Horror & Dark Fantasy

Trouble Department


The H Word


The H Word: Visionary Monstrosity and the Epistemological Borders of Human Identity

Horror fiction explores human identity by utilizing monstrosity to envision disconcerting, resilient, and metamorphic aspects of human potential within an unknown universe. Knowledge in horror sometimes focuses on practical and apotropaic matters of survival and defense. Stay out of the fruit cellar. Keep holy water and a wooden stake handy. Don’t pick up cursed dolls.


The H-Word: When the Final Girl Grows Up

Picture a teenage film student in 1978 (me), who loves horror movies but has grown up wishing that occasionally, just every once in a while, the women would be the ones to defeat the evil and save the day. Alien’s Ripley and Dawn of the Dead’s Fran are still a year in the future; the big fright flicks of the previous ten years have featured women in the traditional roles of passive or victimized wives or mothers, while the men have served as the heroic exorcists, Antichrist investigators, shark hunters, and the ones who nailed the boards up over the windows.


The H Word: The Missing and the Murdered—True Crime as Content

Death is a business. Some of the highest grossing podcasts are dedicated to covering true crime, and those podcasts are downloaded millions of times each month, and often rank in best of year lists. There are even true crime specific podcast categories that make it easy to select from which hosts, topic, and murder you would like to listen to during your morning’s commute, or as you prepare dinner for your children.


The H Word: Post-Human Horror

The urgency that pushed many of us into quarantine last March has dissipated considerably. Still, it’s not hard to recall the surge of panic we felt at the unprecedented panic buying and orders to shelter in place. “It’s like the plot of Contagion,” our friends on social media exclaimed. And indeed, despite the spring of 2020 unfolding like nothing any of us had ever experienced, there was something about the start of the pandemic that felt eerily familiar.


The H Word: Getting Cozy with Horror

Once you reach a certain point in your friendship, Horror grows up and becomes a teenager. It’s no longer the BFF you spent the night with, eating cereal and reading comic books. It’s a young adult with grand ideas, mostly about itself. “I’m a statement about our society,” it explains, breaking your heart. “People watch me because I help exorcise their fears.”


The H Word: Arnold Is a Survivor Girl

The standard formula for a slasher movie is to find something the culture takes for granted, and then have a killer rampage through it. The iconic slashers find something we rely on and take it away from us. John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) is about the idyllic suburbs and holiday festivities becoming a playground for a masked killer. Friday the 13th (1980) effectively ruined camping for a generation by putting a dangerous stranger in the woods.


The H Word: A Man Walks Into

Those four words alone establish a tone and a structure. They are completely open ended but so familiar that even a deviation from the form would seem played out to you. We know that the next two words will name a place, whether it’s a bar or a saloon or a fishmonger, we know it’s […]


The H Word: Witches, Roots, and Haints

As a kid, I found my mother’s childhood home both exhilarating and terrifying. Mysterious humps bulged beneath the kitchen tile. Doors along the shotgun hallway opened reluctantly or not at all. My grandmother’s mirrored closet reflected her skirt suits, floral scarves, and Sunday hats in a strange, bluish light. But nothing delighted me more than the room at the shotgun’s barrel, where my youngest aunt, Eunice, had slept as a girl. This room, my mother said, had been haunted once.


The H Word: Better Living Through Horror

About a decade ago, my friend drove me through what remains of Pilgrim State Hospital, an area filled with derelict structures that look as inviting as prisons. One structure, a cylindrical brick building, stands in an otherwise empty field, like a watchful creature waiting to pounce. The structures fascinated me as much as they intimidated me. As someone with mental illness, my relationship with the landscape was an odd one. It is not inconceivable that in a time before antidepressants I could have ended up in those buildings back when they operated.


The H Word: Horror, Through Colored Lenses

I was halfway through the first draft of “One Hand in The Coffin” (Strange Horizons) when I discovered what my story was really about. It had just turned midnight on July twenty-third, the anniversary of my cousin’s murder, and one of the main characters had his name. The horror wasn’t the possessed therapy puppet. It was a society that demands multiple jobs from a single mother to make ends meet. It was the lack of access to mental health services in black and brown communities. It was loss and hopelessness. The puppet just gave it all a name.