The Low, Low Woods

The Low, Low Woods. Written by Carmen Maria Machado, art by Dani, covers by Sam Wolfe Connelly and J.A.W. Cooper ($24.99, 9781779504524, September 29).

Shudder-to-Think, Pennsylvania, is plagued by a mysterious illness that eats away at the memories of those affected by it. El and Octavia are best friends who find themselves the newest victims of this disease after waking up in a movie theater with no memory of the past few hours. As El and Vee dive deeper into the mystery behind their lost memories, they realize the stories of their town hold more dark truth than they could've imagined and that no one around them is entirely what they seem, except perhaps for the Skinless Men in the deep woods and the Deer Woman who appears by moonlight... It's up to El and Vee to keep their town from falling apart and keep the world safe from Shudder-to-Think's monsters.

Carmen Maria Machado calls The Low, Low Woods "Pennsylvania Gothic, body horror, environmental horror. There a lot of different sub-genres going on." The book, she continues, features two striking young women. "I wanted them to be women of color, I wanted them to be queer, and I wanted them to be the kind of people with whom we'd be really interested in exploring this world," she says. "So you have El, who is a reader, and a writer--they're both sort of dirtbag teens, but she’s especially a dirtbag teen. Just being herself, but also has a lot of questions, and is trying to aggressively pursue answers to the various mysteries of the place where they live. Octavia is very cool and analytical, and is interested in certain mysteries, but there are others that she wants to leave behind, because she just wants to get out of town. They have a different energy, and it was important to me to have that conflict. In many ways they're compatible and similar, which makes sense because they're good friends who really love each other, but also there is this tension between them, about what to do about certain elements of the story."

The Low, Low Woods is the first graphic novel Machado has written, and she found that perspective was different in this medium compared to her other work. "In fiction, you tell stories with perspective, but in this, I could have a person talking, and a voice narrating, and a visual perspective. It's way more complicated, but it also creates a lot more space for the tension of horror--visually, it gives you even more stuff to think about."

Working with artist Dani has been "amazing," Machado says. "I can't draw to save my life, so watching her transform my imagination into these physical images has been really, really incredible."

She also has enjoyed working with Joe Hill. "Joe is not only brilliant in writing comics, but also he's a lovely, kind, generous human, who just gives really good writing advice. I've been overjoyed to have him as a part of this process, because he's done a lot for me, and gotten me to think in different ways about what I'm doing. I'm really grateful to him."

Machado is the author of the memoir In the Dream House and the short story collection Her Body and Other Parties. She was a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the Bard Fiction Prize, the Lambda Literary Award for Literature Fiction, the Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Nonfiction, the Brooklyn Public Library Literature Prize, the Shirley Jackson Award, and the National Book Critics' Circle's John Leonard Prize. Her essays, fiction, and criticism have appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, Granta, Vogue, This American Life, Harper's Bazaar, Tin House, McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, The Believer, Guernica, Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy, Best American Nonrequired Reading, and elsewhere.

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