylaria polymorpha), which grows with corpse-like accuracy, or the juvenile Bleeding Tooth Fungus (Hydnellum peckii), which “bleeds” bright red liquid until it reaches adulthood, may be visually striking in a way that implies horror or violence, they are more likely to encourage our curiosity and enthusiasm than to frighten us. But mushrooms thrive where the dead and dying are. And while mushrooms growing on your lawn may be proof of a healthy cycle of plant growth and decay, mushrooms growing in your house are probably a bad sign.

What fascinated me about the mushrooms in Mexican Gothic, however, was the way Moreno-Garcia played up the most fascinating facet of fungal biology: fungi communicate. They are intelligent and complex lifeforms capable of spreading their mycelium across the forest floor and creating vast networks of communication. If you’re a Hannibal fan, you might remember that fascinating episode where the killer would put his victims into diabetic comas and use them to grow mushrooms as a means of trying to “connect” them to him. He was trying to tap into the fungi’s ability to form communities, obsessed with the similarities between their communication networks and the functions of the human mind. It was the first thing I thought of when Mexican Gothic reached its heart-pounding final act and revealed the body of the family matriarch, Agnes, entombed in fungus, no longer alive, or herself, but not dead.

Much like the way that Ophiocordyceps unilateralis controls its victim’s mind, Agnes’ mind has been taken over by the unnatural fungus that infects the Doyle family tree. The fungi have become her mind, taking on its functions and capabilities. (Mushroom guy would be thrilled.) It is the fungi that keeps the family patriarch alive. So long as he keeps breeding an heir whose body he can inhabit, he will never truly die, and so the fungi is able to take advantage of Doyle’s patriarchal obsession with inheritance and blood lines, manipulating him into satisfying its own biological drive to propagate in exchange for a perverse immortality. But Agnes is its wellspring. She is the source of the family’s curse, as well as the receptacle of their memories.

In true Gothic fashion, the “ghosts” that have been haunting Noemí since she arrived in High Place prove to have a natural explanation… sort of. They’re recreations of the fungi that permeate High Place; echoes of the past that linger in the fungi’s mycelium. Which is genius, really, because one thing that ghosts are a common metaphor for is memory. So in a way, because there are memories trapped and manifesting themselves in the mycelium, High Place really is haunted. Not by the spirits of the dead, but by the last lingering traces of their consciousness preserved in the house’s biological web. And the longer that Noemí is exposed to the mushrooms spores, the more a part of the web she becomes, the more frequent and vivid the “ghosts” appear. Like in all haunted house stories, the longer you stay inside the more intense the haunting becomes.

Which got me thinking.

In a previous Fright Stuff, I hypothesized about why we are compelled to read and write characters who can see and communicate with the dead. How a desire to know the unknowable leads us to speak to the dead because we want to hear the dead speak back. And it made me wonder if the popularity of mushrooms in horror fiction stems from a similar desire. I mean, yes, there’s the inextricable link between mushrooms and death, and mushrooms as signifiers of death. Not to mention all the creepy things they can do and look like. Mushrooms are ripe for horror. But in Mexican Gothic they’re also a source of communication, not unlike what we seek from the dead. The mushrooms that infect the Doyle family connect them in a complex network of biology and memories, one that stretches out its mycelium and tries to attach to anyone who comes to High Place seeing the truth.

We reach out for knowledge and hope something will answer. If not the dead, then who knows. Maybe the mushrooms.

Fresh From the Skeleton’s Mouth

Does the new Fear Street trilogy have you looking to indulge in some ’90s Teen Horror? Then head over to Book Riot for a brief history of teen horror in the 1990s and some spine-chilling recommendations for your TBR!

We’re getting Clown in a Cornfield II! Every great slasher deserves a sequel, so get ready for another corn-filled, candy-flavored kill fest Fall of 2022.

Why have one werewolf story when you can have a whole anthology! The TOC for September’s Were Tales anthology is first class, so make sure to follow Brigids Gate Press for all the details!

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

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The Fright Stuff

If I’m Going to Swelter, At Least Make it Gothic

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.

If there is one good thing about the atrocious heatwaves that have been bombarding us periodically up here in New England (and I do mean only one thing), it’s that the heavy, humid heat puts me in a mood for books of a similar… atmosphere? And there’s no subgenre of horror that does, “slowly being suffocated by the air you breath, was that a ghost touching me or just a hot breeze” like the Southern Gothic. Okay, so that’s rather underselling a subgenre that tackles such weighty themes as racism, classism, the consequences of burying your secrets, and the desperation of a once lofty family tree crumbling to dust. Plus there’s an emphasis in the Southern Gothic on ghosts both figurative and literal, and a fondness for crumble manors rotting with memories that I find infinitely appealing.

