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Luminous Body

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Pregnancy, motherhood, and family through a cosmic body horror lens. An exceptionally personal story by Brooke Warra with cover art and two interior illustrations by her daughter Zoe Liegh.

Limited to 130 hand-numbered copies.

52 pages, Paperback

Published October 24, 2019

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About the author

Brooke Warra

23 books23 followers
Brooke Warra grew up in a deep, dark wood where she developed a taste for the weird and macabre. Her work has appeared in various magazines, anthologies, and podcasts. She lives and writes with her children in the Pacific Northwest.

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Displaying 1 - 11 of 11 reviews
Profile Image for Sadie Hartmann.
Author 21 books4,830 followers
August 26, 2020
“If normal mothers would have been safe and comfortable, reliable, at least mine had been loud and vibrant and hard to ignore. And that was something.”
Review coming!
Profile Image for Christa.
Author 29 books172 followers
February 3, 2020
There have been several horror writers over the past few years whom, once I’ve read a single instance of their work, I instantly connected with in terms of their subject matter and style, and subsequently desired to read everything they’d ever written, while simultaneously keeping an eye out for any new work they published.

Brooke Warra is one of those horror writers.

Two years ago, for #WIHm, I wrote a guest post for Kendall Reviews entitled “Ten Short Stories by Women in Horror You Need To Read,” and included Brooke’s contribution to Looming Low Volume I. The anthology was edited by Justin Steele and Sam Cowan, and was nominated for a Shirley Jackson award. I hailed the story for Brooke’s ability to employ the beautiful grotesque in her work, because “the author refuses to shy away from the blunt and biting reality… and recognizes that, while the reader may recoil from the words upon the page, the beauty is in those details that are sometimes uglier than we’d care to contemplate.”

In her recently released chapbook published by Dim Shores, Luminous Body, Brooke has struck that perfect balance again. Grotesquery is on full display in this tale of pregnancy, motherhood, and family through a cosmic body horror lens, but so too are beauty, truth, and love. The novella’s structure is like a living, breathing thing, with Brooke delivering hard-hitting plot points alongside visceral, pulls-no-punches prose, to absolutely devastating effect. In order to keep this review spoiler-free, I will only say that when the protagonist receives her second piece of unexpected news so closely on the heels of the first, and at a time when the reader has already become so enamored of that protagonist (despite it being early in the tale, another testament to Brooke’s prowess as a storyteller), so enmeshed in her life and her choices and her personality, well, that back-to-back hit had me feeling as if I’d just been launched beyond the exosphere, where alien life exists and glittering stars burn against a cerulean and violet backdrop, much like the gorgeous cover art that graces Luminous Body, rendered by Brooke’s own daughter, Zoe Liegh.

My only complaint regarding Luminous Bodies is purely selfish and has nothing at all to do with the pacing or narrative arc of the chapbook: when I reached the novella’s sobering, surreal, entrancing final page, I did not want it to end. But that was kind of the point, right, fellow readers of this novella? We cannot predict the ending, and we do with the time—and people—we have, the very best we can.
Profile Image for Sara Tantlinger.
Author 61 books295 followers
January 16, 2020
Absolutely spectacular.

"The bodies of my lovers are like celestial terrain. . . If I were to collect their skin, I could make a patchwork galaxy, trace the space between their freckles and scars like constellations, and traverse the dark matter of their flesh."

Warra's writing is enchanting. I never wanted this glorious little chapbook to end, yet the story feels perfectly complete. I feel like this story is something I could continually come back to in different stages of my life, as my mind and body and outlook on things change, molded by every new encounter as it does for the protagonist within "Luminous Body." I could vividly picture every moment that was described. Both the pain and mysticism of being a woman is drawn out so cleverly through the structure and plot. I thank Brooke Warra for writing something so deeply moving.
Profile Image for Michael Miller.
2 reviews2 followers
October 11, 2019
The H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Oregon has just celebrated another year of proving that “the Weird never dies.” Amid the festival of cinematic explorations of Lovecraftian horror are also of course numerous publishers in the field from Hippocampus Press to Word Horde to a publisher that has been keeping the Weird alive as a publishing directive – Dim Shores. On hand at the festival was an advance uncorrected proof of their latest publication: Luminous Body by Pacific Northwest writer, Brooke Warra and it will no doubt be making cosmic waves throughout the universe very soon.

