It was fairly easy for me to consider what genre of short story I’d likely consider for the daily theme of something that’s not my usual taste: horror. I don’t read a lot of horror because—totally willing to admit this—it gets in my head and sticks, often leading to awful nights of bad dreams. This is especially true of any story with gore. There’s a reason I avoid zombie fiction.
“Coyote Love” isn’t zombie fiction, but it’s got a particularly gory moment that stuck with me for ages. It opens the anthology Bending the Landscape: Original Gay and Lesbian Writing Horror, edited by Nicola Griffith and Stephen Pagel, and this first story had me shuddering so much I put the damn book down for a couple of weeks. It’s about a closeted (and deeply homophobic and self-hating) gay man who gets a bit drunk and hooks up with another man, only to wake up and realize what he’s done. The other man is heavy, and asleep, and happens to be on this man’s arm, which has gone numb, and he desperately wants to escape so…
Well. You know the stories about how Coyotes caught in traps will gnaw their own legs off to escape? Yeah. Gah.
It’s been years, and I still shudder, and honestly that’s a testament to how freaking well the story was written. It’s dark, there’s nothing redemptive about it, and the horror is entirely about homophobia and self-loathing. None of those things usually appeal to me as a reader, and yet this story still stands as one of the best pieces of (super disturbing) queer imagery I’ve encountered.
I’m also not generally a fan of violent and hopeless apocalypse stories, but “No Man is a Promontory,” by H.N. Janzen (from Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse) somehow juggled a violent heroine and a hopeless situation and left me intrigued and engaged rather than ready to bolt; also, to go back to horror, all the stories in Tom Cardamone’s Pumpkin Teeth had me really disturbed, but most especially the Suitcase Sammies, which… holy flying crap. Yeah, that imagery had me awake long into the night.
How about you? What are stories way outside your usual comfort zones that somehow snuck by and struck you regardless?