Chuck Tingle’s a bit of a wild card, mostly known for his erotically humorous tales with subject matter and characters the likes of which other authors dare not do. Aside from that, he’s a loveable, fuzzy, and warm presence on social media that sends out positivity, especially for us LGBTQ+ folks. Imagine my surprise when I discover that Mr. Tingle has actually sat down and written a, ahem, straightforward horror novella. In my opinion, while there’s room for improvement, it’s a rousing success. Word on the street is he’s got a full-length novel in the works so in the meantime, let’s dive into Straight.
What is it About?
Written by Chuck Tingle and first published in 2021, Straight is a satirical survival horror-thriller.
When a strange tear in the cosmos appears within Earth’s annual path, the consequences are disastrous. For one night a year, the vast majority of humans now undergo a frightening mental change, transforming into hateful, rage-fueled zombies who will stop at nothing to satiate their desire for brutality.
While not much is understood about this horrific mass hysteria, the demographic it effects is very specific: cisgender straight people.
A few years after the first of these tragic events, four friends from across the queer spectrum look for safety in solitude, hunkering down in a remote desert cabin for what is now known as Saturation Day. With a vaccine available for straight people to curb their violent episodes, some predict the worst is over. Others aren’t so sure.
As night falls, it becomes clear that survival isn’t guaranteed this Saturation Day.
This is the first horror novella from two-time Hugo Award finalist Chuck Tingle.
I’m always starved for more LGBTQ+ horror and this hits the spot. Mr. Tingle has crafted a tale that’s a little bit Twilight Zone, a little bit The Purge, but all Chuck Tingle.
The author, who I understand is bisexual, effectively magnifies the worries and fears that LGBTQ+ folks face day to day. From indifference from other people unless it directly involves them, to fake allyship that is quick to fall in life-or-death situations. Speaking of indifference, Mr. Tingle also uses the scenario as a parallel to the COVID-19 pandemic, where a dangerous global event could be prevented or have the impact of it lessened if we worked together, and take precautions.
It all boils down to the rage some of us keep inside after being fed up for so long, defending those who wish to harm us, trying to be the bigger person, and drawing the line in the sand when you have to look out for yourself as an LGBTQ+ person. There’s also a message of hope, showing the strength and bond of the LGBTQ+ community in a world that’s out to get them.
I also appreciated the diverse and natural central friend group. While all of the LGBTQ+ community has been affected by Saturation Day, the inclusion of various representations allows the reader into different perspectives and takes on what’s going on.
To talk about the horror itself that the characters face, they do make for some pretty gnarly imagery. We get pretty vivid descriptions like a corpse hacked up and arranged into pieces and put together as some form of art piece. Someone could get their head dented after being hit by a baseball bat. That’s actually what got me more than the more explicit gore because it’s implied to have lasting effects even after Saturation Day.
The sheer commitment to a potentially controversial subject matter and the courage deliver it with the bluntness of a sledgehammer are what sold me to this book. I don’t think something like this can be done in film — mainstream or indie — without ruffling feathers.
The author also seems to see the fun in such a premise by injecting the novella with clever quips and scenes. Like, using gay music staples to lure the zombies away so characters can make their escape.
What Did Not Work?
I liked our characters but I felt at times that Chuck Tingle was held back by the novella length to really expand the characters’ backstories. While I appreciate the snippets we got, I feel like I didn’t get too deep a dive on who Isaac, Jason, Hazel, and Nora are. I also felt like I wanted a bit more world-building, and see events unfold on a wider scope. Maybe in a sequel?
While I enjoyed much of the book, folks who prefer their horror to be on the subtler side and prefer it with no social commentary may not be satiated.
Where Can I Find It?
Straight is now available on Amazon on paperback and Kindle.
Straight is a fast paced horror-thriller with sharp and stabbing commentary. It hits close to home but also has fun with the concept. I do prefer some elements be more expanded but I was satisfied with the book, in the end. Currently, Chuck is working on a full-length horror novel and I honestly can’t wait to seem him explore the horror genre more in-depth.
Dustin is a horror fan and sometimes short story writer who hails from the Philippines. He likes a lot of the horror genre but usually goes for slashers and arthouse/slowburn stuff. Currently, he’s trying to make up for lost time in the horror literature world by digesting as many horror books as he can.