5 On a Theme: Queer Horror

queer horror

Representation of queer characters in horror fiction and film was often fraught with problems in the best case scenarios, or outrightly hostile at worst. But in the last decades especially LGBTIQ+ writers have taken on the genre and created complex engagements with horror and queer identity away from the doom and gloom of earlier phobic depictions in the mainstream. Adressing intersecting notions of the queer and horror, the normative and the Other, these works ask us to rethink where we draw lines and how we make rigid transformative and fluid identities.

let the right one in

1. Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

This Swedish vampire story has been adapted to the big screen and been a popular read. 12 year old Oskar’s new friend Eli is a strange one and she only comes out at night. Let The Right One In notably deals with issues of Othering, pederasty and adolescent sexuality as well as the performance of binary gender identity.


2. Affinity by Sarah Waters

One of my favorite authors, Sarah Waters continuously writes engaging, addictive page-turners with lesbian characters. Affinity, once again set in Victorian London, depicts a complex relationship between Selina a jailed occultist and charity worker Margaret who visits the prisoners of the women’s ward.


3. The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez

In the 1850s a young Black girl escapes from slavery and finds community in Gilda’s sisterhood of vampires. The Gilda Stories challenges notions of binary gender identity, sexuality and what it means to be a “monster.”

sea, swallow me

4. Sea, Swallow Me by Craig Laurance Gidney

This collection of short stories centers mostly around Black gay characters and combines horror with mythology from Africa to Japan. Reaching from the Antebellum South to the contemporary US, Gidney demonstrates how we are shaped by the intersections of faith,  race and sexuality. Just noticed that with the elements of mythology, fairy tales and the speculative, this could definitely be a good one for the Once Upon a Time challenge.

the drowning girl

5. The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan

This one is about India Morgan Phelps, called Imps by her friends, and her attempts to make sense of her encounters with mythical creates and her family’s history of mental illness. Framed as a Imps’ recordings of these encounters, the book is a meta-heavy work of intertextuality hinted at by the book’s subtitle: a memoir. The Drowning Girl also examines issues of gender performance and transformation in Imps’ friend Abalyn who is a transwoman.

Looking for more themed reading? Take a look at my previous 5 On a Theme post: Afro-German Literature.

Do you enjoy horror stories? What are your favorite scary books beyond the norm?


22 thoughts on “5 On a Theme: Queer Horror

  1. Now and again I enjoy a horror story – sadly can’t think of any that are out of the ordinary. From your suggestions I have read The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, but I was a bit disappointed in it. I really must try more of her work.

    1. Was it your only Sarah Waters? Please try her earlier works, Fingersmith especially, they are so good and addictive! 🙂

  2. The Drowning Girl was interesting but in the end just a bit too much for me!

    Sarah Waters always writes good books, and I liked Affinity quite a bit, although Fingersmith and Tipping the Velvet are still my favourites. I’m not much of a horror reader but I kind of like Joe Hill’s work! And not just Locke and Key.

    1. That sounds intriguing, was it too much horror or too much metafiction?
      I love all her books but my particular favorite is The Night Watch, but Fingersmith was so amazing too.
      Oh yes Joe Hill, I read his NOS4A2 and it was so good and so creepy! Need to take a look at the comics then!

      1. It prob was too meta for me. I don’t really do well with those. You’re making me want to read Sarah Waters again. I wasn’t a big fan of her last book though.

  3. Bina, this is a great post. Thank you. 🙂 Sarah Waters’s ‘Affinity’ sounds interesing. I am adding that to my TBR. I haven’t read a lot of horror at all. A couple of book I read didn’t agree with me much. But, I want to keep trying.

    1. Oh yes I am not too squeamish but too much gore and stuff, I do not enjoy at all. But I hink you will enjoy Sarah Waters then because she writes creepy and very addictive page-turners and you don’t have to worry about gore so much 🙂
      After the Tananrieve Due book I have decided to read horror in daylight only 😀

      1. Hahaha I have to cut in and agree. Although last month I read a horror comic (Wytches) in broad daylight and it still freaked me out

  4. I don’t read much horror either. Especially not the kind that includes queer characters! Thanks so much for this lovely post.
    I’m sure you know how important this subject is for me. I’m very interested in Sea, Swallow Me. I have devoured many short story collections recently so I think I’ll keep the streak up and write a blog post about my favorite books of short stories! I’ll look for this one when I visit bookstores next month, but if it’s a rare book I may have to buy it from Amazon. Which I hate!

    1. Yay so glad you liked it! And your opinion on this post is especially important to me 🙂
      I did love the sound of Sea, swallow me, too, I hope you can find a copy and it is not too rare. I think the author won a prize for it a few years ago. That would be wonderful, looking forward to your short story post.

  5. Wonderful list, Bina! I read ‘Let the Right One In’ a few years back for the RIP event and I liked it very much. Some of the pages were hard to read – especially the sexually violent ones – but I liked the story and the prose was very beautiful. It is a very different and unique vampire novel. I haven’t seen the movie version yet. Hopefully one of these days. Can you believe that I haven’t yet read my first Sarah Waters book? I have to remedy that soon.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the list, Vishy! 🙂 I remember you blogging about Let The Right One in, I need to read that one but consider myself forewarend 🙂 Apparently, I just read this last week, there is a Swedish or original movie and then a US adaptation which left out a lot of gender and sexuality issues!!
      Oh yes do read Sarah Waters, I promise you won’t regret it 🙂 She mostly has two kinds of books, Victorian era and 20s-40s London. Fingersmith is an amazing amazing book and rightly her most famous I think. My personal favorite of hers so far is The Night Watch told in reversed chronology and set around WWII.

      1. I hope you like ‘Let the Right One In’ whenever you get around to reading it. Yes, I read about the Swedish and US movie adaptations – Hollywood always makes things simplistic with an eye on the box office. It is sad.

        I will try to read either ‘Fingersmith’ or ‘The Night Watch’. Thanks for the inspiration. I can’t wait to read my first Sarah Waters book!

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