So grab your fans and a glass of something cold, and let’s get creepy!

Spook Lights: Southern Gothic Horror by Eden Royce

When diving headfirst into a new subgenre and/or a new author, I always like to start with a collection. Short fiction is such a fantastic way to gauge an author’s range or a subgenre’s flavor. You get the opportunity to discover both in Eden Royce’s fantastic collection of southern gothic horror stores. As the book’s synopsis suggests, Royce’s specialty is lavishly Gothic settings that set the stage for the sinister and strange, and as someone who really appreciates a perfectly wrought setting I am certainly a fan. If you enjoy Royce’s collection too, be sure to pick up the second installment, Spook Lights II, or check out Royce’s middle grade Southern Gothic, Root Magic!

Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo

I’m just going to keep sobbing out my love for this book. Summer Sons doesn’t come out until September so I’ve still got two long months to talk it up before you can get your hands on it, and I will take every possible opportunity! It’s deliciously, gorgeously Gothic. It’s queer. It’s heartbreaking and healing at the same time. It’s about love and grief and all the other emotions that tangle us up as human beings and I am obsessed. I want to crawl inside this book and live. Andrew and Eddie have always been together, bound by a shared secret and a dark gift. Until Eddie gets accepted early to their graduate program, leaving Andrew to trail six months behind. When Eddie kills himself shortly before Andrew is supposed to join him, he carves a hole in Andrew’s life, dragging a trail of secrets in his wake. The circumstances of his death are murky, and the deeper Andrew digs the more he realizes how little he knew about Eddie’s new life without him. All around are strangers, and none stranger than the haunt that stalks his shadow, haunting Andrew with the possibility that Eddie’s death was not what it seemed.

Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker

We don’t have a lot of swamps up here. We have bogs. They aren’t as nice, though I imagine that they’re just as good for hiding bodies (or worse things). Whatever the reason, there is definitely a fixed connection between the quintessential Southern swamp and the Gothic. Particularly when it’s a swamp that makes people disappear (and not just when they’re dead). For instance, Sterling’s brother Phin, who disappears into the town swamp one morning following an argument. But Phin doesn’t just vanish into the swamp. He vanishes from the memories of the town altogether. Everyone but Sterling has forgotten he exists, or that in his place a mysterious girl called Lenora May clambered up out of the depths. So it’s up to Sterling to discover who Lenora May truly is, and how she can get her brother back.

Ghost Summer by Tananarive Due

I thought we’d end this list the way we started, with an incomparable collection of Southern Gothic horror short fiction. From hauntings, to monsters, to buried secrets and dark family histories, Ghost Summer is full of rich gothic settings and creeping horrors. Also, zombies! For a more familiar Southern Gothic experience you’ll want Gracetown, one of the four thematic sections of the collection, comprised of “The Lake”, “Summer”, and the titular novella “Ghost Summer”. But all 15 stories in the collection (well, fourteen and a novella) have something to keep horror readers well fed.

Fresh From the Skeleton’s Mouth

Still need more Southern Gothic in your life? Go forth an peruse this list of 12 of the best Southern Gothic titles over at Book Riot!

Nightfire has posted their June rundown of the best horror short fiction and poetry if you’re looking for scares, as well as a list of July’s shiny new releases!

Did you see that the nominees for the 2020 Ladies of Horror Fiction Awards were announced? If you want your TBR thoroughly supplied, be sure to check out their nominee lists for Best Debut, Best Novella, Best Novel, Best Middle Grade Horror, Best Graphic Novel, and Best Collection.

Dawn Kurtagich’s The Teeth in the Mist (one of my favorite YA horror books of all time, complete with evil goat) is getting a sequel! 2023 is a long time away but I can wait! (Not patiently, mind you, but I can wait!)

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

Categories
The Fright Stuff

Happy Horror Days Are Here Again

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.

I can’t believe the year is moving so fast, but here it is just about the end of June and once again my favorite day of the month: it’s new releases day! Normally I try to run the new releases newsletter the first Monday of the month but on the 5th this year we’re observing a holiday here in the states, which means no Fright Stuff. So I thought we’d kick this mid-summer must read list off a little early!

If you’ve been keeping track of forthcoming releases for 2021, you are probably aware that these next few months in the run down to the end of the year are absolutely jammed with amazing horror titles. So many that my book budget is screaming under the strain, but I’ve been waiting an age for these titles to drop so sorry in advance to my wallet. Because these books are just too good to miss!

