June has passed in a rainbow flag covered coffin and as corporate entities put away their LGBTQ+ allyship for another year, it’s worth remembering that there’s plenty of small ways you can keep supporting those queer horror works that may get recommended to you but are forgotten by the time Pride month ends. This year I decided to spend all of Pride month reading so I would have plenty of recs to keep up the barrage long after the rainbow flags come down. Perhaps the biggest bonus of my month spent working on my queer horror to be read list was all the great works I found in addition to the ones I intended to read. Here’s the first, but far from the last, of my LGBTQ+ horror book list. On with the barrage!
Vintage: A Ghost Story by Steve Berman
I can’t tell you how far I was into this book before I realized the main character was never named. But, when you’re a gay Goth teen who’s dropped out of high school and left home after your parents discovered your sexuality, is now living with your aunt while working at a vintage clothing shop, and have a crush on a ghost you met while walking alone on an empty strech of highway one night, what do names really matter?
Vintage may sound like something out of a Christopher Pike novel, but I think you’ll find it’s something far more. Think The Sixth Sense meets The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Our main character and his friends who populate the book are believably flawed, yet relatable, teenage personalities. That goes for the more ghostly presences as well. The prose is often much deeper and more intracrate than what you would expect from a YA novel. It’s not often I would deem something both scary and erotogenic, but the ghost sex in this one is centerinly something different, and often times frightening. As an added bonus, it mentions in the back of the book that one-fifth of the author’s royalties are donated to the Gay-Straight Alliance Network and the Trevor Project. This one isn’t to be missed.
Five out of five Cthulhu. (5 / 5)
A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson
Oh, how I wanted to love this book! A queer retelling of Dracula from the point of view of his polycule of wives? Sounds great! Sign me up! Unfortunately, that wasn’t exactly what the book was about.
The book is told from the point of view of Constanta, a young woman whom a dark, mysterious stranger finds dying after a village raid. The stranger gives to her the gift, and the curse, of undying life. She and he-who-shall-not-be-named-Dracula spend hundreds of years together, sharing lovers of all sexes in their bed and in their stomachs. Constanta is happy, but isolated. That is until Count Noname meets another woman, Magdalena, whom Constanta conveniently falls in love with as well. This pattern repeats itself when the trio meet the young Russian man Alexei. Definitely-not-Dracula, meanwhile, grows ever more controlling and monstrous to his lovers until they realize it’s either going to have to be them, or him.
The speed at which whole centuries go by in the book makes everything seem a bit rushed. People fall in love instantly so it’s hard to tell what emotions are real and what are mere vampire glamor. The horror of having to kill to stay alive for centuries is mostly glossed over in favor of showing what a manipulative gaslighter Dracula can be and the events of the original novel are only given a single throwaway line in passing. That’s not to say vampires bonding over their continued abuse by their creator isn’t an interesting story, it’s just not the one I was expecting when I picked up the book. It was still an enjoyable read nonetheless.
Three out of five Cthulhu. (3 / 5)
This is Not a Horror Movie by Sara Dobie Bauer
Welcome to summer vacation in Florida! There’s the beach, lots of Stephen King books to read, the hot neighbor boy you’ve had a crush on for years, the annoying twin sister, the possibly haunted abandoned beach resort that’s eating people . . . Wait. What?
That’s just a small part of what you’re going to get in This is Not a Horror Movie, a fun rom-com slash horror slash coming of age, well, just plain slash story (if you know the other meaning of that word). Horror lover extraordinaire Emory is on his last summer vacation in Longboat Key, Florida with his family before he goes to college. Conner, the boy next door of his dreams, is going to be a huge part of that vacation, along with Vincent Price stalkers, missing homeless Vietnam vets, demonic cults, kidnappings, and no one’s first times but certainly their best times.
Sometimes a book can be just a fun romp, and that’s definitely what this book is. Most of the horror elements don’t even kick in until half-way through the book, but honestly, I didn’t even notice because I was having such a good time with the characters, who are both funny and endearing. Emory’s horror knowledge is used less as a meta reference like in Scream and more of something to bond over with Conner. Of course, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come in handy when their lives are on the line. If you’re looking for a straight up horror story, like the title says, this probably isn’t what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a good time and a fun summer read, then call me. I’ll happily loan you my copy of this book.
Four out of Five Cthulhu. (4 / 5)
Rolling in the Deep and Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
A two for one special! You know what’s really scary? Mermaids. Or at least you’ll be thinking so after you read these two books by Mira Grant about a couple of documentary film crews on assignment to find mermaids below the bathypelagic zone (also known as midnight zone) in the deepest parts of the ocean of the Mariana Trench.
In what could be a prequel to the movie Underwater, or maybe Aquaman, it’s no spoiler to tell you the first of the crews of the research ship the Atargatis is met with an unimaginable tragedy. Rolling in the Deep is the novella that tells the frighting story of what happened to the Atargatis from the points of view of its crew, scientists, film crew, professional mermaid performers, and tv personalities. It’s as scientific and scary as anything by Michael Crichton, but it does leave you with some unanswered questions.
Into the Drowning Deep picks up right where Rolling in the Deep leaves off. Seven years later, another crew, much better prepared (supposedly), is sent back to the Mariana Trench to either prove or disprove what happened aboard the Atargatis. Into the Drowning Deep may be a bit long in the tooth when it comes to scientists arguing with each other, stereotypical big game hunters who are hired on as security, and evil corporations (going to need a “Does the Dolphin Die?” website now), but it does answer the bigger questions Rolling in the Deep leaves behind. And the biggest question of all that will keep you reading to the end, will they survive?
While these books are more in the traditional horror genre, they are filled with good representation of all sorts; hearing impaired characters, LGBTQ+ characters, neurodivergent characters, physically disabled characters, and many others. There’s a little something for everyone in other words.
Five out of Five for Rolling in the Deep, three out of Five for Into the Drowning Deep, giving an overall score of four out of Five Cthulhu. (4 / 5)