It all started with talk of tentacles from unmentionables... From this gooey start, our body horror charity anthology was born. Within these pages, our authors have come together to delight and disgust with stories about perhaps the most horrifying thing of all: the human body.
Twisted Anatomy contains new stories from some of the best authors in indie horror and science fiction, alongside several new voices guaranteed to suck readers in for years to come.
Please note: The team at Sci-Fi & Scary strongly believe in content warnings. A list of any story's content warning is located at the back of the book. Everyone should be free to read horror, regardless of past circumstances.
** Edited as review is now live on Kendall Reviews! **
The Sci-Fi and Scary team have continued to promote and share great content, so when they announced they were in the process of putting out an anthology, it was exciting. When the time came and the open call went live, I remember seeing how many people were over the moon to try and submit something for this.
Now, the anthology is arriving into the book world and I was very fortunate to receive a digital arc from Sam, who has become a great friend.
What I liked: ‘Twisted Anatomy’ features 30 stories that all revolve in one way shape or form around ‘Body Horror.’ While I’d typically offer a definition of what body horror is, in this case, I think I’d be doing some of these stories a disservice by defining the genre. So, I’ll just say – each story involves gruesome events or things revolving around the body. Ha. How vague is that?
The anthology comes out of the gate swinging with one of the best stories featured, ‘Blood Bogged’ by Red Lagoe. This one is sure to be a love/hate story for readers and I suspect for the most part, those who hate it will be male and they’ll feel that it was ‘gross’ because Lagoe has a story about a woman and her period. I thought it was really well done and, while brutal yes, this was completely necessary to the story.
Perhaps my favorite story was ‘Little Teeth’ by Tabatha Wood. In this short burst, we are introduced to a woman who discovers a tooth growing where one shouldn’t. God, this one goes dark.
‘Unspooling Screams’ by Sara Tantlinger was fantastic and Cynthia Pelayo‘s ‘Lamb’s Lettuce’ was stunning.
Tied for my favorite story was ‘Just Beneath Her Skin’ by S.H. Cooper. A husband and wife visit a doctor about some lumps that she has on her abdomen. Cooper goes full Clive Barker and absolutely destroys the reader. Well done.
What I didn’t like: While each story is genuinely short, there are still 30 stories, which made for some slowdowns as not every story connects. As with every anthology, reader connection to each piece will vary but for the most part I found every story engaging.
Why you should buy this: First, you should be buying this purely to support the Sci-Fi and Scary crew. They do great work. Second, the TOC in this is stunning. This features some really well-known authors as well as new-to-me authors and every single one brought their A games which was great to see. Nothing is really off-limits here. Third, while I’m not someone who requires them, the anthology comes with Trigger Warnings. So, going in you’ll know whether a story is fine for you to read or not.
This one really does have something for everyone and the stories featured are brutal, depraved and heart-felt. Really, what else can horror lovers want?
Let me front this review with a caveat for y'all: I've been following the Sci-Fi & Scary review crew for a while and have become Twitter friends with several of the reviewers who devote their time to keeping this site going. They've even reviewed a few of my own releases along the way. Still, I believe I was able to approach this review with a bit of detachment and my honest thoughts on this anthology are reflected here. Personally, I was delighted to see this site branch out into publishing the occasional piece of original fiction. Clearly, owner Lilyn George had bigger ambitions and goals for their site as the years have progressed, leading to the publication of their own anthology. Twisted Anatomy presents 30 stories of body horror that push the limits of human physiology and, in some instances, plain old good taste (this is marvelous, naturally).
When it comes to anthologies, my own personal preference trends toward a smaller, less voluminous table of contents. Thirty stories is a lot, and at times Twisted Anatomy felt a bit chunkier than I wanted, even as plenty of these entries run short (Cynthia Pelayo's "Lamb's Lettuce" borders on flash fiction, for instance). Although some stories missed the mark for me, taken as a whole this is a rather strong anthology - it's really well organized, the stories play well off each other, and we get some recurrent themes and trends that help give this book some rather memorable definition.
