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My Gay Toronto - 416 Scene

Group Hex Vol 2 launches with the terrifying Hallow-Queen
by DREW ROWSOME
21 October 2017

After Group Hex Vol 1 went, more than once, to number one on Amazon Kindle and sold beyond expectations in print, Group Hex Vol 2 was inevitable. And as the launch of Group Hex Vol 1 was such spooky fun, Hallow-Queen was almost predestined. "Group Hex as a series is very mixed with many different themes, and many types of horror from psychological to splatter," says Andrew Robertson who "collects" the stories. "The Hallow-Queen event will act as the launch for Group Hex Vol 2, but the real goal was to get some queer horror writers out to read along with some of our allies. Gays love horror, it's a natural pairing, and we have so many great queer-identified horror writers in Toronto that it made sense to get a few out for gay Christmas right in the heart of the Village."

Robertson believes that gay and horror go together, not just because of Halloween, but because, "I think when you live your life with a certain amount of fear and apprehension about being different hanging over you at all times, you become a fan of the underdog, which is what horror celebrates. We are also intimately aware of the often violent fear a queer presence can create. The subtext of all horror is that there is a fear of what is different and hiding in the darkness of a room or a mind, meaning we can relate to both the protagonist and the antagonist, but from a queer perspective, you may end up siding with the villain. It's that unique perspective that makes queer horror so interesting and nuanced."

He has a story of his own in Group Hex 2. "It deals with an orphaned mermaid whose stunning looks leave her with some ruthless enemies, and a taste for revenge," he says. "I feel that vengeance is a very gay trait, but one that I find to be a tacky waste of time in the real world. Karma catches up with us all in the end. My stories tend to deal with vanities, which is pretty damn gay, sort of like pimping your own content in an interview. We all worry about our decaying looks, precarious social status, and whether people we don't even know think we are pretty enough to deserve attention. Who doesn't want to be a thirst trap? There are definitely a few stories in Vol 2 that are more dramatic, including 'Curtain Call' by Derek Clendening that deals with a very hungry theatre, you know, for the thespians."

And Robertson will be reading at Hallow-Queen. "I will be reading an excerpt from my freakshow short story'Shells,' and to really scare the audience, I'm going to tell them the front doors are locked and I'll be reading for an hour and a half. It's my own version of Carrie." But he may not be the scariest reader. "Anything by bisexual author Sephera Giron always has a pretty fluid and present sense of sexuality mixed in with the blood and guts. She will be reading as well and she really puts on a show."Add readings from the hunky and tragically just an ally, Brian Clement, and Hallow-Queen would seem poised to scare and arouse. 

But there is one more addition, the eminence grise of queer horror, Michael Rowe (Queer FearEnter NightWild Fell). "I am a huge fan," says Robertson. "His work deals with queer themes in a very real way, as a fact of life, without resorting to camp, a heavy hand, or stereotypes. References to a queer existence feel deliberate but don't overwhelm the narrative. The worlds he builds are evocative, sensual and complete, meaning you can relate to them, fall into the story, and leave quite changed."

Robertson refuses to name which of the three performing drag queens is the scariest. "Jenna Syde, Allysin Chaynes and Jacklynne Hyde all have their own thrilling, fear-inducing qualities," he says diplomatically, "and all of it is intentional." He knows that favouring one would lead the others to "definitely become the scariest pretty damn fast and I have an interest in living to see Hallowe'en this year." 

But he admits that he most fears Jenna Syde. "We have known each other since we were underage Goths clubbing at Sanctuary Vampire Sex Bar, Savage Garden and Death in the Underground. We strutted our stuff in barely-there outfits for various punk and Goth designers, did a few documentaries and TV shows together, and probably had an unspoken agreement to compete for who had the biggest rats nest of hair. That type of history means Jenna knows all sorts of my secrets, and as we all know, knowledge is power and power is scary."

And that's where Robertson developed his personal affinity for horror. "In most horror," he says, "you've got the freaks, the outsiders, the nerds, and the monsters mixed in with a lot of camp, sexuality, experimentation and elements of the occult unknown." So working for the Group Hex publisher Great Lakes Horror Company and the podcast Library of the Damned (libraryofthedamned.com) is logical. As are his sexual predilections, "Let's just say I absolutely love werewolves," he says. "There's a lot of unbridled masculine energy there."

Group Hex Vol 2 is launched at Hallow-Queen on Thurs, Oct 26 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church St. gladdaybookshop.com

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