Monday, September 26, 2022

Shelf Edition: Selena Middleton

Today we welcome Dr. Selena Middleton to Horror Spotlight to share her shelfies!

Welcome, Selena! Do you have any recent favorite Horror Spotlight books?

Two recent favorites are Naben Ruthnum’s novella Helpmeet (from Undertow) and Joe Koch’s short story collection Convulsive (from Apocalypse Party). Considering these two titles together, I think what draws me to them (besides their incredible covers) is that Helpmeet and many stories in Convulsive are stories of transformations that are simultaneously horrific and transcendent. I read a lot of climate fiction for Stelliform Press and my taste in horror is definitely overlapping with what Stelliform’s climate fiction often does. We are currently, as a society, standing at the brink of a systems-level transformation. The ecological, political, and social systems that come out on the other side of the transformation might not be what we expect or even what we want. But books like Helpmeet and Convulsive are almost reassuring in that they both assert that, yes, transformation is difficult and painful—they don’t pretend that transformation is easy or gaslight us for feeling pain and fear—but there is a kind of life on the other side, for some of us.

Both of these books also have passages that are deeply disgusting and I always find it interesting when a work affects me on that level. Finding that line is a way to know a deeply recessed part of yourself, I think. But for me, I find it easier to go there—to the edge of that line—with writers of color, LGBTQ2S+ writers, or writers who are otherwise marginalized. As a reader, I trust those writers to punch up, to create stories wherein the horror isn’t denying someone else’s humanity—unless, you know, it’s denying everyone’s humanity.

Which Horror Spotlight books do you currently have on your TBR?

I’m currently making my way through the last book in Premee Mohamed’s Beneath the Rising series, The Void Ascendant (Solaris). The first two books were great fun and I’ve really enjoyed the dynamic between the two main characters. I’m also excited for Rebecca Campbell’s The Talosite (Undertow), which promises a World War I setting and some Frankenstein-like body horror and of course Campbell’s amazing attention to detail. I had the pleasure of working with Rebecca on her novella Arboreality, which is coming out from Stelliform around the same time as The Talosite and I’m looking forward to some genre whiplash. I’ve also got The Book of Queer Saints from editor Mae Murray, and Red X by David Demchuk in the literal TBR pile beside my bed.


Where do you find recommendations? Are there any Horror Spotlight books that have been recommended to you that you loved?

I get a lot of my recommendations from following writers and publishers on twitter. When the algorithm chooses your books for you that’s a recommendation, right? One of my favorite books of the last few years was one that I’d seen a few times in the feed—Premee Mohamed’s These Lifeless Things. This book combines epistolary narrative and cosmic horror, both of which I love. Also, it’s set in Russia and I did a whole extra degree in Russian lang & lit and spent a summer in St. Petersburg just so I could read more Russian lit and retrace Raskolnikov’s murder walk. So the setting of that book is a major draw for me and I felt like I could recognize St. Petersburg in the surreal, interdimensionally invaded and colonized landscape of that book. But crucially, I fell in love with the dual narrative structure and the ways that the main characters encountered the questions of human survival. What does it mean to survive? What of civilization or even humanity can we lose and still live a worthwhile life? Where is that line? What aspects of life are absolutely essential? The last lines of that book killed me. I had to lie down.

Where do you prefer to shop for books?

I have a few local shops I like: Epic Books and King West Books in Hamilton. I also recently learned of and visited Little Ghosts Bookstore and Cafe in Toronto—a bookstore dedicated to horror. I did spend hours there and will undoubtedly spend hours more. The staff are super friendly and helpful too. It’s so fun to be in a space where people understand the function of horror fiction, and where you get to watch the faces of every horror reader that walks in the door. After the brief shock that this place exists, it’s like immediate ecstasy.

Are there any upcoming Horror Spotlight releases you're excited about?

I am pretty much trembling with anticipation for Rebecca Campbell’s The Talosite and Premee Mohamed’s short story collection from also from Undertow No One Will Come Back For Us. Also Erika Wurth’s White Horse (Flatiron) and the Indigenous horror anthology Never Whistle at Night (edited by Shane Hawke and Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr. from PRH).

In regards to your own work, tell our readers a little bit about what’s new and/or coming up for you.

Stelliform Press just released The House of Drought, which is a weird haunted or cursed house story set in Sri Lanka. The author, Dennis Mombauer, lives in Sri Lanka and the details he includes are simultaneously orienting to that landscape and deeply unsettling. He has extrapolated from his work in climate change adaptation to create a setting that is both ecologically and emotionally responsive to climate’s effects on water systems. The structure of the house and the structure of the narrative are both disorienting, pointing to the effects of climate and the vulnerability that post-colonial or neo-colonial countries experience. It’s a disturbing book on a few different levels and I’m excited to disturb people in this particular way.

Also I want to invite people to follow Stelliform Press—follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or better yet sign up for our newsletter—because we just received a very nice grant from the Ontario Arts Council to produce a book by a BIPOC Canadian. I can’t share specific details yet, but it looks like the book will be a folk horror title from a very exciting perspective. I can’t wait to tell everyone about it.

As for my personal projects, I received Ontario Arts Council funding for my literary horror novel An Ecology of Ghosts, and I’ve been closing in on finishing a zero draft. The book is told from three perspectives—a mother who is a scientist and a South Asian immigrant to Canada, and her two biracial daughters. I draw a lot from my family history and my experience as a biracial woman and how I see the effects of colonization and immigration echoing through the generations. I’m really interested in how that experience mirrors some of the effects of climate change we’re starting to see and it’s been really fun (and also sometimes pretty emotionally difficult) to explore that using horror and the fantastic in general. Does anyone besides naturalists know the history of the Common Buckthorn invasion in North America? Well I’m bringing you buckthorn related horror, as well as disaster queers, doppelgangers, and a very angry bear.

Where can people find you on social media and/or find your work?

I’m on twitter both as myself @eileenglee, and as Publisher and Editor @StelliformPress. You can learn more about Stelliform books at If you want to check out my most horror and horror-adjacent writing that is currently publicly available, I have two recent stories I love: “You Cannot Return to the Burning Glade” in Reckoning, and “When the Snowshoe Hare Turns White” in Nightmare Magazine.

Selena Middleton is a Canadian writer, educator, editor, and a PhD in English literature who sometimes writes under the name Eileen Gunnell Lee. She has stories published in Nightmare Magazine, Escape Pod, Selene Quarterly, Fusion Fragment, and others. She is the Founder, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief at Stelliform Press, a press focusing on long-form climate fiction and non-fiction. Living halfway up the Niagara Escarpment in Hamilton, Ontario, she regularly meets deer, foxes, coyotes, cloaked riders on horseback, and mushrooms of ambiguous intent.

Thank you for joining us today, Selena! Our TBR piles also thank you! 

If you would like to be featured on a future Shelf Edition please leave a note in the comments. We'd love to see your shelves!

Teresa creates our Shelf Edition posts and is a contributing reviewer at Horror Spotlight. You can find Teresa on Goodreads, on Twitter and at Divination Hollow.

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