Most likely, you know Chuck Tingle. Also incredibly likely, you have never read more of his work than the covers. Which is a shame, because Dr. Chuck Tingle is honestly a hell of a writer. But, if you are too scared of a little butt pounding, then maybe his first foray into full-out horror will get you to give the dude a chance. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Straight is, in essence, a zombie story akin to CV Hunt’s Cockblock or Jack Ketchum’s Ladies’ Night. There are the mindless, violent hordes, even if they aren’t necessary of the undead variety, and there are our hapless hopeful survivors. This time, the hordes overtaken with an irrational, mindless rage are those of the straight, cis variety. Of course, because this has been going on annually since a tear in the universe opened up (it ain’t Chuck Tingle if The Void don’t make an appearance), it is treated as a common occurrence, and our intrepid protags plan on holing up at a desert cabin. Violence and terror ensue.
Yes, this is exactly the zombie/siege story you think it will be. It particularly felt similar to the aforementioned CV Hunt classic, only lighter on the gore. The simplicity, and the comfort that comes with it, are part of what makes Straight so damn effective. It lulls you into thinking you know what is coming, into believing that you can maintain the expected distance of a cheesy horror yarn. All the while, Chuck’s underappreciated skill with character development makes it impossible to not get completely drawn into these people. Their humanity and the intensity of their experience becomes something very raw and visceral because of this.
Straight is not the weirdo erotica or esoteric philosophizing of Dr. Tingle’s other work. It lacks the odd diction he is known for, as well. Without that window dressing to get in the way, his ability as a storyteller is able to shine through much stronger. Straight takes the very real horrors of violent homophobia and transphobia and deals with them in just fantastic enough of a situation to distance us without losing any of the terror.
It is also worth noting, in the midst of so much honest desperation and fear in my real life, how much I appreciated Chuck using the fear and horror and grotesqueness to shine a light on the hope that exists on the other side of the darkness.