Finally, The Changeling by Victor LaValle.

When I started out querying my current horror novel, which has elements of gothic horror, speculative fiction and folk horror, I chose my comparison things poorly. For gothic, I chose My Sweet Audrina, for speculative, I called my book a more adult and much gayer Stranger Things (actually, I still use that one) and for folk horror, I used Pet Sematary, even though I hadn’t read the book, and kind of can’t stand Stephen King, and I think it gave me bad karma. To be fair, I did finally read Pet Sematary and it’s definitely one of his better books. Maybe even his best. But it doesn’t suit my brand of horror as I kind of think like the literal opposite of all that weirdness JK Rowling was spewing at King about how much he understands and sympathizes with women. Barf.

Not that The Changeling is perfect. But I chose LaValle as my fok horror comparison because I felt like our gaps in understanding were well matched. Also, I want the authors I mention in my queries to be decent humans. I think Stephen King maybe tries to be that but is in such a lofty position now, it’s impossible for him to remember that a lot of soothing and petting by a woman who put her own work on hold went into that, as it’s often something men (especially Boomer aged men) just feel entitled to. I mean, in a way, it isn’t their fault initially, as they were taught to feel entitled. But time after time, King has proven himself to be unwilling to do any work on that entitlement, happy simply to coast on his earlier successes. And why shouldn’t he? According to my Instagram feed, he is still beloved by all, male and female readers alike, whereas I just have some unfair vendetta.

The Changeling is really addresses social issues well like lack of childcare, lack of support for working women, lack of maternity leave, how women, (especially women of color) are less likely to be believed about things like PPD or difficulties in pregnancy, or even how, not all women bond instantly with their children. That’s a real thing, one I was terrified of to the point where I decided, better to go without. I don’t particularly trust the people who would be around the child not to stick me in a 19th century era mental institution so they can whisk the child away and teach it ‘the important things in life.’ That’s perhaps mean but also valid.

Yet, despite there being a very comprehensive, or intersectional understanding of what women deal with when they have children, any treatment of a (male) world which assumes all women want to have and should have children won’t resonate with those of us who don’t want to have them. But like I said, I wanted a comparison whose lack of understanding could fight, if you will, with mine. After all, I’m writing about a black woman from an alternate universe who fights monsters, and I’m white.

I also wanted to say (this is spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read the book) that I really liked that they went there with the troll thing. It was suitably hilarious yet, although a troll with tech savvy can do a lot of damage and I imagine, can do worse to a person of color, after I got done chortling, I felt kind of uneasy with the choice simply because men, even ones that incels consider to be ‘cucks’ – my bf says no one uses that any more; men who talk to women online without deriding their horror choices or threatening to rape or kill them are now ‘simps’ – are still centered as important while women are disposable garbage. I think that’s why Lavalle chose to have Emma dispatch him to sort of dispel a bit of that uneasiness. Which didn’t quite do it for me. Once the novelty of the humor wore off I felt this was a bit too close to an author playing around with something that is a very real threat to women who navigate the internet.

Like, I actually taped a piece of cardboard up over the camera on my laptop and I don’t know if LaValle’s intent was to terrify women over their already often uneasy encounters with men and their opinions, especially in a male-dominated genre like horror. But that’s what I meant by our lacks hopefully matching up well. I think comparison things should fit the horror author using them and I at least feel more comfortable with what LaValle thinks about women than what King does.

Otherwise, I really loved this book. The images are so compelling. The island, especially, was really strange and lovely. Anyone who likes folk horror and magic will really enjoy The Changeling and I urge those who are feeling run down with everything that’s happened in the last eight months, read this, as we could all use a little magic right now.

Next week, I will review The Babysitter’s Coven (and I’m also working on rereading the Lerangis ghost written Baby-Sitters Club books).

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