Queer Scare: LBQ Women’s Halloween Reads

Well it’s a dark, gloomy, rainy night in Vancouver and it seems particularly apt to start talking about some seasonally appropriate reads.  By that, of course, I mean queer Halloween books.

hauntingThe Haunting on Hill House by Shirley Jackson

What?

Published in 1959, Jackson’s novel is said by many to be the perfect haunted house story.  I listened to an audiobook version and well, the woman who reads it, Bernadette Dunne, nails the creepy tone interspersed with witty, ironic dialogue.  In a self-consciously contrived scenario, four strangers agree to spend time at a reputedly haunted house in order to find out if it’s really full of ghouls or not.  Jackson’s prose is sparse but muscular—like a marathon runner’s body.

Why?

This story gave me a deliciously creepy feeling and made me scared about going into my basement to do laundry.  It will have you asking questions like: is the old house really haunted?  Is one of the characters evil?  Is one of the characters crazy?  She’s supposed to be a lesbian, right?  Was that woman also a lesbian?  What about the other woman: she probably has lesbian feeling too, eh?

How Scary?

The terror in Haunting is more psychological than physical and it’s certainly not horror to my standards.  That said, it’s extremely creepy, although the scariness is supernatural.  One might argue that sexuality is the really scary current running underneath it all.  Still, though, I would caution you about reading (or listening to) this alone at night in a big old house.  Like I did.

fist of the spider womanFist of the Spider Woman: Tales of Fear and Queer Desire edited by Amber Dawn

What?

A collection of erotic stories that is queer in more ways than one.  In a much more explicit way than Haunting on Hill House, Amber Dawn’s book takes up the intimate relationship between fear and sexuality, resulting in a tantalizing, sexy, terrifying, and gorgeous collection of short fiction and poetry.  Some of these are really scary; some are funny; some are mostly just going to turn you on.  There’s a fair amount of BDSM in here, but probably not as much as you’d think.  My favourites were Amber Dawn’s “Here Lies the Last Lesbian Rental in East Vancouver,” which is part ghost story, part anti-gentrification treatise, and part mean mommy and little girl kinky erotica and “Slug” by Megan Milks, which is the fucking weirdest story I’ve ever read (I mean that in the best way possible).

Why?

The diversity of this collection—in tone, author background, different kinds of LGBTQ characters, content, and form—is really astounding.  Also, I bet you’re interested in the imperative behind the anthology: “Maybe you remember this happening to you—a renegade coming of age when you realized that being different isn’t such a bad thing after all, a time when you stopped wishing you fit into the crowd and started building an identity based on standing out from it”; standing out, though, she reminds us, often means being afraid.  What women who break out from the crowd are especially good at, however, is “revamping what burdens us, subverting things to our own advantage.” The aim in these ventures generally, as in this collection, is “not to quell our fears, but to embrace them”; to own, reclaim, and twist what is scary.

How Scary?

There’s a range of really not scary at all to fucking terrifying (in particular, Aurelia T. Evans’s “In Circles” scared the shit out of me).  You are warned. [Also, I’ve reviewed the collection in more detail here].

Marcy Rogers via twitter

Marcy Rogers via twitter

Marcy Rogers’s stories in Friend. Follow. Text. and Zhush Redux

What?

Marcy Rogers is a Toronto-based author whose writing straddles the line between humour and the grotesque.  All of her micro-fictions in Zhush Redux and her story in Friend. Follow. Text. are wonderfully imaginative and strange and dark.  “Drawn Out,” for example, begins like this: “I know it sounds crazy, but my lover Miranda has a tattoo that talks to me.”  This protagonist begins to wish, in fact, that “Miranda was a tattoo on Tempest’s body instead of the other way around.”  How will these star-crossed lovers stay together?  In Friend. Follow. Text. Rogers’s story “IMHO” also investigates in/sanity in a way reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe.

Why?

