Kate Siegel in Fall of the House of Usher

Digging ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’? Try This Usher Adaptation Next

The Fall of the House of Usher, Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story, is currently one of the top shows on Netflix. But there are other adaptations of Poe’s chilling tale out there—including a novel that’s as fun as it is creepy.

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The plot of the original “Fall of the House of Usher” is simple. An unnamed narrator visits Roderick Usher in his decaying home. There, the narrator learns that Roderick’s sister Madeline is wasting away from a mysterious disease. At the end of the story, Roderick and the narrator make a horrifying discovery: they have buried Madeline alive.

Netflix’s Fall of the House of Usher keeps the bones of the original story, but adds plenty of embellishments: a Succession-style drama about a wealthy family on the verge of collapse, and a mashup of Poe’s other works. It’s a fun take on a classic, and the basic template of Poe’s original story—a narrator visiting a haunted house containing a brother and sister in decline—is ripe for other interpretations, too.

Enter acclaimed horror and fantasy T. Kingfisher, who wrote her own unique take on the Ushers.

What Moves the Dead, Kingfisher’s 2022 Usher adaptation, tells the story of Alex Easton, a retired soldier from the European country of Gallacia. When Alex finds out that their childhood friend Madeline Usher is dying, they visit her and her brother Roderick in the Ushers’ ancestral home.

Cover of what moves the dead by T. Kingfisher
Tor Nightfire

However, Alex can immediately tell that something ghastly is going on. The house is surrounded by a lake filled with eerie lights. Animals move in ways that shouldn’t be possible. There’s strange fungal growth everywhere, and whatever’s wrong with Madeline is no ordinary illness. What unfolds is a delicious work of eco-horror and gothic fantasy, with a nonbinary protagonist whose warmth and wit are unforgettable.

What’s funny is that, as Kingfisher explains in the author’s note at the end of the book, she was about ten thousand words into What Moves the Dead when Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic came out. Kingfisher put What Moves the Dead aside, worried that she would just be copying Moreno-Garcia, but eventually realized that her own take on a fungus-filled gothic mansion was original enough to still be worth it. Thank goodness she did.

The best thing about What Moves the Dead? There’s a sequel coming out next year called What Feasts at Night, in which Alex returns to their childhood home in Gallacia. I, for one, can’t wait.

(featured image: Netflix)

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Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href="https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/">https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.</a>