So, what to expect herein? Parasites, teeth, tentacles, random extra mouths, and vaginas gone awry! I won't explore every story here because, again, 30 is a lot!, but here's some stand-outs for you:
Red Lagoe gets to kick off proceedings with "Blood Bogged," a story that lets you know right off the bat exactly what kind of anthology this is going to be and how far the editors and storytellers are willing to go to make readers squirm, or at the very least, try to make you queasy. If copious amount of blood make you faint, you may want to brace yourself because this might be, in terms of sheer volume, the bloodiest story I've ever read!
"Every Fiber of My Being" by Jennifer Carstens is a squicky quickie that pulls no punches in its study of self-mutilation and progressive escalation of bodily harm as our narrator attempts to prove that she suffers from a rare infection... she just has to find it, that's all...
R.J. Joseph's "Witness Bearer" is an early stand-out and involves a young woman with a thousand eyes. The premise behind this story is freaking wicked and one I would absolutely love to see expanded into a novella or full-length novel. There's so much potential and places Joseph could go with this story, and I found myself wanting more, more more.
"Under the Avatars" by DL Shirey really snuck up on me. I wasn't too sure about this story in its initial moments thanks to its virtual reality gaming set-up (sorry, folks, Ernest Cline killed all interest int his type of trope for me forever!) and I almost skipped over it. I'm so glad I stuck with it, though, because it ended up being another one of my favorites. It's a horrifying bit of dystopian fiction that tackles the unintended consequences of a particular present-day political movement, but does so without getting preachy (although I personally wouldn't have minded if it were preachier given Shirey's spin on the topic).
Justin Moritz delivers a solid Cronenberg-like horror story about twins in "Claustrophobia Americana," with some really impactful mental imagery.
"Ruck Johnson & the Curse of the Concomitant Foreskin" by Byron Alexander Campbell was a really fun romp. This black comedy bizarro centers around a town haunted by foreskin. I mean...Jesus. Really? It's great!
Sci-Fi & Scary founder Lilyn George contributes their own story, "The Second Coming (or: The Vagentacle Story That Started It All)," another quirky take with dashes of erotic horror in the vein of Species. After sleeping with an astronaut, a woman's body begins to undergo a few changes as her innie parts get a little outie.
Continuing on the "out there" elements, Hailey Piper closes out Twisted Anatomy with "Succubus Tips for Succu-Bliss," a hilarious self-help manual for those post-Cataclysm readers whose souls have become tethered to an Infernal vagina monster. Piper has become a fast favorite of mine, and over the course of only a handful of stories by her I've grown incredibly impressed with the breadth and depth of her creativity. Here, she's just having an absolute blast, and this short story is a pure joy to read.
I liked plenty of other stories within Twisted Anatomy to be sure (Ian Fortey's "The Flavor of Life" hits that parasitic lake monster niche quite well), and found the overwhelming majority of the stories worked well for me. This isn't much of a surprise, though! I trust the Sci-Fi & Scary crew and have found I have comparable tastes to many of that site's reviewers and contributors (well, OK, JB's movie tastes can be...questionable, let's say), which ultimately made Twisted Anatomy a safe bet for me. They like reading the same bloody, gory, gross, pulpy stuff I do, so to put them in charge of curating a body horror anthology turns out be quite the no-brainer! Fingers crossed they're working on a follow-up now.
Thirty stories dedicated to violations of the human body, including works by Red Lagoe, Tabatha Wood, Madeleine Swann, Laurel Hightower, Sara Tantlinger, and a whole lot more.
(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)
Twisted Anatomy comes from the Sci-Fi & Scary review site, consisting of thirty stories brimming with ick and ew. If the human body already disgusts you, just wait until you delve into what these authors have to offer with their copious amounts of gore and body horror. I’d consider myself the target audience due to my particular tastes, therefore many of the stories appealed to me, even moving me with their deeper meaning – yes, it’s possible for a beautiful idea to include stomach-churning content. There were still a few misses along the way, but it was to be expected with such a large variety. What’s even more great, is that all profits from the book are donated to the Pulmonary Hypertension Association, as well as the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
The Flavour of Life by Ian Fortey depicted a horrific transformation after an unfortunate dip, while the oddly beautiful Witness Bearer by R.J. Joseph told of a girl with thousands of eyes. Cul-De-Sac of the Affected by Madeleine Swann stood out as memorable due to its grotesque yet touching community, and Prey Eyes by Nick Stefan took the reforming of criminals to the next level. These are only a few I enjoyed, it’d be too much to list every single one. Just trust me, if you like being grossed out, then look no further.
