Horror and Romance by Steve Berman (Guest Post)

Although I have always known him best as editor of such anthologies as Wilde Stories and Heiresses of RussSteve Berman is also an accomplished author in his own right. We chatted a bit about stopping by when I won a copy of Daughters of Frankenstein earlier this year, and it looks like the upcoming release of All in Fear (which I'll be reviewing later in the week) is just that opportunity.

Horror and Romance
by Steve Berman
author of His Mouth Will Taste of Chernobyl

A phrase from high school Latin class that has never left me is odi et amo, I hate and I love. There have been men that have made me mutter this under my breath. And the overlap of horror and romance demands this phrase be in the mind of the reader; even hardcore horror fans should have a visceral sense of anxiety, of looming pain and of loss. If the author has done the right thing, the reader will hate to have something terrible happen to favorite characters in the story. Romance is the flip-side of this; readers anticipate characters they have come to care for will find happiness through emotional and physical intimacy.

I know Freud has been relegated to the history of psychiatry rather than its practice, but part of his theory about the drives that motivate people resonates with me, especially when writing speculative fiction: the Eros instinct and the Thanatos instinct, arguably the libido and morbid fascination with mortality respectively. When writing stories with both horrific and romantic elements, it's important to remember that most of us ponder these two inclinations often throughout our lives. Our circumstances may make us prone to one more than the other (first dates should be falling under the Eros camp or else that is a very horrific tale about to happen). Tapping the reader's memory of love and lust and danger and death can provide a writer with a rich framework.  The lack of good judgment because infatuation clouds the mind. That moment when an inappropriate tryst could go horribly awry and who knows where you are?

And when I write horror, I am always aware of the bodies of the characters in the story. My comfortable means for exploring the Thanatos urge is to be cognizant that society places a great deal of importance on physical attractiveness and to twist that obsession. It's hard to tell an engaging romance with a rotting zombie because of this. Nicholas Hoult's character of R in the film Warm Bodies barely registers as undead because they knew women (and gay men) would not desire him if his gorgeous face was fIyblown and one of those pretty blue eyes had been plucked out by a crow. The movie became an action-adventure flick with hints of romance and the trappings of ghouls. If the love interest had been more fleshed-out (haha!) and put R back to together, piece by piece, I would have been smitten.

Reaching the end of a horror novel where the protagonist survives can be very reminiscent for emerging from a terrible relationship. Yes, the idea of abuse cannot be easily escaped. As an adolescent I was enthralled with the vampire's ability to beguile his victims. I envied this trait above all others because it allowed me to fantasize about seducing the high school boys that never knew I was gay. As an adult I realize that any coercion, supernatural or mundane, is an echo of rape culture. After experiencing terrible relationships, including years spent as a co-dependent, I became aware that consent is mandatory for me in my romance...unless I want to write a story with a young lead who is being tempted to walk a very dark and destructive path to fulfill his libido.

In my novelette  "His Mouth Will Taste of Chernobyl," a magic flask seems to offer the main character everything he could ever want. Unfortunately he's not very sure what he wants. And having the attention of some guys can lead to trouble. And it does. I actually rushed a fraternity for a terrible reason: I thought I was in love with one of the fraternity brothers. Even when he beat me up. Because he eventually apologized and he was incredibly charismatic and sexy and I was naive and he paid attention to me, on occasion. I remember spilling blood around him.

I'll continue to write my stories of men who find themselves is precarious positions, often because of bad choices. Sometimes the person on the other end of that late night call promising an unforgettable evening is just being romantic. Even when the directions sound off, the voice is too eager. And sometimes, well, pages later, the reader wishes they had never answered.


About the Author

Steve Berman loves to tell stories that are both queer and weird. He was a Zeta Psi back in his college days at and remembers being hazed. He survived and graduated and even earned a Masters Degree in Liberal Studies. He has written and sold over a hundred articles, essays, and short stories. His YA novel, Vintage, was a finalist for the Andre Norton Award.


