Exploring Boston’s Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror Literary Scene

Author standing on a train station platform, waiting for the train that will take her into BostonGreetings, fellow readers and writers. I’m on winter break all this week and next (one of the perks of teaching at an independent school). These two weeks are a time for me to catch my breath, release some tension, and refill my creative well. One of the things I always try to do to relax and get inspired is catch a train into Boston and wander the city. There’s so much to see and do in Boston. There are the museums, of course, and so many fantastic book shops. There are walking tours and duck tours and trolley tours with themes and flavors to suit anyone’s taste preferences. Of course, my taste preference is for sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. Thankfully, Boston isn’t just a city steeped in American history; it’s also a vibrant cauldron of imaginative creation where spellbinding stories and futuristic fantasies come to life. It’s kind of a genre fiction lover’s paradise. Need convincing? 


A City Full of Dark History

Black and white photograph of the aftermath of Boston's deadly molasses flood of 1919. Boston's Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror Literary ScenePicture this: Winter of 1919 in Boston’s North End neighborhood. An unusually warm day for January. The milder temperatures have brought more folks out than usual that morning. The ground begins to shake. A thunderclap roar fills the air followed by a long rumble like the sound of an approaching train. A 25 foot tall tidal wave of steaming hot molasses appears. It rolls down the street at 35 miles per hour, knocking buildings off their foundations and swallowing up terrified bystanders who stand no chance of outrunning it. In the aftermath, molasses covers the street, swirling and bubbling three feet deep. Here and there, forms struggle and thrash in the sticky muck—whether human or animal, it’s impossible to tell. Horses died like flies on sticky paper. Human’s as well. That really happened. Right here in Boston. Spine-tingling tales of terror are sprinkled all along the Freedom Trail. You just need to know who to ask, like a Dark Side of Boston tour guide.

Image of the Isabella Stuart Gardener Museum's Courtyard. Boston's Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror Literary Scene

A City Filled with Art and Mystery

When you’re done exploring the dark corners and bloody history of the city, you can head over to the Isabella Stuart Gardener Art Museum, zen out in their amazing indoor oasis of a courtyard, enjoy some gorgeous art, and observe the thirteen empty frames that still hang on the museum walls while listening to NPR’s “Last Seen” Podcast about the most famous art heist in American history. 

Author Katherine Karch on the redline subway as she explores Boston's Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror Literary Scene


A Fantastical City of the Future

Once your done with that, you can take the subway over to Kendall Square and MIT, where some of the smartest minds in the country are hard at work developing technologies so astounding you might think you’d accidentally walked through a tear in the fabric of the space-time continuum and ended up in the future. Giant superconducting electromagnets, floating balls of plasma hotter than the sun, fusion reactors… Oh, and artificially intelligent robot killing machines that can chase you through the woods or par core their way through the urban rubble of an apocalyptic wasteland. Um, I might have let my imagination get away from me on that last one, but have you seen the robots at Boston Dynamics? I mean, come on. 

But that’s kind of my point. Boston is like a cauldron filled with history, art, science, and imagination. You can mix them all together to create a magical combination that can inspire stories transcending time and genre. 


Boston is Full of Writers That Love to Craft Magic Together

Image of local author C. S. E. Cooney reading an excerpt of her work at the February 2020 Speculative Boston Reading Series. Looking for a place where writers of all things eerie, fantastical, and out-of-this-world gather? Boston is that place! Here, writers from diverse cultural backgrounds come together to weave a tapestry of diverse genre fiction narratives. Groups like Speculative Boston, the New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA), and the Cambridge Commons Writers aren’t just clubs; they’re the nurturing ground for creativity and camaraderie. It’s like Hogwarts for writers, minus the flying brooms (unfortunately).


Genre Conventions: Where Fantasy Meets Reality

Website Banner for the Annual Boskone Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention.And then, there are the events – oh, the events! Arisia and Boskone are like the annual family reunions for fans and creators of these genres. Whether you’re into inclusive, diverse discussions with a dash of phenomenal cosplay (hello, Arisia!) or have a thing for literary deep-dives (Boskone, I’m looking at you), these conventions are where you want to be. Plus, NESFA (the organization that hosts both of these events) isn’t just a group; they’re like the cool aunts and uncles keeping the spirit alive all year round. I’ve written about my experiences at Boskone in the past, so it’s no secret that Boskone is my favorite local convention and I’m always urging folks to check it out. 


Book Nooks and Crannies: Boston’s Indie Bookstore Scene

Street shot of the Harvard Book store. (Exploring Boston's Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror Literary Scene)What trip into the city would be complete with stopping into an indie bookstore or three? Whenever I head into Boston, I make a point of visiting the Harvard Bookstore. It’s just yards away from the redline t-stop in Harvard Square, and it’s a very cool place to grab a coffee, buy a book, and enjoy yourself.   Pandemonium Books & Games is another indie bookstore I like to visit when I head across the river into Cambridge.

Author Katherine Karch posing with a travel mug of coffee outside the Cambridge Commons Pub in Cambridge Massachusetts. (Exploring Boston's Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror Literary Scene)There are so many other shops and stores I could write about, but I’ll leave you to explore and discover them on your own. Regardless, local bookstores are mini-sanctuaries for me. 


Where Writers Grow: Boston’s Creative Academia

And for the aspiring writers among us, Boston’s academic scene is like a greenhouse for literary talent. There are the colleges and universities, of course. All 44 of them! But there are also organizations like GrubStreet, which don’t just teach writing; they’re launchpads for your wildest genre imaginings. Whether you’re penning the next great American horror novel or crafting a fantasy world that rivals Middle Earth, these programs are where dreams get their wings.


Boston – The Heartbeat of Genre Literature

In short, Boston’s sci-fi, fantasy, and horror scene is more than just a community; it’s a pulsating, living entity that’s as integral to the city as its historic cobblestone streets. Whether you’re honing your craft, attending mind-blowing conventions, or losing yourself in the aisles of a quaint bookstore, Boston is a treasure trove of inspiration and wonder for fans and creators alike.

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s dive into Boston’s literary labyrinth and discover the stories waiting for us in its historic heart. And as always, keep those pages turning and your imagination burning!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.