By LINDY RYAN
From her debut. The Return to 2021’s witchy Cackle and 2022’s feminist body horror Such Sharp Teeth, Rachel Harrison has been taking horror literature by storm. Her newest, BAD DOLLS, a collection of four tonally consistent short stories is available now in ebook and audio from Berkeley. Recently, Rachel took some time out of her busy schedule to speak with Rue Morgue and share more about her BAD DOLLS.
Following Cackle and Such Sharp Teeth, BAD DOLLS contains four short stories that address the horrific nature of the female experience and complex relationships, both thematically resonant with your other work. Can you tell us about the origins of these stories? How did this collection come to be?
I wrote two of the stories, “Goblin” and “Bad Dolls” before I wrote my first novel, The Return. Prior to writing that novel, my focus had been on speculative short fiction. I wrote a bunch of stories with protagonists that make questionable – okay, bad – choices. I loved the idea of including them in a collection called BAD DOLLS, and I continued to write stories between novel drafts and edits, etc. I wrote “Bachelorette” and “Reply Hazy” after my most recent novel, Such Sharp Teeth. Of all the stories I’ve written, these four are the most similar, thematically and tonally – the baddest of my dolls. Luckily, Penguin Random House Audio and Berkley were interested in publishing stories, and here we are!
The stories in this collection reflect “normal” women’s experiences in absurd and sometimes tongue-in-cheek ways: a bachelorette party hinged on blood sacrifice, a dieting app that comes with a monstrous manifestation of hunger and so on. You’ve traversed everything from complex romantic relationships to deep familial issues. Can you share more on how you fit together these themes into one collection?
If I were to pick the meat off these four stories and get down to the bare bones, they’re all about the same thing. A woman reckoning with something she doesn’t want to reckon with. And messing up in the process! Making mistakes. I love a protagonist who makes mistakes. We all make mistakes. And tonally, these mistakes lead to a mix of humor and horror in each story. The stories get darker and scarier as the collection goes on, but they all felt like they could exist within the same universe [and] be in conversation with each other.
Is any one of these stories most personal for you?
“Goblin” for sure. I wrote it in 2016 and think about it every day. There are actually a lot of personal details throughout the collection, things I plucked from my own life. None of which I’ll cop to here!
Cackle, I think, taught us to harness our inner power, and Such Sharp Teeth provided another lens to consider that same lesson: to embrace the monster within. What is the larger message you’d like readers – perhaps women – to come away with from this collection?
Confront the thing you don’t want to confront. There’s freedom on the other side. That sounds preachy and weird, but it’s what I got!
I have to ask, would Jordan, Natalie, Meg and Mac all be friends in real life?
I think so! They should start a support group. Lord knows they need it.
I don’t know about you, but the response of this reviewer? Sign. Me. Up. BAD DOLLS by Rachel Harrison is available now.