Weird Summer

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Weird Summer

Stories to Read at O-Dark-Thirty

I love October for its Halloween creepiness, but I'm most in the mood to read weird fiction once the weather turns warm. Maybe it's some early childhood influences at work: my grade-school summers were filled with trips to the library, where I could check out whatever I wanted, and for a long time that was solely stories of UFOs, Bigfoot, ghosts and telekinesis. Collections of tales like The Dark Thirtya book of scary tales for children set in the deep Southwere my first taste of a fantasy genre that involved not only the cryptids I was obsessed with but places I actually knew. And my parents, who believed in educating me even during vacations, took me on many trips to Gettysburgh battlefields and to see the disturbing tableaus of the John Brown Wax Museum, further cementing my mental connection between warm weather and America's often horrifying history.
As an adult, I've discovered I'm not alone in my obsession with America's spooky summers. Some writers are tapping into the legacy of Lovecraft and his ilk with tales of the New Weird, while others further the tradition of Southern Gothic by setting their tales of death and destruction under the hot June sun. If you're also someone who thinks the creepiest nights aren't when the leaves fall but when the peepers sing, you'll find a lot to love in the books below.

Wet Moon 1: Feeble Wanderings by Sophie Campbell
Set in the Florida college town of Wet Moon, a group of teens bound together by a love of metal music and goth fashion make poor relationship decisions while a serial killer stalks the swamps. If you were a '90s goth who grew up in a rural town, you'll appreciate Campbell's loving attention to detail as she brings back memories of tattered fishnet tights, getting poorly-considered tattoos with your best friend, and drama-filled Livejournal entries. This is also a great time to pick up this series, as Campbell has just finished the seventh (and final) volume and will be publishing it soon. 

Harrow County: Countless Haints by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook
On her 18th birthday, Emmy leaves her father's farm for a wander in the woods and discovers a human skin hanging from some blackberry canes. Naturally, she rolls it up to take home with her.
If this strikes you as the best birthday ever, then you're going to love the Harrow County series of graphic novels. Emmy lives on a quiet, boring farm far from the nearest town... but it's also a place where meeting ghosts in the woods are a matter of course, there's a some kind of ancient beast sulking in a burned-out house, and witches keep snakes in bottles. In this first volume, her 18th birthday sets off a creepy course of events that gains her a skinless familiar and a terrifying new power.

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff
Good old H. P. Lovecraft. His weird tales and novels have reached classic status, influencing entire generations of weird writers... and were often blatantly racist. Fortunately, the copyright on many of his stories has run out, and new authors are putting their own spin on his legacy of intergalactic monsters and fear of the "other."
Lovecraft Country has all of the elements that made Lovecraft's stories so beloved: there's insanity-inducing books, shuggoths and witch houses. But the characters, who are all people of color, must also fight the horrors of American segregation. The first story follows Atticus Turner as he travels through the deep South in search of his father, who has possibly been kidnapped by a man with connections to a black lodge. Along the way, Atticus follows his uncle's own magic book: The Safe Negro Travel Guide. Based on the real-life Negro Motorist Green Book, this guide shows him how to avoid violence in the age of "sundown towns." But despite its dark elements, the characters in Lovecraft Country often find unexpected allies in the very creatures that Lovecraft thought most monstrous.

She Wolf, Volume 1 by Rich Tommaso
Though it's not exactly clear where She Wolf is set, the brightly colored art features lots of sun, beaches, and BBQs. Against this backdrop, Goth teen Gabby struggles with gory dreams and disturbing visions until she meets Nikki--a Latina vampire--at the mall arcade. Nikki shows Gabby how to mirror walk, and the two girls attempt to summon a demon for fun one summer's night.

The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe by Joseph Fink
The Welcome to Night Vale podcast is possibly the best-known work in all of the New Weird genre. Set in a tiny rural American town, it features creatures and hallucinations that are somehow comfortingly familiar: the looming nighttime presence of an Arby's sign, possessed Boy Scouts and a many-headed dragon that will soon be your mayor. This book contains transcripts from season 2 of the podcast, when the desert town of Night Vale is threatened with a takeover by a local dictator.