Horror & Dark Fantasy



The H Word


The H Word: Mining Dark Latino Folklore

Growing up Mexican-American and a fan of speculative fiction meant bouncing back and forth between two worlds, but I was used to that crisscrossing of borders, one of the defining and unifying elements of the Latino experience. In our South Texas home, scant miles from Mexico, I could listen to my grandmother Marie Garza recount the tale of the mano pachona—a disembodied demon claw that hunts children down—and then turn to my father’s yellowed copies of pulp magazines to read Lovecraft or to my own collection of Swamp Thing, Weird Mystery Tales, and other dark comics.


The H Word: Powerful Visions of Suffering and Inhumanity

In the run up to the 2016 World Fantasy Convention, an interesting conversation took place online. 2016 marked one hundred years since the birth of Shirley Jackson, author of “The Lottery,” The Haunting of Hill House, and other stories and novels. The convention seemed an appropriate venue at which to celebrate her life and work. Despite this, when the preliminary schedule for the convention was released, it included only one panel on Jackson. In contrast, some eight or nine panels addressed the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft and his circle.


The H Word: Sadako, Mitsuko, and Sleep Paralysis

I have trouble falling asleep almost every night. Two nights ago, my brain was overactive, and I knew sleep paralysis was creeping into the pores of my skin. I’m used to it at this point. The numbness. The helplessness when it first starts. After years of experiencing it, I know how to get myself out of it. I know the fear is temporary. I know to scream at the shadow hands gripping my throat or imprinting themselves into my shoulders and belly. The world during sleep paralysis is in black and white. The environment is static and quiet. I open my eyes into a gray dimension and I know something is watching me, waiting to get ahold of my body.


The H Word: The Weird at the World’s End

Could the Weird, by teaching us how to live with a dysfunctional reality, shake us out of complacency and into action? Could the Weird provide lessons on how to live under the shadow of incessant dread? For over a decade, scientists, philosophers, and poets have told us we stand in the Anthropocene, a time when environmental damage has progressed so far that the chain-reaction to the end of the human race and the destruction of the planetary biosphere has passed the point of no return. In sum, we stand on the precipice of how to live after the end of the world.


The H Word: Changelings and the Horror of Almost

When writing horror stories, fairies may not be the first thing that comes to mind. Fairies are perhaps more associated with the idea of fairy tales, with the strong connotation of a happy ending. But just as fairy tales have their elements of horror—even Cinderella has stepsisters who cut off parts of their own feet to fit them in the glass slipper, whose eyes are plucked out by doves at the wedding—fairies as a part of the supernatural have their own tradition of horror, too.


The H Word: Audio Horror, the Menacing Stroll

Audio horror adds another layer. When watching or reading horror, we have the opportunity to look away or skim when things get a little too intense. Audio forces you take a much more active role in escaping. We’re not allowed to cover our eyes when Button Boy is fastening those smiley faces to his victims in “Best New Horror” by Joe Hill. When our hapless editor is crashing through the woods at the end, our hearts are pounding with the same mix of exhilaration and fear. Audio horror stalks you relentlessly.


The H Word: The Empty Bed

One of the most disturbing moments in any horror film I can think of is in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, a movie everyone hates but me (the Cannes audience booed it at its premiere, but what do they know about anything). Taken by itself, it’s not just an overlooked gem about the final tragic days of a young woman, but one of the most terrifying films of the 1990s. Stripped of the series’ quirky fun, it’s a straight shot down nightmare alley, where every facet of Smalltown America wholesomeness is rotten and festering with darkness.


The H Word: The Darkest, Truest Mirrors

I am eleven years old when my mother asks me, Why do you have to write such dark stories? Why can’t you write something edifying? At the time, I have no answer for her, and I mistake the tight line of her mouth for disapproval. I miss the concern in her eyes, the distress in the set of her shoulders. I think about her question for many years. But at the time, I remember wondering, What is edifying about stories that don’t reflect the real world?


The H Word: The People of Horror and Me

The horror fiction field most often reminds me of a particular comic strip from the long-running series Cathy. I was never a huge fan of the strip, but this one stuck with me: Cathy has an epiphany. She doesn’t actually have that many bad hair days; she has a perception problem. One time, a decade prior, she looked in the mirror and her hair was utterly perfect. That apex one-time-only great hair day became in her mind what she looked like on average, and thus she was constantly bedeviled by bad hair days.


The H Word: The Mountains, The City, The Void

What is horror? What is it to me? It is: I don’t know. An emptiness at the center of my being that I am desperately trying to fill. All the lost versions of myself I am, defiantly and against the order of all things, trying to bring back to life one last time. The center of a dead civilization, covered in a long-lost language that I once knew, that I once created, and can now only haphazardly decipher. All the better and worse versions of myself that I neglected and abandoned. Shells and skins.