LGBTQIA+ Spooks and Scares for Halloween
By Rhys Wright, Becca Binnie and Rosie Green
It is October and as the nights get longer and Halloween approaches, we wanted to recommend some hair-raising tales to get you in the spooky spirit! From witch lit to gothic, here are three LGBTQIA+ inclusive books for your TBR (to be read) this month.
Now She Is Witch by Kirsty Logan
The ‘witch lit’ genre is becoming more popular than ever. With a slew of new witch novels hitting shelves this year and ‘WitchTok’ hashtags amassing billions of views, it’s safe to say that witchcraft is having quite a cultural moment. While the market for witch stories may be getting crowded, Kirsty Logan’s Now She Is Witch is a fresh take to keep your spine tingling during spooky season.
Logan is an author with a long-standing interest in fairy tale retellings and horror stories, and Now She Is Witch is no exception. A blend of folklore, fantasy and historical fiction, it’s a folktale all of its own, complete with twists and turns, queer representation and sparkling prose that seems straight out of a gothic fairy tale.
The story follows Lux, a herbalist with an expert knowledge of poisons. After being kicked out of a religious sanctuary, she comes home to find her mother has been executed on charges of witchcraft, like many other women on the margins of her society. She is approached by a mysterious stranger, Else, to take revenge on the lord who executed Lux’s mother.
Their journey takes them across a cold and atmospheric medieval landscape as Lux tries to survive by playing all the different roles allotted to disempowered women. This is an unforgettable reading experience that brings a new dimension to how we view the figure of the witch in relation to patriarchal society.
Ideal for any fan of Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, Now She Is Witch is a novel not to be missed. Published in January 2023, the paperback edition came out on 5 October, just in time for All Hallows’ Eve. Also worth checking out is Logan’s Lambda Literary Award-winning collection of fairy tale horror stories, Things We Say in the Dark.
Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield
Published in March 2022, this next spooky tale was nominated for Goodreads Best Horror 2022 and Best Debut Novel 2022, and was shortlisted for the Polari Book Prize 2023. Armfield has crafted a tale that interweaves haunting gothic literature with a gut-wrenching love story.
Miri is euphoric when she thinks her wife Leah has returned from a deep-sea mission after it apparently ended in catastrophe. However, Leah has changed and whatever happened in that vessel has followed her to the surface. After being stranded on the ocean floor, she has brought whatever she was studying back with her onto dry land – and into the house.
As Miri pushes to retain a lifestyle that resembles normality, it becomes obvious that their relationship as it existed before Leah’s mission might just be a memory of the past. Though Miri can see Leah, she can feel the love of her life slipping away.
Navigating heartbreaking loss and grief, Julia Armfield’s debut novel excels at creating an eerie atmosphere as it beautifully and grotesquely explores a loving relationship and unsettling oceanic beings. Our Wives Under the Sea is perfect for the spooky season!
Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
Another book of underwater sapphic horror is Mira Grant’s Into the Drowning Deep (2017), a follow-up to her 2014 novella Rolling in the Deep.
The Atargatis was found unmanned, empty and floating aimlessly over the Mariana Trench after a cryptid-hunting TV show’s quest to discover mermaids produced nothing but footage of the crew being torn apart. Seven years later, the studio behind the original mission is funding another, this time amassing an army of scientists to uncover the truth and hopefully salvage their reputation.
The story builds slowly as various marine biologists construct their own parts of the puzzle and each investigation into sound, microbiology or language increases the tension as it starts being pieced together, a picture forming of what lurks below.
When danger strikes and anticipation snaps in a spill of blood, among the chaos of surviving in the face of the impossible, trust is built and broken while friends, family and lovers are lost and found.
This wide and diverse cast of characters, which includes disabled, neurodivergent and queer representation, is perfectly balanced so that all their stories feel significant, and Grant’s vivid descriptions bring to life the horrors witnessed on the mission. Somewhere between fantasy and sci-fi, folklore is given blood and bones and behaviour to analyse in this thrilling horror story. You won’t be able to put it down – but it might just pull you down into the deep with it.