'Other Terrors: An Inclusive Anthology' - Chilling Tales about Being Different

by Laura Moreno

Bay Area Reporter

Tuesday August 2, 2022

'Other Terrors: An Inclusive Anthology' - Chilling Tales about Being Different

"From the other, all terrors flow."

Thus begins the Introduction to "Other Terrors: An Inclusive Anthology," released this week.

Editors Vince Liaguno and Rena Mason, both Bram Stoker Award winners, have put together a chilling collection of original short stories by a diverse group of some of today's biggest names in horror as well as new authors.

Liaguno is perhaps best known as co-editor of "Unspeakable Horror: From the Shadows of the Closet" and as the author of "The Literary Six."

Mason received acclaim for her debut novel "The Evolutionist" and "East End Girls." Of Thai-Chinese descent, she runs a website feature called "The Seers' Table" to promote diverse writers and their work in the horror genre.

What frightens us most? Fear of the unknown, the things we do not understand, and, even more frighteningly, fear that dark malevolence lurks beneath the surface of the most familiar everyday faces and places and things? Or is it when our own eyes deceive us, and no one else shares our perception? Or perhaps might it be when we have no power to change who we are and how we ourselves are perceived in the world, accurately or not?

This trailblazing anthology features stories that explore the power dynamics of "otherness" in ordinary situations that contain all the elements of horror, striking fear into the human heart almost instinctively: Homophobia, racism, ageism, colonialism. Who, really, is the other?

An innocent game of hide and seek goes terribly wrong, a beauty pageant features zombie contestants, and a water aerobics class becomes terrifying, among many other unlikely nightmarish scenarios.

Editors Vince Liaguno and Rena Mason
Editors Vince Liaguno and Rena Mason  

In several of the stories, the other turns out to be one that is supposed to be a member of your own tribe. Right out of the gate, Christina Sng's "Other Fears," the only poem in the collection, is about a long-time partner whose abuse slowly over the decades distorts her mind until she has become the thing she fears even more than she fears his malignant presence. Duplicity even, or especially, in intimacy is a far greater source of horror than the random monster or alien that has traditionally been written about.

"He hates me
Because I am human,
Because I have emotions.

Because I can feel love
And most of all, because
I see his true face now."

Unfortunately, I am not able to write about each of the lyrical, poetic, cinematic tales, such as the story "Where the Lovelight Gleams." Queer writer Michael Thomas Ford, like Sng, finds horror in the familiar when his character returns to his old haunts in his hometown only to find that his car can't speed away fast enough to leave the memory of his estranged family and the place behind. Are the events of our lives just totally random, perhaps precipitated by dark forces without rhyme or reason?

Interestingly, "Invasive Species" by Ann Davila Cardinal approaches otherness as something that can shift according to the situation and our perceptions. The group has always had ways of making people conform, hammering them down when they don't, as when Jose sees the potential for evil that he can't quite get anyone else to see at a community meeting of residents.

In Jennifer McMahon deliciously frightening "Idiot Girls," teen gay lovers stumble onto the trail of a serial killer during a secret rendezvous, but ignore the warning signs that things are not what they seem.

Local Oakland author M.E. Bronstein has written a unique horror story, "The Voice of Nightingales." In it, a female academic's research into long-forgotten (or suppressed) queer, pagan medieval Latin poetry turns out to be more than she bargained for, and she must learn to "sing the poison out."

"Not pretty books, but stained with water damage, riddled with holes, tears stitched together with pale red and white threads. The volumes' history had left them with scars... like wounds...

"While everyone else left for lunch in the refectory, Lynn lingered. She sat on the floor, then stretched out on her back, and studied the ceiling.

"Serpents. Very faint, but you could make them out if you looked closely enough. Clouds of carved snakes, coiling around the birds."

The hair-raising story by crime writer S.A. Cosby in "What Blood Hath Wrought," features retribution, supernatural powers, and the generational curses that have turned a descendant of a sadistic slave owner into a charming serial killer that no one suspects. And it all happens during the graveyard shift of a Pancake Shack.

If the opposite of love is fear (not hate), as the Bible states, then living on earth is becoming an increasingly scary place indeed, where any of us, all of us, at some time or another are the other. Fans of horror will appreciate "Other Terrors: An Inclusive Anthology" for many generations to come.

"Other Terrors: An Inclusive Anthology," edited by Vince Liaguno and Rena Mason, HarperCollins, paperback, $16.99
www.harpercollins.com


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