Lisa Kroger and Melanie R. Anderson, authors of MONSTER, SHE WROTE (Quirk Books), discuss women in the horror genre.
Tananarive Due's The Between
40:54When Hilton James’s wife, the only elected African American judge in Dade County, FL, begins receiving racist hate mail threatening her and Hilton and their two children, he understandably becomes obsessed with discovering who the culprit is and protecting his family from them. However, this crisis is not the only one he is facing. After years of feeling that he had moved on from a childhood trauma involving his grandmother, he is once again facing disturbed sleep and weird nightmares, both when he sleeps and while waking. As he negotiates these two monstrous situations, one external and one internal (and possibly supernatural), he faces the terrifying possibility that he could stop the stalker and still lose his family, and maybe even his own sense of self. Recommended in this episode: Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Grady Hendrix's How to Sell A Haunted House UP NEXT: Lisa Loring and the Wednesday Addams legacy and Isabel Cañas's The Hacienda Buy Toil and Trouble here!
“The Cactus” by Mildred Johnson
45:02When Edith Porter’s friend Abby sends her a cutting from a cactus she found while on a trip in Mexico, Edith decides to try to bring it back to life among her collection of cactus plants. To her surprise and delight, it turns green and begins to grow. And grow. And grow. It’s the fastest growing cactus she’s ever seen, and it doesn’t really look exactly like any other cactus, either. As the cactus gets bigger, Edith’s previously sedate life becomes increasingly strange, and although it seems absurd at first, she begins to wonder if the cactus is dangerous. Recommended in this episode: A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers and Cassandra Peterson’s Yours Cruelly, Elvira NEXT EPISODE: The Between by Tananarive Due Archived version of "The Cactus" can be found here. Buy TOIL AND TROUBLE here.
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Helen Oyeyemi's Gingerbread
53:54An unusual episode for an unusual book! Helen Oyeyemi’s novel Gingerbread is a tale about a mother Harriet and her daughter Perdita–and Harriet’s famous Gingerbread recipe, which she learned from her mother. Harriet wants to use it to impress the mothers at her daughter’s school. Sounds normal enough, right? Not quite. This is an Oyeyemi book, so of course, things must take a turn of the stranger kind. Recommended in this episode: Don DeLillo's White Noise (and the Netflix adaptation) and Tananarive Due's The Between Coming up soon: Mildred Johnson’s “The Cactus” (Weird Tales story) (but a recommendation episode up before that!) Buy Toil and Trouble wherever you get books!
MSW CLASSIC: Connie Willis's “In Coppelius’s Toyshop”
59:14Coppelius’s Toyshop is one of the busiest stores in New York during the Christmas season. With life-sized toy soldiers on either side of the entrance and characters straight out of fairy tales roaming the aisles filled with toys, it’s a paradise for kids of all ages. It’s not a paradise, however, for Connie Willis’s narrator, who is late for a Knicks game and just learned his new girlfriend has a kid that needs to be watched until her friend can pick him up from the toy store. To make matters worse, the narrator hates kids, and he hates the toy store. Unfortunately, when the little boy has to use the restroom in the store, the narrator will see all of Coppelius’s wares as he tries unsuccessfully to find the boy, make the handoff, and get to his basketball game. All the while, he hears the store’s music on repeat and the comforting refrain, “Come to Dr. Coppelius’s/ Where all is bright and warm,/ And there’s no fear/ For I am here/ To keep you safe from harm.” A reminder: We will take a brief holiday hiatus later in December, but we will return in January for our fourth season, when we read Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi.
Connie Willis's "Newsletter"
45:15Christmas is not always the easiest time of year for people. There’s often the headache of travel through busy airports, the annoyance of trying to plan a meal that will accommodate everyone’s schedules, and of course, the pressure to put your best foot forward in your annual Christmas card. All of that becomes much more complicated, however, when pod people begin to overtake your town, which is exactly the predicament the main character faces in Connie Willis’s story “Newsletter.” Recommended in this episode: Stephen King's Firestarter and the second season of White Lotus on HBO We will be back in two weeks when we re-run a classic Monster, She Wrote episode on a Christmas ghost story. The podcast will take a brief holiday hiatus later in December, but we will return in January for our fourth season, when we read Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi. Buy Toil and Trouble here or at your favorite local bookstore!
Priya Sharma's "Fabulous Beasts"
52:26This Priya Sharma story was published on Tor.com in July of 2015, and collected in her 2018 collection All the Fabulous Beasts. Here is the description from Tor: “'Fabulous Beasts' by Priya Sharma is a horror novelette about a strange woman living in luxury with her lover, but irrevocably tied to her childhood of deprivation and dark secrets in northwest England. The woman recalls the unravelling of the family upon her uncle’s release from prison." The story is still available to read on Tor.com. CW/TW: Please be warned that this story deals with difficult content and themes, including child abuse, incest, and rape. Recommended in this episode: Suburban Hell by Maureen Kilmer UP NEXT: A Christmas (surprise) story from Connie Willis's collection A Lot Like Christmas
Rachel Harrison's Cackle
59:09Annie’s life has been turned upside down. Her boyfriend broke up with her after nearly a decade together, and she can’t afford to live in New York City without his help splitting the rent. Without many options, she accepts a teaching job in a small town of Rowan. Her life changes when she meets the mysterious and magical Sophie. Sophie seems wonderful, but the townspeople seem to fear her. And her huge manor is haunted by vengeful ghosts and spiders that can grow to the size of dogs. Is Sophie a friend to Annie? Or a powerful foe? Recommended in this episode: Tender is the Flesh by Augustina Bazterrica UP NEXT: “Fabulous Beasts” by Priya Sharma Our second book TOIL AND TROUBLE is out in the world! Buy from your favorite local bookstore or check it out at your library!
Interview with Rachel Harrison
28:05Rachel Harrison is the author of Cackle and The Return, which was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Her short fiction has appeared in Guernica, Electric Literature's Recommended Reading, and as an Audible Original. She lives in Western New York with her husband and their cat/overlord. Her newest book is Such Sharp Teeth. Recommended in this episode: They Drown Our Daughters by Katrina Monroe UP NEXT: We discuss Harrison's book Cackle TOIL AND TROUBLE is out OCTOBER 25. PREORDER NOW!
Episode 69: Ellen Oh's "Spirit Hunters"
43:1712-year-old Harper Raine and her family have moved from New York City to a suburb of Washington, D.C., for a new start. Harper is trying to work through wounds left by a traumatic series of events in her past that harmed her physically, mentally, and emotionally and left her with gaps in her memory. Her parents, however, have unknowingly picked the worst new home for Harper to live in: the Grady House. Harper quickly learns from her new friend Dayo that the house has a bad reputation and a creepy history. When Harper starts experiencing cold spots, hearing strange noises, and having dreams and visions, she wonders if something evil from the house’s past is lingering in her family’s present. And then there’s her little brother’s new imaginary friend, who is definitely not imaginary and far from friendly. Recommended in this episode: Toil and Trouble--Preorder now! UP NEXT: An interview with Rachel Harrison about her newest book Such Sharp Teeth For those interested in the women from Monster, She Wrote, you can read Francis Stevens's The Citadel of Fear, out now!