daciana – immersion – a work of original fiction

The fountain in the middle of the restaurant was just deep enough to drown a man or baptize him, and I fidgeted nervously, unsure of which of those the day might have planned. I hadn’t seen Micah since I was a kid. My memories of him were good enough–laughter, a quick wit, and an impossibly wide smile. 

I’d invited him to the wedding. He’d been unable to make it, unlike the other family members who had been unwilling to make it. He’d sent a photo of plane tickets for a business trip to Canada, and a lovely card and gift with it. His father and mother brought it with them, and then sat apart to themselves in the chapel. They stuck out visually as my only family in attendance even as there was no defined bride side or groom side.

It was a small ceremony anyway.

He’d called recently, through the number I’d given Uncle Enoch. Said he wanted to meet to catch up. I felt my heart squeeze up, as if it were trying to suddenly exit through my throat. There were so few reasons I could think of that Micah might want to meet up, and even fewer were totally innocent. 

Maybe I was being uncharitable though. Not everyone in the family held contempt for me. Uncle Enoch and Auntie Arika didn’t hold contempt for me.  

Micah’s smile held no contempt for me either as he was led to the table. The eyes of those around us regarded him with it though. I wanted to hiss at them. Micah was the successful one of the family. I just married well. His suit was untailored, yes, but he earned its ill-fit through a constant grind. He took my uncle’s shipping business from nothing to a million dollar company since he took over.

I just bought my dress. I didn’t even remember where.

Drown, I decided, eyeing the fountain. 

“Well, you look like you got a lot on your mind, Daci.”

“Just memories.”

“I imagine you wasn’t expecting to hear from me.”

“I wasn’t, no. I’m a bit surprised.”

“And that’s my fault. Was always so busy after you got outta Uncle Charlie house and then outta Nana house that I–”

“You were scared of Uncle Bertrand–”

“Everybody with a damn lick of sense in their head is scared of Uncle Bertrand. Your man got more money than God, and I hear he’s scared of Uncle Bertrand.”

My laugh was a cat’s bell, made of unexpected music and just loud enough to alert it was there.

“…maybe he is a little.”

Micah’s laugh was a car backfiring. It was big and booming and the start of something that commanded attention. 

“Good to know, good to know. I’ll keep that in my back pocket, don’t worry. Won’t go around telling nobody. But don’t worry, I’m not here to get dirt on your husband. You two got a kid now right? Forgot the particulars, seem like everybody from back home having kids these days.”

“Yeah, he’s one now. Cana. And there’s Alek’s others, I just adore them too.”

“You always was a better woman than Aunt Amirah.”

“Don’t say that.”

“…Cana, huh? That from Nana’s book of names?”

“It is.”

“That’s good, that’s good. Gotta keep some traditions alive.”

“Why are you here, Micah?”

His smile faded without faltering, down from bombast to professionalism. He held the look as the server returned to refill my water and take our food and drink orders. Eventually, he folded his hands across from himself, almost as if in supplication. Prayer.

Baptism maybe, I thought idly, my eyes catching the fountain again. But whose?

“I need your help with something, Daciana.”

Mine then, maybe, depending on what Micah wanted. Redemption in the eyes of a family member who didn’t think I’d wronged them all so terribly as to be beyond the hope of it.

“With what?”

“Well, I been wondering just how many of Nana’s traditions you’ve been keeping up with?”

“Why you asking?”

The accent slid back on like an old dress, not as fine and well-tailored as the one I wore, but more comfortable and familiar than anything from a boutique could ever be. It wasn’t that I’d tried to hide Southern drawl all together just…

Maybe I was too much of a coward to walk, smile beaming, through a place like this despite the contempt. Maybe Micah was braver for all he needed my help.

“Family business.”

“Uncle Enoch’s business?”

“Something more personal.”

“Micah…”

“It’s Quiana. Something’s wrong.”

“You think she’s cheating or something?”

“No. Nothing like that. I could…I mean I dunno if I could forgive that, but I could suss that out on my own I think. This is something different. Something bad, and she ain’t talking to me.”

Logic would dictate that he wanted me to go to his wife, make friends, talk to her woman to woman. Logic never had much place as I wanted in my family though. Never had as much as I wanted in me, but the problem of my family is how I was always found wanting in one way or another. Till they needed me it seemed.

“I’m not doing any–anything against her wishes, Micah.”

“I know. I mean, I figured. You’re a good woman, was a good girl too. Shoulda stood up for you more against Uncle Charlie, I know that–”

“You don’t have to–”

“I do. But I’m not asking you to just…I dunno go for it. I’m asking you to sit down with her and me. I’m asking cause I think whatever happened, she wants me to know. She just can’t say it yet.”

“And that’s where I come in.”

“If it wasn’t important, Daciana, I wouldn’t be asking. I wanted to–to talk to you for a long while, to apologize, try to make things…I dunno right as they can be for all the shit I didn’t do as a kid–”

“You were a kid, like you said. Can’t hold onto that forever.”

But my heart had untwisted itself a little, from the knots that had been tied into it by men in my life who refused to apologize. Shame that Micah owed me the least.

He reached across the table for one of my hands. I took it. I always ended up taking the hand of a man who reached out across the table and met me where I needed them to.

“Your man got you a good ring.”

“He did.”

I sighed, and he smiled. Bastard.

“When and where?”

“I’ll talk to Quiana. Figure that out. Wanted to know if you would ‘fore I broached the subject with her.”

“Probably for the best. You gonna tell her what it’s about?”

“Closer to time, if you’d like me to.”

“I’d like you to. And I’m sure she’d appreciate it.”

“Whate’er you say, boss.” 

He smiled a face splitting smile and toasted me with the water glass. The food arrived. I’d worry about what I got myself into later. I took one last look at the fountain as we departed. Drowning? Or baptism?

Immersion either way.


Quiana had never worn her hair in colors when we were growing up, so it took me a moment to recognize her with silver-blonde box braids. It was a good look on her. 

“Micah and I talked.”

“How much?”

“Not enough it feels like.”

I glanced at him, and he shrugged. What can I even say to that? There are generations of history behind what I do, and getting someone to believe it is difficult even when they believe in the unbelievable otherwise. Quiana had crystals on the mantle and tarot cards on the bookshelves, but her husband revealing to her just how extensive the family’s history of magic use was had to provoke skepticism at some level in her. 

