Queer Little Nightmares: An Anthology of Monstrous Fiction and Poetry
Edited by David Ly and Daniel Zomparelli
Arsenal Pulp Press, 2022
Review by Alex Hall
Existing within constant states of return and transformation, the corpus of monstrous tales can also be considered one that speaks to queer persistence. In this sense, Queer Little Nightmares is an anthology of poetry and short fiction that reads like a strangely sweet and uncanny homecoming. Edited by authors David Ly and Daniel Zomparelli, the book summons new realms of possibility for the bestial queers cruising the margins.
The task of reconsidering queer and trans histories often relies on speculative futures, reimagining the spectral within the present. “Maybe in the next lifetime/ we’ll make it to water,” writes Kai Cheng Thom in “On the Origin of Trans Femmes.” Incanting alternative timelines becomes a necessary survival prophecy for the trans femmes “still burning.” Or, as the necromancing narrator in Victoria Mbabazi’s “You’re No Longer Invited” offers, “if nothing is permanent/ hell has to be an awakening.” What resonates in these instances is how queer and trans endurance become articulations of personal-is-political unrest.
We are asked to consider the force of labour that queerness performs even in death, furthering the understanding that we are “nothing/ without a haunting.” Such corporeal revolt is again located in Matthew Stepanic’s prose poem “Ghost’d” which generates bursts of pleasure through unsettling the (digitally) dead, writing: “They say when your skin rises with gooseflesh, it’s because a tongue slid over your grave.” Looking to conjure Grindr dates from the ether as foreplay? This must be the place.
Similar modes of refusal are found in the anthology’s short fiction. In Amber Dawn’s lesbian werewolf ta(i)le, “Wooly Bully,” Dawn describes her pining teen protagonist as feeling a “sharp VOID” filled with reverb: “hiss/ hiss.” After a first kiss in a dusty cornfield, lesbianism becomes a “feral drone,” invoking the girl’s deliverance into a monstrosity. For Anuja Varghese’s protagonist, vengeance takes the form of a vetala, a roaming Hindu spirit. Such as the haunting claim “I am nameless. I am monstrous. I am dead. I am found.” The sites of return in Queer Little Nightmares revel in the intimate terrain of the grotesque Other, forging new worlds within a queer beyond.