We Have Always Been Here by Lena Nguyen (July 6th)

By now everyone probably knows that I have a slight obsession with space horror. (It’s not slight.) So of course I’ve been counting the days until Nguyen’s We Have Always Been Here is released. Dr. Grace Park is a psychologist stationed on the survey ship Deucalion, bound for the distant planet of Eos on a colonization mission. There are thirteen crew members, not including herself, all highly trained and educated specialists, all part of a team meant to assess Eos’ potential for colonization. But Dr. Park might not have been the best choice for this mission. She’s the opposite of a people person, and prefers the company of the ship’s androids to that of her fellow human crew members, whereas the other humans can’t stand the androids and certainly don’t trust them. As you might expect, things start to deteriorate rapidly once the survey ship reaches Eos, stranding the ships occupants in a massive radiation storm amidst a sudden epidemic of paranoia and waking nightmares. After all, when is a simple colonization mission ever really a simple colonization mission?

Also, for the record, that cover is giving me terrifying Dr. Who Diamond Planet flashbacks. UPSETTING.

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix (July 13th)

I had the chance to read The Final Girl Support Group ahead of its release, and it is absolutely fantastic. Seriously, it hits all those slasher fan sweet spots while still managing a serious critique of the subgenre and its place in the modern world. I can’t wait to get my hands on a hard copy just so I can read it in a new medium. We all know who the final girl is, most horror fans can name at least a handful without really having to think about it. She’s the one who survives. She’s the one who fights back. She’s every horror villain’s worst nightmare because her life spells their death. But what happens when the credits roll and the monster IS dead, but the final girl is still left standing? Lynnette is one of a group of former final girls who, years later, are just trying to put their lives back together. Until one by one, someone starts picking them off.

The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass (July 13th)

True I just featured this book a couple of weeks ago on one of my pride month lists, but with it’s release date right around the corner I just had to shine the spotlight once again on what promises to be a delightfully creepy YA horror. Being able to see the dead is just a part of who Jake Livingston is, just like being one of the only Black kids in his exclusive prep school, or being less popular than his well-liked older brother. But, unlike humans, the dead can at least be relied upon to be predictable. Most are just harmless fragments of lost life, stuck in a loop of their own death. Sad but safe. Until Sawyer, a powerful vengeful ghost with the ability to put Jake’s very life in danger. In life, Sawyer committed a terrible act of violence, shooting six kids at a local high school and then himself. In death he has plans, and those plans require Jake.

Immortelle by Catherine McCarthy (July 15th)

There’s a reason Off Limits Press is quickly becoming one of my go-to horror presses. They are turning out some incredible horror that you definitely do not want to miss, and that includes their July release, Immortelle, about a mother who will stop at nothing to find the truth about her daughter’s violent death. Elinor, a ceramic artist whose work is inspired by her grandmother’s interest in the supernatural, bends her craft to its own supernatural purpose when her daughter Rowena is murdered. Elinor is sure she knows who is responsible, so she crafts an immortelle out of clay in the shape of a starling to try and capture Rowena’s spirit. As word of her skill spreads, Elinor is soon overwhelmed by requests for immortelles, her power growing with each crafting. And as the dead whisper their secrets and the truth about her daughter’s murder is revealed, Elinor begins to craft her terrible revenge.

Small Favors by Erin Craig (July 27th)

This book. I have been waiting so long for Small Favors and I just know it’s going to be the dark, bee-filled book of my heart. The Blackspire Mountain range is comprised of five sharp peaks bordered by a nearly impenetrable forest. And nestled amidst the Blackspires is the little town of Amity Falls. Visitors are rare and the wood is full of devils. This is Ellerie Downing’s home, and the quiet life she’s always known. But a sudden disappearance raises fears that the monsters the villagers once fought for survival may have returned, bringing with them honeyed promises of desires fulfilled. Asking only the smallest favors in return. Which I’m sure is… totally safe and not at all a cause for concern.


Like I said, this is only the beginning of what promises to be an amazing few months of new horror releases, and the titles I’ve feature here are just a taste. For more July releases make sure to check out this always fantastic list by Tor Nightfire of all the horror they’re looking forward to this year!

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

Happy reading!

Categories
The Fright Stuff

The Chatting Dead

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.