I wondered. I wondered if he told her about Nana’s seances and weaving, about the heady mix of smoke and magic that seeped into the bones of her house and the blood of some of her grandchildren. I live within the bones of my family’s legacy, caged within the ribs of it with no hope of escaping its obligations. 

“Nana could…read things about people. She passed that onto me.”

“Like palms?”

“In a way. Not quite as simple.”

“You both keep saying that. I’m not sure I like where this is going.”

“You could just…talk?”

Her shoulders tensed and words failed her. There was an aura of pain and shame about her that made me want to hug her, even though we hadn’t seen each other in a good ten years or so. She looked tired in a way that permeated her bones. I wondered what secrets she held caged within her ribs.

“I…can’t. I can’t. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, baby.”

Micah half hugged her to his chest.

“That’s why I’m here. You got anywhere in the house where you’re most comfortable?”

“I do my readings for people in the office…that work?”

“It should.”

The office was alive and soft and green, plants lining the window sills and shelves and hanging from the ceiling. There were more crystals in here than even in the living space, and the desk was lined with books on star charts and tarot guides. She sold readings on Etsy according to Micah, making decent money at it. I wondered what Nana would think of that, of how modernity had seeped into the DNA of an ancient craft. Probably laughed and told me how much it had evolved since she was a child anyway, that this was just another stepping stone. 

Magic was human, she’d say. Humanity was fickle and changeable. Chaotic, Aleksander would probably add with a smirk. Therefore that was what magic was.

It was terrifying. Beautiful and terrifying, and not at all fit for this soft, green room. But I’d promised, and she was practically begging for help with her eyes and subtle actions.

Quiana settled on the couch, fidgeting lightly as she adjusted her shirt and posture. She held her hands limply in her lap as if she was unsure of not only what to do but of what purpose they even served at the moment. Micah lingered by the door, and I sent Quiana a searching look. Did she want him here?

She nodded.

“Do you need to like…hold my hands or something?”

“Micah can if you’d like. I need to put my fingertips on your temples. Only for a moment.”

She looked confused, but closed her eyes and leaned forward. She looked almost as if she was expecting a kiss. I wished that it was as simple, if awkward, as that. Micah took a place in an office chair nearby, the wheeled seat creaking a bit under his weight. Both had such expectant looks on their faces. As if I could fix the weight of the wound she carried instead of just tearing it open wide enough that the pain of it was in Micah too.

Drowning, I reminded myself, and reached out to Quiana and pulled.

The tapestry of her tugged on my fingertips before loosening enough to float forth into the room, all purple light and Spanish lace. She opened her eyes at the brief discomfort of it and gaped as she took in the almost starscape the light had cast on the walls. People always had a hard time seeing the tapestry itself at first. We always try our damndest to avoid truly seeing ourselves. 

She didn’t have to be so avoidant, I thought. Her tapestry was beautifully woven with barely any flaws or knots. No true ugliness, save for a knot near the present, which lined up with what Micah had told me. I reached out for where it hung from the arteries of memory like a stubborn blood clot. 

“This will hurt for a moment. Are you sure you want this? Nothing that’s found out will leave this room.”

Quiana’s eyes stayed glued to the tangle of memory. I wish they would wander to see the beauty of who else she was. I wish the first confrontation with her soul wasn’t this knot I’d been called to cut through.

Unsurprisingly her eyes barely wavered. 

I reached out, acrylic nails as sharp as shears, and pulled once more. 

The memory tore open and spilled forth its blood into the room, before reforming liquid light into shape and picture. I recognized the form of Quiana. I didn’t recognize the man. From Micah’s inability to take his eyes off him, and Quiana’s inability to look, they both knew him. 

The knife in the figure’s hand was to the throat of Quiana’s memory-self before I could blink. The words were whispered. Micah had stood and wandered closer to hear. I…thought whatever it was it was better I didn’t.

I could already feel what she felt. The sharp pain against my throat, the tightening of every nerve and muscle in my body, the overwhelming desire to cry, the shaking of my legs, the rush of blood to my head–

Better to focus on pulling Quiana out than drowning us both by focusing on Micah.

The Quiana-in-memory passed something to the man, who shoved the doppelganger so hard she dissipated into mist before she landed on the floor. I felt pain in my shoulder.

“He said he’d kill me.”

“You knew him.”

Micah’s voice, as strong in ice as it had been in sunlight when we’d met for lunch, cut through the silence that hung after my words.

“Yeah, we know him. Baby, I’m so sorry–”

“He said if I said anything he’d–”

“Baby, you did what you had to do. Rather have you alive than anything else in this world. He gon’ be dead though, when I get my hands on him, fuckin’–”

“Who is he?”

“Gonna be who was he after I make some calls.”

“Micah.”

My cousin looks at me and for the first time I see the other men of my family in him.

“Micah,” I say again, trying to be firm, trying to hide the tremor in my voice. “Who is he?”

“…I thought he was my friend.”

“What did he take?”

“A key card,” Quiana answered. “To a shipping container.”

“…I don’t wanna know.”

“No, you don’t.”

I took a shaky breath and stood, trying to put from my mind whatever bullshit Micah had got caught up in. 

Overseas shipping business. No wonder we were all drowning. Familial salvation hidden beneath waves that crushed greater men and smarter men and richer, whiter men against the rocks all the damn time. Of course, Micah would get swept away in the idea of its potential. Of course it would immerse him. Of course, we’d all drown.

The water or blood or magic or all of it had rushed to my head, and I released Quiana back to herself, before my back hit the arm of the couch. I sighed so deeply it almost hurt to inhale again, like I was coming back up to the surface after too long.

“–ank you.”

“Hmm?”

“Thank you, Daci.”

Micah looked guilty about something. Whether it was for what was involved in the storage locker or for involving me at all, I wasn’t sure. But he looked grateful. I could imagine having a relationship again with a family member, maybe even his siblings. Maybe being a part of any eventual kids’ lives. Being an auntie was nice when it was Alek’s sister’s kids but….

Baptism could feel like drowning sometimes. Maybe this was one of those times. Salvation from risking it all to be cleansed by grace and fury. Either way I’d seen the depth of what I could get involved in. I saw it with my husband. I saw it now with my family.

I decided to sink.

“Of course. You’re family. And you were good enough to reach out.”

Micah nodded.

“I uh, I dunno if you or your man ever need anything–I know folks in that tax bracket can get into certain things, but I dunno if that’s the case. Just know you can…”

“I’ll let you know.”

“Right. You want me to walk you out?”

