My Favorite Things with R.J. Joseph

They might not be raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens, but that doesn’t mean that we love them any less. Welcome back to My Favorite Things, the weekly column where we grab someone in speculative circles to gab about the greatest in geek. This week we sit down horror aficionado and writer R.J. Joseph. What does she love when she’s not reading like a fiend? Spoiler alert: genius urban fantasy, Texas-based horror, Black femininity, The Weird in every day life, a favorite historical fantasy gone too soon, and a little place called South Park. Curious? Read on for more!


It won’t be a surprise that since I’m a weirdo who reads way more than I do anything else, and who watches loads of television when I’m not reading, my favorite things are books, television shows, and overall weirdness.

My first favorite thing is the Dying for a Living series by Kory M. Shrum. I think I may have gotten the first installment of this delicious story free and then went on to buy the rest of them. I remember first catching up with the story and then anxiously awaiting the release of the next installments, like, really Jonesing for them. It’s a little bittersweet to talk about this series now because I’m reading the last story, which just released on October 31. I’m going to miss Jesse and Ally and their little chosen family.

The best thing about this series is totally Shrum’s writing abilities. When you read someone else’s work and the first thing you think is, “Man, I missed out on some of the writing fairy dust that sprinkled this genius!” you have a good book in hand. She took a loose idea of zombies and the apocalypse and created an entire new world of death replacement agents, angels, and all hell breaking loose. I have to admit, firebrand Jesse isn’t my favorite character, nor is her literal heartbeat, the sweet Ally. Their romance is beautiful, though, and I always rooted for them, even as they were involved with other people.

My favorite character is Jesse’s teenaged sister, Maisie. Maisie is sixteen years old and has been through more hardship than most adults three times her age. She has a heartbreaking relationship with her parents, who want to destroy the world and harness all the power they can for themselves, and are willing to kill her to get to their goal. She’s kidnapped by her sister, Jesse, kidnapped back by her parents, and then serves as a yo-yo between both sets of loved ones. Yet, through it all, Maisie maintains an open, caring heart and a hopeful, yet realistic, view of the world through teenaged eyes. I don’t know what the end of the series holds for Maisie (or any of the characters, yet), but I wish her only the best life ever.

My next favorite things are the two volumes of Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers and the anthology Sycorax’s Daughters. This isn’t a moment of self-promotion where I push projects that I’m involved in, I promise. But I love regional and specialized horror. Being a native Texan, I know there are plenty of spooky things here that folks from other places don’t always understand. We talk about chupacabras in regular conversation. We all know the Brazos River is haunted. And the entire state is teeming with ghost children, dead soldiers who don’t know they’re dead, and cursed lands. We embrace our checkered past and the haunted remnants of those stories. The Road Kill volumes bring many of these Texas flavored horror stories to vivid, wicked life.

The premise for Sycorax’s Daughters was to give life to an anthology of horror by Black, female horror writers. An innovative idea that was well past due. I had a hard time coming to terms with my horror-writing persona mainly because I didn’t see horror writers who looked like me as I was growing up. By the time I started reading Toni Morrison and Octavia Butler, I realized I was borrowing their work from the literary and science fiction genres and viewing them through an adopted horror lens. Sycorax’s Daughters builds on this African American literary tradition while centering stories written by females. Really, why was this the first anthology of its kind, way in 2017?

Along with reading, I really enjoy stories in all formats. Another of my favorite things is true, weird stories. One of the most exciting things is to listen to someone tell a story about something that happened to them, or that they witnessed, and watch them puzzle over it before realizing that The Weird has touched their life. Even true believers of things we can’t understand sometimes have doubts and their stories take on a different vibe as they tell them, getting closer and closer to the inevitable truth. I always know the moment when the realization hits them. I love being a part of that journey.

Talking about my favorite television series makes me sad — really, why do all the things I love end too soon? — but I absolutely loved Penny Dreadful. The Showtime series only lasted three years, but it seemed much longer. I fell in love with Vanessa Ives and her beautiful crew of penny dreadful-based monsters. Where else could we see vampires, werewolves, witches, immortals, and mad scientists all in one place? I especially appreciated the beauty of the film. Stunning cinematography helps dull the shock of blood and gore. The best thing about the series was that women played strong roles and even though I didn’t always like Vanessa, Rhona, or Hecate, I always stood behind them and their goals because they were bosses.

The last favorite thing for my list probably seems out of character, but it is a favorite, nonetheless. Being the weirdo I am, I absolutely love South Park. Yes, the punch lines are off color. Yes, the characters are stereotypes. Yes, the writers make fun of every possible species, race, gender, and mode of existence possible. There is racism, sexism, ableism, and all out bad acting. And of course, I’m totally outside the show’s audience demographics. But this is what I’m drawn to: South Park shines a light in all the dark corners of topics we don’t want to discuss in polite society and then shows us why we should talk about these things. And plus, dark humor abounds. Regardless to what favorite thing I’m lauding, the darkness always wins out.


R.J. Joseph is a Texas based writer and professor who must exorcise the demons of her imagination so they don’t haunt her being. A lifelong horror fan and writer of many things, she has recently discovered the joys of writing in the academic arena about two important aspects of her life: horror and Black femininity.

When R. J. isn’t writing, teaching, or reading voraciously, she can usually be found wrangling one or five of various sprouts and sproutlings from her blended family of 11…which also includes one husband and two furry babies.

R.J. can be found lurking (and occasionally even peeking out) on social media:

Twitter: @rjacksonjoseph
Facebook: facebook.com/rhonda.jacksonjoseph
Facebook official: fb.me/rhondajacksonjosephwriter
Instagram: @rjacksonjoseph
Blog: https://rjjoseph.wordpress.com/
Email: horrorblackademic@gmail.com

Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/rjjoseph

4 Comments

  • Weasel of Doom November 20, 2017 at 8:47 am

    The first “Dying for a Living” book is still free, and so I promptly downloaded it 🙂 Thank you for the recommendation!

    Reply
    • rjjoseph November 20, 2017 at 9:06 am

      I can’t say enough good things about that series. Enjoy!

      Reply
  • Lane Robins November 20, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    you’ve just increased my To-Be-Read shelf. 🙂 And added yet another vote to the “watch Penny Dreadful” series.

    Reply
    • rjjoseph November 20, 2017 at 1:58 pm

      Nice! All are totally worthy endeavors.

      Reply

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