Horror works best when it’s relatable. The best protagonists in a horror story are those that are just like us: they’re sensible, trying to scrape by, possibly raise families, and make the most of life. We empathise with people we understand.

Cassandra Khaw is no stranger to the average Joe (or average Jane) as a protagonist: a chef who caters for gods; a PI who tracks down monsters; a party of ordinary, everyday people whose wedding ceremony gets fatally side-tracked by a vengeful Japanese ghost.

Their new novella, The Salt Grows Heavy, features a man-eating mermaid front and centre, who also happens to be an ex-queen. And a plague doctor. And feral children. And surgeons masquerading as gods. All set in a secondary fantasy world. And yet, as with much of Cassandra’s previous work, they manage to make these strange, even vicious characters seem entirely comprehensible, even sympathetic at times.

In this episode, Cassandra talks about the place of ordinary people in horror, as well as the value of novellas as vehicles for storytelling. Really don’t miss it!

Mentioned in this episode:

  • The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
  • The Least of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones

CASSANDRA KHAW is an award-winning game writer, and USA Today bestseller. Khaw’s work can be found in places like Fantasy & Science Fiction, Lightspeed, and Tor.com.

Khaw’s first original novella, Hammers on Bone, was a British Fantasy award and Locus award finalist. Their newest novella, The Salt Grows Heavy, is out now from Tor Nightfire.