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A Point of Pride 2024: An Interview With Petra Kuppers


What inspired you to start writing?
I grew up in Germany, where dark fairy tales and dark angel poetry were everywhere – but I entered my most intense English-language poetry reading/writing education during a period where I had grown agoraphobic, and in mental health distress. I had just lost my job teaching at a small college in Wales – my mobility disability had worsened, I got a manual wheelchair, and I couldn’t get upstairs anymore. There was nothing like the US’s ADA legislation in place that would have helped me to advocate for access. So newly without a job, for about a year, I didn’t leave my small stone cottage in a Welsh valley. Instead, I spent too much time staring at the walls. Eventually, I started journeying with these ancient river stones, imagining other people who had stared at them. Stories and poems emerged: Welsh ladies in lakes, swimming with
each other in erotic sinuous curves and drowning people; dragons and fire-water alchemies of pain; people crossing oceans and being swallowed up by sea creatures; large fat sexy women ruling the world.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
There’s a really exciting contradiction at the heart of that moment for me. I remember when I first read Edgar Allan Poe’s words (at that time, in German): “The death [of] a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world.” I was about 14 years old, and both loved gothic horror stories and, at the same time, was developing a nascent feminist consciousness. That sentence started my critical engagement with the genre of serial killer horror stories: why are mainly women the ones who get killed, why do women fare so badly in fairy tales, and why is land “virginal”? I journeyed on from there … and it was only much later that I really took in the second half of Poe’s statement, “And equally is it beyond doubt that the lips best suited for such a topic are those of a bereaved lover.” Suddenly, queerness slid in there, and all that entails in terms of desire, landscape, surveillance, and eros.

Do you make a conscious effort to include LGBTQ material in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?
Since my writing is about my own fantasy world, my own erotic environment, queer characters as well as disabled ones populate every corner. But I am also living as a queer in the world, visibly “different”, and I often get taunted and assaulted. A few years ago, conservative news media named me one of their annual “10 Craziest Professors in the US,” and Tucker Carlson read out my Feminist/Queer Eco Arts Class description on Fox News (and I have this fantasy that some sweet rural queer heard it, listened to the jokes about lesbian dancing and raising unnatural plants, and decided that college would be great for them). I had some online hassle since then – all grist for the mill. In my horror stories and my true crime poetry, these issues of assault and the need to retreat and find community among ourselves are major themes.

What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?
I write from my fears and my desires, both – and writing is a great way to get momentary clarity about what these two things are, and how they connect with one another. Fear/Desire: a delicious hinge. Walking on the wild side. That’s what horror writing opens up for me.

How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?
I love the knowing, winking delicious play with what went before. I teach a Dark Fantasy class at the University of Michigan, and in that class, we focus on how minoritarian authors have taken on Lovecraft, that racist, homophobic, misogynist granddaddy, and how we are having (serious) fun with Mythos characters and storylines – think T. Kingfisher/Ursula Vernon or Victor Lavalle. I see so much expressive engagement with the recombinant pleasures of genre, from a place that is much more aware of social justice issues and tries to write toward creating (and then burning down) new worlds.

How do you feel the LGBTQ community has been represented thus far in the genre and what hopes do you have for representation in the genre going forward?
I just want to see a lot more writing where the trans, queer, or disabled character is the detective–not the monster. Or if they are the monster–make it a super delicious, seductive, world-devouring one.

Who are some of your favorite LGBTQ characters in horror?
That is such a hard question to answer! I am in my 50s, so my horror consumption started well before there was much visibility for sexy queer women in horror, and most of my identification and erotic investment was in “forbidden” territory – for instance, that young me loved Clarice
Starling’s panting run, even though I certainly wasn’t afraid of trans folx. And I enjoyed and fantasized about curving around the alien spaceship with Ellen Ripley. Which are two films–isn’t it interesting how visual representation of not-queer-playing female characters are the first two things that come to mind, rather than books?

Who are some LGBTQ horror authors you recommend our audience check out?
So many great current writers! Rivers Solomon and Faer haunted oceans, Mira Grant (really Seanan McGuire, but I LOVE the drowning deep stuff), Caitlín R. Kiernan, Kristen Roupenian–both her story stories, her movie scripts (like the recent Bodies, Bodies, Bodies), the poetry of
Cameron Awkward-Rich.

What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?
Read something about Afropessimism: how the old order has to die, in all its facets, even the facets some version of “we” might find comforting, for something new to emerge, something not beholden to old, colonial, racist, homophobic, misogynist and ableist imaginations.

And to the LGBTQ writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?
Read what’s out there, and follow that sexy little thread of your instinct, your desire, your passion, our longing for warm blood.

Petra Kuppers’s fourth poetry collection, “Diver Beneath the Street,” investigates true crime and ecopoetry at the level of the soil (Wayne State University Press, 2024). She is a disability culture activist, teaches at the University of Michigan, and is a 2023 Guggenheim Fellow. Her speculative short story collection, Ice Bar, appeared in 2018 with Spuyten Duyvil.




Explore more of her work by following the links below! 

Poem and mini-interview on Future Fire (Bone Planet, Feb 2024):

Starship Somatics video-meditation offering (March 2024):

“Diver Beneath the Street,” a 9-minute reading of three poems for StokerCon 2024:

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