Online | Fiction | Nonfiction | Reading Group

4 Weeks of Reading Body Horror as Writers

In this seven-week, four-session class, participants will read and discuss a wide selection of short fiction propelled by weird, fantastic, and sublime forms of body horror, as well as select creative nonfiction and critical essays. It should be noted that the class will only briefly touch on conventional genre horror, and will focus primarily on fabulist, surreal, and speculative fiction that employs stylized voices and atypical perspectives to convey horrific bodily experiences. The readings and discussions will inform short writing exercises during each class, and may be used as the basis for a larger project. Writers and readers of all experience levels are welcome, however participants should be prepared to read difficult and sometimes graphic subject matter, and must be comfortable discussing potentially upsetting material in a group setting.

Texts will include work by Kate Bernheimer, David Wojnarowicz, Roxane Gay, Carmen Maria Machado, Calvin Gimpelevich, Zachary Doss, Eric Gamalinda, Kristine Ong Muslim, and many others.

Emotional genre classifications—horror, comedy, erotica, and so forth—share a fundamental tool set which gets tuned, respectively, to provoke their specific heightened physical responses in a reader's body. But if the reader's body is where horror "happens" in general, then how can writers approach "body horror" in ways that feel distinct instead of redundant? This class is structured on the premise that "body horror" broadly describes both formal devices and narrative approaches which can be used to render almost any strongly-felt emotion as horrific.

Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features.


Students can expect to:

- Gain a wider knowledge and appreciation of short fiction concerned with body horror, especially as it pertains to marginalized perspectives. It's almost certain that everyone will read at least something they have never read before.

- Expand their practical and theoretical tools for achieving specific emotional impacts with their writing.

- Refine their creative goals and more intuitively pursue unconventional and hybrid ideas.

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Students will not be expected to purchase any books for this class and will be provided with digital copies of every piece that we will discuss, but they will be expected to have read all relevant assignments before the start of each session and must be prepared to discuss their thoughts, questions, and reactions in depth.


Each session will be concerned with discovering how particular writing and reading assumptions about form and mood can be manipulated in service of body horror:

Week 1: Form is Body Horror - Painfully precision structures and nauseatingly warped story expectations.

Week 2: Desire is Body Horror - Abject pleasure, longing, and delight.

Week 3: Grief is Body Horror - Monstrous loss, rage, and loneliness.

Week 4: Laughter is Body Horror - Terrifying slapstick and absurdity.

Julian K. Jarboe

Julian K. Jarboe is the author of the short story collection Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel, as well as various role-playing games, scripts, and experimental text art. They live in Salem, Massachusetts. More of their work can be found at


“[Jarboe's] stories return again and again to the human body, revealing facets from beyond the gender binary, from within the depth of neurodivergence, from the perspective that self-inflicted scars are a thing of beauty. Jarboe’s narrators carry these stories with a disarmingly candid and mercilessly observant wit.”


“Jarboe’s debut collection careens from tongue-in-cheek body horror to incisive science fiction populated by characters on the margins of society and ranging in tone from the incandescently furious to the devotional. Featuring emotional climate apocalypses, playful riffs on Kafka, and tenderly imagined space colonies, this collection is an outstanding showcase of an exciting new voice in genre fiction.”


“Jarboe has described this story collection as “mid-apocalyptic,” which might perfectly describe our contemporary moment. Jarboe brings everything from dark humor to surrealism to Catholic cyberpunk in order to make these sci-fi allegories reflect our times.”