 How about this excerpt from “IMHO” to whet your appetite?

“The decision to kill Scott was not an impulsive one.  It had evolved over time from a feeling of irritation to the embarkation of a heroic quest.  A quest in which Jude would slay the…sometimes he wished Scott would take up drag so he could say he was off to slay the drag queen.  But while some of his best friends wore dresses, Scott himself preferred tight jeans.”

“Jude liked to imagine Scott’s jeans getting tighter and tighter until he was squeezed right out of them like ground-beef toothpaste from a tube.”

How Scary?

Creepy, but not likely a cause of terror-induced insomnia.  Also, the melange of humour and horror takes some of the sting of terror out.

skin folkSkin Folk by Nalo Hopkinson

What?

An absolutely fabulous collection of fantasy and science fiction short stories, some of which are seriously chilling.  Two stories in particular really freaked me out: “Snake,” (from the perspective of a straight pedophile) and “The Glass Bottle Trick” (a brilliant story interrogating shadism and a woman finding out what happened to her husband’s mysteriously dead former wives).  There is more than one story that takes up supernatural Caribbean creatures such as duppies—spirits/ghosts—as well as Lagahoos, Soucouyants, and other kinds of “skin folk”: people who aren’t what they seem.

Why?

It’s a privilege to have access to a mind as brilliant and imaginative as Nalo Hopkinson’s.  There is story after story in this collection that makes you think: “How could this have come from the brain of a human being?”  The diversity of stories here also showcases Hopkinson’s talent for character voice: she moves effortlessly from Caribbean patois to future urban Torontonian speech, from men to women, and young to old.

How Scary?

More often than not the stories here are chilling, rather than outright terrifying.  However, the story following the pedophile is a terror-inducing exception.

affinityAffinity by Sarah Waters

What?

An historical gothic novel set in England in the 1870s that follows an affair between an inmate at a woman’s prison and an upper-class lady visitor.  A fascinating look at the 19th century women’s prison system as well as the wide-spread belief in ‘spiritualism’—i.e., ghosts and the supernatural—in the Victorian period.

Why?

Waters is always a pleasure to read, and this novel is one of her least-discussed and underrated despite the fact that it’s a fantastic read.  It’s subtle, erotic, mysterious, and suspenseful.  If you thought Victorians were all proper and stuff and wouldn’t have anything to do with supernatural nonsense, it’ll be illuminating to read about the gigantic spiritualist subculture that existed, including séances and ‘holidays’ at haunted houses.

How Scary?

Haunting, I would say this novel is, rather than actually scary.  It’s too subtle for horror and the suspense is focused on what the true motives of the inmate are: does she love her visitor, or is she using her?

About CaseytheCanadianLesbrarian

Known in some internet circles as Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, Casey Stepaniuk is a writer and future librarian who holds an MA in English literature and is currently studying for an MLIS in the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations (Vancouver, BC). Topics and activities dear to her heart include cats, bisexuality, libraries, queer (Canadian) literature, running, and drinking tea. She runs the website Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, where you can find reviews of LGBTQ2IA+ Canadian books, archives of the book advice column Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian, and some other queer, bookish stuff. She also writes for Autostraddle, Book Riot and Inside Vancouver. Find her on Twitter: @canlesbrarian. Some of her old reviews, especially the non-Canadian variety, can be found at the Lesbrary.
This entry was posted in Amber Dawn, Anthology, Asian, BDSM, Bisexual, Black, Canadian, Caribbean, Erotica, Fantasy, Fiction, Indigenous, Lesbian, Nalo Hopkinson, Poetry, Postcolonial, Queer, Science Fiction, Short Stories, Toronto, Vancouver and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Queer Scare: LBQ Women’s Halloween Reads

  1. Pingback: Link Round Up: Oct 23 – 29 | The Lesbrary

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  3. Pingback: 5 Spooky Queer Women’s Halloween Reads | Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian

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