Tag Archives: body horror

Short Tuesday #41: “Good Girls” by Isabel Yap

This week I was watching my favorite streamer play the game Dreadout 2, which is set in Indonesia, and it got me very curious to get better acquainted with horror from Southeast Asia! I feel like East Asian horror is fairly well understood in the West, but we don’t hear much about horror from the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc. Googling didn’t get me far, so I threw up a post on Goodreads for fiction requests and got some interesting responses, one of which is Isabel Yap’s story “Good Girls.” You can read it here for free here at the now defunct Shimmer Zine…

I had a really great time reading this short story! Yap’s language is very evocative, but the plot doesn’t get bogged down in language. The story is split between two different settings, the Philippines and California, and it has all sorts of textural details that just get me more interested in Southeast Asian horror. The imagery of the piece really caught me, and I was a big fan of the sudden, extreme body horror details. Normally I’m not big on trigger warnings, but anyone with young children or an aversion to icky might want to pass this one up. It reminded me of a short story by a Chinese author I read eons ago in college with a detail about an ant and a baby (no idea what it was or who the author was, but if anyone knows what I’m talking about, leave a comment below).

Also, can we talk real quick about one of Yap’s other works, Hurricane Heels? Because it totally sounds like a Sailor Moon send-up, and I would be really on board for that.

Anyway, this was a fun one, and it just wetted my appetite more for horror from this region. I’d love recommendations if anyone has them!

Short Tuesday #36: “Methods of Ascension” by Dan Stintzi

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine for Short Tuesday to read “Methods of Ascension” by Dan Stintzi. You can read the story for free here…

This short story was right up my alley–some body horror mixed with Lovecraft (oh, those non-Euclidean geometries!), all with an I-found-it-on-the-Internet framework. The premise of the story is that the MC’s brother has been following the online coursework of a man who promises to be able to help him access other planes of reality via his dreams. The MC, his brother, and his brother’s friend are all down on their luck or seemingly on the outskirts of society; it was never mentioned in the story, but I couldn’t help thinking about how a lot of men in the US who have dropped out of society have fallen into opioid addiction. Sad and isolated people can be drawn to dangerous and unhealthy things, and that’s exactly what happens to these guys as they get sucked into an alternate and terrifying reality.

The tone is equal parts ethereal and grounded: great poetic imagery, but the MC doesn’t hesitate to talk like a normal person.

“Freud said that the buildings inside our dreams are pulled from a collective pool of unconscious architecture.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“It’s an evolutionary development. The blueprints are engrained in our DNA. Every single person. If you learned to dream actively you could walk the rooms of these dream places and every time you returned, they’d be exactly the same.”

“I genuinely don’t understand.” I zip, zip, zipped a line of screws into the drywall and Rob took his hands away. It floated there like a kind of magic.

What else was great about this? The woodsy setting was perfect, along with the descriptions. And best of all, it has a great horror ending that fits the rest of the piece, hallelujah. That’s not always common ’round these parts. So if you’re feeling up for a bit of horror as we move into the dark months of winter, give this one a try; it’s good fun.

Hey, one more thing: on the off-chance that the author reads this post (which has actually happened in the past), or really anyone who has ever written short fiction, I really recommend you get your short fiction listed on Goodreads! I always try to post reviews of short fiction on GR if possible, and it can be a crapshoot whether the stories are there or not. I was pretty bummed to see that this author is only listed in anthologies on GR with no individual story entries; he’s so good and should really list his stories separately! Short fiction can be a great way to start gathering a fan base (I often add books by Short Tuesday authors to my TBR) so why not use your short fiction to its full potential? Just my two cents.

Short Tuesday #35: “The Secret Life of the Unclaimed” by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine for Short Tuesday to read “The Secret Life of the Unclaimed” by Suyi Davies Okungbowa. You can read the story for free here…

I loved this short story! It’s set in Nigeria and incorporates tons of the local flavor, in terms of the dialogue, setting, and local superstitions. I’m realizing that maybe I have a thing for African horror, since I also love the South African duo S.L. Grey–maybe I should put in a conscious effort to read more genre fiction from that area of the world, since I always find the African-tinged worldbuilding so fascinating.

All the body horror fans listen up, because this story is for you. If you’ve ever wanted a first-person view of what it’s like to turn demonic, with all the gory teeth-gnashing and claw-growing details, definitely check this one out. That’s the story in essence–as simple as a poor high school boy who is unlucky enough to go through a second monstrous puberty. The author gets it done with vivid imagery and a pacing and tone that I found riveting and oddly poetic. It was the kind of story where I just couldn’t look away; if you’re looking for a quick horror read, this is one I highly recommend.

ARC: Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden

Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Voyager for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Escaping Exodus debuts October 15th.

The seemingly acid trip-inspired cover of Escaping Exodus does the words inside justice: this book is unabashedly weird.

Just look at this cover, omg. I want it on my wall.

Drayden chronicles a matriarchal society that has made the innards of a gargantuan, living space beast their home; when one space beast is on the way out health-wise, they literally jump ship (har har) to the next one in the herd. It’s mad, it’s trippy, it’s body horror at times, and it’s the kind of book you really need to experience for yourself.

I inch closer to the pond of cool, debris-ridden slime that rims the sphincter. It pulses, back and forth, back and forth, a putrid-looking pucker of flesh. Adalla sticks both of her hands in the hole and pulls hard, her muscles rippling and bulging. The rim tries to hold tight, even looks like it’s tugging against her, but eventually it gives, and the hole widens just enough for a person to slip through.

