Sunday, July 21, 2024

Chuck Tingle’s Bury Your Gays is This Summer’s Queer Horror Celebration

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I would be remiss to let Pride Month end without spotlighting a queer horror novel. And who better to spotlight than Chuck Tingle? Last summer he found success with Camp Damascus and this summer he’s bringing another horror novel to your shelves: Bury Your Gays. Arriving July 9th from Tor Nightfire, this novel examines queer realities through a media lens. Brimming with references, heart, and some gnarly monsters, Bury Your Gays is one you won’t want to put down—I didn’t. 

I’ll admit when I first started this book I thought it was a short story collection. I don’t know why. I am choosing to blame a combination of the second chapter being called “Inspiration” and the stellar audiobook cast. I guess in my mind each voice actor was going to read a story? I digress. It is a novel, inspirations and all. A meta novel in ways, yes, but I love that. My own bias toward stories about writing aside, this aspect serves the plot. It fits the characters. That’s what good narrative decisions do.

So, about that plot. Our main character, Misha, is a writer. He writes screenplays rather than books, but he does specialize in queer horror. Sound familiar? He’s also still largely closeted; only out with those close to him who are safe. Misha’s inner world is kept private with one exception: his monsters. Throughout the book the reader sees how the traumas he experienced growing up impacted his writing. More interestingly, we see the monsters themselves. Somehow, someway, they’ve left the silver screen.

Bury Your Gays Cover

That inspiration chapter that threw me off a little at first wasn’t from Tingle’s POV, but Misha’s. And that’s not the only bit of meta storytelling happening in Bury Your Gays. This is a book dealing with art as numbers, as trends, as dollars. It is a book dealing with rainbow capitalism and the prevalence of queer trauma. Basically, this is a queer horror book about queer horror. The way Tingle discusses and plays with tropes and especially genre to make his points and tell a compelling story was genius. It is clear he understands.

More to the point of that understanding, it’s clear how much he cares. The references coded in these pages, from character names to plot points, gave new life to the characters sacrificed on the altar of the trope the book is named for. To “bury your gays” means to kill off your queer characters—often right after they’ve come out, found happiness, got that kiss (or more). The idea being you can have queer characters but only if they die. I recognized names here that brought me back to fandoms and ships from a decade ago. It brought me back to the pain of losing these characters in these ways and wondering why it hurt me so much.  

In short, Bury Your Gays is a love letter and memorial. It is a razor sharp analysis and critique of how, where, when, and why queer stories are told. A story of who they are told by. And it does all of this with terrifying monsters, oppressive forces, and a ticking clock. The horror genre itself is part of this love letter, really. I am truly amazed just how much Tingle managed to say without this book feeling dense or like a TED talk. I buddy-read this with a friend and we both read the last half in one day. The tension and the way the pieces started falling into place was too good to stop. We had to know where this was going and what was going to happen next. I highly recommend this to horror fans, clearly, but even to those who don’t read horror but found some of these words resonant: this book is for you.

Happy Pride!

Images courtesy of publisher.

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