Today I am so pleased to welcome Steve Berman to Joyfully Jay. Steve has come to talk to us about his anthology, All in Fear: A Collection of Six Horror Tales. Please join me in giving him a big welcome!
Last year, six authors joined ranks to give readers a terrifying collection of horror tales. All in Fear was equal parts scary, spooky, horrific, and also, yes, romantic. To celebrate Halloween, the e-book of All in Fear will only be 99 cents for the entire week leading up to the holiday and Steve, along with all of the authors, will be discussing their favorite horrors movies and reads to help get you in the mood for terror…
Six Favorite Horror Movies/Reads–Okay, It’s Actually Ten! by Steve Berman
1) Halloween (1978) by John Carpenter
One of the first slasher films, filled with eerie takes, a haunting score, Carpenter’s Halloween is a must-watch for me every October. I love the character of Dr. Loomis, his growing terror as discovering that Michael Myers has escaped from the asylum. Jamie Lee Curtis is perfect as the final girl (though not many people actually die in this film). The last shot is perfect. The first incarnation of Myers possesses enough of the strange to suggest the supernatural without breaking suspension of disbelief.
2) “Pig Blood Blues” and “In the Hills, the Cities” by Clive Barker
I happen to like the early short stories of Clive Barker a great deal. They’re visceral. They’re inventive. They cut deep and tell some awful truths about humanity. I suppose reading them when I was in my late teens also helped–I had read nothing like them ever before. The first short story I discovered was “In the Hills, the Cities.” I was a freshman in college and wanted to share the story with _someone_ but the first guy I gave it to, being straight, was disgusted by the two gay characters. Both of these tales are gruesome horror. “Pig Blood Blues” revels in the potent sexuality of male adolescents and has the homoerotic tang of Lord of the Flies. I must admit I find it arousing in many ways. “In the Hills, the Cities” offers a gay couple who happen upon the oddest, most terrible contest between neighboring towns. It’s the darkest of weird fiction.
3) Bite Marks (2011) by Mark Bessenger
Perhaps my favorite film category is dark humor. Give me a movie that blends well laughs with grue and I’m as pleased as an old dog who finds a puddle of offal to roll in. I can rattle off a baker’s dozen of movies that strike the ideal chord (because when something is too silly or too dark, it just doesn’t work for me): the campy Re-Animator, Tucker & Dale Versus Evil, or I Sell the Dead. Bite Marks happens to be the gay entry in this sub-genre. Two guys in need of couples counseling are hiking across country and accept a ride from a truck driver who unknowingly happens to be carrying a vampire in the back of his rig. One of the leads has a porn star past–you can guess which one because he’s naturally seductive…and slutty. And as I type this I realize a character actor in the film also has a porn past and makes a hilarious reference to a 1980s horror film that demands the rewind button. Bite Marks is a dark delight.
4) The German (2011) by Lee Thomas
Thomas has won a Lambda Literary Award and a Bram Stoker Award. He understands horror. In many ways, this is the most Stephen King-esque of his works, set in a small Texas town in 1944, one rife with gossip, pettiness, and xenophobia. Many German military officers were gay–the culture prided its masculinity and homosocial bonding in a manner unlike other European nations. The Night of the Long Knives purged the Nazi elite of many openly or suspected gay men…including Ernst Röhm. The German is not apologetic but shows how hatred is not confined to the Axis nations but can be hidden in our own neighborhoods.
5) Teenagers From Outer Space (1959) by Tom Graeff
This is a guilty pleasure film, a movie so awful that I adore it. Giant lobster monsters, ray guns that leave skeletal remains. The threat of torture. There has been a riff edition by Mystery Science Theater 3000, which I also enjoy. The young men in the film are gorgeous…and gay. It’s because the director Graeff was gay himself and cast his lover in the film. I suppose the reason I love this movie is because of the crazy story behind it and its director (more details of which can be found at http://tomgraeff.org/
6) The Disappearance Boy (2014) by Neil Bartlett
This isn’t a horror novel. There’s also nothing fantastical or eerie about it, though the titular protagonist, who works for a stage magician, does talk to his dead mother a great deal. Why I include the book in my list is because it’s an ideal read for the autumn season: a young man, who is disabled and secretly gay, finds himself working for a vile fellow. It’s a modern day, sympathetic Igor tale. The historical details are rich and engaging. And the plot is clever. One of my more favorite reads these last few years.
