Monsters in the Closet: Gay Pulp Horror in the 1970s (NYC)

Date(s) - Thu. Nov. 17, 2016
12:00 am GMT

Morbid Anatomy Museum

Maitland McDonagh


Monsters in the Closet examines the intersection between gay erotic novels of the 1970s and the conventions of genre fiction formulas that lent themselves to sexually explicit variations, which adults-only publishers mined with exemplary vigor. I began collecting them not for the colorful covers but because they were windows onto a world of familiar stories with a twist, like the European exploitation movies I sought out in Times Square. I gravitated towards horror and thrillers, a natural adult-novel match—consider the phrase “scared stiff”—that produced tales of gay vampires, psycho killers, demonic possession and restless spirits no closet can contain.

And while these books are pulp fictions through and through, they’re far from unsophisticated: The teaser for Vampire’s Kiss, in which a tediously ordinary, suburban wage slave chronicles his induction into the world the queer undead, wonders disingenuously whether he’s “a vampire?—Or… merely rationalizing his homosexuality?” Free of the scrutiny afforded gay literary novels, gay pulps dared to be cheeky, to riff on pop culture and flirt with subversiveness: Gay Vampire gives a shout out to supernatural soap opera Dark Shadows, the thriller Man Eater to every dark tale of mirror-image cops and criminals… gay pulps shone a light under the bed, into the corner and, yes, the closets, calling out the monsters in all their fabulous freakiness.