Spooky season is upon us! For many of us, that means busting out horror films and scary stories from the shelf (or if you're like any other horror fan, they've never been put away in the first place).
Unfortunately, LGBTQI+ representation is something we still need to advocate for in fiction, particularly horror fiction. So, I've deduced to list a few of my favourite horror novels that represent LGBT people and also made my spooky queer heart sing. If you have any of your own, please let me know as I'd love to add more to my reading list.
Also, this will be free of spoilers so you're all good!
The Sawkill Girls, Claire Legrand
After Marion moves to Sawhill Rock, she discovers a friendly, close-knit community that it isn't devoid of dark secrets. Girls have been going missing for years, the blame falling onto an unknown evil that no one has dared to face.
(I might do a whole review on this one)
This YA coming of age story is also a great feminist tale with a great representation of people various sexual identities. The atmosphere is built up nicely with an eerie sense that keeps you hooked for the entire read. Two out of the three main characters are LGBT and don't fall victim to any of the extremely overdone and damaging stereotypes (that I picked up on, feel free to correct me).
It's honestly a great story of young women taking charge in an attempt to save themselves from the sins of their elders. Throw a bloodthirsty demon into the mix and we have a deep and horrifying novel with great LGBT representation and feminist themes.
The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
After painter Basil Hallward uses him as a model for a masterful portrait, Dorian Grey becomes horrified at the concept of losing his charming beauty. Selling his soul, he gains eternal beauty and youth as every sin is reflected in the appearance of his portrait. However, his actions come at a deadly cost.
Basil had the hots for Dorian. Try to change my mind, I dare you!
Written by renowned writer and poet, Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Grey isn't just a treasure of gothic literature and a dazzling look into the consequences of materialistic vanity.
Scholars and fans alike have pointed out the queer themes hidden amongst the text and the arguments that Basil was not just interested in Dorian as a painting subject are convincing to say the least. Although Wilde left these themes to speculation (which is fair enough given that he was also a target and victim of homophobic laws during his lifetime), the additional dark atmosphere, betrayal and murder make for an interesting and bloody classical read.
Carmilla, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
Living in a mansion with no one but her father and maid for company, Laura's isolation is quenched when her father welcomes an injured woman named Carmilla into their home. The two women quickly grow close, however, with women and girls in nearby towns dropping dead and Carmilla's reluctance to talk about her past, Laura begins to suspect something more behind the mysterious visitor.
Another classic, Carmilla exceeded Bram Stoker's Dracula by several decades, yet despite it's lesser popularity, it reflects arguably the same creep-factor as the vampire that came afterwards.
Carmilla would also pave the way for the 'lesbian vampire' that would take over many gothic works of the time. To be fair, the relationship between Laura and Carmilla is hardly healthy (drinking your partner's blood without consent is never okay), but it is a queer relationship none the less that fuels the dark atmosphere and interesting narrative.
The Moth Dairies, Rachel Klein
When a young girl is sent to an all-girls boarding school after her father's suicide, she discovers no prim, perfect facility but instead a dark world of passion, blood, obsession and death. The girls have only each other to rely on, but our narrator's main concern is Ernessa who has been exhibiting strange behaviour that fuels the narrator's intense jealousy.
The Moth Diaries is a creepy and emotional tale with the classic 'diary style' adding to the moody, gothic feel of the narrative. It is aimed towards a YA audience but I think it's suited for anyone who likes getting swallowed up by dark stories such as this.
In regards to the queer themes, they might be up to interpretation since the narrator is incredibly unreliable and none of the characters are outright labeled in any sexual identities (which makes sense since their teenage girls, you can't expect them to have everything in order just yet). However, we are often caught up in dreams and hallucinations in this book so I guess that's just apart of the book's psychological aspect. Then again... the narrator was a bit too jealous of the intimacy shown between Lucy and Ernessa (just saying). Overall, it's really up to you whether you interpret them as actual events or the imagination of the narrator.
Affinity, Sarah Waters
Margaret Prior, an upper-class woman recovering from a suicide attempt, commences her rehabilitative charity work by visiting the women's ward of Milbank Prison. Amongst the many murderers and criminals that inhabit the grimy prison, Margaret takes a special interest in one of the (apparently) innocent inmates, self-proclaimed spiritualist Selina Dawes. Although initially a skeptic of Selina's gifts, Margaret is quickly pulled into a world of ghosts, dangerous shadows and an overwhelming passion.
You may know Sarah Waters from her initial work Tipping the Velvet but Affinity seems to slide into a perfect diagram of popular, speculative and queer. The novel is split between two narratives; that of Selina and of Margaret. Both are very interesting women with dark pasts that relentlessly haunt them. Unlike The Moth Dairies, their relationship is far more apparent. It's reeks of unfulfilled passion that adds to the supernatural intensity that flows through the entire novel. It's a really gripping read with plenty of twists that'll have you by the throat until the very end.
CLAIRE L. SMITH is an Australian author, poet and filmmaker. Her debut gothic horror novella, HELENA is due for release via Clash Books in October 2020.