The Goth House Experiment

The Goth House Experiment

by SJ Sindu
The Goth House Experiment

The Goth House Experiment

by SJ Sindu


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An uncanny and electric story collection from SJ Sindu, Lambda Literary finalist and Publishing Triangle Edmund White Debut Fiction Award–winning author of Blue-Skinned Gods

In “Dark Academia and the Lesbian Masterdoc,” a millennial English professor finds viral fame on TikTok, but her newfound notoriety could wreck her already unstable life. In “Patriots’ Day,” a man having an affair finds himself caught up in larger currents of anti-Asian violence. Throughout the collection, an array of loners and artists—a young poet haunted by the ghost of Oscar Wilde, a home brewer and wife during lockdown, a boy with wings—struggle for connection and fulfillment in a world battered by the pandemic and reactionary politics. A daring writer with limitless range, SJ Sindu can depict shocking cruelty as readily as small moments of queer joy. The Goth House Experiment is a startling and very funny collection by one of America’s most exciting young voices.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781641295192
Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 10/17/2023
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 226,278
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

SJ Sindu is a Tamil diaspora writer whose works include the novels Marriage of a Thousand Lies (winner of the Publishing Triangle Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction and an ALA Stonewall Honor Book) and Blue-Skinned Gods (finalist for a Lambda Literary Award), as well as the graphic novel Shakti and the chapbooks I Once Met You But You Were Dead and Dominant Genes. Sindu holds a PhD in English and Creative Writing from Florida State University and is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Read an Excerpt

Dark Academia and the Lesbian Masterdoc

The day I found out about Dorothy was also the day my husband Dillon went on his first date as a man. Five years together, and one morning he’d woken up and decided it was time he tasted the single life from the male side. I’d arranged my face in an approximation of shock and indignation, before reversing and trying to look supportive.
    “You can date, too,” he said. He self-consciously pulled his T-shirt away from his chest, a habit he’d continued even after top surgery a year ago. “I know you miss dating women.”
     “Do I?” I imagined going out to the bars again, squeezing myself into the disco-ball miniskirts I’d worn in my twenties, dancing like I had when I was single, trying to gather up the energy to get to know someone new. That insufferable tango of disclosure and anxiety, the wondering and staring at the phone, the text messages drafted and deleted.
     “You don’t hate me for this, right?” Dillon rolled up the hem of his shirt and then rolled it back down. “You’re really okay with me seeing other people?”
     I splashed a smile over my face and took his hand from his shirt. “New adventures.”

Later, Dillon suggested I download Sapphyc, a dating app for women and femmes interested in each other.
     “I don’t do social media,” I said. I lounged on our bed, scrolling through his Tinder profile while he tried on an endless series of outfits. I knew it was cliché to “not do social media.” But I considered myself a gold star. I hadn’t ever had a profile, not even on Myspace in high school or Facebook in college.
     I swiped right and left on the potential paramours that popped up. Super glam brown woman who looked a little like me, her hair waving in the wind on a mountaintop. Reject. Cute stud with locks in a flannel shirt. Approve. Straight-looking guy holding a fish.
     “Do you want to date a penis?” I asked. I shimmied my posture to relieve the cramps that had started a few days earlier.
     “It’s not social media. It’s a dating app. It’s different.” Dillon modeled his first outfit: a tight long-sleeve shirt and ripped pants, converse high-tops with rainbow laces. “Does this say casual yet sexy? You know what, never mind.” He pulled off the shirt and rummaged around in his closet. “How do you know he’s a penis?”
     I showed him the profile picture. Wraparound sunglasses. Patriots windbreaker. “He’s holding a dead fish.”
     “Is that a yikes no? Or a secret yikes yes?”
     When Dillon didn’t respond, I swiped “yes.”
     “Your scars are healing well,” I said, watching the long arch of Dillon’s back as he bent over to grab something in our plastic drawers, the delicate bones of his spine pushing through the skin like islands in a long archipelago.
     He paused, stood upright, and traced the lines on his chest, two identical straight scars where his breasts used to be. I’d once heard him at the beach telling a nosy older lady that the scars were the result of a double lung transplant.
     “You think so? They’re not too puffy?”
     “Not at all.” I swiped “no” on a few white femmes. “Try your old-man shirt.”
     Dillon grabbed a vintage silk dress shirt from a hanger and pulled it on. As he buttoned it up, he caught my eye in the mirror. “I know I keep asking, but you really haven’t answered. Are you sure you’re okay with me dating?”
     I pretended to be engrossed in the app, folding my knees up to ease another cramp. “I’m not the jealous type,” I said, cringing a little. Another cliché.
     “That’s still not really an answer.”

