There’s a common problem within the horror genre regarding the inclusion of queer identifying characters, being that there’s hardly any. When you consider most horror films beyond the slasher killers and cheesy monsters, most relationships are straight, and when queer characters are included often they’re villainized themselves or are subjected to the “bury your gays” trope that’s often found in media, in which gay characters are killed off entirely. These unfortunate pieces of representation (or lack thereof) aside, there still are queer horror novels to be found out in the world that do display good representation in including queer protagonists.
Here you can find five novels with LGBTQ+ protagonists and characters, that aim to put an end to the ridiculous tropes found in the genre.
Clive Barker – Sacrament
Perhaps the best queer horror author of our time, Clive Barker has never held back when including queer characters in his novels and short stories, and Sacrament is no different. Blending surrealism, horror, and fantasy into a novel that isn’t any one genre completely, and is a hidden gem of Clive Barker’s work. In the novel, Will Rabjohns is a photographer of endangered wildlife, attempting to preserve nearly extinct species before they’re gone forever.
When an accident occurs while Will is on a trek, he slips into a deep coma and relives his youth, involving a supernatural couple who are focused on causing the extinction of species that helped shape him into the man he is. Upon awaking Will goes in search of the pair to confront his past and solve a mystery long left forgotten.
This story speaks to the human experience and concepts of death, all while viewing it through the lens of a gay man who is living during a time when his own friends and community in San Francisco are dying during the AIDS epidemic. The ideas between this crisis occurring among his own people parallels the extinction of animal species, both of which were all but ignored by the majority of people. The books uses a gay protagonist without being simply “a gay book”.
Yes, the protagonist is gay, and his identity is an integral part of the story, but Sacrament has so much to offer in depth and story. It’s a book about the human condition as well as the condition of the planet we call home.
Eric LaRocca – Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke
By no means a healthy romance or anything of the sort, Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke is set during the early 2000s in the golden age of internet chatrooms. Trigger warning for this one for very graphic content, as it is considered one of the more disturbing novels of modern horror and isn’t for the faint of heart, this innovative story is written in an modern epistolary format of emails and IMs between Agnes and Zoe. When Agnes goes to an online message board to sell a family heirloom in the hopes of meeting someone, she finds Zoe, and the two begin a dance of increasingly dark desires.
Once again the novel is by no means a good representation of a healthy relationship, the characters in focus are openly queer without it being listed as the reason for any of the disturbing material within. In terms of representation, the novel holds nothing back from having a lesbian couple be it’s focus, though it can’t exactly be said that no one dies. With a tagline like “What have you done to deserve your eyes?” you can only expect the worst (or best) out of this horror novel.
Joseph Fink – Alice Isn’t Dead
From the creator of the incredibly popular podcast Welcome to Night Vale and the podcast of the same name, Alice Isn’t Dead is a bit of a different story than what we’ve seen so far. A story about facing the unexpected and doing anything for love, Keisha Lewis is search for her presumed dead wife, Alice. After going missing, being searched for, and eventually mourned, Keisha thought her wife was dead, but has been seeing her appear on news reports of tragedies around the country. With nothing but hope and the news reports to follow, Keisha gets a job as a long haul truck driver and travels the country in the hopes of finding her long lost wife.
Despite having its fair share of horrors both human and inhuman, this story is about as feel good as you can get for a horror novel. It could almost be said to be downright wholesome in this story of a women in desperate search for the wife she loves and thought lost.
Hal Schrieve – Out of Salem
The only YA novel on this list, Out of Salem is about a genderqueer fourteen-year-old, Z, who is the only survivor (sort of) from a car crash that killed the rest of his entire family. As it turns out, Z didn’t really survive intact and is now a zombie. Being a witch before the accident, Z now can barely work any magic, specifically the kind necessary to keep their rapidly deteriorating body from falling apart. Z moves in with a family friend after being shunning by everyone else they knew prior to the accident, and meets Aysel, an unregistered werewolf who is under constant threat of being discovered.
Together this pair aims to fight against the oppression that is coming to their town of Salem, Oregon when a local psychiatrist is murdered, and werewolves become the suspects all while Z struggles to keep their body together. A perfect blend of fantasy and metaphor for reality, this book may seem over-the-top with it’s plot, but discusses real life issues such as bullying, homelessness, censorship, oppression, and the complexities of issues faced by trans individuals. With a widely diverse cast of characters, this award winning YA novel may seems like just a comedic fantasy, but does an excellent job at tackling real world issues.
John Ajvide Lindqvist – Let the Right One In
From Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist Let the Right One In is set in the authors home town of Blackeburg, Sweden, and is perhaps one of the most original vampire novels ever written. Oskar is a twelve-year-old boy who is under a constant threat of bullying at school and is obsessed with the gory details of local crime, befriends a new neighbor who appears to be a young girl named Eli, about his own age. They develop a friendship that grows into deeper feelings, but Oskar’s new friend is quite strange. She only comes out at night and though never having seen one before can solve a Rubik’s Cube in an instant.
This novel holds a multifaceted plot that’s part coming of age story, romance, and horror all wrapped up into one. Where the novel brings forward an incredible complexity is in the fact that Eli is described for all intents and purposes as a non-binary or trans character. As the story develops it is revealed that not only are they a vampire, but also not a girl either. This romantic relationship between a human boy of twelve and vampire who has been twelve for much longer goes beyond the typical suave counts and Transylvanian accents to make something much more.
While it still holds some typical lore: needing to be invited in, burning in sunlight, etc. it still shows so much more. Oskar developing feelings for Eli, despite knowing that they are not a girl by birth, feels very progressive for an older novel and the inclusion of a character who is plainly gender-queer makes this novel something to be noticed.
For more LGBTQ+ reading recommendations, click here!