The Night of the Living Queers editors are celebrating Halloween early

Night of the Living Queers, edited by Shelly Page and Alex Brown. Image Courtesy of Wednesday Books
Night of the Living Queers, edited by Shelly Page and Alex Brown. Image Courtesy of Wednesday Books /

Shelly Page and Alex Brown are ready for fall. Specifically, for Halloween. And pumpkin spice lattes.

We met on Zoom the night before Starbucks officially unleashed Pumpkin Everything Season. And we probably could have talked about our shared love of pumpkin-flavored sugar coffee for hours. We’re professionals — they edit books and I ask people questions about their books — so we didn’t do that. (But I did order a PSL while outlining my review of their book, just to bring things full circle.)

We do, however, start by reminiscing about our favorite Halloween costumes of years past. Shelly was a vampire, and also Dionne from Clueless. Alex was a witch … and Sharknado? You had to be there.

“I printed out pictures of different sharks and I think I wore, like, just all black that day. And I just taped the sharks to my clothes. So I just had pictures of sharks all over me. And would walk up on unsuspecting people and just say ‘Sharknado’ and throw some paper fish at them.”

She’s looking for photos. Stay tuned.

This is, after all, what Halloween — and Night of the Living Queers — is all about being a vampire or a witch, one half of a Clueless couple, or a shark tornado. Be whatever you want to be because you can. Because it feels right. Because it feels like you.

“I love that Halloween is so transformative. It’s the perfect time to be whoever you want to be, and without judgment,” Shelly said. “I think that’s such a powerful thing, especially for queer people of color who oftentimes are overlooked and ostracized and villainized. So when it’s Halloween, it’s a time to celebrate what makes you different, and to embrace maybe the darker side of yourself. It’s still a perfect time to just be yourself.”

And it’s not just about the individual, either. Halloween is a night everyone gets to surround themselves with other people who feel free to exist exactly as they are.

“People say the veil between our world and the spirit realm is thinner [on Halloween, during a blue moon], or like it’s a night where monsters are supposed to be able to roam the streets with us,” Alex added. “Monsters and queer people have a very interesting relationship because historically, queer folks and folks of color and especially queer folks of color have been categorized by society, sort of with a monstrous-like slant to us and our identities and the way that we can move around the world. It’s very difficult to try to see yourself as human when so many people are telling you [that] you aren’t. So I think that’s kind of one of the cool things about Halloween too, is, like Shelly was saying, you get to be who you want to be, but also, the folks around you can too, and I feel like there’s a big kind of community being built by a lot of people who society may not have treated super great.”

It was originally Shelly’s idea to create a book filled with horror stories by queer writers, compile a list of QPOC authors, and bring the concept to reality. “We wanted the anthology to be full of queer authors of color. It was super important to me that it was exclusively queer authors of color because that is the group of identities that have been the most silenced in publishing, and especially in the horror genre.”

And Alex helped to bring in a variety of writers to participate — even some who have never been published before. “I think it was important for us to put a good mix of folks who have previously published or who are multi-published already.  But we wanted to be able to feature new voices as well. And [there were] a few folks who, during the process, wound up selling their debut. It’s a wide array of people, too. That way people can pick up the anthology and hopefully, you know, find a new author to fall in love with.”

Night of the Living Queers accomplishes many things at once –simultaneously giving QPOC writers a chance to tell their stories to a wider audience and showing readers they’re not alone.

“[We] hope that everyone that picks up the book finds a story that they can relate to that speaks to them and [they walk] away feeling seen,” Shelly said. “Because that was the big thing I think  — to have readers be able to see themselves in the stories.”

And if you’ve never read horror and want to give it a go — or you love horror and need more in your life? This is also the book for you, Alex said.

“If you are curious about horror but have never dipped your toes into it because you were a little cautious, or if you’re like all in and want to get creeped out and scared? I think that there are stories kind of in there for everyone. Or we hope there are.”

Because I’m terrified of clowns but survived the end of this book — and thoroughly enjoyed every page — there is a story in Night of the Living Queers for all of us.

So grab your pumpkin drinks, your comfort candy, and your copy of Night of the Living Queers, and settle in for a read you won’t soon forget. Shelly and Alex wove together something unique and wonderful, and you’re not going to want to skip it.

Night of the Living Queers is available now wherever you get your books.

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