About the Book

Want something a bit different for the holidays? Horror has never looked this enticing! New release, All in Fear, is a gorgeous collection of horror tales from some of the hottest names in queer fiction. Be prepared to be titillated...and terrified.

By KJ Charles, Roan Parrish, J.A. Rock, 
Steve Berman, Avon Gale, and Kris Ripper

Horror wears many faces, and its masks can be tantalizing. Some of the top names in queer fiction come together to spin their own versions of horror. Worlds rife with dark beauty and mystery, the familiar becoming terrible, creatures ethereal and alluring—and all bearing the gleam of love. Does hope lie along these grim passages or only doom? It will become clear. All in time—and all in fear.

Company by Roan Parrish
Nick Levy’s family is falling apart and he has no friends, but at least he can escape into the world of his favorite comic book series, The Face of the Vampire. Naturally, when the vampire in question shows up one day, Nick is enthralled. After all, what could be better than his own personal fantasy made real? Except that Nick isn’t exactly sure whether Michel is real or not. And when the arrival of a new boy in school promises romance, Nick sees a side of Michel he never could have imagined. This Michel is cruel, jealous . . . and he’ll do anything to keep Nick for himself.

Love Me True by Kris Ripper
Palmer's life is as good as it gets. Well, okay, so he hates his mind-numbing office job. But he's found a hot, smart, incredibly kinky guy. The sex is explosive. The power play is off the hook. And if he gets his way, Jon will soon be his husband.

When Palmer asks, Jon says yes. For the first time ever, Palmer thinks things might be really good. Sure, bad things happen in the world—to other people. But this is all he needs: Jon at the end of the day, in their bed, arms around him.

How could he have possibly been so stupid?

The Price of Meat by KJ Charles
Johanna Oakley will do anything to save her beloved Arabella from the cruelty of Mr Fogg’s madhouse—but ‘anything’ turns out to be more than she bargained for when she finds herself working for a man suspected of worse than murder. As Johanna is plunged from the horror of Sawney Reynard’s barber shop into the foul, lawless labyrinth at the heart of London, can she or anyone get out alive?

His Mouth Will Taste of Chernobyl by Steve Berman
Joining Zeta Psi isn’t Steve’s dream, it’s his dad’s. Nevertheless his dad’s gift of the mysterious Bailey flask gets Steve an in to the frat house, and maybe his best shot at being accepted on campus. But the flask’s silver sheen may only be lighting his way into the darkness at the heart of the frat—and the darkness he’s learning is within himself. Steve wants to choose who he is, but choices are dropping like flies as he learns the true mystery of the Bailey flask. How does he give back a gift that’s also a curse?

Legion: A Love Story by Avon Gale




Beauties by J.A. Rock
When Dr. Lester Usole attends an event at AI developer Carnificiality, he’s introduced to Beauties: artificial beings designed to provide tailored sexual experiences for their human owners. Lester isn’t interested in sex—but he is fascinated by Ira, a Beauty too violent to be sold.

Lester convinces Carnificiality to give Ira to him. Lester has always wanted the chance to work with an adult AI, and around Lester, Ira isn’t violent. He’s strangely innocent, uncannily perceptive, and his company does much to ease Lester’s loneliness. Except something’s not quite right: Ira roams at night, even when Lester’s sure he’s locked Ira’s door.

Soon Lester is certain of only one thing: Ira has a secret. Something that will link their pasts and change the course of their future—if Lester is willing to face what’s on the inside.

Learn more on Goodreads.

Order it now: Publisher’s Site  |  Amazon  |  B&N  |  ARe  |   Apple  |  Kobo

“An engaging anthology of queer fiction filled with monsters, mysteries, and menace.”  — Kirkus Reviews


  1. This is an excellent collection of stories. I'm just about done with my review and can't wait to read your take on things. I hope you're enjoying it as much as I am.


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