Sarah McCarry

Author of the novels All Our Pretty Songs, Dirty Wings, and About A Girl; editor and publisher of the chapbook series Guillotine; executive director of the Eve Kososfky Sedgwick Foundation. SLC, 2019–

Previous Courses

Speculative Fiction Craft: Monster Lessons


“The monster is difference made flesh, come to dwell among us,” writes Jeffrey Jerome Cohen in his groundbreaking 1996 essay Monster Culture (Seven Theses). In Western literature and culture, the monster has been linked to the other and to marginalized bodies beginning with the “foreign” and barbaric Cyclopes of Homer’s Odyssey. Women, queer people, and people of color and Native people have frequently found themselves represented as one kind of monster or another; but marginalized people have also found ways to transform monster stories into opportunities for gleeful and exuberant resistance. Rewriting the monster can show us ways to make new stories out of old skins. In this craft class, we’ll learn to look at our own culture through its monsters by reading classic horror texts in conversation with modern-day speculative subversions of the monstrous body. We’ll use those lessons to build our own responses to the monstrous—and to our own monster stories. We’ll examine the different strategies that writers use to re-envision the monstrous, and we’ll develop a toolkit for writing about the real and imagined monsters around us. Potential reading list:

Monster Culture (Seven Theses), Jeffrey Jerome Cohen
The Blood of the Vampire, Florence Marryat/Monster Portraits, Sofia Samatar 
The Horror at Red Hook, HP Lovecraft/The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor Lavalle  
The Rim of Morning, William Sloane/The Moth Diaries, Rachel Klein
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley/Confessions of the Fox, Jordy Rosenberg
Beowulf/The Mere Wife, Maria Dahvana Headley