The Bat and the Raven; Halloween Reading for 2021
By Jeff Baker
And now for Halloween reading recommendations with an LGBT flair.
For the last few years I have recommended the two Lethe Press takes on Edgar Allan Poe and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. This time, I’m going to go a bit more in-depth.
“Suffered From the Night: Queering Stoker’s Dracula,” edited by Steve Berman with a title from Stoker’s novel, features variations on the themes, characters and story of the famous 1897 novel, only some of which has entered into the popular consciousness. The original novel is epistolary, that is, told through letters and journals and diary entries. Sven Davisson’s “A Closer Walk With Thee” is told through texts and e-mails.
There are familiar names in this anthology: Mina. Lucy. Jonathan Harker and of course Count Dracula. There are gay takes on the characters. There are lovers. There is darkness. There is the thirst of Dracula.
Dracula himself does not put in many appearances in “Suffered From the Night,” but the reader knows he’s there.
“Where Thy Dark Eye Glances: Queering Edgar Allan Poe,” also edited by Steve Berman, is divided into three sections: “Poe the Man,” “Poe’s Writing” and “Reading Poe.”
The twenty-six entries include not only stories but poems (remembering that Poe was a poet, in fact there are a handful of stories about poems and poets) and the macabre and Gothic are never too far away.
There is, of course, a story where Poe is Gay. There are takes on “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “William Wilson.” We find what happens to the heirs of Roderick Usher. There is a tale told by a ghost in a painting.
And, of course, a certain black bird is invoked.
Gay characters, of course, appear in every story, as in “Two Men In A Bedchamber, as Observed by the Ghost of the Girl in the Oval Portrait.”
Given that this anthology is based on the work of Poe, who was primarily a writer of shorter works, the variety in the stories is no surprise, even when different writers take on the same story (the aforementioned “Tell-Tale Hart.”)
The title, of course, is from Poe.
“Where Thy Dark Eye Glances” was a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award.
Lastly, Steven Saylor is mainly known as a mystery writer and a novelist writing about Ancient Rome. He has combined these in his “Roma Sub Rosa” series about a detective in the Rome of the era of Julius Caesar called Gordianus the Finder. Saylor is gay and many of his stories reflect a more relaxed Roman attitude towards Gay relationships (It is implied Gordianus has at least one such relationship in his twenties, before meeting Bethesda, whom he marries), and one of these short stories is particularly appropriate for this time of year. In “The Lemures,” Gordianus is called upon to investigate not one, but two hauntings. The results are clever and chilling and full of Saylor’s well-researched details of life in the far-off world of Rome in the decades before Christ. The story is reprinted in Saylor’s collection “The House of the Vestals.”
Mid-October may not be the ideal time to recommend books for Halloween reading, but these works have their power to enthrall and chill all year ‘round.
Jeff Baker blogs about reading or writing sci-fi, fantasy and horror and other sundry matters on or about the thirteenth of every month. His fiction has been published in “The Necronomicon of Solar Pons” among other places, and his non-fiction has appeared on the “Amazing Stories” website. He and his husband Darryl wish everyone a safe Halloween with all the scares confined to fiction. He regularly blogs and posts fiction on his website https://authorjeffbaker.com/ and wastes time on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Jeff-Baker-Author-176267409096907