The cold paper crinkled underneath my naked butt as I slid toward the edge of the examination table. The ultrasound technician waited for me, a white transducer wand in her hand.
     “Right to the edge, love,” she said, snapping her gum like a punctuation mark.
     As I scooted, she slipped a condom onto the wand and swirled blue lubricant gel on the tip as if she were dispensing soft-serve ice cream into a cone.
     “This might hurt a bit.” She snapped her gum again and inserted the wand into my vagina.
     I watched on the monitor, trying to ignore the pressure inside me, breathing through the cramps. For all his insistence on wanting to date as a man, Dillon didn’t love using strap-ons. We had one—he’d gotten the harness custom fitted at the local sex shop by a girl with an asymmetrical haircut—but he rarely used it. My vagina wasn’t used to anything larger than a few fingers, and that only rarely.
     “Breathe,” the technician said.
     She moved the wand around, poking left and right. I watched the grainy black-and-white pictures on the monitor. That was the inside of my uterus. Then, as she pushed toward my left ovary, a burst of color. She stopped, took a snapshot for the doctor, and made more colors flash. Snapshot. Colors. Snapshot.
     “Is that bad?” I asked.
     She wordlessly pointed at a handmade sign on the wall: technicians are unable to discuss the findings of your ultrasound. please wait for the doctor to contact you.
     “But you’ve done a ton of these,” I said. “Surely you know what the colors mean?” I tried to look trustworthy. “I’m just scared. Can you tell me?”
     She pulled the wand out slowly, and I could breathe again.
     “It might be a cyst,” she said. She chewed, then snapped. “But the doctor will know. Looks like it’s the size of a golf ball.” She held out a wad of bleached white washcloths. “The doctor will call you on Tuesday for a diagnosis.”
     I sat up, dizzy. “Dorothy,” I said. “I’ll name it Dorothy.” Dorothy the cyst who lived on my left ovary.
     The technician shook the washcloths at me. “Why Dorothy?”
     “My grandmother’s name,” I said. That wasn’t true. Dorothy was the name my grandmother’s Cambridge classmates had called her because they couldn’t pronounce Draupadi.
     What did the technician know, anyway? Dorothy could be benign. Or maybe Dorothy was cancer and I had only a few months to live.

After my ultrasound, I sat under the awning of my local coffee shop while rain dripped cheerfully onto window-box geraniums. There was a problem with the sequence in the middle of my poetry manuscript. Something wasn’t clicking. The resonance I’d hoped for the poems to have fell flat. I needed a complete reorder, but I was already a month past my deadline. My editor had emailed me that morning asking about the status of my book edits.
     A gaggle of students approached, each dressed carefully in fast fashion designed to look like thrift-store clothing—plaid slacks that didn’t fit, bottle glasses, gleaming white sneakers, oversize cable-knit sweaters frayed at the collar, tweed jackets with elbow patches.
     Misty from my queer literature class was among them. She waved. Misty had announced during the first-day-of-class intros that she was an influencer who made videos about being sad. She was the clear center of the group, which appeared to be deliberately nearing my table.
     I angled my laptop away.
     “Writing poetry in a coffee shop on a rainy day,” Misty said. “So dark academia of you, Dr. B.”
     Before I could ask what that meant, she turned away, tiny droplets of water shimmering on her shoulders. She led the rest of the students down the sidewalk and around the corner. They clustered in a group far closer than I’d ever walked with anyone, their heads tucked together and whispering.

Dillon came back from his date late, smelling of a cologne he didn’t own. I was sitting in bed, preparing a lecture for my queer lit class.
     “Shower,” I said as soon as he burst through the bedroom door.
     He seemed to glow with excitement under the warm light of our Ikea floor lamp. Before he’d brought up dating other people, I would fantasize about coming home and finding him with a stranger. The fear on his face, the fumbled apologies. His lover running out the door, clothes clutched in a fist. The righteous anger I’d be allowed to feel. Dillon following me around while I packed up my clothes, Dillon begging me to stay. Me, crying in a new, bare apartment, showering myself clean, and then slowly, slowly decorating with finds from the antique store down the street, getting a cat, settling into a new life. After I’d fully imagined the light fixtures I’d buy, I’d think of Dillon’s lips, sucking the nipples of the stranger, and I’d masturbate.
     Now, while I listened to the water cleanse him of another human’s cells and fluids, I tried to conjure up that image of Dillon with someone, to will myself wet. There was no stirring between my legs, no sign of interest, not even from Dorothy. The cramps were gone, as if now that I knew about Dorothy’s existence, she didn’t need to insist herself on my life anymore. She was just a ghostly, invisible presence, silently blooming poison into the rest of my body. I imagined the doctor’s stony face telling me that I’d die before the end of the semester. I’d have to race to finish my manuscript. My only legacy. Even Dillon would soon forget me for his new lovers, finally able to live a fully unencumbered life without his pretransition past.
     I closed my laptop, picked up my cell phone, and scrolled through the news. A coup in Southeast Asia. A Canadian election. People quitting academia in droves because of the state of the job market.
     I clicked through a blog with a comment thread about how hard it was to get a professor job, how people who had been trying for seven or more years were just so tired they were giving up. Like staring at roadkill bursting open at the seams, I couldn’t look away. I had my professor job. A good one, in fact. One that everyone in this comments section was hoping to get and couldn’t. A nasty voice in my head told me that I’d worked hard because I was a queer brown femme and no one was going to give me anything just for existing, but I had this other voice in my head, too, a voice of gratitude telling me how lucky I was, that I should be grateful, not self-congratulatory. The nasty voice and the gratitude voice made an eerie chorus in my brain, egging each other on.
     When Dillon was done showering, his black hair dripping and his skin smelling like Old Spice, we cuddled. He nestled into the crook of my armpit.
     “How was it?” I asked.
     “You don’t want to know details, do you?”
     “Just say it was fun.”
     “It was fun.”
     “Say thank you.”
     “Thank you.”
     I kissed the top of his head, inhaling the smell. A strange desperation climbed up inside me. “I love you,” I said.
     Dillon looked up, smiling like a baby. “Do you want to have some sexy time?”

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