I found out about Serna's Snow Over Utopia from my contacts at Apex Publications. Apex is a small publisher who have an amazing track record of publishing important voices in science fiction, fantasy and horror, first. For example, they were the first people to publish Rebecca Roanhorse and one of their editors is Maurice Broaddus who just recently signed a three book deal with Tor.
Apex knows good speculative fiction, and I have learned to always reach out and see what is on their radar. Last year they had an open call and Serna's novella was one of the titles they received.
I included this title second in the list because, like Sharma's Ormeshadow which came before it on the list, it is not 100% horror. Snow Over Utopia mixes scene fiction, fantasy, and horror with a psychedelic feel that is disorienting, and fun. I think it will surprise a lot of people who don't think they like horror. But as Serna discusses below, "horror" is a part of a lot more than the aervage person realizes.
Click here to read the column in Library Journal if you missed it or want a refresher.
Here is Rudolfo A. Serna, author of Snow Over Utopia, on why he loves horror.
Why I Love Horror
Rudolfo A. Sera
I cannot particularly say that growing up in northern New Mexico drove me to horror, but certainly there was an element of isolation and loneliness as one experiences in an expansive landscape, and in dark orchards and fields after sundown— impressing upon my imagination something of a fear. It could have been that I was a child of a video-age which allowed me and my generation to watch our favorite horror movies over and over again, reliving moments of terror. And even though I would run through the pitch dark of the orchard to reach the lights of the house, convinced that something lingered among the apple trees, I found these horror movies compelling and fun. With perhaps an innate disposition to the macabre, something to do with the fantasy of a menagerie of monsters, maniacs, and supernatural demons from endless dimensions possessing the willing and unwilling alike. I always had an interest towards the bizarre or strange, and that has obviously crept into my work, willingly or not.
I do not consider myself a horror writer per se. Instead, I think my writing contains certain horror elements, which are just as natural to me as the other sci-fi and fantastical components associated with speculative fiction. As a reader of the classics, I have found much in history, myths, and old stories, perhaps much more than in the genre literature itself, which I feel can be formulaic at times. For me, it started with comics, and the heroes and villains involved in a constant life and death struggle, possessing supernatural powers, traveling the universe, or the deserts and oceans of Earth. I became a fan, and this is what got me into reading as a child. That imaginative landscape that I could combine with my own land of orchards, mountains and deserts; infusing those regions with my own monsters and demons, visitors from other realities. To me, that was, and still is, what interests me.
As time went on, the comics were replaced with the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, who is as much of a fantasy writer as a writer of horror. I think that the art of true horror writing itself is something that is not easy to do. Taking people’s fears and articulating them in a way that is not only entertaining, but resonates. One of Lovecraft’s famous quotes is, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” And that is perhaps what horror has always been for me. The unknown, and trying to render the faces of those things lurking in the dark behind the trees.
But there are all kinds of fear.
The fear of government control, and the fear of science running amok, as found in the books of Aldous Huxley or George Orwell. And indeed, much of the best science fiction is political. I do not make much of a distinction between the different kinds of literature, and consider science fiction, not only fantastical, but allegorical, such as in the works of Ursula Le Guinn or Octavia Butler. All of these stories have some elements of horror to them. Articulating the fears of not only individuals, but the fears of society, as horror writers have always done. In gothic-horror, Dracula and Frankenstein spoke of the fears of technology and contagion. These communal fears can still be seen today in popular zombie literature and movies. Even something like William Peter’s Blatty’s novel, The Exorcist, which deals with the fear of possession and losing one’s soul or body. It is not only a central theme of the story, but the idea of being held captive is one of the most common themes throughout fiction.
Speculative fiction itself is a liberating genre that gives the writer freedom in what and how a story can be told. It is not limited to a specific person, time, place, or even reason. It is a language that can transcend social class and ethnicity. But it goes further than just artistic freedom. I think that the attraction for fantastical and horrific tales is similar to the curiosity and wonder that is experienced when one attends a circus, a magic or freak show. Horror does have an element of escapism, but that is not to say that those that are partaking in such fantasy necessarily wish to remain perpetually in some other made up reality. But instead, like old myths and fairy tales, these stories help us to understand, to deal, navigate, and make reason of our world.
It can be dark, it can be strange, but so can Dr. Seuss, so can the circus. The earliest of wonders, and some of the most primal feelings we have about what lingers in the woods. Wondering what is in the old house at the end of the block. It is the imagination running wild with possibilities, appealing to the child in us.