Double Feature: Feminist Godpunk Horror

Happy Halloween Month, Bookwyrms! This year’s theme is super-niche mixed genre mysteries. We’ll meet teen twins uncovering a Jerry Springer-style heredity scandal, a faery detective solving cyberpunk murders, two more sets of child twin snoopers (one set totally fictional, the other a fictionalized version of real child actors) lovingly ripping each other off to bust parallel summer camp ghosts…

…and, today, two badass reluctant detectives possessed by terrifying gods seeking revenge and/or justice against toxic men.

You could consider these my last two subversive (post-)summer reads, since (1) they’re about women defying religious and patriarchal traditions, and (2) one of the books contains some very taboo (i.e. NSFW) content that I’m sure some parents would be horrified to find in their impressionable offsprings’ hands.

These are also some wicked good examples of feminist godpunk horror. Godpunk is a term invented jointly by author James Lovegrove and editors David Moore and Jared Shurin. These are stories that “giv[e] ancient gods a science fiction/urban fantasy twist.”

To further delightfully complicate this super niche genre cocktail, one of today’s books is also-also a coming out story, while the other one has erotic overtones (again, NSFW WARNING).

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Playlist:

  • Two Face, by L’Rain.
  • Possession, by Sarah McLachlan.
  • Spirit Temple, by Sweet Valley (yes, that is LITERALLY their name. They’re an electronic trip-hop band that remixes video game music, among other awesomeness).
  • The Cantopop Classics playlist on Spotify. Although she considers herself a proud Western realist, Jessamyn Teoh (of Black Water Sister) admits she’s kind of agnostic about her family’s “superstitions,” which are as much a part of her subconscious as classic Cantonese pop music.
  • gangster, by tUnE-yArDs.

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And now, beware the thrilling return of the Mini Reviews!

Cover of Black Water Sister, by Zen Cho. A woman with long straight dark hair faces the reader, staring at something over our heads, one hand clutching at her other arm as wisps of smoke twist around her body. Behind her is a starry night sky and a cluster of hanging Chinese lanterns.

Zen Cho. Black Water Sister. New York: ACE, 2021.

Lost in Translation Title: Eats Black Water. 🤨 Does kind of fit with the goddess’ horror movie ghost vibe. See my May 27th post if you’re feeling like the “Huh?” emoji right now.

Genre: Queer feminist godpunk horror.

Rating: 5 out of 5 conversations with the son of your restlessly-dead grandmother’s mortal enemy in his “international hipster”-meets-restored-local-flair cafe.

Recommended if you like:

* vengeful, unbalanced gods who play carelessly with human lives as they vent their righteous fury.

* stories that blend languages without othering (italicizing) the non-English words (unless, of course, they’re part of telepathic dialogue);

* stories that, if you’re not familiar with the featured cultures (specifically, the Chinese community in Penang, Malaysia), make you work a bit to understand the dialogue and references;

* religiously blended families who are ultimately willing to compromise in matters of (extremely) practical spirituality;

* protagonists who start out fearful and repressed, and then evolve into action movie warriors;

* protagonists whose queer identity is important, but not totally central to the story. Jess’ secret relationship with her girlfriend Sharanya may be the initial leverage her grandmother uses to manipulate her, but it ultimately serves as a B-plot, since both the grandmother and the Black Water Sister figure out more powerful and direct ways to control her.

* New-Timey Gangsters.

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Cover of Goddess of Filth, by V. Castro.  You see two glowing red faces against a black background. One face is ghostly, shaded purple, and conjoined with the other face.  The other face looks like it’s splitting into two, each half not quite mirroring the other.

Violet Castro. Goddess of Filth. Brooklyn: Creature Publishing, 2021.

Genre: Erotic feminist godpunk horror.

Rating: 5 out of 5 glasses of Coke and Southern Comfort knocked back before the séance that will wreck or rock your whole summer.

Recommended if you like:

* Indiana Jones meets The Craft, but make it NC-17;

* insolent girls who talk back to their elders;

* good girls gone badass;

* ancient goddesses who reincarnate to expose corrupt religious leaders and other mortal villains;

* unflinchingly graphic descriptions of the female reproductive system (i.e. not all of the blood in this book is of the violent variety, ifyouknowwhatImean);

* families with skeletons in the closet;

* justice definitively served.

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Intrigued, Bookwyrms? What’s the most weirdly/delightfully niche and/or mixed-genre Halloween read you’ve encountered so far? What stories have made you feel like a visitor in an unfamiliar culture, following a guide who, half the time, expects you to figure things out for yourself? What’s the most satisfying Justice Served story you’ve read?

Have any rad godpunk recommendations for me?

Credits:

Gravity Falls GIF from gfycat.

9 comments

    • Yes! The article about James Lovegrove mentions AG as proof that the concept already existed before there was a catchy term for it. 😁

  1. I am definitely a fan of the justice served genre. As much as I love it though, my mind is drawing a complete blank on books that I’ve read that fit that category. If I remember, I’ll be sure to let you know!

    • Sounds great! It’s definitely a feel-good genre. It’s especially satisfying in realistic stories (I’m thinking of Speak, by Leslie Halse Andersen), but I’ll take fantasy justice anytime.

  2. Great post! Godpunk just sounds sooo cool! lol I’ve also been meaning to read Black Water Sister. Good to hear it holds up to the hype!

    • It really does! Honestly, everything sounds badass when you add “punk” to it. Tell me you wouldn’t at least be intrigued by Unicornpunk. Or Rainbowpunk. Or Clownpunk. 🤪 Actually that last one sounds unsettlingly cool…

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