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The Gathering Dark is a collection of folk horror short stories. I went into this book expecting the folk horror short stories. The queerness of those stories came as a delightful surprise. I will own outright that whether or not this counts as a sapphic read is debatable. To me, it does. Out of ten stories, five feature explicitly queer main characters, four of whom are girls. In this review, I will only be addressing those four stories—though the others are solid reads for fans of horror.
The identities and situations are as much a mix as the stories. There’s a character who self-identifies as bi, others who are attracted to other girls and don’t feel the need for definition. Love saves. Love haunts. Love finds itself excluded in favor of a gruesome murder/kidnapping. The book delivers exactly what a short story collection should: varied experiences under a shared theme. Intentionally, that theme is horror. Coincidentally, another theme is queerness.
As with most anthologies, the quality varies. I enjoyed some stories more than others.
Erika Waters’ “Stay” employed the unseen to a haunting and unsettling degree. I still can’t get the implication out of my head.
Hannah Whitten’s “One-Lane Bridge” tapped into the raw rage that serves as both salvation and destruction to far too many girls. It definitely was for me!
And Tori Bovalino’s “Loved by All, Save One” embodied both the fear of a home invasion thriller and the all-too-potent feeling of trauma that might be inherited or ingrained from being a woman in a world and genre that sees female bodies as ripe only for exploitation. (I love horror, but I’m well aware it took a long time to acknowledge girls as anything other than penetrable objects.)
While I felt less connected to Allison Saft’s “Ghost on the Shore”, I can see the appeal in a horror story built around a need that seems fated be, eternally, unrecognized.
I recommend The Gathering Dark to readers looking for a diverse, sapphic, spooky collection. That’s not a mix we often see executed well, and this book was a pleasant surprise!