Luminous by definition is (according to Webster’s II) “ adj, 1. emitting light. 2. Lighted : illuminated. 3a. Well-expressed : clear. b. Inspiring.” Body by definition is “1a. The entire material structure and substance of an organism. b. The physical part of a person as opposed to the mind or spirit. c. A corpse or carcass. d. A Human : person.” Luminous Body is all that and much more. Within the first two pages Warra compresses you – the reader – into a projectile chambered in a pistol and blasts you into the narrative, colliding with horror both cosmic and visceral like meteors and asteroids on a collision course with meaning.

Invoking second-person narrative in the opening with an appeal to randomness and survival we are immediately left to question if this is “extraordinary” or “just lucky.” Often modern literary efforts at earth-centered cosmic alienation entwine anthropomorphism with internal conflicts such as depression, addiction, love, loss, and all other monsters of real life but rarely are they taken beyond that into the meaningless processes of the universe but Warra does this with great effect with a powerful prose style that does not let up for a nanosecond for 33 pages. We go at once from the cosmic scale of “You are an aberration, rising from primordial ooze of plasma, proteins, and acid” to a character revealing apartment abode with “the sandwich baggie full of my AP Science teacher’s postmortem ashes in the junk drawer.”

What Luminous Body does with its confrontation with weirdness is to examine life (pregnancy) and death (cancer) against cosmicism. For needed proof consider this description expressed from the first-person narrator Mo (Melissa) describing the diner where she works and her morning sickness that follows. “We serve coffee that resembles battery acid, runny egg sandwiches, and something called ‘burgerdogs’… The thought of food has me retching again. The last of my sugar cereal comes up, swirls in the toilet bowl like a neon-blue nebula. I place my hand over my belly and imagine the baby. The fetus. Floating around in there, in the dark, like the world’s tiniest cosmonaut.”

That is the universe of Luminous Body. Melissa struggles with correlating contents of a life coming to an end seeking to associate knowledge into meaning. Past and current relationships are measured by their meaninglessness like comets and asteroids colliding into each other in the vastness of space. This piecing together of memory is all for the purpose of giving some sense or meaning or order to Melissa’s unborn child before the cancerous tumor she also carries takes her life. (Melissa’s own mother died of cancer, her father walked out on them years before.) As if this dramatic dirge were not enough to carry a narrative, we of course must cross the threshold into the weird.

In true Lovecraftian execution the narrator and all the characters have their human qualities without restraint to set us up for the “hideous unknown.” Warra merges Mo’s cancer and pregnancy into something “where the hip meets pubic bone meets belly, the lump wriggles and sighs. It has grown teeth.” This entity grows with the narrative. Becomes her. Becomes “misshapen, angry, and always cold to the touch. There is hair, and teeth, and blue eyes like mine. She is pink like me.” We also enter a post-Lovecraftian denouement, where light replaces madness and new dark ages. Where entities leave “no more stars inside my skin… I can see them in her. I am hollowed out, empty. She is so bright.” Where metamorphosis into a new form is embraced and accepted.

Warra’s prose is etched together in bursts of short and long sentences as are the paragraph beats of the narrative. Dim Shores has also given the chapbook a comet insignia for the sporadic time transitions and accentuates the work with the surreal black and white illustrations of Zoe Leigh wrapped in an appealing color cover with a human eye against the background of starlit space. If any critique must be at hand it might ask, is the threshold of weirdness crossed at the perfect moment or flawlessly transitioned in a narrative that wanders in moments across a short lifetime? Perhaps not but that might be the point. Weirdness is what weirdness is. What more than compensates is Warra’s delivery on the rapid-fire voice of her protagonist. Can it be held for the length of the narrative where many try this vivid panache and fail? The answer is a convincing yes.

Luminous Body is a memorable work, searing empathy into the reader amid an apathetic universe. Every moment is shaped as a perfect encounter forming a body of its own. No line says it better than this: “We circle each other like so many satellites, orbiting dangerously close, always just moments away from violent collision.” As Poe articulated in his theory of the single-effect in a prose tale, every sentence must serve to the effect starting with the first. The effect served is anomaly. Dim Shores has a delivered a reading experience you will not easily forget.