“No no, you stay with Quiana. I’ll see myself out, don’t you worry.”

She smiled gratefully, and Micah nodded. I stood, more solid on my feet now, and made my way back out to the entryway to grab my shoes. I made my way out to the car where Abrham was still waiting quietly. He was technically Alek’s personal assistant and driver, but Alek hadn’t quite wanted me to walk into a situation unawares….

“How did the reunion go?”

“Well enough. I think I’ll be seeing more of them.”

“Very good.”

He was a man of few words, and always had been. Normally, I would attempt to cajole more out of him, but I didn’t have it in me at the moment. As he opened the door for me, I practically collapsed into the backseat, folding in on myself like a shirt thrown aside. Abraham looked suspicious. He didn’t ask though, which I appreciated.

There was a small pond by the house that I noticed for the first time as Abrham started driving. Ornamental lilies floated on it and it was partially concealed by rose bushes. Not deep enough for fishing really. But deep enough to drown a man or baptize him.

I caught Micah staring out the window at me as we pulled backwards.

Immersion either way.

Top 13 Most Disturbing Horror Films I’ve Seen

Some people like horror movies that they can watch, get spooked by, and then put aside, only remembering if there was a deep social message or a particularly cool kill or villain. It’s a valid desire, and one I frequently have myself. As a collector of deep cut, so-bad-its-hilarious horror films, I can’t help but praise movies too such as Zoltan Hound of Dracula, Race with the Devil, and other “trashy” horror.

But sometimes, there’s horror that burrows into the soul. It stays there, rotting away at a tiny corner, ready to surge back out from the recesses of memory at any notice. Certain scenes, lines, concepts clawing at the back of your mind waiting to ruin your day with remembrance.

Those are the movies we’re covering today–those films I’ve seen in my life that just got into my brain and stayed there.

DISCLAIMER: As per usual, this only covers films I have seen. There are movies out there I refuse to see for my own mental health, and I think more people should have that level of care with themselves as far as self-love and personal responsibility. Certain films such as Irreversible, Antichrist, and Serbian Film are not ones I will ever see! Period! Therefore you will never see them as more than a passing mention on my lists.

….Human Centipede just makes my tummy feel icky so yeah I won’t watch those either. Not sorry :<

Onto the list!

Creep (2014)

Creep follows a cameraman (Brice) filming a series of uncomfortably intimate interviews with a man (Duplass) he met via online marketplace. The man claims the films are for his young son to know him better after his soon-to-occur death from terminal cancer. However, as the tension and awkwardness rises, it becomes apparent that nothing that the man says can be trusted.

Mark Duplass is a spooky bastard! Patrick Brice plays the foolish too-polite cameraman so well! As the writers and director, it was an inspired (and likely budgetary) choice for them to also be the sole actors of note in the film, but it paid off in spectacular fashion. That said there were parts in the film where my body literally folded up with my knees up my chin like a small child from the level of awkward tension provided by the film. It’s not an easy watch, even before the violence occurs, and I think that’s incredible. Nothing gets to me as a neurodivergent viewer like awkward tension, and this film is a much better masterclass in how to pull it off well than any of the million cringe comedies on television or big screen.

This film lingers in the mind beyond that–how many of us, femmes especially, have stayed in awkward potentially dangerous situations out of societally implanted politeness. How many disasters have we just avoided? The concept burrows deep, and honestly? These films made me better about escaping when I sense danger signals. So props for that!

Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007)

It takes a lot for my husband to stop watching a movie in the first ten minutes but this one sure did it for him. I first watched the faux documentary based on tapes of a serial killer uncovered in his basement after his escape. The film is dark, painful, and uncomfortable in how realistic it is. I have never had such a visceral reaction to a film. In fact, the first time I watched it was in my 20s…I just couldn’t finish it. Nor did I finish it until my 30s.

I’m glad I waited. I’m not sure how badly the ending would have messed me up at age 21, nor do I wish to know. It’s not just unsettling; it’s horrifying. 

It’s horrifying because it’s so painfully real for how misogynistic killers out there utterly destroy women.

Content warnings on this film include so many moments that I recommend please looking up a plot summary or triggers list beforehand. It is in no way an easy film.

Martyrs (2008)

This is one that anyone could predict would be here. Martyrs is a frequent flier on such lists, but for damn good reason–it’s not only violent and difficult to watch due to it, the cliffhanger of a philosophical ending haunts the viewer after the credits roll.

After a young woman performs revenge on the whole family of the people who held her captive, it soon becomes clear that a dark, occultic cabal was behind her torture and cpativity. The young woman and her girlfriend are soon put through a living hell, particularly the girlfriend. The violence is beyond the pale, making this film an absolute masterwork if not the most quintessential of the New French Extremity Horror wave.

To be honest, there is not much I can say on Martyrs that has not been said always, so analyzed is this film, so I shall say this: it’s incredible, uncomfortable, and not for everyone. But if you are wanting to be haunted by images and uncertainties, then give this a watch.

Hereditary (2018)

Hereditary is one of the most deeply affecting horror movies I have seen in my life that doesn’t–on the surface–directly have much in common with other movies that have garnered such a reaction from me. However, the story of an emotionally volatile intergenerational relationship with mother and grandmother that culminates in a loss of identity and autonomy?

….maybe a bit relatable.

Maybe.

The shocks of the script and fraught emotional performances of this cast as they suffer loss after loss orchestrated by mysterious forces is an excellent film–shocking for a feature length debut from director Ari Aster. 

El Orfanato (2007)

This movie about a mother living in a haunted orphanage after her son goes missing isn’t the scariest Spanish language horror film per say. It isn’t even del Toro’s scariest film. However, it is the most emotionally devastated I had been at any film up to that point in my life, and for that reason, it takes a spot on this list.

The atmosphere is perfectly gothic, and the set pieces and costume design truly sells the seeing reality of this film. It truly immerses you in the story, which makes its “twist” all the more soul-destroying. I won’t ruin the movie for y’all, but it absolutely will ruin your day.

Suicide Club (2001)

Y’all old enough to remember when they sold Japanese language films at Hot Topic? I’m sure old enough. I got quite a few films there–everything from the lighthearted if oddly named comedy Kamikaze Girls to Ghibli animated features to this and another entry on this list.

Suicide Club is one of the strangest movies I have ever seen in my life. I don’t think that I could adequately interpret it on my own even now, unless I read from someone more knowledgeable, yet multiple scenes of it stuck so thoroughly with me over the past 15 years that I included it on this list.