You think you have to worry about the walking dead, but really it’s the chatting dead you need to watch out for. The horror genre has history’s worth of proof that when the dead start talking, bad things are about to go down. Why does the trope of being able to talk to spirits pop up again and again in the horror genre? I mean, there are obvious storytelling reasons to include chatty dead people in your books. When they can speak for themselves they’re able to drop vital hints or bits of information that the protagonist might need to solve some mystery, escape alive, or even defeat the ghosts themselves. But is there another reason that we’re so involved with the idea of spirits who do more than moan and break your favorite coffee cup?

Maybe the obvious answer, and the one that we see realized in a lot of horror fiction–particularly novels in which grief and grieving are a theme–is that we want to think that the dead are reaching back to us. The ones we’ve lost, the ones who are trapped, forgotten, or wracked by injustice. Maybe it’s a bit like believing in aliens, or looking for bigfoot. We don’t want to believe that we’re alone out here. That we are all there is to the world.

And of course there’s the fact that of all the questions science has yet to answer, what becomes of us after death is still one of the greatest unkowns. We know what happens to the body, physically, and many horror authors make stunning and graphically memorable use of the decaying of the dead. But what about the rest of us? These big, squishy brains that give us such hell when we’re alive; do they just go out like lights? Every thought we ever had, all our dreams, emotions, and wants. There’s so much up there, and the thought that it all just stops beggars belief. So it makes sense that, more than just telling ghost stories or believing in ghosts, we want them to talk to us. To reach out. To make contact and prove that something of ourselves survives the end of our days.

Dozens of ghost hunting shows on the Travel Channel can’t be wrong! We talk to the dark because we want to hear the dead talk back. Though, as this week’s recommendations will show, you have to be careful when putting out a call to the dead. You never know who’ll answer.

cover image of The Library of the Dead by T. L. Huchu

The Library of the Dead by T.L. Huchu

Ropa speaks for the dead. In fact, she dropped out of school to make carrying their messages to the living her full time job. She’s a ghostalker. After all, she’s good at it, it pays, and generally it’s safe enough. But then a young child goes missing, taken from a dark corner of what Ropa considers her territory, and the dead are whispering chilling warnings about children sucked dry of their life and their joy. Ropa could chose to walk away. This could be someone else’s problem. But these children disappeared on her turf, and she can’t in good conscience turn her back while someone declares open season on the children of her city. So Ropa sets out to find a monster, and discovers a secret Edinburgh, full of unknowns, spirits, demons, and strange magics, where the very fabric of reality seems to bend.

The Whispering Dead by Darcy Coates

In the midst of a storm, hunted by unknown men with guns who want her dead, a woman on the run takes shelter in an abandoned groundskeeper’s cottage at the edge of a cemetery in the town of Blighty. Frankly, I think it sounds positively peaceful, but then again I have noisy neighbors. And technically, so does Keira. Because while to others the cemetery would appear still and silent, Kiera can hear the dead whispering all around her. The cemetery is alive with the ghosts of those recently, and not so recently, departed, led by a woman who died before her time who begins to haunt Keira when she realizes that the living woman can see her. With the clock of her life running down, Keira races to unearth the dark secrets of Blighty’s past that will not let the woman’s spirit rest.

Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis (August 24th)

Katrell makes her living talking to the dead, ironically. And it’s not much of a living, either. While clients are happy to pay her for access to their dead loved ones they don’t pay well. Let alone well enough for Katrell to pay her way and support her mother and whatever boyfriend her mother has kicking around. Still money is money. Which is why, when a ghost tells Katrell to stop summoning the dead, that terrible things will come of it, she ignores the warning. Besides. It’s dead. What do the dead have to do but moan vague warnings at the living for entertainment? Or so Katrell thinks. Until she accidentally raises a client from the dead, rather than just summoning their spirit, and catches a glimpse of a life beyond poverty. There is money to be made in making the dead undead, and she decides to seize the opportunity with both hands. But the bigger the magic the higher the price, and the dark is circling. Waiting for Katrell to fall.

Fresh From the Skeleton’s Mouth

If you can believe it (I hardly can) the end of June is nearly upon us! I’m not sure where the month went, but summer is really flying fast. And every month seems to bring with it a veritable pile of exciting new horror books. Check out this June new releases list from Ladies of Horror Fiction to make sure that you didn’t miss anything you were looking forward to!

Nightfire has a wonderful interview with Paul Tremblay on their blog, discussing putting story first, writing atmosphere, and the paperback edition of his amazing, deeply moving 2020 novel, Survivor Song.

Categories
The Fright Stuff

Horror Pride 2: The New Books Cometh

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.