Profile Image for Aksel Dadswell.
141 reviews10 followers
November 24, 2019
An absolutely mesmerising short work, one of those few pieces of fiction that truly transported me into its story and made me forget the world around me. Warra balances so many layers with such skill here, the nucleus of her story the narrator's life, encapsulated in a series of shifting fragments and memories that flow perfectly into each other, always converging back into the present. This is an astounding character piece that acknowledges the generations of women to come before, and examination of conception and birth and motherhood, and it's amazing to see how much Warra has managed to fit into the confines of such a short piece of work, all the grime and regret and breathless beauty of the protagonist's life, and her collision with the peripheral characters. On top of which is the artful blend of something that straddles cosmic horror and body horror, and manages to make both into something truly beautiful.

This was the first piece of fiction I'd read by Brooke Warra, and I'll be looking for more immediately.

Another awesome chapbook published by Dim Shores, with gorgeous cover and interior illustrations by Zoe Liegh.
Profile Image for Donald Armfield.
Author 67 books155 followers
February 6, 2020
“If I wake up and this is all a dream, I would have the shape of her cut out of my flesh to remember her by”

What luminous look into the hardships of a woman’s body during pregnancy. And the lovely text just battles with stars that you can reach for and pull into your lap and picture every line.
Copy # 111/130
Profile Image for Dominique Lamssies.
178 reviews6 followers
November 26, 2019
This book has several great things going for it. First of all is the fact that it's distinctly feminine and you can tell that it was written by a woman, not a guy writing a woman. It deals with the female body in a way that is knowledgeable but frustrated and scared by the things you don't know as only someone who actually lives with that known/unknown can convey. It also manages a brilliant balancing act of dealing with the mysteries of both birth and death at the same time that Weird fiction typically doesn't (again, being written mostly by guys).

I also found it to be a very nice change in that Melissa, the main character, is not some stuffy/well off bro type person who ends up with a weird thing happening to her. Frankly, she's pretty white trash and that went a long way toward selling the story for me because I have people like that in my family and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Why wouldn't something wondrous and terrible happen to people from "the wrong side of the tracks"?

There are ways that this story is pretty typically Weird though. It's non-linear and actually seems to mostly be delivered in rambling pieces of emotional baggage. To be honest, I actually have no idea what the heck was going on in the story. The plot lost me completely.

But that's just me and my taste for straightforward narratives. This book really isn't about what happens. It's about the messed up jumble of stuff we're all trying to get through between birth and death and that is as messy as any body horror. Hopefully this book will shake loose some of the stodgier ideas in Weird fiction and let something new and different grow in their place.
Profile Image for Cindy O’Quinn.
Author 8 books14 followers
February 7, 2021
Luminous Body was one of the most intriguing novelettes I’ve read to date. The imagery and prose pulled me into the pages and ripped me to shreds. A well deserved winner of The Shirley Jackson Award!
Bravo, Brooke Warra! Wonderful illustrations by Zoe Liegh!
Profile Image for Ross.
12 reviews
June 20, 2021
Brooke Warra’s Luminous Body is a novellette preoccupied with grief and motherhood. One of the first things we learn about our narrator, Melissa, is that her mother died of cancer. Melissa’s only living relative is her grandmother Gertie, who helped raise her and is also her boss at the local diner. She keeps the ashes of her high school science teacher, whom she euphemistically refers to as her first boyfriend, in a plastic baggie. Melissa narrates the story to an unnamed “you,” detailing how she may have been impregnated by a cosmic event and everything that followed.
This is a beautifully written novella, and reads like a piece of literary realism with a speculative undercurrent. There are no tentacled monsters from beyond the stars or lunatic cultists; the darkness of Luminous Body is more grounded and familiar, the horrors of poverty, of loneliness, of disease, of family. These are intimate, internal conflicts, and excellent sources from which the Weird grows.
Once you start reading this story you won’t put it down until it has finished and left you with a quiet ache. It’s win of the 2019 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novelette is well-deserved. As of this writing copies of the second edition of Luminous Body are still available from Dim Shores, so make sure you pick up one up.
Author 5 books18 followers
April 11, 2023
I hear a rumor this girl's sentient tumor grew up to become Elon Musk.
Displaying 1 - 11 of 11 reviews

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