Book Review – Queering Poe & Queering Dracula

Slowly I’ve been getting through the massive piles of books I have around my studio – and inside my NOOK – and more than a few are from queer publishing house Lethe Press. From poetry to non-fiction, they offer up something for most bookworms, including horror and mystery offerings for those of us with darker tastes.

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The first options of these offerings I delved into were two anthologies. Each of these books asked their authors to draw inspiration from two different historic horror icons; literary genius Edgar Allan Poe, and Bram Stoker’s infamous villain, Dracula. (There’s also a third in this series, based on Sherlock Holmes, unread.) The titles, Where Thy Dark Eye Glances: Queering Edgar Allan Poe and Suffered From the Night: Queering Stoker’s Dracula, hold tales that either re-imagine characters from the source material, offer up alternate views on the material, or are simply “in the vein” of the material. But all with some degree of a queer angle.

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I read the Poe anthology first and, despite having only read Poe’s more popular offerings, I enjoyed it immensely. The stories all have that classic, subtle eeriness the world attributes to the dark author and they echo his beloved notions of revenge, romance, and mortal torments.

Some of the stories suffer from overly long paragraphs (which classic literature is often full of) and are often more description than dialogue, making the book something you must devote time to rather than something you can read passingly during your day breaks. Poetry is also included in the collection and though I’ve never been one for poetry, I gave them a chance and found them not only readable, but understandable and enjoyable… which may sound patronizing to any poets reading, but in reality that’s a lot coming from someone who often stares at stanzas in nothing but confusion.

Overall it was a great collection of tales. Particular favorites were (based on Usher) The House of the Resonate Heart by L.A. Fields and (based on Hop-Frog) The Lord’s Great Jest by Satyrus Phil Bucato.

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Queering Stoker’s Dracula was an easier read for me, mostly because I was already very familiar with all aspects and characters of the classic horror novel. The anthology offered up tales that toyed with the sexualities and sensitivities of the well-known characters like Van Helsing and Jonathan Harker, or invented queer-orientated tales around the novel’s events.

My favorite was easily the spec-story involving the sailors and cargomen who happened to be aboard the doomed ship Demeter, by Damon Shaw. Lee Thomas’ opening story about Van Helsing’s first encounter with the undead and a modern day lineage tale by Sven Davisson were also noteworthy.

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These first books acting as my introduction to the talent and quality Lethe Press provides, I just can’t wait to delve into the other offerings from them. I have a feeling I won’t be disappointed. 

If you too are interested in some great queer horror/genre fiction, head on over to their website at http://www.lethepressbooks.com/.

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