And is the book YA? The main characters are certainly the proper age, but I’d say not really; it doesn’t have the tone you’d expect, which I chalk up to the MCs living in such an alien society and feeling so young and brash that they’re completely unrelatable. There were times I had a really hard time buying the decisions of the MCs; for people living in a society that faces the constant threat of extinction, they have no issues throwing caution to the wind at every opportunity.

The pacing of the book was also strange, to say the least. From start to finish action is stuffed together in a kind of madcap jumble, but then threads of story seem to wither away into nothingness, never to be picked up again. I think the blurb for the book is kind of telling: one big infodump followed by the most blah of final hooks:

And of course there wouldn’t be much of a story if things didn’t go terribly, terribly wrong.

Notice how unspecific that is? There’s too much going on in this book to condense the plot into “If X character doesn’t do Y near-impossible thing, then Z terrible consequence will happen!” We’ve got a lesbian princess and subject forbidden love affair, an underclass uprising, people communicating in code by making out, sex with baby space beasts, an obtuse matriarchal and polyamorous family system with like eight moms and a couple dads per child, court intrigue, clone rights, inter-space beast communications, forgotten histories… I could continue if needed. As per usual, the social justice themes were a turn-off for me, but even that kind of got drowned out by all the crazy, constant details. And yet, for a book with so much detailed worldbuilding, I somehow found it hard to picture exactly what was going on in a lot of scenes, I think because the whole book takes an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach.

Basically, Escaping Exodus felt far too ambitious; I would have liked to see more nuance. Nevertheless, many scenes were absolutely riveting, and some bits have really stuck with me. (I read this book back in July.) It’s obvious that this author has tons of potential, so I’m definitely up for reading more of her work.

ARC: Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Thank you to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Wilder Girls debuts July 9th.

This is one of those books that grips you hard from the first sentence, sinks its teeth into you, shakes you around, then has you gasping for air on the floor by the time you hit the last page. Seriously, Wilder Girls is an insane, intense ride, and I hope beyond hope that it ushers in a flood of YA weird fiction and body horror. When I picked it up, I already had a sneaking suspicion that this book was going to be my kinda thing because Jeff VanderMeer, king of the weird, is one of the blurbers. I was not disappointed; this is a book to buy on release day and devour in twenty-four hours.

The premise of the book is that a bizarre, unprecedented plague called the Tox has infested an island home to an all-girls boarding school. The Tox causes those it infects to mutate, perhaps by growing gills, claws, an extra spine, etc. The schoolgirls and the sparse crew of staff members remaining on the island have developed a system of survival, but when one girl goes missing and her friend determines to find her, everything is thrown into chaos.

Wilder Girls pulls no punches. The prose is raw and has so much forward momentum that it is a very difficult book to put down. I will say that the discovery and explanation at the end of the hows and the whys of the Tox was a bit disappointing to me. It came a bit out of left field; I was hoping for something less scientific and more just “this weird, inexplicable thing is happening and we can’t figure out why and now we just have to deal with it.” My opinion when it comes to weird fiction is that explanations take away from the mystique.

But even so, I basically adored this book and would hope for a movie version if I weren’t so sure Hollywood would fuck it up. Unless maybe we can get a return to practical effects à la John Carpenter’s The Thing… How amazing would that be? A girl can dream…

I’ll definitely be awaiting this author’s next book, whether it’s a sequel to Wilder Girls (would actually be satisfied with there not being a sequel, just to preserve some ambiguity in the story) or something else.

The New Girl by S.L. Grey

The New Girl is the third and final installment in the Downside series by South African duo Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg, who write under the pseudonym S.L. Grey. Yet despite the fact that this is a series, these books read basically as standalones, with the (excellent omg I’m so sad it’s all over) worldbuilding being the real tie between them all.

Let me paint you a picture. Below our human realm on the surface of the earth is an underground horror society of almost humans who regard everyone up top as a curious, amusing, entirely different species. The downsiders speak almost English, eat almost food, shop in almost stores.

She grabs her gelphone and hides under the blankets with it. She reads the proclamation ticker for comfort, to make herself feel closer to home. ‘Victuals are precious. The meat tree is a fable. Use your tokens appropriately.’ ‘Apparel does not auto-generate. Wash sparingly.’ ‘Energy is scarce and opulent. Save energy for essential tasks and services only.’ Everyone knows that resources are scarce, she finds herself commenting, you don’t have to repeat yourself. She tries to block out the disregardful thoughts.

Everything downside is human culture with a horror twist; the downside society is structured like a massive corporation, with a dual focus on production and resource conservation. Whether you’re a downsider or an unfortunate human who has somehow stumbled downside, you are a mere cog in the grinding horror megastructure. And as the horrific atrocities pile up one by one, understand that there is no ill intent meant toward the hapless upsiders. Yes, it’s unfortunate that you had to lose a few appendages… But this is simply just a part of doing business. 😉

The New Girl breaks a bit from the formula of the last two books. Here, most of the action takes place upside, but we are at last allowed a downsider POV, in addition to the other two upsider POVs. I was forever waiting for the next POV section starring Penter, Deputy Node Liaison for the Ministry of Upside Relations. All Penter wants is to do her job, but the more time she spends upside, the more nuggets of humanity she discovers within herself. Can a downsider learn what love is? You’ll need to read the book to find out.

For fans of dark humor, Silent Hill 3, or body horror, this series is a must, in particular the first book. The South African setting, too, adds another fascinating layer to the whole effect. In short, I can’t recommend this series highly enough, and I’m hoping S.L. Grey release something new soon, since it’s been a little while since their last book.


Just a brief reminder that a new chapter for The Gold in the Dark will be up this Sunday! All right, that’s all for now. ❤