Whether it’s the branding scene, the leap from the tower, or the group massacre on the bullet train platform…well. I suppose it’s not shocking that a movie with the title Suicide Club is a bit of a gut punch huh?

Obviously this has trigger warnings even in the title. 

Tusk (2014)

While the idea for Tusk was born of a podcasted comedy bit, that doesn’t make the movie less disturbing to me personally. While I understand the many people who (rightfully for them) think the film is unfunny, not scary, and a mess, as someone who has lost a good deal of bodily autonomy to disability, Tusk’s story of a man kidnapped and slowly disfigured and mutilated by forces beyond his control hits uncomfortably to home.

Justin Long and Michael Parks both play over the top characters, yet within the context of the story, it only works to make my pain as an outside viewer worse. 

While I completely and entirely understand viewers who found the entire thing a waste of time, I wished I didn’t watch it for entirely different reasons. I’ve spoken before on body horror and bodily autonomy in horror, both as disability/chronic illness metaphor and bodily autonomy for people who can get pregnant, but maybe one day I ought to talk about Tusk and medical horror.

Inside (2007)

Even as I’m not a person who would ever (intentionally) get pregnant, there’s something particularly horrifying about horror involving the victimization of a pregnant person. When a young widow takes a retreat to prepare for the impending birth of her and her late husband’s child, she is stalked by a crazed woman who is determined to steal the newborn for herself. With a set of shears and a demented smile, the killer simply known as La Femme is a force of nature.

Another part of the New French Extremity genre of horror, this film sets the tone for the movement. It’s deeply disturbing, overtly violent, and conceptually horrifying beyond just the premise. The actresses involved in the film all sell their roles in the tragedy with a verve.

Ichi the Killer (2001)

Based on a series by mangaka Hideo Yamamoto and adapted by master director Takeshi Miike, Ichi the Killer is a gangland yakuza bloodbath that one might expect from a manga or anime but wouldn’t get made as a live action film in the west most likely. It’s heavily sexually charged in the worst possible ways dealing with themes of rape and sadomasochism regardless of consent. The film follows the highly unstable yakuza enforcers Ichi and Kakihara on a spree of terror across Tokyo.

The titular Ichi becomes violently sadistic when aroused and enraged, so you can see why this movie may get intense for most viewers. It’s themes of sexual assault and rape are what lists it as one of the most disturbing films I’ve ever viewed.

Funny Games (1997 and 2007)

This home invasion horror is both one of the best of the horror genre and the most shockingly unsettling. When two seemingly clean cut young men invade a family vacation home, things obviously go horrifically wrong. The movie was filmed twice by the same director (Michel Heneke), both in German and in English with an American cast. Both films are spectacular and soul destroying.

Some of the incidences of violence are more shocking than others, but ultimately the most disturbing part of the films is that it’s so realistically within the realm of possibility–home invasions happen. Killings without motivation happen. And young men who look like the ones in Funny Games? Are the most likely to get away with it.

Don’t Deliver Us from Evil (1971)

This is probably the deepest cut on my list, so bear with me. Don’t Deliver Us from Evil is another French entry onto this list. Are the French okay? We just don’t know. 

Two rebellious young girls go out into the countryside to get away from the eyes of their families only for one of them to be raped in an eerily shot and overly long scene in which her friend confuses the entire situation and does nothing to help. After both realize the full weight of what happened, they make a pact with each other and the Devil himself in order to have their revenge not only on the rapist but on all who have attempted to control them.

The scene of sexual assault in this film is deeply disturbing, not for the violence, but for the acting. The choice to make the friend misconstrue the situation and not act made my stomach roil, and while I appreciate the reasoning, I definitely would not recommend this film for most.

The House that Jack Built (2018)

The House That Jack Built is the only Lars von Trier film I have seen. It will be the only Lars von Trier film I see. The story follows Jack, played with utter brilliance by Matt Dillon, as he goes on his serial killer/architect life all while trying to build the perfect house. Once this is achieved he enters a strange world that may or may not be–well you’ll have to see.

The direction of von Trier is great, but Dillion truly sells this movie for me. The way he acts Jack makes me skin crawl, particularly the scene on his date with a single mother. It gave me similar vibes as Jake Gyllenhal’s performance in Nightcrawler for sheer ability to make me tense up so hard my whole body almost inverts.

Dahmer (2002)

While Dahmer is in the public focus and controversy due to the Ryan Murphy helmed, Evan Peters starred “Dahmer”, there was another Dahmer first as a film that was all the more disturbing to me. Starring Jeremy Renner as the titular human monster, his performance is so deeply unnerving that I had to start and stop the film multiple times and my husband couldn’t finish it at any point. The scene where the police return the child victim was particularly heartbreaking and skin-inverting.

Of all the films on this list, this is probably the one I am least likely to watch again. Because for all the other films might be more violent…

I can remind myself they were only movies.

But Dahmer was a very real monster. And that’s what makes me lose sleep the most at night.

What other list style articles would you be interested in seeing my opinions on? Please let me know in the comments below!

Nope and the Psychology of Trauma On-screen

“The depth at which we take in the preceding generations astonishes me. There is likely an epigenetic component to this as well as transmission through the internalizations that get passed down through the generations. Whole cultures are carried forward that way, so it makes sense that family legacies might be transmitted that way as well.”
― Bonnie Badenoch, The Heart of Trauma: Healing the Embodied Brain in the Context of Relationships

I finally got a chance to watch a film that’s been on mine and everyone else’s radar for quite awhile: Nope, the newest entry into horror by Jordan Peele. I have several reasons for not having seen it until recently, but simply excuse my lateness. And blame COVID tbh.

However, my friend Sky wanted me to finally see and write about it, and y’all I’m glad she did motivate me on this. This movie hit me hard in all the right ways.

I went in fairly blind to any information (save for this wonderful blog entry by Lemon at The Writing Lich, which I highly recommend reading for an alternative look at what I will be discussing further). I often feel that’s the best way to watch horror films these days, as trailers do give away quite a bit–but praise to Nope for its vague trailers keeping my interest without giving anything away!

Spoilers ahead for Nope.

The trailers, posters, and advertising make it very clear: this is a movie about alien(s). At least on the surface. But like all of Peele’s films, this film has a deep social context and meaning.

Nope, to put it quite simply, is about trauma and the reaction to it. At least from my reading.

Much like the film itself, I’d appreciate your humoring me by going through named sections regarding each character of note that I’ll be exploring.

