Daniel Zomparelli is the founder of Poetry Is Dead magazine and the author of the story collection Everything is Awful and You’re a Terrible Person and the poetry collections Davie Street Translations and Rom Com (with Dina Del Bucchia). His podcast I’m Afraid That was listed as one of the best podcasts of 2018 by Esquire.
David Ly is the author of the poetry collections Mythical Man (shortlisted for the 2021 ReLit Poetry Award) and Dream of Me as Water. He is the poetry editor at This Magazine.
We talked with Daniel and David about co-editing Queer Little Nightmares, a new anthology that throws a coming out party for our favorite horror icons, excavating and celebrating their queerness with poems and stories.
Queer Little Nightmares reimagines monsters through a queer lens, with writing that centers the queer creatures we usually find relegated to the subtext. What first sparked the idea for this anthology?
Daniel Zomparelli: I have been obsessed with horror monsters and villains since a young age and just having other queer creators have that same interest pushed us to imagine an anthology populated by these monsters. We noticed a lot of our fellow writers who were interested in these monsters in the same way and figured it would be fun to see queer writers play around with this concept.
David Ly: Like Daniel, I’ve always loved monsters as well. I think after just talking about monsters and horror movies with one another for a long while, we then started to talk about whether or not other queer writers would be into the idea of making such a book with us.
The book brings together stories and poems that feature monsters like It’s Pennywise the clown, Godzilla, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and the Scandinavian church spirit e Kyrkøgrim. What was your process for curating the included pieces?
Daniel Zomparelli: We created a call for submissions on top of commissioning fellow writers who we knew would love to be a part of this. When the submissions rolled in, we made sure that we were covering as many monsters as possible from myriad perspectives. Every writer had a different monster they wanted to take on so it worked out quite nicely.
David Ly: Yes! It was so fun to go through the hundreds of submissions we received—and very cool to see the kinds of monsters and the approaches writers took in writing about them. We definitely wanted a diverse collection of monsters. I remember making a list of every monster we had appearing in the book, and from there we decided if the collection had enough range to include popular movie monsters, and other lesser-known ones.
Did anything surprise you while working on this book?
Daniel Zomparelli: I think the variety of monsters people took on, but also the stories and poems told such different narratives. It never felt one-note. I was also surprised by the monsters I had never heard of.
David Ly: Same. The Church Grim in Kelly’s poem was really cool to be introduced to, and it still stands out to me. Another surprise to me was how cleverly people wrote about their monsters. The portrayal of Eve and vampires in particular are also real standouts to me.
Were there any parts of creating this anthology that were particularly challenging? Particularly rewarding?
Daniel Zomparelli: I think the most challenging part was choosing the stories and poems from the submissions pile because there were too many great ones to choose from. We could have created three whole anthologies just from that. The most rewarding, for me, was seeing like-minded horror fans have so much fun in their work.
David Ly: Choosing what went into our monstrous menagerie was definitely a challenge. There are so many others I wish made it in, but, yes, echoing Daniel, the most rewarding thing was seeing how many other queer writers loved monsters as much as we do.
Where others have treated queer-coded monsters and villains with disgust or fear, queer folks have consistently reclaimed these figures and upheld them as icons. Do you have a favorite monstrous creature, or is there a character featured in the book that especially inspires you?
Daniel Zomparelli: My all-time favorite monsters are Pennywise and Freddy Krueger. Those two are built on such camp and have the same energy as drag queens. In the collection itself I am of course inspired by Medusa in jaye simpsons’ #WWMD because it’s about resiliency when being forced into monstrosity.
David Ly: I love Pennywise! But also the alien queen(s) from the Alien series. She’s such an icon. In our anthology, I revisit the poem “Godzilla, Silhouette Against City” a lot. Godzilla is my childhood hero and reading that poem now, I love how tender it is.
What do you hope readers of Queer Little Nightmares will take away from the book?
Daniel Zomparelli: I, first and foremost, just hope the reader has fun. But I also hope the reader can see the ways in which monsters in movies and writing are always hiding something deeper than just their terrifying persona.
David Ly: I hope they feel for our monsters more and see that they have the same desires as we humans do. They long to be loved, cared for, and to love in return.
What are you currently reading? Are there any upcoming books that you are really excited about?
Daniel Zomparelli: I’m really excited about Ling Ma’s Bliss Montage and Kelly Link’s White Cat, Black Dog. I think those two books are gonna be strange and exciting. I’m currently reading a forthcoming book from Julia Langbein called American Mermaid which is funny and extremely delightful.
David Ly: I’m reading The Rise and Reign of the Mammals by Stephen Brusatte, so vastly different from the anthology! I’m excited about Anton Pooles’s debut poetry collection Ghost Walk and Here I Am Burn Me by Kimberly Nguyen.