October is upon us and the monsters have been very patient all year. Now it’s time to crack open some books and let them out. Stories like Mary Shelley’s monstrous masterpiece Frankenstein and Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire are always wonderful Halloween reads, but why not try out one of these modern books written by female authors? Here are seven fantastically creepy monster books written by (or edited by) women to frighten up your season.
The Shuddering by Ania Ahlborn
It seems like everyone is having a hot autumn (thanks, climate change!), so a creature story set in the snow might be just the thing you need. Ania Ahlborn’s books always deliver on the horror and this one is no different. Adult twins, a brother and a sister, travel back to their family home for one last snowboarding holiday before it is sold. A blizzard strikes and soon, their group is stranded in the cold. But the weather is the least of their worries. Bloodthirsty creatures begin to attack out of the snowy woods and the twins find themselves in a terrifying fight for their lives.
InSexts written by Marguerite Bennett, art by Ariela Kristantina
Warning, this book is as sexy as it is monstrous! InSexts is a comic full of female monsters with agency. Instead of being mindless vampire babes or silent reanimated brides, these characters kick ass on their own terms. A couple, two Victorian women, discover a new power that gives them the ability to transform into horrifying and magnificent creatures. With this power, they explore a new world of occult secrets while protecting their own. Marguerite Bennett’s writing is fresh and exciting, and Ariela Kristantina’s art will completely enthrall you.
The Awesome by Eva Darrows (a.k.a Hillary Monahan)
Maybe instead of lady monsters, you want ladies fighting monsters. If you love Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, you’ll adore this book. The main character is a teenage girl growing up in a family whose business is slaying monsters. Dealing with evil creatures isn’t a problem. It’s when her mother informs her that she needs to lose her virginity to protect herself from virgin-hungry monsters that things get complicated. This book is, like all Eva Darrow books, hilariously funny and full of heart.
Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw
If you want your horror hard-boiled, Cassandra Khaw’s British Fantasy and Locus award nominated novella will give you all the monsters and noir you crave. A private investigator is hired by a ten year old to kill his horrible and abusive step-father. Only the investigator isn’t quite human. He soon realizes that this investigation will be more complicated than he thought. See, the step-father isn’t quite human either. This short book dives into what exactly makes a monster. It’s gory, weird and absolutely incredible.
The Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste
This spectacularly feminist body horror book (is there any other kind of body horror to read?) won Gwendolyn Kiste last year’s Bram Stoker Award for first novels. Two best friends have just graduated high school and are trying to figure their lives out in the industrial wasteland of 1980s Cleveland, Ohio. Meanwhile, the girls in their neighborhood are also changing, but not in a philosophical, college-bound way. These young women are slowly transforming into grotesque creatures made out of glass and corroded metal. No one knows what is happening or why, but our two main characters believe these rust maidens know more than they are telling. This might scratch your Stranger Things itch.
She Walks in Shadows, edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles
If you’re not feeling brave enough for a monstrous novel, try this book of Cthulhu-mythos-inspired short stories. There are twenty five selections in this all-female collection, including chilling tales by modern horror greats like Molly Tanzer, Nadia Bulkin and Gemma Files. Women from all over the world both battle and become terrifying creatures in these beautifully unsettling stories, making this anthology essential for any reader looking to add more of the monstrous feminine (or just some new horror authors!) to their bookshelves. It won the World Fantasy Award for anthologies in 2016.
Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers by Sady Doyle
Nothing any writer could dream up is as scary as the real life horrors women face in the world today. Sady Doyle’s new nonfiction book delves into female power, men’s fear of it and how it has affected our culture and art. Specifically, Doyle looks at how the male fear of women has deeply affected our mythology and our horror movies. Through the lens of films and folklore, this book expertly dissects why this society is so afraid of women and all the things it does to control them. Doyle takes you through a myriad of monster stories, from the tale of the Gorgons, to the legend of Mercy Brown, all the way to modern movies like Jennifer’s Body and It Follows. This book is brilliant as it is frightening. A must read for all fans of horror.
Originally published in October 2019
Mallory O’Meara is the author of The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick. You can find her on Twitter @malloryomeara.