My six favorite horror-inspiring things, whether or not they’re technically “horror.”
First, a note: Horror is a genre, but what horrifies us is also very personal. Since I like being scared, I seek that feeling in everything. If you like being scared, I encourage you to do the same!
Presented in roughly chronological order by when I encountered them:
- “Thriller” by Michael Jackson (the music video/short film). Two years old.
This video came out when I was two (some of you are like, Who was even ALIVE back then? and some of you are like, Aw, you’re a BABY). I loved it. So so much. The narrative of it. The setup. The zombie musical dance number. And I loved how many times I got the shivers because of a tiny moment. When she’s trapped in the house and they’re all coming to get her? Yeah. Still gets my heart going. Best of all: we’re left at the end not with a feeling that all is well and everyone’s happy and safe, but with a big old promise of more evil lurking in the dark.Yep. ALL WIN.
- Unknown Babysitter’s Club book. Eight or nine years old.
The Babysitter’s Club was this almost all white, very affluent world of people who didn’t have real problems, which made it a great refuge. They also very occasionally put out a “scary” book, one of which had a ghost (I think…on a roller coaster or something?). I don’t remember anything about it except that whoever was narrating freaked out at one point because of a curtain moving in such a way that it seemed to be a ghost. I still occasionally freak out about curtains moving when there is no breeze. If a moment in a story still scares you almost thirty years later, you know the book did something right.
- The Talisman, Stephen King. Thirteen years old.
I love this book. It’s part road trip book, part fantasy, part coming of age, 100% awesome. There’s a sequence in the middle in which our heroes are trapped in what is essentially a reform school, and I still shudder when I think about it. Also, I queered one of the characters who doesn’t come to a happy ending and totally fell apart when Bad Things Happened. Y’all, I can still feel every emotion I experienced the first time I read this book, and I’ve probably read it a dozen times since.
- The Grudge. Twenty-three years old.
This one time, my brother was visiting me in Portland, OR.
Nice story, right?
So why did we, after everyone else was safely asleep, decide to watch The Grudge?
Uh, because we love being terrified, obviously.
Man, that lady crawling up walls still gets to me. Like, if I really want to be terrified in the dark, I will totally think about that, because it’s so, so, so wrong. We were exhausted, we were giddy about being awake in the middle of the night, and we delightedly scared the bejesus out of ourselves. Success!
- Paranormal Activity. Thirty years old.
My niece (then eleven) introduced me to these movies, and I gotta tell you, at first I wasn’t so much into them. In order for a horror movie largely preying on the human brain’s anticipation superpower to work, you have to really sit down and watch it, or it’s just a very occasional jump scare while you happen to be writing books on the couch.
But man, when she convinced me to actually be in it with her…those movies are so freaking effective. You spend the whole damn thing in a state of suspended terror. You know some shit is about to scare you. Is it now? Now? It has to be now. Surely, surely, it’s been quiet too long, and right now is—wait. DID YOU SEE THAT?
- “Borders of Infinity”, Lois McMaster Bujold.
This is not a horror story. Except for me it is.
Dude wakes up naked in prison. Except the prison is basically a bubble in space full of other prisoners. If you can’t fight for your food, you don’t eat. If you can’t fight for your clothes, you’re naked. And there’s no way out, no laws controlling how long you’re there, and no communication with the outside world.
It’s really an uplifting story about the downtrodden banding together to beat The Powers That Be. But for me? I’ve had nightmares about waking up on Dagoola IV, man. That shit is real.
All in Fear: A Collection of Six Horror Tales
Horror wears many faces, and its masks can be tantalizing. Some of the top names in queer fiction come together to spin their own versions of horror. Worlds rife with dark beauty and mystery, the familiar becoming terrible, creatures ethereal and alluring—and all bearing the gleam of love. Does hope lie along these grim passages or only doom? It will become clear. All in time—and all in fear.
Company by Roan Parrish
Nick Levy’s family is falling apart and he has no friends, but at least he can escape into the world of his favorite comic book series, The Face of the Vampire. Naturally, when the vampire in question shows up one day, Nick is enthralled. After all, what could be better than his own personal fantasy made real? Except that Nick isn’t exactly sure whether Michel is real or not. And when the arrival of a new boy in school promises romance, Nick sees a side of Michel he never could have imagined. This Michel is cruel, jealous . . . and he’ll do anything to keep Nick for himself.
Love Me True by Kris Ripper
Palmer’s life is as good as it gets. Well, okay, so he hates his mind-numbing office job. But he’s found a hot, smart, incredibly kinky guy. The sex is explosive. The power play is off the hook. And if he gets his way, Jon will soon be his husband.
When Palmer asks, Jon says yes. For the first time ever, Palmer thinks things might be really good. Sure, bad things happen in the world—to other people. But this is all he needs: Jon at the end of the day, in their bed, arms around him.
How could he have possibly been so stupid?
The Price of Meat by KJ Charles
Johanna Oakley will do anything to save her beloved Arabella from the cruelty of Mr Fogg’s madhouse—but ‘anything’ turns out to be more than she bargained for when she finds herself working for a man suspected of worse than murder. As Johanna is plunged from the horror of Sawney Reynard’s barber shop into the foul, lawless labyrinth at the heart of London, can she or anyone get out alive?