7) Hellbent (2004) by Paul Etheredge-Ouzts
One day a gay slasher film would be made. It only took, oh, twenty-eight years to happen (I don’t consider 1983’s Sleepaway Camp to be a gay slasher…you can find details about that movie and its huge exploitative twist on the Internet). Hellbent is not perfect–a great slasher film builds a mythology around the killer, providing his motivation, his style, his intent and this movie avoids this to sorry effect. But without Hellbent we would not have films like Pitchfork (2016). The scene with the knife and the eye (I’m not giving away everything, but hey, it’s the darn poster) is worth the price of admission alone.
8) Dracula’s Daughter (1936) by Lambert Hillyer
Hard to believe that one of the early horror films from Universal Studios has such a sapphic content, but you can’t discuss queer horror without mentioning the role of this movie. There has been many essays written about the lesbian-themes of the film. I find Countess Zaleska a fascinating character and wish we had more stories written about her…though I suppose intellectual property laws prevent this. Pity. She is a tragic figure, but not because she is a lesbian but because she is a vampire.
9) The Devil’s Backbone (2001) by Guillermo del Toro
Del Toro can be a brilliant director and this happens to be my favorite of his films. I love ghost stories. The Spanish orphanage is a homosocial environment. While it has nothing blatantly gay, it does have some excellent tropes that are often parts of gay-themed fiction: the growing friendship between boys, the outsider, an awareness of other boys’ physical bodies (via the camera). Yes, it would have been perfect if it had only been gay-er, but then I say that about a lot of things.
10) The Terror by Dan Simmons
So this is not a recommendation but a warning. Simmons is a popular writer. But few people are aware of his bias, his socio-political views embedded in his books. I was horrified when I read The Terror, but not because of the supernatural elements but the monsters he made of gay men. Honestly, I am fine with a gay villain–there are awful people in this world, and they are of many creeds, colors, and sexual identities–but Simmons creates a story where a pair of gay men are predatory and cruel and another pair of gay men are meek. The latter pair seem to be in love but they refuse to ever take any romantic action aboard vessel because of the laws of the day (which would result in death). The villains engage in sex but it is rape. This is a prime example of neutralizing same-sex love, of perverting it, of suggesting that one can love the sinner but hate the sin. I have tried to share how offended I am by this man’s book with others…and nearly every straight person just shrugs it off with a “Whatever.” But it does matter. It is horrible. It is terrifying. And this is the monster that scares me.
Horror wears many faces and its masks can be tantalizing. Some of the top names in queer fiction come together to spin their own versions of horror. Worlds rife with dark beauty and mystery, the familiar becoming terrible, creatures ethereal and alluring—and all bearing the gleam of love. Does hope lie along these grim passages or only doom? It will become clear. All in time—and all in fear.
About Steve’s story, His Mouth Will Taste of Chernobyl:
Joining Zeta Psi isn’t Steve’s dream, it’s his dad’s. Nevertheless his dad’s gift of the mysterious Bailey flask gets Steve an in to the frat house, and maybe his best shot at being accepted on campus. But the flask’s silver sheen may only be lighting his way into the darkness at the heart of the frat—and the darkness he’s learning is within himself. Steve wants to choose who he is, but choices are dropping like flies as he learns the true mystery of the Bailey flask. How does he give back a gift that’s also a curse?
Purchase All in Fear: Publisher | Amazon
Steve Berman loves to tell stories that are both queer and weird. He was a Zeta Psi back in his college days at and remembers being hazed. He survived and graduated and even earned a Masters Degree in Liberal Studies. He has written and sold over a hundred articles, essays, and short stories. His YA novel, Vintage, was a finalist for the Andre Norton Award.
Connect with Steve on his author site.