RICKY PARK

We start with Ricky “Jupe” Park, the former child star turned theme park owner played brilliantly by Steven Yeun. Yeun is a powerhouse of an actor who rarely gets the chance to show the breadth of his abilities in American film–he is still most known here in the US for his beloved turn as Glen in The Walking Dead. A great series of performances to be sure, but nothing comparable in my opinion to his work in Minari and Burning. He’s an expert in micro expressional acting–making even the most subtle of motions carry huge weight. I found a lot of that here in Nope, which pleased me a lot as a fan. Huge shout out, as well, to Jacob Kim who did a wonderful job playing child Ricky Park in flashback scenes.

Ricky as a character is hugely complex. The trauma of being a child star is well documented in our culture particularly through the predatory scum sites like TMZ and predecessors. Add into this Ricky’s frequent experience as being the only person of color on set–something that was emphasized in Ricky playing the “adopted Asian child” in the Gordy flashbacks–and you have a recipe for the subtleties of trauma as it relates to cultural isolation. We never ever hear about Ricky’s parents or biological family of origin. While we do see he grows up to have a wife and children, with whom he shares a wonderful relationship, I think the casting choice of Wrenn Schmidt for April Park was also intentional beyond her being good for the role.

We only ever see Ricky in his relationship to whiteness and things associated with it. Despite the reality of cowboys and the old west being overwhelmingly Black, Latine, Asian, and Indigenous, culturally the Western theme park Ricky owns and operates is a celebration of the Wild West as focused through the lens of John Wayne whiteness, with the only representations of BIPOC presence being the icons of Ricky himself and the complexity of Asian presence (via slavery) in the Wild West being completely sanitized through this.

However, this ultimately brings us to what is undoubtedly Ricky’s biggest source of trauma: the Gordy incident, an animal massacre on the set of a television show in Ricky’s past. Ricky secretly enshrines the massacre in a hidden area of his office, arguably for the money and notoriety with what he tells the Haywood siblings, but ultimately also as an expression of attempting to control his own trauma by caging it within walls he controls.

This makes his arc all the more tragic. We often talk about the repetitive nature of self-destruction via traumatic experience, and I think that is heavily reflected in Ricky’s story. What is more fitting if tragic for the boy who witnessed the utter destruction of his pseudo-family via trying to control a wild animal, than his unintentionally causing the destruction of himself, his wife and children, and his gathered friends and guests, via the same methods?

Ricky ultimately has internalized his trauma inside his own internal hidden chambers that it eventually explodes and takes him and everything he cares about with him. While the reading of Nope as commentary on trauma is subtle but visible in the Haywoods, I believe Ricky and the fate of the Parks and company is the ultimately explosive answer to the question of what happens when we internalize trauma in an unhealthy way without confronting it and attempting the painful road to genuine healing.

EMERALD HAYWOOD

While the scene which makes it explicit text was cut, Emerald Haywood is a messy queer and I am absolutely here for her. She fights, flirts, cusses, and cries, and does it all with a bombast that makes this a near explosive performance compared to the more staid and thoughtful performance of Daniel Kaluuya. Keke Palmer makes the character vivid and imperfect and relatable, and I adore her for that. I will fight for more messy women, messy queers, and messy characters of color on screen that are still celebrated and loved by the text.

This brings me to the character of Em Haywood, whose in-character trauma, I believe, is that she was never quite celebrated enough. At least, not in the ways she needed. There’s a subtlety to the way both Em and OJ voice their own tensions surrounding their father–who was textually a good man, but no parent is perfect.

Em describes, in the scene regarding the original Jean Jacket, a horse she was promised for her own, a sort of unintentional disregard for her by her father. While both Em and OJ seem to understand that it was upsetting for Em to lose the opportunity to train Jean Jacket, at no point did the narrative state (to my memory) that Otis Sr. attempted to make it up to Em via another horse or even via giving the horse to her belatedly post filming-wrap. The fact that she names the alien creature Jean Jacket indicates that even after all this time, it was a negatively impacting event for her.

We do not know explicitly how Em’s father reacted to her queerness, and while I won’t condemn the character via speculation, I think her actions bely as much tension between father and daughter as the tension that OJ holds in his entirely being belies that same ambiguity between father and son. While the narrative never states Otis was a bad man, it does imply there were aspects of his fatherhood that weren’t without fault, and it would be dismissive to say even well-intentioned parenting cannot leave scars. I will not discuss the complex intersections present regarding queer Black female sexuality as I am wholly unqualified, but I’m certain it would play a part in their relationship dynamic.

We still see a lot of love for legacy in Em though, even though it’s portrayed as harried and erratic. Her late entry to the rehearsal combined with her plug for her own career undermine it a bit, but Emerald’s speech regarding the Haywood Ranch’s historical significance is one that clearly is well practiced and loved. This makes the narrative all the more triumphant when her own healing can be seen through the Muybridge inspired series of photos she takes of the alien Jean Jacket with the park’s photo booth attraction. She’s come full circle with reconciling her family’s legacy, while symbolically destroying the thing to come between her and her late father through the destruction of the cosmic creature which tried to take away her remaining family.

This becomes particularly strong thematically as we assume OJ has sacrificed himself in trying to lure the creature away so Emerald can safely get the photographs. Even as she gets the shots, you can still see the incredible emoting of Keke Palmer–she is theoretically triumphant but at the cost of everything that held real value to her.

And then the camera cuts to the entrance and the dust clears….

And y’all I BAWLED I’m sorry to break the authorial voice, but I was SOBBING.

Speaking of OJ…

OTIS “OJ” HAYWOOD, JR.

From the moment he’s introduced as a named character and the white actress questions the safety of having a Black man named OJ around a movie set, we understand that OJ’s trauma is intrinsically linked not only with familial legacy but with how that complexity interweaves with Blackness (and likely colorism as well). He is highly capable with what he does, but we sense and see an intense anxiety with interacting with those outside of a close knit circle.

I don’t necessarily think or know if this was the intention on Peele and Kaluuya’s part but as someone on the spectrum, I sensed a neurodivergent vibe from OJ (and Emerald at times, but less so). Do with that what you will, but it also informs my interpretation of OJ as a character from henceforth.

