It is November, which means but one thing: time for a round-up of all things horrorlicious from October. From the beginning of time, when I saw that my fifth-grade crush was reading Stephen King's Cujo, and thus determined that I, too, must read Cujo, I have been denizen and patriot of the claustrophobic corridors, the damp and sunken wells, the locked and mildewed closets, the tiny-windowed-bathrooms of horrorland. There is nothing quite so nice as white-knuckling your way through the nausea-inducing ramp-up of a horror plot, free-falling (you are most certainly not buckled into the car; there is no car) into its inverted apex (just go with it!) of violence, depravity, despair, and decapitation, and then, clawing and blinking your way toward—is that a light? A noble star? The glowing esca of a bony, sharp-toothed deep-sea monster fish?—a questionable resolution, to emerge, psychologically scrubbed soft and raw as a little newborn baby?
Is there?? Here are the candy corn kernels of content from October. (A trick, or a treat, all depending on your preference).
I read Darcie Little Badger's "The Homebody" twice, from top to bottom, over the course of an hour or so, and I will likely read it again (and more) over the next several years—to understand why and how it is so delightful, but also, mostly, because it is so delightful. Is it the story's delicious clash of exposed and omnipresent wide-open desert threat with soft, wooly, contained-cabin coziness? The soft burn of TikTok bros and their selfie sticks? The earthy familiarity—almost kinship—the narrator (and her ancestors) shares with the lurking monster? All of the above! And one of the cleverest, most spine-tingley scenes of monster-revelation I've read in a good, long time.
"It's too late. I'm all done." The painter ran his fingers down the rock wall, hatching fur on the bison's neck. Then, he coiled his hand into a loose fist and stepped back, admiring his work with a satisfied hum that the hunter clearly heard, despite the distance between them, as if the air around the mountain buzzed with the painter's satisfaction. A wet glob of paint trickled from the bison's eye, down its cheek.
Darcie Little Badger is a Lipan Apache writer and oceanographer whose name comes up again and again in anthologies, Awards list, and Best Of lists. And now I know why! "The Homebody" is not available online. It was published in Death in the Mouth, a horror anthology by people of color, which includes quite a few solid bangers (another favorite is "Some of Us Are Grapefruit" by Rivers Solomon). Not to brag (to brag), but I have a little story in there, too.
Patricia McKissack's The Dark Thirty: Tales of the Southern Supernatural remains one of the best collections of short horror stories out there, and it's been out there. My mom bought this book at my second grade Scholastic book fair, and while I own a different copy today, I still remember most stories from bedtime reading when I was eight years old. Each story was written by McKissack based on the spooky tales her Grandmama would tell at night on the porch, growing up in the Black South. Favorites in the collection are "The Gingi," "Boo Mama," and "The 11:59." Listen to an excerpt from one of the stories, "The Legend of Pin Oak" online.
You can say many things about Stephen King, one of which is not "wow that guy has really slowed down over the years!" As mentioned, I am a long-time aficionado, having grown up with his words, worlds, and blandly-to-badly written women shaping and molding my little plastic brain neurons into rigidly fan-shaped place that not even the original ending of IT can disrupt. Which is to say, I tend to read King's books with the mental accommodations of a long-suffering and perhaps doting grandmother, or niece, or symbiotic host, what have you.
That said, Fairy Tale, his latest novel is enjoyable, if the protagonist (...Prince...) Charlie is a little meh. On a quest for love, Charlie adventures into a fantasy-world beneath (alongside...) our world, in which he encounters various versions of tales that you, reader, have also read (from Brothers Grimm, Bradbury, and Lovecraft to Stephen King himself). It's meta! Reading King after reading so much King feels like getting to explore more and different tunnels of a fantastically intricate cave system that sometimes deposits you so deep underground that you really do feel as though you are touching iron core, and at other times, winds you through passageways so...shall we say, surface-level...that spit you out maybe a foot, a foot and a half sideways to where you began. If you happen to love that particular cave system, then maybe that's okay! And if not, well, there are other, scarier caves in which you may, and should, spelunk.
Movies & Television
Everyone's already said it, but I'll say it, too! Barbarian! Just watch it. It's fun! I wish I could go back and see the first half, for the first time, just one more time...but alas. Here's the trailer.
And for a Swedish(fish) palette cleanser after all that candy corn, I highly recommend Young Royals on Netflix. The! Prince! Is! Gay!!!!
Until next time,