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  • Calum Robertson

A Review: "Queer Little Nightmares - An Anthology of Monstrous Fiction and Poetry"


As part of our review series, Calum Robertson reviews "Queer Little Nightmares, An Anthology of Monstrous Poetry," edited by David Ly & Daniel Zomparelli (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2022). Find a copy at your local bookstore, or online at Arsenal Pulp Books.


Read the full review below.

 

It’s sometime past midnight, but dawn is far, far away. There’s something under the bed…crunching. Munching. Chomping. A thin glow from under a thick blanket betrays that somebody is still awake. The chewing stops, just for a second. The silence hangs; the world holds its breath. Then, a page turns, the schwip of the paper rustling slicing open the night, as one story ends and a new one begins.


Under my duvet, flashlight in hand, eyes wide, pulse racing, I gasp for air and read another tale, my hairs on edge. What could this mean? Chip crumbs on my fingers, illicit moonlit snack. I crinkle another issue of "House of Mystery," "House of Secrets," "Tales from the Crypt," another much-loved "Goosebumps" paperback, chasing that tingle, that alluring tang of fear, wanting more, desiring to be scared. And my trembling hands reach out from under my blanket protector looking for that scaly fishmonster hand on purple cover, "Queer Little Nightmares" beckoning. But something else grabs my hand. Soft flesh, hard scales. I bite down a scream of ecstasy…


“They say when your skin rises with gooseflesh, it’s because a tongue slid over your grave” writes Matthew Stepanic in “Ghost’d”, one of the many pieces in this collection which take tropes familiar to lived queer experience and flawlessly integrates elements familiar to pop culture horror flicks (which may have been inherent all along, perhaps). Throughout the short stories and poems (which often genre-bend), three core feelings emerge: a sense of play, of queer joy, and of queer trauma. Within intense pain, we find reclamation. When the villagers chase us with pitchforks, we find power in roaring at them, drunk off their fright.

Throughout the short stories and poems (which often genre-bend), three core feelings emerge: a sense of play, of queer joy, and of queer trauma.

Terror leaves a lingering, delicious taste. Just like when I was a closeted teen, devouring tantalizing stories of horror late at night, so did I with this collection. There are stories that left me deeply unsettled – in the most perfect of ways. I was hungry for more. To feel more. To crawl fully into the shadows, make my home there. To befriend the others like me, lurking under the bed, at the corner of my eye, between the bumps running along the edge of my skin, reality shimmering as creatures become real and humans become creatures. Reading this collection brought up a nostalgia within me for those early first contacts with queer media and queer-coded characters (usually monsters) in pop culture. In those Tales comics, in dusty VHS tapes of straight-to-video and Hammer Horror reissues, I found myself unsettled and unable to resist the siren call of late nights becoming monster, desiring monster.


jaye simpson names this duality of terror-attraction in their story “#WWMD?”, naming a truth true in all the pop culture we queers consuming throughout our journeys of self-seeking: “Humans always want to fuck monsters…”


Terror leaves a lingering, delicious taste. Just like when I was a closeted teen, devouring tantalizing stories of horror late at night, so did I with this collection.

This anthology is not afraid of nuance. The collected authors tackle all the complexities inherent to queerness and to monstrosity; fetishization of the monstrous, queer nightmares as protection, as playfulness, as danger and as relief. The tales take place across Turtle Island in days that look a lot like my mundane life to dreamstates that give even my most horny and heathen nightmares wet dreams. With such diversity in the assembled cast of freaks and folktales, poetry and prose, this book acts as a delightful selection of established and new queer writers. Together, they form a memorable, powerful, and enticing mosaic that has left this queer sleepless, up all night reading. Chip-stained fingers sore from gripping faer flashlight so tight, desperate for more stories. For more queer little nightmares. To write and to dream their own, too.

 

Calum Robertson (fae/faer//faeself) is a full-time tea-drinker, part-time forest cryptid from

Mohkinstsis/Calgary, Treaty 7, Alberta, currently studying communications in Kitchener-

Waterloo, Dish with One Spoon Treaty, Ontario, Canada, Turtle Island. Fae have written

nonfiction articles for publications as diverse as university campus newspapers (the Gauntlet),the Christian Courier (community newspaper) and filling Station (experimental literature). Faer poetry and prose has appeared in numerous magazines both online and in print, including Canthius, nod, deathcap, the anti-Langurous Project, Lida Literary, Bourgeon, peculiar, Red Coyote, and Tofu Ink. Fae’d like to be reincarnated as a grouse, next time around. You can find them on Instagram @sheepiemcgoaters, where fae typically post cups of tea half-drunk and books mostly read.


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