OJ relied a lot on his father, while at the same time being smothered by the strength of legacy. This can be incredibly traumatic even with the best of intentions on the part of the parents, but it was shown in their interactions that their dynamic wasn’t always the easiest, even if it wasn’t outright abusive. After the death of a figure like that in anyone’s life, but especially a neurodivergent person’s, it becomes incredibly difficult to break the known patterns. OJ’s patterns were following what his father told him to the best of his abilities without breaking from the pattern unless absolutely necessary for survival (via selling the horses to Ricky to keep the main farm and stables, i.e. establishing new situational patterns while maintaining the overarching pattern).

This pattern only starts to break when Em returns, and the alien animal begins forcing them to confront reality. Em drags OJ into something potentially life changing, but OJ doesn’t seem enthusiastic. His spark only truly starts occurring when the horses, the home, and Em are in danger respectively–he is finding that which is truly important to him beyond that establishment of patterns left to him by his father.

It is eventually his special skill that saves his sister and untold amounts of lives via stunt riding. In this not only does he reinforce his own power, skill, and agency, but reinforces (while also reifying) his family’s legacy of Black horsemen. Even as much as I was upset and angry at the film when it was implied that OJ was dead, it made the triumph of his return greater than any ending twist in any traditional Western film I have ever seen.

Like I said, I bawled.

Overall I think Nope was a fantastic film on the surface of it, despite the mixed reviews it received. I think those mixed reviews too may have come from a place of not quite understanding how the layers tie together–it’s always admittedly difficult for even the best directors such as Peele to find the balance between showing enough to the audience for most to understand and absolutely hand-holding the lowest common denominator.

However, I feel the film not only works as an action-sci-fi-horror film along the lines of Alien, The Thing, and many other predecessors, I find it has a lot more to say that’s hidden behind the beautiful photography, acting and character design.

…also I did a little snort everytime someone in the movie said “nope.”

Well played, Mr. Peele.

Movie Review: Sacrifice (2021)

I saw Sacrifice (2021) for one major reason: Barbara Crampton is the queen of Lovecraft movies and can make even an otherwise unwatchable movie enjoyable. Luckily Sacrifice wasn’t unwatchable, though it did have very telling elements of a less polished indie film. 

The film follows a couple as they return to the husband’s original home village to sell the house left to him by his mother’s will. There, he and his pregnant wife discover that his supposedly erstwhile father didn’t leave them for another family–he was murdered. This revelation and the strange urging of the villagers begins to slowly drive the husband into clear madness, all while his wife grows more desperate to escape her toxic marriage and the villagers’ strange aquatic-based religious beliefs.

The scenery and many of the shots are great for the scale of the movie this was, and the use of color where applicable was great. Special effects were used sparingly enough to be effective despite the CGI being probably not the best (but no doubt the best for budget). 

The real drawbacks of this film were some of the acting and certain weak parts of the script. Barbara Crampton, despite her utterly terrible Norwegian accent, really carried the film, with Sophie Stevens coming in a close second as the wife Emma. I felt she did a great job conveying the terror of being trapped and gaslit throughout the film in a very strong way. Ludovic Hughes, the male lead, unfortunately played the role of the increasingly mad husband with a little too much intensity from the beginning for me to believe this was a sudden change–which could be interesting to explore as a possibility, but the film just…didn’t. 

It wasn’t a particularly scary film as far as the Lovecraftian aspects, but I did feel it built good tension psychologically with genuine worry for Emma the wife and the unborn child. This film was an interesting look at gaslighting (possibly unintentionally), both from a patriarchal standard and from the perspective of a closed sectarian religious community. 

There is a twist in the end that I won’t spoil, but it absolutely made this movie better for it, which is a rare thing for me to say about twists. Usually I’m one to either enjoy a twist with a grin or roll my eyes from how bad it is, but this one genuinely had me yell happily at the screen. It’s not a happy ending by any means, but it’s a very satisfying one.

Overall, as far as Lovecraftian low budget films go, this one is very enjoyable, if nothing revolutionary. Barbara Crampton is still the queen of Lovecraft movies, and while there are some parts which bring on the cringe, it’s very worth watching for fans of cult, folk, and cosmic horror. This is a fun film for a potential watch-along with friends as well, as it offers plenty of riffing opportunities as well!

Book Review: House of Leaves

“I still get nightmares. In fact, I get them so often I should be used to them by now. I’m not. No one ever really gets used to nightmares.”

― Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves

This book is an undertaking. That’s not to say it’s too difficult for most, or that it’s too terrifying for most. I think reviews that oversell that do it a disservice and limit its audience. But, I will admit, it’s not an easy fall read to be breezed through in a few days. It’s a book you need to sit with as you read it, tracing the three different narratives and how they coalesce together.

To put it simply: Johnny discovers an older book–a film analysis of a movie that Johnny can’t find proof exists. The movie is a homemade documentary about a strange house owned by the Navidson family. The house seems to be bigger on the inside than the outside.

Seems simple enough, but in reality? It’s anything but. Don’t let that intimidate you.

This book is a masterpiece of post-modernist horror, taking you through a journey with it’s artistically printed page layouts, which only add to the terror somehow. The tension builds up slowly, but creeps in where you don’t expect it, everbuilding until it crescendos into multiple moments of terror.

If you’re intimidated by the footnotes, you can conceivably avoid the footnotes and B and C plotlines, following only the A plot of what the film contains. Then it becomes far easier to pursue the story down the rabbit hole, only missing some killer quotes and amazing thoughts on the nature of grief, but nothing that massively impacts the A plot.

Give this book, which reads as some of the most terrifying found footage ever discovered, a chance to haunt your dreams. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!

Just remember: This house is not for you.

Book Review: Pet Sematary

How does one speak about the horror and insanity of grief? The great poet Rumi wrote: “Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.” But…

I don’t think Rumi predicted Pet Sematary. 

“When the Creeds move into a beautiful old house in rural Maine, it all seems too good to be true: physician father, beautiful wife, charming little daughter, adorable infant son-and now an idyllic home. As a family, they’ve got it all…right down to the friendly car. But the nearby woods hide a blood-chilling truth-more terrifying than death itself-and hideously more powerful. The Creeds are going to learn that sometimes dead is better.”

When a neighbor shows the Creeds a strange Indigenous artifact in the woods which can raise the dead, he warns them to never use it, using their now-alive-again but utterly feral cat as an example of how things can go wrong. But when the Creeds’ young son dies a violent death, the parents can’t help but be driven to desperate means to save their young child. But Gage certain comes back in another form–Gage comes back wrong.

