February 20, 2011
LGBT Reading Challenge 2011: Unspeakable Horror
I'm not much of a horror fan - it's not that I don't like the genre, I just never had much of an interest in it. But last year, I bought a copy of this book when I found out my friend Reesa Brown was published in it. And because I always have more unread books on hand than ones I've read, this one languished in my ever-growing "to read" stack until I decided to pick it up and read it for this challenge.
Unspeakable Horror: From the Shadows of the Closet is an anthology of queer-themed horror stories. The horrors here aren't just the ghosts that haunt you, the spirits that possess you, or the evil people who persecute you. The real horrors are instead the oppression and repression these characters face, and the lengths they have to go in order to hide their sexualities, protect themselves, stay closeted. The fear of the thought of having to deny one's self, to deny one's love, and the consequences of all that denial. There are ghouls and goblins here, sure - but the psychological torture and trauma these characters experience is far greater than any harm the creatures could cause them.
Although, as I mentioned above, I found Unspeakable Horror to be a good introduction to the genre. It provides a mix of "things that go bump in the night" with pure psychological stuff, and gave me a good feel for what I like and don't like in terms of horror stories. It taught me that horror writing isn't all blood and guts, and in fact is far more insidious. And as a bisexual woman in an open marriage and trying to balance (and occasionally hide) that with a family who refuses to understand her life, I found something of myself in most of these.
But I think Unspeakable Horror is relevant even for those who are not LGBT. We all have our secrets, and those secrets can haunt us. Anyone who reads these stories will understand the feelings of alienation and repression that come from hiding, that come from having to pretend you're somebody you're not. This is a fantastic anthology, and I highly recommend it.