My top three:
Blood Bogged by Red Lagoe – A biblical-level flow that she imagined would drown the world if it didn’t stop. Erin struggles with a great deal of pain, her body desperate to expel her trauma. The bloodiest and most disgusting story of all, but not because of its subject matter – consider me well versed in the gory details of menstruation. It was the level of writing and sheer volume, every description leaving little to the imagination. It’s not often that I come across any mention of women having their periods in what I read, even when the main character is female, almost like it’s the elephant in the room that nobody wants to acknowledge. Lagoe more than made up for that, though.
Little Teeth by Tabatha Wood – They were there, in her bones, waiting to erupt. Katy discovers a lump in her mouth, which leads to an urgent dental appointment. Everyone has nightmares about teeth, right? I know I do, mostly about losing them, while this one shot to the opposite extreme. I couldn’t look away from the page, morbid fascination taking over. What began as a mild irritation for the main character turned deliciously dark, with an ending that left me wanting more.
All in Your Head by Steve DeGroof – They followed him wherever he went, burrowing into his skull, tormenting him. A sound only he can hear disrupts Isaac’s idyllic life with his wife. This one went places, and despite catching on fairly quickly as to what was happening, I still enjoyed it a great deal. It had a solid idea that was well executed, so much so that the concept struck me as something that could be suited to a full-length novel. It’s also an example of how diverse the anthology was.
In conclusion: There’s a lot of ways the human body can be used as a means to disturb and horrify, and the anthology by Sci-Fi & Scary, aptly named Twisted Anatomy, takes advantage of just that. With eyes, teeth, mouths, tentacles, foreskin and vaginas, it was a lot to swallow, yet worth it if being disgusted is your jam.
Sci-Fi & Scary has put together a body horror anthology for the ages with Twisted Anatomy. Any horror fan, body, or otherwise will find something to enjoy.
I’m not always good with body horror. It’s one of those genres I have to take on a case-by-case basis. I can watch Teeth and The Thing just fine, but if someone threatens to turn on The Fly (1986), I’m leaving the room. Maybe the house. Even if I live there. There’s just something about losing control of one’s body that is terrifying. The idea of morphing into something oozing and slimy, or growing things in places they shouldn’t be, of bones twisting and cavorting into impossible angles, it’s all terrifying, and Twisted Anatomy has it all in droves.
The stories in this anthology will scare you, delight you, disgust you, leave you angry at the outcome, leave you satisfied, leave you wanting more. Everything you could want in any horror anthology is in here, just way bloodier and grotesque. There’s something for everyone in this carefully curated collection: a woman with an issue of blood, a morbid fairytale re-telling, a girl with an insatiable hunger, and teeth! So many teeth!
With a foreword by Laurel Hightower and edited by the Sci-Fi & Scary team, the table of contents is home to renowned horror authors like Red Lagoe, R.J. Joseph, Cynthia Pelayo, Sara Tantlinger, and many more.
Visceral, captivating, and beautifully bloody. Twisted Anatomy adds an abundantly gory, diverse, and entrancing anthology to the body horror subgenre.
I definitely recommend you pick up a copy of Twisted Anatomy, just don’t read it after any large meals.
