One of today’s most popular forms of entertainment is the podcast—a form of entertainment that grants you an endless amount of choices in shows, formats, topics, and runtimes. Dead Headspace, hosted by Brennan LaFaro and Patrick R. McDonough, first made its mark in May of 2020. Since then, the listenership and viewership has grown exponentially.
Dead Headspace focuses on conversations with creators in horror, crime, and dark fiction, bringing a conversational style to the standard interview that makes guests and listeners alike feel at home. Speaking with over 150 guests, they’ve learned a lot from modern voices in horror to the often overlooked classics. For those seeking a foothold in the crossover genre of science fiction horror, Brennan and Patrick present some of their favorite recent and classic choices.
Brennan LaFaro's Picks
One of horror’s biggest strengths is the ability to insert itself into other genres seamlessly. To be sprinkled like seasoning and enhance the flavor of whatever literary journey you’ve decided to partake in. When that journey includes Science Fiction, horror adds a crucial ingredient. Science fiction seeks to explore the unknown and explain the unexplained, but what lurks in the vast corners of the universe? What if the answers are more terrifying than the questions? These aren’t just ideas that lend themselves well to horror, but they are inherently human questions. The three books I’d like to share with you delve into the fantastic, but never lose that trace of humanity.
Richard Matheson is synonymous with both science fiction and horror, and though many readers have experienced I Am Legend and Hell House, no journey is complete without The Shrinking Man. Once an ordinary husband and father, Scott Carey finds himself growing smaller by the day.
Matheson’s story deals with the more immediate aspects of this unique problem, sowing discord between Carey and his family, before he becomes too small to interact with them anymore and a whole new world of terror opens before him. Schlocky, poignant, and at times existential, The Shrinking Man boasts two movie adaptations and some serious sci-fi cred for well-deserved reasons.
Putting The Raven by Jonathan Janz strictly into the realm of post-apocalyptic horror fiction wouldn’t miss the mark, but there’s more to it. Janz combines science with folklore, positing that all mythological beasts have their roots in reality, having evolved into the world we know today. So what if a group of rogue scientists found a way to unleash those long-hidden genetics?
The Raven follows Dez, a latent walking in a world of monsters; the ones you know from every nightmarish bedtime story and B-movie. They may be Hollywood monsters, but the ideas for them had to be generated from somewhere. As always, the reader can count on Jonathan Janz to bring the gore and empathy.
Hailey Piper is rapidly becoming an author to watch for on the horror scene. Enter her debut novel, Queen of Teeth. The biggest selling point may be vagina dentata turned kaiju, but the dystopian near future sets it firmly within the sub-genre we’re discussing.
Yolanda “Yaya” Betancourt is instantly endeared to the reader, setting the stage for the explorations of bodily autonomy and other heavy topics that follow. Piper makes some bold choices around the halfway mark that may not resonate with every reader, but I implore you to see the journey through. Hailey Piper is far too much of a talent to swing and miss. Also of note, Hailey will be releasing Your Mind is a Terrible Thing, another science fiction horror novella, from Off Limits Press in 2022.
Patrick R. McDonough's Picks
Horror is more than a vehicle for blood and guts. Sci-fi is more than a portal to worlds like ours that have extraordinary technology and space exploration. On their own, the two genres cover a diverse spectrum of questions and content that touches on everything the human heart, mind, and soul could ever want. When you combine the two genres you get a new specimen, one that will rip out your eyes, heart, and mind, to claim as their own.
Ray Bradbury is one of the most well-known and celebrated 20th century writers for books like Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and The Martian Chronicles. He’s a writer I strongly recommend to anyone interested in exploring classic literature that impacts our world (to this very day).
Of all his works, it’s fair to say that Fahrenheit 451 is his masterpiece; a story written in the 1950s that is so ingrained in humanity, it will forever be relatable. Guy Montag is a firefighter in a dystopian world similar to ours, only this type of firefighter doesn’t put out fires, they start them anywhere they find a book. Guy no longer believes in what he’s been trained to do—censor literature and obliterate knowledge.
If that doesn’t terrify you as a person, never mind as a reader, I’m not sure what will. It’s a real-life horror that resembles what many groups have done in the past to control society.
Fahrenheit is a timeless story about one person fighting against injustice, censorship, and the literal burning of information for all. The bottom line is every single one of us has the right to free information and books.
Shelly Campbell’s Gulf takes us through the terrifying events of David fading out of one world and into another. At the same time, his brothers discover a new extension at the rental cottage they annually visit. When David opens the door to claim it for the summer, he finds himself in a gateway connecting his world with the one he’s been fading into. An abandoned version of his world, only we’re back in the 1960s full of muscle cars and crumbling cottages.
Can David figure out what all this means before he disappears from his world for good?
Gulf has everything I like in a sci-fi horror: heart, actual risk, scary threats to our POV, a creepy parallel universe, and strong narration with smooth pacing. On top of that, this is the author’s debut in the horror and sci-fi world. Before this, Campbell had released two fantasy books. The balance of fantastical and realism isn’t easy but it’s executed well here.
Paul Michael Anderson’s Standalone follows the familiar faceless killers that stalk through summer camps, abandoned hospitals, rundown schools, and isolated houses. They are the masked butchers that hunt down the overly cocky, naive, and more often than not, teens reveling in sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll!
Only they do all of this to protect and preserve the existence of the Multiverse.
And now it’s their turn to Standalone, get stalked, hunted, and massacred.
Anderson did something to the slasher genre that I have NEVER seen before in any format. He flipped the monster on its head. We’ve never seen the backstory of a slasher created specifically to save their world and ultimately the Multiverse. It’s an intriguing concept and equally addicting to read. The fanfare is rightly deserved. Standalone (Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing) is the type of book I would that absolutely deserves the movie adaptation treatment.
These six recommendations showcase a wide array in the sci-fi horror genre, and we hope you will take us up on at least a few of them.
The third season of Dead Headspace kicks off at the end of January 2022, adding many more incredible creators of old and new—of varying degrees of notoriety in both the film and literature —to the guest list. Dead Headspace is a video and audio show where we have conversations with the likes of Peter Straub, Chuck Palahniuk, Ellen Datlow, Joe R. Lansdale, John Skipp, Ramsey Campbell, Brian Keene, and so many more!
Each season we strive to make our show even better, and we’d love to have YOU as a part of our audience. Check out the show for a chance at the giveaways we have throughout every season.
Check out Dead Headspace anywhere you listen to podcasts.
Brennan LaFaro is a horror writer living in southeastern Massachusetts with his wife, two sons, and hounds. An avid lifelong reader, Brennan also co-hosts the Dead Headspace podcast. His debut novella, Slattery Falls, released in 2021 through Silver Shamrock Publishing. You can read his short fiction in anthologies such as Shiver, ProleSCARYet, Blackberry Blood, and Midnight From Beyond the Stars. Find him on Twitter at @brennanlafaro or at www.brennanlafaro.com.
Patrick R. McDonough is a New Englander living in south Jersey with his wife, son, dog and pig. He is a perpetually curious soul and loves talking to people, leading him to create Dead Headspace, which he produces and hosts. Patrick is also a writer, judge for GenreBlast film festival, and a book reviewer. Follow him on Twitter at @PRMcDonough.
Featured image: Pawel Czerwinski / Unsplash