by Jeremy C. Shipp
In The Merry Dredgers, my protagonist Seraphina infiltrates a community of cultists living in a shadowy fever dream of an amusement park. Follow Seraphina into the park entrance, and you’ll spot a wolf-themed roller coaster to your right, resting on the blackened earth, curled up like a dead snake. To your left, an animatronic Humpty Dumpty falls off a concrete castle and shatters on the ground, only to reform itself moments later. Up ahead, cultists giggle as they meditate in the hall of mirrors. This is only the beginning of what you and Seraphina will discover in the park.
When writing this book, my intention was to create a setting as whimsical and unique as any of the characters. Here are a few books I would recommend with similarly offbeat, vivid settings.
1. Uzumaki by Junji Ito
This masterpiece of a horror manga centers around the cursed town of Kurouzu-cho. As the story progresses, the characters transform in fancifully grotesque ways, and so does the setting.
2. Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand
You would be hard-pressed to find another haunted house story as imaginative and off-kilter as Wylding Hall. The titular country mansion is truly unique, featuring a disorienting medley of architectural styles and otherworldly, liminal spaces.
3. A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
Naomi Novik paints a vividly monstrous picture of the school where this book takes place. The labyrinthine school is, in a sense, a complicated character in itself, equally safe haven and prison.
4. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Diana Wynne Jones was a master of charming atmospheres. The moving castle is a dynamic, whimsical setting that reflects the complex psyche of Howl. Exploring the castle is like scrutinizing the chambers of his own heart.
5. The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
There are no fantastical elements to this book. Nevertheless, the tiny island in the story is saturated with a sense of magic and wonder and whimsy. Every gust of wind, every piece of driftwood we encounter on the island speaks to insightful truths about human existence.
Jeremy C. Shipp is the Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author of The Atrocities, Bedfellow, and Cursed. Their shorter tales have appeared in over 60 publications, including Cemetery Dance, Dark Moon Digest and Apex Magazine. Jeremy lives in Southern California in a moderately haunted Farmhouse. Their twitter handle is @JeremyCShipp.
Seraphina Ramon will stop at nothing to find out the truth about why her sister Eff is in a coma after a very suspicious “accident.” Even if it means infiltrating the last place Seraphina knows Eff was alive: a once-abandoned amusement park now populated by a community of cultists.
Follow Seraphina through the mouth of the Goblin: To the right, a wolf-themed roller coaster rests on the blackened earth, curled up like a dead snake. To the left, an animatronic Humpty Dumpty falls off a concrete castle and shatters on the ground, only to reform itself moments later. Up ahead, cultists giggle as they meditate in a hall of mirrors. This is the last place in the world Seraphina wants to be, but the best way to investigate this bizarre cult, is to join them.