For those of us who live in areas that boast below freezing temperatures in the winter, January is not a very fun month. It actually hurt my skin when I went outside today. Earlier this month, I learned what a squall was. Look it up, it’s not very fun. I bring up my winter blues because one of the precious few cold-weather activities that helps to allay this doldrum season is the joy of reading a horror novel set during a particularly stormy autumn while concealed beneath a heavy blanket and drinking a hefty mug of hot chocolate. This was my experience reading Abbie Frost’s thrilling debut novel The Guest House.
Weird fiction, a literary mode defined by Lovecraft as possessing “a certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces”, is usually spoken about in the same sentence as names such as Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen, William Hope Hodgson, M.R. James, and, of course, H.P. Lovecraft. Unlike the earlier and related genre, the gothic, the names of women very rarely turn up in discussions of weird fiction, unless when referring to writers who came later in its development, from the 1950s onward. And even then, far too little. It’s high time, therefore, for the release of this new collection of short stories from Handheld Press, edited by expert on women’s supernatural fiction, Melissa Edmundson, whom Sublime Horror readers might remember from Avenging Angels and her reading list of ghost stories by Victorian women.