Horror fiction that touches on themes of disability and the environment
August 15, 2016 7:38 AM   Subscribe

I'm making a reading list for a professor and I am hitting a wall finding good material. I need fiction (long or short) that can be categorized (even very loosely) as horror, and that engages with themes of disability AND environmental sustainability.

I keep coming across things that hit two of the three (disability, horror/environmentalism, disability/environmentalism, horror) but am having a really hard time locating stories that hit the trifecta. I *know* they're out there. The widest definitions of any of the three terms are acceptable. Stuff published only online/in small magazines is perfectly acceptable. Thank you!
posted by pretentious illiterate to Writing & Language (21 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The Sookie Stackhouse books (she self-identifies as disabled due to telepathy)

(ack sorry -- was reading quickly, I'm not sure this hits environmental too)
posted by veery at 7:49 AM on August 15, 2016

What about Saramago's Blindness?
posted by griphus at 7:53 AM on August 15, 2016 [6 favorites]

The Day of The Triffids has been termed ‘science-fiction horror’ and features widespread blindness and an invasive plant species…
posted by misteraitch at 7:55 AM on August 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

Susannah Dean is a main character in the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. She's a double-amputee, and was introduced in the second book (The Drawing of the Three)

The Dark Tower was Stephen King's go at an epic fantasy series, but because Stephen King's gonna Stephen King, there are many horror elements involved. The series is set mostly in what seems like a post-apocalyptic earth, so you've got your environmentalism too.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:57 AM on August 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

The short story "Soft" by F. Paul Wilson is about a mysterious syndrome that makes bones collapse into powder. The protagonist and his daughter have lost the bones in their legs, so much of the story involves how he gets around to provide for her. And I think there's mention of possible environmental causes, though it's not a major theme.
posted by ejs at 8:12 AM on August 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Jo Walton's Among Others, arguably. Protagonist/MC is disabled and lives in the post-industrial ruins of Wales. Categorized as fantasy rather than horror but I think you can make a case for it having horror themes.

Also, Cherie Priest's work has to have something that fits this. I'm primarily thinking of her Eden Moore series (which includes a cataclysmic flood in the third book and exploration of mental hospitals and post-industrial ruins, among other themes).

I also feel like Sherri S. Tepper and and Molly Gloss must have something that meets these requirements.
posted by pie ninja at 8:14 AM on August 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

You might have a look at Animal's People, by Indra Sinha. (Ecological disaster is a sort of apocalyptic horror, yes?)
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:14 AM on August 15, 2016

I'm trying to think if Mira Grant's Parasite series hits environmental themes -- maybe obliquely? I don't remember. (I don't think the series is particularly good, though.)
posted by jeather at 8:18 AM on August 15, 2016

Victor LaValle's The Ballad of Black Tom. Interesting Lovecraftian tale with an African-American protagonist in Jazz Age New York. I wouldn't say disability or environmental issues are the major themes, but both are present. Main character's father would be eligible for disability benefits, if it weren't set before those kinds of programs existed. Environmental themes don't come up til the end, but are there.
posted by the primroses were over at 8:48 AM on August 15, 2016

Maybe Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy? I'm not sure how explicit the disability themes are, though there certainly is illness, mental and physical.
posted by teditrix at 8:58 AM on August 15, 2016

'Clay's Ark', by Octavia Butler. If 'societal collapse/incipient dystopia' is allowed, you could conceivably get away with 'Parable of the Sower', too, although it's a bit of a stretch.
Michael Faber's 'Under the Skin', on which the film of the same name was based.
I personally hate 'Oryx and Crake', for many reasons, but I think it would fit these criteria.
Left field, but I actually think 'I am Legend' could fit this really well; the central twist is basically The Social Model Of Monsterism.
posted by Acheman at 9:18 AM on August 15, 2016

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret atwood deals with infertility caused by environmental issues. It is horrific, but I don't know if it would fit a strict criteria of horror. This is an on-going theme in Margaret Atwood's work so you may want to look into her other write (Oryx and Crake was mentioned above but that is one book in a trilogy. I feel rather certain she has also written a short story/novella that meets your criteria but I can't put my finger on it.
posted by saucysault at 10:00 AM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Culling by Kelly Armstrong also meets your criteriea (Review)
posted by saucysault at 10:06 AM on August 15, 2016

I've got a bunch of maybes for you:
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer - It definitely hits disability and horror, but the environmental link is the one I'm less sure of. It may not be until the second book where there's some discussion of that. And it's by no means a major theme.

"The New Veterans" from Karen Russell's Vampires in the Lemon Grove - again, not sure on the environmentalism. Or something from her other short story collection, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves? The environmental aspect in the latter is easier; much takes places in the Florida Everglades.

The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi - yes on environmentalist and disability. Could probably argue the horror, too.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes works on the disability and horror themes; I can't remember if the cult has something to do with climate change or not, though.

Moby Dick might also work: whale hunting, amputated leg . . . the horror is less obvious, but might be argued.
posted by carrioncomfort at 11:19 AM on August 15, 2016

Chris Adrian's The Children's Hospital is a flawed, messy, extremely interesting novel that has very strong aspects of horror (though it's not genre fiction), lots of people with disabilities (though it's set in a hospital so most of them are patients, and thus if you're looking for an empowering perspective this may not be the best fit), and feels like it might be kinda sorta about environmentalism (definitely not explicitly that I can recall, but its principal theme is essentially apocalyptic and it's hard to read any 21st century apocalyptic novel without seeing climate change in there somewhere).
posted by zokni at 11:23 AM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I really want to recommend Yoko Ogawa's short story Pregnancy Diary, which involves body horror, jam potentially contaminated by pesticides, and the possibility that the narrator's unborn niece or nephew will be born with birth defects because of the contaminated jam.
posted by Jeanne at 11:35 AM on August 15, 2016

A few stories in Octavia's Brood might fight the bill. "Hollow" by Mia Mingus is the one I remember off the top of my head.
posted by miles per flower at 1:15 PM on August 15, 2016

Peter Watts' scifi is so bleak it is horror with science. There is no environmentalism in sense of return to pristine pre-human ecosystems, just world stumbling into new normal, with suffering as byproduct. Backlog of free prose, there short story A Niche, which later expanded into Rifters-trilogy.
posted by Free word order! at 1:42 PM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

You may want to pass along disability community commentary about disability representations within horror fiction. Non-horror example.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 2:18 PM on August 15, 2016

Perhaps Lovecraft might be a good source? If you agree with this article: H.P. Lovecraft, Master of Environmental Horror, then you just need to find a story of his with a character with a disability.
posted by Michele in California at 2:28 PM on August 15, 2016

John Scalzi's "Lock In" is about a person who, like thousands or millions of other people, has "Locked-in syndrome," following a widespread outbreak of a severe flu (or something) when they were a child. With so many people ending up in such a state, a massive effort was begun to develop what're, by the time of the novel's setting, essentially remote-controlled prosthetic bodies. The prosthetic bodies carry out normal life while being controlled by a person who is immobile in a kind of nursing pod back home. (If you've seen the 2009 movie Surrogates, you get the idea, though of course that movie is full of able people made socially dysfunctional by technology- evidently that was based on a graphic novel or comic, I don't really know which.) Beyond that, "Lock In" is a police procedural, pretty much, with a dose of ableist discrimination as a complicating factor.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:41 PM on August 15, 2016

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