This book is more than just a scary child story, though believe me Gage is terrifying. This is a story of the lengths that grief with push and pull and break both people as individuals and as a family unit. There ARE several trigger warnings listed here: child death, animal death, gore. Please be mindful of these warnings going in, as well as the offensive use of Native imagery and culture.

That said, this book is terrifying and very much a great read for people wanting to start the journey to more intense horror stories! If you think, based on the plot and the tws, that you can handle the book, please try! It’s classic King at his absolute best, and worth a read through especially during spooky season!

Parasitical Horror: Where do we go in post-Roe America?

There’s something inside you that you didn’t want there. It might kill you. You know you can’t live with the fall out of it, and the very existence of it inside you is traumatizing.

You’re watching Alien, of course. Or The Thing. Or Slither, or The Bay, or Viral, or Malignant, or–

….where does parasitical horror stand now, really in a post-Roe America? Because while of course, a human fetus isn’t a parasite in the scientific or traditional sense, it’s still an intrusion into the body that not everyone wants there or is happy about, let alone safe with.

My state has now banned abortion even in the cases of situations such as ectopic or molar pregnancy. For anyone unfamiliar with these terms: a molar pregnancy is when the fetus becomes a tumor. Not a potential child, to be entirely and crystalline clear: a tumor. And an ectopic pregnancy is in which the fetus develops outside the womb. Neither are viable. Both will kill the pregnant parent. 

When Roe was overturned, I flashed back to the scene in Prometheus where Noomi Rapace’s character had to have the alien parasite removed. She sat in the medical machine, demanding an abortion for the inhuman creature which had taken residence in her uterus.

But just like the system which she found herself in, our system was also not designed for women and others with uteruses. It took reifying the situation to one a cis man might face for her to receive treatment. It’s not the most delicate metaphor in Prometheus, nor the most impactful at the time, but…now in the shadow of the SCOTUS decision and various trigger laws going into effect throughout the states? It’s horrifyingly real, in ways we thought were behind us.

Allow me to get a bit personal.

I grew up a fan of horror. I always get looks outside the South or even in the South by the younger crowd when I tell them the first movie I remember wanting to watch over and over with childish glee wasn’t a Disney film, but was Ernest Scared Stupid. And as I grew up and consumed more horror media, I noticed it, like all media, reflected a lot of what society had to say about itself. It’s very telling really.

Alien. The Fly. The Exorcist. Rosemary’s Baby.

There’s something inside you that you didn’t (necessarily) want there. It might kill you. You know you can’t live with the fall out of it, and the very existence of it inside you is traumatizing.

Even in horror, the scariest thing we can all imagine, even cis men, is the loss of autonomy of our own bodies.

This isn’t to discount the countless valid stories of parents of wanted pregnancies, who lose what would have become a beloved child to tragedy beyond their circumstances–who are then victimized more by a system that holds no grounds for nuance. I cannot imagine the pain, the suffering that causes, the sheer mental fortitude and bravery required to go on. I remember the far off pained look and the quiet embarrassment of my mother telling me about her miscarriages quietly during my adolescence, as if speaking of them as more than a whisper would be enough to invite more shame. 

But that isn’t my story and I feel it might ring hollow or disingenuous, even though I want to stand and scream for them as well.

So here’s my story:

I was born in the late 80s in Nashville to a biological mother who already had teenage children, and a biological father who already had a different wife and possibly children of their own. From what little I know, they knew each other from work. He had a position of power over her, which he abused. We won’t go into more detail–no more is known by me, and no more is needed. My biological mother made the choice, or was perhaps cajoled, I truly do not know, into giving me up for adoption through a Christian adoption agency.

I was adopted by a couple in rural TN, who–for all our fussing and fighting at times–do love me very much. I can’t fault them there. And due to this I grew up, like one might imagine, thinking the only choice–adoption–was as clear and easy as day.

And then I started getting sick. As I got older I got sicker. Needed surgery in my late teens to fix problems usually relegated to 50+ year old alcoholics even though I never drank more than a glass of white wine my whole life up till that point. Took till my twenties to figure out I had a genetic disorder that affects every system of my body–reproductive included.

I’d wanted to be a parent, up to that point, even though pregnancy sounded kinda scary. I’d realized by that age that not evrything was black and white, and I was nominally pro-choice, but still somehow in my mind, I guess I thought abortions were for other people. And I’d done everything “right”–never acted on being bi, and never questioned why the label “girl or woman” had chafed my whole life.

But then the doctor was saying words like “rupture” and “hemorrhage.” “Growth restriction” and “collapse.”

“Fifty percent chance of heritability.”

I remembered dislocated ribs on the playground. Fainting just standing up after a long lecture because my veins are too fragile to regulate blood pressure some days. Throwing up pure stomach acid before tests, not because of anxiety, but because my esophagus won’t function properly on the bad days.

There’s something inside you that isn’t you. You didn’t invite it in. It might kill you.

And I knew that even despite what I’d thought I wanted most of my life, I couldn’t let it kill anyone else either. I knew in that moment, if birth control failed, I’d get an abortion without hesitating. And in that moment, I knew whatever little judgment I may have held onto for others didn’t have a leg to stand on.

No one’s judgment really does.

Because they know it’s a horrifying situation to be in. Frankly I’m tired of pretending they don’t. Art reflects life, and since the dawn of the genre of horror, its many male authors have known the same thing:

The horror isn’t the whispers in the woods at night. Not always.

Much much more often, it’s the loss of autonomy. The loss of feeling full personhood. The gaslighting by society telling you you’re crazy for not being happy about it. The complete and total lack of help by anyone around you capable of giving any significant aid.

It’s interesting to think of where horror might go from this point in regards to parasitical elements. Even prior to the overturn of Roe, directors of such films did seem to have an inkling of what such horror reflected in our culture and how it might be received differently by roughly half the populace. With the advent of a new more socially aware generation of horror directors and films thereof, it seems impossible to avoid as a subject going forward.

There’s something inside you that you didn’t want there. It might kill you. You know you can’t live with the fall out of it, and the very existence of it inside you is traumatizing.

Don’t let them make excuses. Don’t believe the lies. They’ve told us this whole time they know.

We don’t have to make them know.

We have to make them afraid too, somehow.

Afraid to be voted out, afraid to be the bad guys of history, afraid to lose every ounce of the credibility that they’ve tried to make for themselves.

They are the monsters of these stories. It’s time we fight back. 

There’s something outside you that isn’t you. You didn’t invite it in, but it’s trying to take your choices. 

Don’t you dare let it.

