What to Read After Seeing "The Shape of Water"

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What to Read After Seeing "The Shape of Water"

Books for those who can't get enough of Guillermo del Toro's weird and atmospheric movies

Guillermo del Toro's movie The Shape of Water was released this past December, and people immediately began arguing as to whether it was a romance or a horror film. It definitely has elements of both, being about a mute janitress who realizes a disturbingly humanoid fish monster is being subjected to cruel experiments in the secret government facility where she works. The story takes an unexpected turn, though, when she manages to free him so they can have a torrid monster-human affair in her bathtub. 

What the movie actually is, is deeply, joyfully and unapologetically weird, and del Toro's long-standing love of Cold War fiction, government conspiracy theories and lovingly fashioned monsters shines through. To that end, here's a list of books that either influenced del Toro's creepy fairy tale style or riff off of the themes of his latest movie. Whether you're a fan of monster/human love stories, the struggles of supernatural beings trying to make it in the modern world or just love del Toro's style of weird fiction, this list will have something for you.

Horror stories: Classic Tales from Hoffmann to Hodgsonedited with an introduction and notes by Darryl Jones
This short-story collection encompasses the kind of tales del Toro grew up reading and has cited as influences in his work. Spanning from 1816 to 1912, these disturbing tales cover everything from insanity-inducing plays to the unnatural desire of a man for a robot.

Smut Peddler Presents: My Monster Boyfriend by C. Spike Trotman
This literally monstrously sized, full-color collection of comics has humans and non-humans coupling up in all kinds of tender and fun ways. Stories range from adorablesuch as the time when a girl and her robot boyfriend discuss giving him a fancy new interfaceto an intense tale where a boy trapped on a magical mountain is forced to rely on a supernatural being for comfort when he realizes he can no longer go back to his family. 

B.P.R.D: Hollow Earth and Other Stories by Mike Mignola
Before del Toro made any of his movies, Mike Mignola created a comic series called Hellboy, where a reformed demon and a supernatural fish man, Abe Sapien, fight occult threats on behalf of the government (del Toro would later direct two adaptations of this series, Hellboy and Hellboy II: the Golden Army). In this stand-alone adventure, out-of-control pyrokinetic Liz Sherman travels to a remote mountain temple in hopes the cult there will hold the secret to mastering her explosive powers. Instead, she's taken prisoner to power a derelict Nazi war machine, and bookish Abe has to sigh, strap on a flack vest and fight his way through a frog god to save her.

Swamp Thing: The Saga of the Swamp Thing by Alan Moore
Swamp Thing is another monster whose strange appearance doesn't keep it from having a complex romantic past, and the Swamp Thing saga pulls together some of the best of this groundbreaking comic series. Tasked with revamping a struggling DC Comics creation, author Alan More swerves away from the traditional superhero narrative and gives Swamp Thing enough romantic angst to outdo Lord Byron as he struggles to continue his human relationships after becoming one with all the vegetation on Earth, a single organism he calls "The Green." 

Sailor Twain, or The Mermaid in the Hudson by Mark Siegel
This graphic novel's childlike and smudgy pencil drawings might seem like a poor setting for a story about mermaids, but Siegel's tale is always more than it seems. When steamboat captain Elijah Twain finds a mermaid on the deck of his boat, it's just one more strangeness in a life that has already been complicated by a mysterious death and a famous author traveling incognito. While he initially plans to sell the mermaid to a freak show, he instead finds himself infatuated with her... and uncovering hints to the motive behind a series of murders.