Twisted Anatomy is a compilation of body horror stories of the utmost quality. From the very first page you are flung into a grotesque gore filled, blood flowing (oh dear lord the blood!) nightmare that had my knees tightly clenched. Blood Bogged set a high precedent and I hoped that the rest of the book would be just as intoxicating. With every new story I was more and more impressed. There were teeth and tentacles galore and gut wrenching, spine tingling, full on fuckery throughout. I read a few of the stories through my fingers and I screamed out "what the fuck?" on more than one occasion 😂. Little Teeth was certainly one of my favourites (boy did that one escalate quickly) 😬 and I loved the twisted fairytale retelling of Rapunzel. Just Beneath Her Skin was so poignant, Under The Avatars went to a place that really got under my skin and Girls Don't made me full on gag! 🤢 - Where this book excelled was the continuity of high quality horror in each well rounded story. Every one added its own take on the body horror genre and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. There are 29 disgustingly delicious tales to get your teeth into and there is definitely something for everyone. If you're a gore whore like me or you're simply looking for something out of the norm that's thoroughly entertaining then look no further, this is the book for you 👌. - If that wasn't enough to get you reading, all the profits from Twisted Anatomy go to charity too so get yourself a copy and enjoy squirming in your seat 😉. - 4.5/5 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌠 - Congratulations to my wonderful friend Sam @theliteraryhooker for her work in helping edit this fantastic collection and all the @scifiandscary gang. What a triumph! 👏 The cheque is in the post right? Seriously, I wasn't paid for this review and I bought the ebook with my own money. These are all my own thoughts and opinions, I'm a grown up and I do actually have some of those occasionally ✌️😂.
There is a lot to digest and experience in this collection, with some stories going hard-out with real dark, body-shock, and others offering a more subtle, disturbing brand of horror. With thirty stories to choose from, there is bound to be a good number that hit the mark. Stories of note that I really enjoyed: Witness Bearer by R.J. Joseph, Cul-De-Sac of the Affected by Madeleine Swann, The Foal with Two Heads by Andrew Joseph White, Unspooling Screams by Sara Tantlinger, Lamb’s Lettuce by Cynthia Pelayo and Just Beneath Her Skin by S.H. Cooper.
With all profits going to support the Pulmonary Hypertension Association and the National Domestic Violence Hotline, this is a superb addition to any body horror collection.
I don’t often give multi-author anthologies a perfect 5/5, simply because it’s hard for a given editor’s tastes to line up well with any given reader. But Twisted Anatomy: A Body Horror Anthology really hit the mark for me. First, I should note that since this is body horror, there are a LOT of trigger/content warnings (there’s a list by individual story at the end of the book, but here’s the summary): menstrual blood, gore, defecation, vomiting, surgery, bullying, pregnancy, miscarriage, slut-shaming, body-shaming, eating disorders, disease, self-harm, aging, genitalia, circumcision, gender dysphoria, animal cruelty and death, transphobia, attempted suicide, and body dysmorphia. I don’t think I’ve missed any, but I can’t be sure. Note that all proceeds from this book go to charity: a split between the Pulmonary Hypertension Association and the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Also, let it be known now that the next time I see an editor whose story lineup is 95% occupied by male authors, and the editor claims it’s because he just couldn’t find good woman-authored horror stories, I’m going to shove this in his face. More than half of the stories in here are authored by women, and they’re excellent.
Since there are 29 stories, I’m not going to touch on all of them. Just a few notes here and there. There are great stories about possibly fictitious ailments, unending floods of menstrual blood, swallowed leeches of a kind. Some of the stories are really incredibly creative takes on body horror, such as R.J. Joseph’s “Witness Bearer,” in which a woman takes people’s stories into her being… along with their eyes. Another favorite–“Apis Facticius: Or, The Queen Cell” by Michael Morar–is both science fiction and insect horror, and it’s really fascinating. One gene-altering story with dinosaurs (“The Real Jurassic Park Was the Gender Dysphoria We Felt Along the Way,” by Jennifer Lee Rossman) does an excellent job of conveying the feeling that happens when you’re sure that what you are on the outside doesn’t match what you are on the inside.
There are some apocalypse-type stories, although the focus is on individual horrors (a community of “changed” people in one, mysterious bodily mutations in another, odd “worms” in a sci-fi space story). There’s a bizarre story (“Under the Avatars” by D.L. Shirey) that squicked me more than most! It involves people who communicate online using complex avatars to hide what they look like, and what’s behind those avatars. There’s at least one mad scientist story, and one story about mysterious “supplements” that have unexpected effects on the body. Another story (Steve DeGroof’s “All In Your Head”) took some delightful turns as its protagonist constantly hears a bizarre noise that his wife says is all in his head.