Welcome to week two of celebrating queer horror here on The Fright Stuff! I hope everyone is having a wonderful Pride, and getting plenty of reading done in between events! Fun fact: I didn’t plan it this way, but there is actually one new queer horror book on this list for every month from July through November. So. You’re welcome. Let’s all pretend that I was actually that organized on purpose.

Really, though, it worked out that way because there are so many fantastic queer horror titles coming out this year! More than are even listed here because I literally ran out of words to tell you about them all. We may still be short on in-person Pride events this year (for good reasons, obviously), but at least we have books!

The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass (July 13th)

Being able to see the dead is just a part of who Jake Livingston is, just like being one of the only Black kids in his exclusive prep school, or being less popular than his well-liked older brother. But while being a teenager can be an endless series of threats–social, emotional, physical–some more serious than others, at least the dead can be relied upon to be predictable. Most are just harmless fragments of lost life, stuck in a loop of their own death. Sad but safe. Until Sawyer, a powerful vengeful ghost with the ability to put Jake’s very life in danger. In life, Sawyer committed a terrible act of violence, shooting six kids at a local high school and then himself. In death he has plans, and those plans require Jake.

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould (August 3rd)

There are a lot of amazing horror books coming out this summer (Seriously. My bank account weeps.), but this one is particularly high on my radar. Two girls–Logan, whose dads are the stars of the popular TV ghost hunting show ParaSpectors, and Ashley, a Snakebite native whose boyfriend has gone missing–face off against a small town full of secrets, slipping slowly into chaos. The ghost of Ashley’s boyfriend has begun haunting her and the only only one she can trust is Logan, even as their investigation into the town’s secrets threatens everything they believe they know about Snakebite, their families, and themselves.

Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo (September 28th)

Sometimes friendships end quietly. Transitions in our lives nudge us apart from the people we thought we knew better than everyone, and who we thought we’d know forever, and we just drift apart. It’s so gradual you don’t even notice it happening until they’re gone. Andrew and Eddie were best friends, closer than brothers. And when Eddie left to start his graduate program, Andrew knew that he’d be only six months behind him. Until that day, a few days before Andrew was supposed to leave for Nashville, when Eddie died by suicide and left behind a life that Andrew realizes he knew nothing about. A secret life full of strangers and grisly phantoms, lies, secrets; a dark, ugly family history and an Eddie he never knew who spent his days bouncing from a cutthroat academic world to a seedy underground world of vice and violence. Now it’s up to Andrew to discover who his friend really was before Eddie’s secret life can consume him as well.

Flowers for the Sea by Zin E. Rocklyn (October 19th)

Are you tired of me talking about this book yet? Not sorry! I’m so excited about this book. I finally have an ARC on my Kindle and it is just staring me down, waiting for me to finish my pre-determined reading list for this month. Though if any book can tempt me to break from The List, it will probably be Flowers for the Sea. Survivors of a flooded land exist in isolation, fighting for their continued survival on an ark. Supplies are dwindling, hungry, terrifying sea monsters circle – in other words, circumstances are NOT ideal. Among the survivors is Iraxi, pregnant with a child that may not be entirely human. The future of the ark and its survivors is uncertain, and Iraxi’s own fate may be darker still.

Queen of Teeth by Hailey Piper (November 1st)

Jessica, is there anything that Hailey Piper writes that you won’t buy? Probably no. Particularly when it has to do with vagina dentata – because you know that’s going to be wild. Also have you seen that cover? It’s so pink! I love it! When Yaya Betancourt discovers that she has spouted teeth in her vagina, she assumes that it is a side effect of a pharmaceutically-induced genetic condition that she and thousands of others developed in the womb with a little help from AlphaBeta Pharmaceutical. Whoops. But when she realizes that ABP is determined to hunt her down after her incident of toothy sprouting, and when her condition suddenly… worsens, Yaya has to consider the possibility that there may be another, darker motive behind ABP’s pursuit.

Quick Note: If you don’t want to wait until the trade paperback release in November, there are still a few weeks to pre-order a special hardcover edition!

Fresh from the Skeleton’s Mouth

Speaking of forthcoming queer horror: have you seen the newly released cover for Gretchen Fleker-Martin’s Manhunt? (2.22.22 from Nightfire) Seriously, this book is going to be… well I’d normally say bananas, but that would be the wrong fruit for this context.

One of my favorite horror podcasts Books in the Freezer has released their Pride Month Special so be sure to tune in for even more queer horror recommendations!

This gorgeous story by Allyson Shaw was published in the most recent issue of Fireside Magazine, is available on their website, and is 100% everything that I love.

Over at Book Riot, Steph Auteri has curated a list of must read horror comics to add to your summer reading list.


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