Horror & Dark Fantasy



The H Word


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.


The H Word: Victims and Volunteers

“My kind of horror is not horror anymore,” an aging Boris Karloff laments in Peter Bogdanovich’s 1968 film Targets. And judging by the rest of the movie—which concerns a mass-murdering sniper taking aim at the patrons of a drive-in as they watch a revival screening of one of Karloff’s films—he’s not wrong. “Between 1968 and 1976, all the films that redefined the horror movie were made,” Roy Olson of Booklist observes in his review of Jason Zinoman’s Shock Value, the book that first introduced me to Targets.


The H Word: Perfect Possession

Truth is more horrible than fiction. The complex and mysterious ritualism of the Catholic Church has always fascinated horror writers, regardless of their personal convictions: the Irish Protestant Bram Stoker (Dracula) fell back on Latin orthodoxy to inter the undead, and the non-denominational demi-Buddhist James Wan (The Conjuring) idealized a Roman Catholic couple to expel […]


The H Word: The Haunted Boundaries of House and Body

Haunted houses are places associated with endings—the end of a life, the end of a family. I wrote a story about haunting once. Called “The Knife Orchard,” it was based on a piece of family history when my mother, as a little girl and just come back from Sunday school, saw her mother being threatened with a knife. By her father. My grandparents. One was Irish Catholic, one an Irish Protestant. The problem was Sunday school; the knife a solution to going back.