As usual, I’m particularly fond of Laurel Hightower’s work. I’ll just say that her character Elise keeps hearing sobbing sounds throughout her life, and it turns out to be something amazing. She really makes it easy to empathize with her characters. A fairy tale type story (kind of a blend of the Little Mermaid and Bluebeard, only not) by Carina Bissett was just utterly fantastic. It’s probably not surprising that there’s also a touch of cosmic horror in this book, because extra eyes, a few tentacles, or mysterious extra teeth make for great body horror material. Speaking of which, the Lilyn George story that kicked off this whole project–let’s just say, vagina tentacles are involved–is delightful and oddly fun. The final story, Hailey Piper’s “Succubus Tips for Succu-Bliss” is a totally fun “guide” to being bound to a “vagina monster.” It discusses such topics as respect and trust, dietary needs, hygiene, love, and so forth. It’s a total delight.
There’s at least one story where I was just totally confused as to what happened and thus left feeling quite unsatisfied, but that didn’t happen as often in this anthology as it seems to overall in horror anthologies. In contrast, Sara Tantlinger’s “Unspooling Screams” left me not really knowing what happened as well, but achieved something unusual–it was internally satisfying enough that I didn’t mind that.
A couple of the stories are horrifying, but then end on a flippant note, and that undermines what they achieved. One is just bizarre in ways that don’t appeal to me (“Ruck Johnson and the Curse of the Concomitant Foreskin,” by Byron Alexander Campbell, and I’m betting that you can tell by the title whether you’re likely to find it interesting). Another story that’s an odd take on a fairy tale was just too short for me to get emotionally invested in it.
Really I have so few complaints about this book. Even the stories that were a little “off” to me, like those ones that end a little flippantly or confusingly, were still good stories. And unusually for short horror stories, I didn’t feel that any of these tales ended too soon. I highly recommend this anthology to anyone who has an interest in body horror!
About 1/3 "meh," 1/3 "hey that kinda slapped," 1/3 "holy shit that really pushed a boundary for me in a very good way and I loved it"/"this was written so exquisitely and will stay with me forever."
Standouts: Blood Bogged, The Foal with Two Heads (I bought this ebook because I loved Hell Followed With Us by the same author, and I want to read everything he writes forever now), Queen Cell, All In Your Head, Little Teeth.
What is it about an incredibly satisfying short story collection? Each story was better than the last and had me wanting more and more. I could have read any of these stories as a novel: these authors understood the assignment and they delivered.
Body horror in all its glory - silly stories (vagina monsters, anyone?), funny stories, super serious ones (don’t google Morgellon’s syndrome), gory ones….
The thing I like about horror in general is that it can be a commentary on life and this collection is no exception.
I want to preface this review...I’m not a huge fan of body horror in film. It’s not that I hate it or that I don’t watch...just not my favorite thing. I’ve never read a ton of body horror either. This was my first compilation of this type. Unexpectedly, I loved all of it! I was completely grossed out, which I expected. What I didn’t expect was to find such a nuanced and, dare I say lovely, bit of storytelling.
Here are some of my highlights:
I loved Teeth by Tabatha Wood. Teeth bother me. Just the idea of these hard little pointy nubs growing from soft pink flesh....ugh. I loved the idea of this very powerful, famous woman coming undone by an innocuous body part. It also reminded me of the monster in the first season of Channel Zero. Which gave me a reoccurring nightmare for weeks.
Unspooling Screams by Sara Tantlinger...again with the mouth and teeth. But I had a much different feeling with this one. Mouths sewn shut are horrifying physically, but also trying to stop someone from speaking their truth...that’s the real horror. I felt vindicated at the end!
Just Beneath Her Skin by S.H. Cooper was a personal one for me. It was lovely in a terrible way and spoke to the immense pain of losing a baby. What if the pain was to manifest itself physically?
I just picked a few stories that really left me thinking or I felt personally connected too. However all the stories were wonderful. I’ll be reading more body horror, even if it’s teeth, and definitely more from the authors in this book!