Slasher 101: My Heart Is A Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

Jade Daniels – or JD – is a horror-obsessed loner who staggers through the final months of her senior year of high school in rural Proofrock, Idaho. She writes extra homework on “Slasher 101” for her history teacher to improve her grades, works as a county babysitter after school, and avoids being home too often. Sometimes she camps in the dilapidated remnants of Camp Blood, the site of a real-life slasher incident, eagerly awaiting the age of eighteen so she can leave town or the start of another murder cycle. .

So when a couple of young tourists disappear at the same time as a conglomerate of wealthy families, the Founders, innovate on the other side of the city’s lake for their “Terra Nova” housing project, Jade cannot believe. to his luck. The signs line up, including the arrival of Letha Mondragon, which Jade assumes must be the last fresh girl: she is beautiful, naive, kind, to make you blush. Sadly, the city’s gruesome stories influence the direction of this burgeoning horror film, and getting stuck in the cycle isn’t as relieved as it is in Jade’s fantasies.

My heart is a chainsaw, at the most obvious level, is a gloriously metafictional love letter to slasher movies. Each chapter has a referenced title, such as “Don’t Go In the Woods,” and is followed by one of Jade’s brief “Slasher 101” reports. through the rules of his favorite genre. What if you start to guess from the emphasis on “gender rules” that My heart is a chainsaw aims more than just reflection tropes: you are there. The simultaneous adoration of Stephan Graham Jones for as well as the review of “the slasher” shines through the entire book in a well-balanced measure.

A central theme revolves around what people use stories for: how we frame our experiences through the stories that snuggle under our skin, especially when we need it most. Jade’s attachment to slashers is interwoven with her traumatic childhood and her thirst for revenge and survival. However, it’s worth noting that she can’t begin to imagine herself as the protagonist – the last vengeful girl – for at least the first half of the novel. On the one hand, she doesn’t consider herself pure enough, as the “right” kind of girl… but on the other, she longs to be rescued for once in her life. And she thinks she would love to witness a bloodshed in the name of justice, a complicated and complicated desire.

Stories are there for Jade when nothing else is. I appreciated that the novel doesn’t pathologize the connection it makes between trauma and horror fandom – instead, it’s presented as reasonable and vital. Likewise, the fact that Jade is, in her own words, half Indian (and queer, at least it seems) is just an occasional background rather than a narrative. causal. While at the end of the day, she can’t fit her personal slasher cycle – both supernatural and mundane at the same time – into the rule structure she’s clung to, the stories she loves give her a foothold for. survive, as well as a language to communicate trauma. to the people who come into his life. (Isn’t that, on some level, why we all read books like these?)

Spoilers follow.

However, while the close-up third-person perspective locks the narrative into Jade’s perception of the world, the book itself isn’t really about maturity … but parenthood. Jones imbues the novel with a powerful sense of the care adults owe children while also mercilessly describing the ways the community, with few exceptions, failed to take care of Jade. She portrays herself as an adult and in conflict “don’t take me in the name of authority” with people like Mr. Holmes the history teacher or Hardy the sheriff, but Jones’ precise attention to description and to dialogue allows the reader to see around him. Jade corners do not. The public witnesses the efforts that specific people make to take care of themselves, as much as they allow, even if it is far from enough. Because as a whole the community To failed Jade.

The novel’s implicit argument for the collective care responsibilities of adults is brought out in one particular scene. After Letha shares the contents of Jade’s letters with Hardy, implicating Jade’s father for sexual abuse, Mr. Holmes tries to engage with Jade on terms she defines – using horror movies like metaphor – and asks her why she never wrote him an article about a rape revenge film. As Letha and Hardy are more concerned with holding her father accountable, Mr. Holmes takes a look at how Jade sees se In history. He questions her about the rules of the genre and why she does not consider rape-revenge as falling within her legal jurisdiction.

Finally, Jade said,

“The reason Rape Revenge isn’t a slasher is that the slasher and the last girl should be the same person. […] The final girl and the spirit of vengeance are in opposition, not the same combination. It would – it would be like Batman took off his hood and was the Joker. It just doesn’t work.

Balancing the fact that Jade is a seventeen year old girl who deserves access to care and support alongside her powerful and dedicated self is something Jones deals with with genuine fondness. “Tenderness” may be a weird word to use about a slasher novel with a brutal third act body count, but given Jones’ accusation of crappy fathers and the implicit argument for the potential of shitty fathers. men do better with girls, it seems appropriate. After all, when the fleas fall and the tropes dissolve, Jade brings a machete to her rapist father. She plays her revenge as a hybrid slasher and final girl.

But the novel does not end there.

As with the retaliation for the imagery of Alice on the Lake in Jade’s narration, or the continued references to the Scream movies, the triumphant moment when the last girl ends the party isn’t the conclusion. Jade’s friends and supporters are mutilated or dead; his city is about to be consumed by water or fire; she was filmed directly killing her father. The novel ends with an image of her trapped on the roof of the dam management station, watching a mother bear cover her cub’s body to protect it from an aggressive male thug – an act of protection she doesn’t has not believed since she was a child.

The final of My heart is a chainsaw left me with the impression that I too had plunged into the open air through the chaos – suspended there under the night sky, suspended in smoke and fire. Jones offers no clear resolution for Jade or her community, torn to shreds by the incursion of wealthy strangers and the miserable secrets of child abuse and neglect.and reverberations of systemic violence against Indigenous peoples — held in the city’s present and past. Instead, the reader should bring these threads together and sift through the emotions the novel elicits. I closed the painful book of tenderness for Jade, but also nauseatingly troubled – haunted, one might say, by these complicated remnants of justice and trauma.

My heart is a chainsaw is available from Gallery / Saga Press.

Lee Mandelo is a writer, critic and editor whose main areas of interest are speculative fiction and queer literature, especially when the two coincide. They took out two books, Beyond the Binary: Genderqueer and Sexually Fluid Speculative Fiction and We Wuz Pushed: On Joanna Russ and the Radical Truth, and in the past I have edited for publications like Strange Horizons Magazine. Other works have been featured in magazines such as Telling the Stone, Clarkesworld, Mountain peak, and Ideomancer.

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