Get ready to read as I take on three queer horror fiction titles: Plank Children, Seasons Bleedings, and Darker than Night.
PLANK CHILDREN by Michael Schutz
Author Michael Schutz manages to give us a gay protagonist whose sexual identity isn’t the focal point of the story, yet does play subtlety crucial parts in his horrific predicament.
After the end of a relationship and the loss of his beloved nephew in an accident, Miles visits his drunken sister and her husband…who tell him that their son’s body was misidentified and he’s still alive.
Miles tracks his nephew down to a reformatory for boys that is run by a skeleton crew. His hopes of gathering his nephew and getting out of there are dashed when a snowstorm makes it impossible to leave.
So begins Miles’s decent into a hellish existence with the creepy staff, ghostly apparitions, and devilish young boys. The horrific behaviors and treatment he must endure as he tries to figure out a way to escape only turn more and more brutal when the “headmaster” of the reformatory learns of his attraction to men. It’s truly a classic tale of a main character being held against his will and experiencing terrifying events as the true history of his prison starts to unfold.
SEASON’S BLEEDINGS by Bryan Michael Ellis
This slasher novel follows the most traditional template of the slasher movie genre. This is not a whodunit—the killer is immediately identified in the opening then returns to the scene of the crime years later just for the fun of killing again.
In this case, the scene is a house now inhabited by a family loaded with dysfunction, which we learn character by character as family members arrive to spend the holidays together.
The reason for this season’s bleedings is to get your Christmas slasher fix with the added treat of having a gay final boy. Not everyone in the family is welcoming of the gay son and his boyfriend, yet they are the healthiest couple in the bunch. All the straighties are a hot mess…and the gays are the only ones that have hot sex. Twice!
Of course exploitative sex is just one of the ingredients we expect from our slashers, and the rest is added to the mix as well. The killer wears a creepy nutcracker mask and uses jingle bells as a calling card, plus there are plenty of gory holiday-themed kills, chases, and body reveals.
DARKER THAN NIGHT
This collection doesn’t specify on the jacket or interior that it’s an LGBTQ horror anthology, yet almost every story contains queer characters and themes. The collection also features stories by two of my fellow author friends, Eric Andrew-Katz and H.L. Sudler. Yay!
Here is a breakdown of the tales:
“The Hunt” by Caleb Howell
A young man is coerced to go hunting in the woods with his dad. When they become separated, the real hunt begins.
“When Gods Wept” by Eric Andrews-Katz
A priest’s witch hunt targeting beautiful men he considers tempters of sin backfires.
“The Townhouse” by David Helms
A man finds himself drawn into tragedy that took place at an infamous location he is touring.
“Mother Comes to Visit” by Danny Baird
A gay man’s nightmarish mother-in-law isn’t exactly a welcome guest.
“The Dark of Bryan Awel” by Rhidian Brenig Jones
One gay man comes to an old building to verify it’s not haunted…while another gay man comes to contact ghosts.
“Sandman” by H.L. Sudler
A single father’s young son draws shocking pictures in school that prove to be catastrophically more disturbing than could be imagined.
“Wedlock” by John Adams
A brief tale of a man who is drawn into a marriage with a man he doesn’t love.
“Danny Granger Enters Infinity” by James R. Lynch
A night at a bar becomes a journey into repressed memories for a man when he hooks up with a familiar yet mysterious hottie….
“An Exercise in Empathy” by Michelle D. Ring
A student doing an invasive sharing exercise with their classmate experiences the other student’s darkest fears.
“The Sunflowers” by Ollister Wade
A surreal exploration of lesbian love.
“To Stitch a Heart” by Andrew Phoenix
A kindly vampire is determined to heal a zombie boy’s heartache.