Book Review: Tomie by Junji Ito

Between the line of the literary terror of horror books and the visual horror of scary movies lies an important but oft overlooked genre: the horror graphic novel, comic, manga, etc. The foundational works of many great artist and writer teams of the horror comic community–Wrightson, Wein, Mignola, McKean, Niles, Templesmith–have crafted incredible works of literary-visual terror.

But none are quite the master craftsman of the art combined with storytelling like Junji Ito.

While we will surely eventually discuss some of his one shots works, which pack terror into less than 200 pages, his series work is what he’s most famous for: Uzumaki in particular but also the subject of today’s review: Tomie.

The manga centers on the titular character: a mysterious, beautiful woman named Tomie Kawakami, identified by her sleek black hair and a beauty mark below her left eye.

Tomie acts like a succubus, possessing an undisclosed power to make any man fall in love with her. Through her mere presence, or through psychological and emotional manipulation, she drives these people into jealous rages that often lead to brutal acts of violence. Men kill each other over her, and women are driven to insanity as well — though there are some who are strong enough to resist her. Tomie is inevitably killed time and time again, only to regenerate and spread her curse to other victims, making her effectively immortal, not unlike Sadako, Kayako, or even American horror icons. And how can one defeat something permanently when one can never truly die?

The art of Tomie is in Ito’s distinctive early style, combining a sense of eerie not-quite-right-looking humans with the outright body horror of many of his more monstrous beings. Nowhere are these combined quite as well as Tomie who takes many spine-chilling (and cracking!) forms throughout the manga–as well as the decently spooky Japanese film adaptations of the volumes. 

To put it simply, Tomie is one of Ito’s most iconic works for a reason. The splash pages alone are astounding and stomach-churning, but the level of detail he puts into all of his work is more than most. It is also helped instead of hindered by it unlike many types of art. Images of Tomie are second most popular on Ito merchandise after images from Uzumaki, though quite frankly I find much of Tomie more striking.

TRIGGER WARNING:

 Tomie does deal with sexist violence and femicide, as well as gross out and body horror. Please be aware of this before picking up the book.

That said, it’s a set of books I adore. If you think you can handle it based on warnings and summaries, give it a shot! Just don’t catch Tomie’s gaze.

Book Review: Pontypool Changes Everything by Tony Burgess

We often associate the cosmic aspect of cosmic horror with outer space or even the ocean depths, but that’s not quite always the case. Sometimes, the most terrifying aspect of horror in the Lovecraftian spirit is the unexplainable nature of chaos. In Tony Burgess’s novel “Pontypool Changes Everything”, the terror lies in gradually discovering what little the protagonists can without any resolution as to the cause behind it. 

A new kind of virus that spreads through an unknown vector appears in the small Ontario town of Pontypool. Victims lose the ability to make sense of language, driving them into bouts of madness and animalistic rage. A radio DJ and his crew hole up in their station as the hoards fight to get in to destroy them, and they have no clue as to the vector or what possibly caused it. While they eventually do discover the trigger for the virus and the rage behind it, the cause of it occurring is never explained, leaving the terror lingering in an effective chill after reading.

The adaptation of the novel into the 2008 Canadian film simply called Pontypool was incredible, shockingly being one of the few films to improve upon the original written work. But the characters, ideas, and execution remain the same, even if they are simplified for a wider screen audience. 

Both film and novel ask an interesting question: what do we know about the nature of humanity? What if something we value as intrinsic to our very day to day existence begins destroying us? How would we adapt or how quickly would we succumb? These questions haunt both reader and watcher long after the last bit of the story ends.

Overall, this is a deeply effective story that can be said to call within the genre of Lovecraftian fiction without any of the iconic Mythos creatures–a feat of skill that many authors in the genre don’t even attempt. I highly recommend both the book (which, while part of a series, can be read alone) or the standalone film, which is currently streaming on Prime, Roku, and SlingTV.

Book Review: Imajica by Clive Barker

Representation matters even in horror. There’s something to be said for seeing yourself in a role other than an emotionally-flat monster or a bit-part side character. There’s a reason for the trope “the Black guy dies first” in such films. Growing up, the only time I saw queer character in horror was as flat-villains or villain-fodder. We rarely got complexity. We never got to survive.

And then, I started reading horror.

Then, I picked up Clive Barker.

While today, the efforts of a white cis-gay British man might not seem revolutionary on the surface, they truly were and are even in a contemporary sense. Clive dealt in what was seen as deviant, not only via queer sexualities and genders, but also in their expressions. The Hellbound Heart and Candyman are his most famous works–both dealt with the horrors of hyperrealities, with the first dealing with the concept of fear of “deviant” sexuality and the other of revenge over past racial wrongs in the United States.

But the one I want to speak on today is Barker’s weird horror-fantasy and lesser known work–Imajica. At its heart lies the sensualist and master art forger, Gentle, whose life unravels when he encounters Judith Odell, whose power to influence the destinies of men is vaster than she knows, and Pie ‘oh’ pah, an alien assassin who comes from a hidden dimension.

That dimension is one of five in the great system called Imajica. They are worlds that are utterly unlike our own, but are ruled, peopled, and haunted by species whose lives are intricately connected with ours. As Gentle, Judith, and Pie ‘oh’ pah travel the Imajica, they uncover a trail of crimes and intimate betrayals, leading them to a revelation so startling that it changes reality forever.

Complicated? Yes. And the revelation is magnificent and I won’t spoil…well, I won’t spoil all of it. But I will say when they revealed who Pie’oh’pah was, really was….

It was the first time as a young adult in the early 2000s that I saw a non-binary character. It was the first time I knew what being nonbinary <i>was</i>. I know these blogs are meant to be mildly more in character than this, but only until you’ve been in the position of finding yourself in the pages of a book, can you understand how important this is.

Pie is also not morally pure. While they aren’t evil, they are flawed and make evil decisions, and it is so so important to see realistic, contradictory, utterly <i>real</p> people in diverse characters and not just cardboard cutouts of perfect morality as an author’s voice piece or attempt at brownie points.

Representation matters, even in horror, and Clive Barker’s work has been formative for so many queer and Black young readers. Just remember, if you feel you have a story in you, but fear that who you are and who your characters are will turn people away…

Try anyway. Write your Imajica. We’ll be there to read it.

What book was the most formative experience for you as a young teen or adult? What book changed your life for the better, if you’ve found it? And if you haven’t, what are you looking for, so we can help you along?