Section: Arts

Queer horror novels spur discussion about representation

If you aren’t queer or trans and don’t like horror, you probably didn’t know that the queer horror genre is having a bit of a boom. Though you may have heard about queer horror flicks such as “They/Them,” which was released in July on Peacock, or last year’s Chucky television series showing Chucky’s genderfluid kid, queer horror literature is less widly known outside of the LGBTQ+ community.

There were a few noteworthy queer horror releases this year, though. Manhunt, written by Gretchen Felker-Martin, is a brutal splatterpunk about trans people navigating a gender-based apocalypse. Both received rave reviews, but for Manhunt those came with a huge asterisk. Many of the book’s reviews contain transphobia directed at both the author and the story itself, including outrage about the amount of grotesque material the book details. Most of this backlash was from conservatives, namely trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs), but some backlash also came from the queer and trans communities. 

Most of the anger was directed at the actions of the queer and trans characters in the book. The actions include violence against women, organ eating and even rape; atrocious things performed by the LGBTQ+ protagonists. That doesn’t sit well with many queer readers. “I don’t think it frames trans people in a good light at all, it makes sense why transphobes are using this book to back up their negative ideas on what a trans person is,” wrote one trans Goodreads reviewer. This is a more extreme example of what happened with 2021’s Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca, a story exploring a toxic sapphic email relationship. The novella became a viral sensation before it was panned by queer women on social media who brought up a variety of criticisms, including that the story depicted a sexualized and possibly abusive relationship between two women where both parties are deeply flawed.

These concerns stewed serious tension between the queer community, understandable in their wariness of morally corrupt queer characters, and horror authors, who write about moral corruption within their genre. This brings us to The Book of Queer Saints, a recent anthology edited by Mae Murray in which LaRocca is featured. In their short stories, LaRocca and others directly and explicitly confront the question of “bad” queer people. In the foreword written by Sam Richard and the introduction by Mae Murray, both mention how the critiques of queer horror from within the queer community are what inspired them to compile the anthology. The Book of Queer Saints includes 13 short stories by queer authors about queer villains. Each story thoroughly explores their apparent immorality. With an anthology such as this, each author can explore their own view on the subject, showing a variety of ideas to a wide audience. This serves as a valuable contribution to the ongoing discussion on queer literature, bringing different queer voices together into one place. The Book of Queer Saints is a wonderful, if harrowing, read, and the short stories are full of all the depravity promised by its editors.

Right now, we stand in the middle of a passionate argument deciding the fate of queer horror. Only time will show the verdict

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