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A Darker Shade of Noir: New Stories of Body Horror by Women Writers

Edited by:

Joyce Carol Oates assembles an outstanding cast of authors—including Margaret Atwood, Tananarive Due, and Megan Abbott—to explore, subvert, and reinvent one of the most vital subgenres of horror.

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What people are saying…

“Cloaked in these stories are themes of powerlessness and loss of identity like in Margaret Atwood’s ‘Metempsychosis, or The Journey of the Soul,’ in which the protagonist shares her body with a snail, prompting the woman to audit her self-worth. A Darker Shade of Noir will appeal to a variety of readers, especially fans of gothic horror and supernatural authors like Brian Evenson and Shirley Jackson.”
Washington City Paper

“Given our culture’s prurient obsession with the female body, it’s no wonder that many of the finest practitioners of the body horror sub-genre should be women. In a Darker Shade of Noir, Joyce Carol Oates—no stranger to the field herself—gathers 15 new stories that explore and turn familiar horror tropes inside out, exposing the vulnerabilities and latent powers of the female body. The author roster is first rate, with standout stories from Tananarive Due, Aimee LaBrie and Cassandra Khaw demonstrating the sub-genre’s full range and gut-punching effectiveness.”
Toronto Star

“In this haunting new collection, edited by Oates, 15 women writers explore the manifold horrors of living (and dying) in a patriarchal society . . . this collection may initially appeal to readers eager for tales filled with vampires and werewolves, influences from beyond the grave, and gore, guts, and ooze. They will not be disappointed. However, the stories not only bleed across the categorical boundaries they have been assigned, but also expand the scope of what is terrifying about the body—living or dead, human or nonhuman—in the first place . . . A bold collection of horror stories that flies in the face of both gender and genre conventions.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Sure, we all aspire to ‘love the skin we’re in,’ but let’s face it: bodies can be unruly, embarrassing, foul-smelling, troublesome, gross, and even a little monstrous. Certainly, the powers that be now live in full-time panic about bodies they can’t control, ostracize, or regulate. So it’s fitting to see a collection of women writers inspiring new visions of body horror in their trembling readers. From Tananarive Due’s unnerving tale of a grieving granddaughter who can’t stop dancing to Margaret Atwood’s amusing story of a snail reincarnated into the adult body of a bank service representative . . . [T]hese fifteen stories evoke all the weird ways in which strange bodies can make us shiver and heave. And some selections, like . . . Joyce Carol Oates’s all-too-real account of the tortures of asylums once doled out to cure women of ‘hysteria,’ will burrow under your skin and live forever in your darkest dreams.”

“Joyce Carol Oates assembles her team of writers and two visual artists (Laurel Hausler and Lisa Lim) to create a body of work (excuse the pun) that explores many facets of body horror . . . [Oates] has a knack for gathering the best writers and producing excellent collections of stories. These stories are fun to read. Some are funny; some are weird. It’s an entertaining mix . . . Whether the source of this horror is internal (psychological) or external (spider bites, guns), these stories are bound to keep you turning pages and make you think about your own relationship to your body.”
Ink 19

“For this chilling anthology, Oates brings together 15 stories exploring body horror through women’s experiences . . . the thematic probe into bodily autonomy makes this a must-read for fans of feminist horror.”
Publishers Weekly

A Darker Shade of Noir gives us some of the top writers of our time, working at the top of their game, many in a genre they haven’t worked in before, proving that matters little when you understand the story telling craft. Many serve as a feminist allegory that never allows the politics to get in the way of the prose. They take characters who can be seen as victims and empower them in the way they survive.”
The Hard Word

“Joyce Carol Oates has written a remarkable introduction to A Darker Shade of Noir, Akashic Books’ newest addition to their collections of Noir fiction. It really tells you everything you need to know about the book and its outstanding group of women authors, each of whom contributed a story to the collection, including Oates, Margaret Atwood, Tananarive Due, and Megan Abbott . . . These are marvelous stories that touched a real nerve—in both my body and my mind. Highly recommended.”

“Yes, this isn’t a novel, but we’re bending the rules a bit to include it in this round-up because it’s a standout work of fiction and because it’s just such a provocative and incisive collection. Edited by Joyce Carol Oates, the book’s contributor list is a marvel in itself . . . Prepare yourself for some truly unsettling stories.”


While the common belief is that “body horror” as a subgenre of horror fiction dates back to the 1970s, Joyce Carol Oates suggests that Medusa, the snake-haired gorgon in Greek mythology, is the “quintessential emblem of female body horror.” In A Darker Shade of Noir: New Stories of Body Horror by Women Writers, Oates has assembled a spectacular cast to explore this subgenre focusing on distortions to the human body in the most fascinating of ways.

“Should we know nothing of the female monsters of antiquity,” Oates writes in her introduction to the volume, “still we would know that body horror in its myriad manifestations speaks most powerfully to women and girls. To be female is to inhabit a body that is by nature vulnerable to forcible invasion, susceptible to impregnation and repeated pregnancies, condemned to suffer childbirth, often in the past early deaths in childbirth and in the aftermath of childbirth.”

Featuring brand-new stories by: Margaret Atwood, Tananarive Due, Joyce Carol Oates, Megan Abbott, Raven Leilani, Aimee Bender, Lisa Lim, Cassandra Khaw, Elizabeth Hand, Valerie Martin,  Sheila Kohler, Joanna Margaret, Lisa Tuttle, Aimee LaBrie, and Yumi Dineen Shiroma.

Book Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Published: 9/5/23
  • IBSN: 9781636141343
  • e-IBSN: 9781636141381
  • Hardcover
  • IBSN: 9781636141374


JOYCE CAROL OATES is the author of many works of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. She is the editor of New Jersey Noir, Prison Noir, A Darker Shade of Noir: New Stories of Body Horror by Women Writers, and Cutting Edge: New Stories of Mystery and Crime by Women Writers. Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award, PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Humanities Medal, and a World Fantasy Award for Short Fiction. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

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