His Mouth Will Taste of Chernobyl by Steve Berman
Joining Zeta Psi isn’t Steve’s dream, it’s his dad’s. Nevertheless his dad’s gift of the mysterious Bailey flask gets Steve an in to the frat house, and maybe his best shot at being accepted on campus. But the flask’s silver sheen may only be lighting his way into the darkness at the heart of the frat—and the darkness he’s learning is within himself. Steve wants to choose who he is, but choices are dropping like flies as he learns the true mystery of the Bailey flask. How does he give back a gift that’s also a curse?
Legion: A Love Story by Avon Gale
STAFF SERGEANT JASON ESSEX, YOU HAVE RECEIVED THE FOLLOWING ORDERS FROM THE UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS:
REPORT TO: CAIN INSTITUTE [ADDRESS REDACTED]
ACTIVE DUTY COMMITMENT: GUARD AN ENTITY CURRENTLY HELD IN AN ENCLOSURE AT THE CAIN INSTITUTE. RECORD DAILY MEASUREMENTS. KEEP ANY AND ALL PERSONS FROM ENTERING OR LEAVING THE FACILITY. ENSURE THE ENTITY REMAINS COMPLETELY INCARCERATED. OBSERVE THE ENTITY WITHOUT ENGAGING.
ADDITIONAL INSTRUCTIONS: THIS ASSIGNMENT WILL BE CARRIED OUT IN FULL ISOLATION. PLEASE BE ADVISED.
Beauties by J.A. Rock
When Dr. Lester Usole attends an event at AI developer Carnificiality, he’s introduced to Beauties: artificial beings designed to provide tailored sexual experiences for their human owners. Lester isn’t interested in sex—but he is fascinated by Ira, a Beauty too violent to be sold.
Lester convinces Carnificiality to give Ira to him. Lester has always wanted the chance to work with an adult AI, and around Lester, Ira isn’t violent. He’s strangely innocent, uncannily perceptive, and his company does much to ease Lester’s loneliness. Except something’s not quite right: Ira roams at night, even when Lester’s sure he’s locked Ira’s door.
Soon Lester is certain of only one thing: Ira has a secret. Something that will link their pasts and change the course of their future—if Lester is willing to face what’s on the inside.
All in Fear will be on sale for 99 cents on all platforms from 10/25 – 10/31 to celebrate Halloween.
About the Authors:
Steve Berman loves to tell stories that are both queer and weird. He was a Zeta Psi back in his college days at and remembers being hazed. He survived and graduated and even earned a Masters Degree in Liberal Studies. He has written and sold over a hundred articles, essays, and short stories. His YA novel, Vintage, was a finalist for the Andre Norton Award.
KJ Charles is a writer and freelance editor. She lives in London with her husband, two kids, and a cat with murder management issues. KJ writes mostly historical romance, mostly queer, often with fantasy or horror in there.
Find her on Twitter @kj_charles, pick up book info and free reads on her website at kjcharleswriter.com, get the infrequent newsletter at kjcharleswriter.com/newsletter, or join her Facebook group, KJ Charles Chat, for sneak peeks and exclusives.
Avon Gale wrote her first story at the age of seven, about a “Space Hat” hanging on a rack and waiting for that special person to come along and purchase it — even if it was a bit weirder than the other, more normal hats. Like all of Avon’s characters, the space hat did get its happily ever after — though she’s pretty sure it was with a unicorn. She likes to think her vocabulary has improved since then, but the theme of quirky people waiting for their perfect match is still one of her favorites.
Avon grew up in the southern United States, and now lives with her very patient husband in a liberal midwestern college town. When she’s not writing, she’s either doing some kind of craft project that makes a huge mess, reading, watching horror movies, listening to music or yelling at her favorite hockey team to get it together, already. Avon is always up for a road trip, adores Kentucky bourbon, thinks nothing is as stress relieving as a good rock concert and will never say no to candy.
At one point, Avon was the mayor of both Jazzercise and Lollicup on Foursquare. This tells you basically all you need to know about her as a person.
Connect with Avon:
Sign up for Avon’s Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bOXXp9
Roan Parrish lives in Philadelphia where she is gradually attempting to write love stories in every genre.
When not writing, she can usually be found cutting her friends’ hair, meandering through whatever city she’s in while listening to torch songs and melodic death metal, or cooking overly elaborate meals. She loves bonfires, winter beaches, minor chord harmonies, and self-tattooing. One time she may or may not have baked a six-layer chocolate cake and then thrown it out the window in a fit of pique.
Sign up for her Newsletter to receive updates about new releases, works-in-progress, and bonus materials like sneak peeks and extra scenes! http://bit.ly/2xHGvBj
Kris Ripper lives in the great state of California and hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. Kris shares a converted garage with a little kid, can do two pull-ups in a row, and can write backwards. (No, really.) Kris is genderqueer and prefers the z-based pronouns because they’re freaking sweet. Ze has been writing fiction since ze learned how to write, and boring zir stuffed animals with stories long before that.
The site: krisripper.com
J.A. Rock is the author or coauthor of over twenty LGBTQ romance, suspense, and horror novels, as well as an occasional contributor to HuffPo Queer Voices. J.A. has received Lambda Literary and INDIEFAB Award nominations for Minotaur, and The Subs Club received the 2016 National Leather Association-International Pauline Reage Novel Award. J.A. lives in Chicago with an extremely judgmental dog, Professor Anne Studebaker.