I don’t know about you, but every year I make a resolution to read more horror novels. I experience varying levels of success each year (because life happens). Not that it stops me from buying more and more horror novels and adding to my already out-of-control horror novel collection.
Sigh. There are just too many intriguing horror novels out there, and so little time.
But I feel optimistic about this year! Really, I do. I am making a concerted push to read more in general, especially when it comes to my beloved horror genre. Just as I saw in 2017 and 2018, this year will see the publication of a ton of cool horror novels and novellas, so I certainly won’t have any problems finding good options. Choosing among them will be a different story, however.
All in all, there are 15 horror novels that have caught my eye so far, with something for everyone. Specifically, I’m interested in Caitlin R. Kiernan’s latest haunting short story collection, The Very Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan; Josh Malerman’s new dystopic vision, Inspection; the gothic-inspired nightmare PEtra’s Ghost by C.S. O’Cinneide; Grady Hendrix’s delightful-sounding My Mom’s Book Club Killed Dracula; and the arresting A Lush and Seething Hell by John Hornor Jacobs.
Halloween isn’t solely about horror movies–Halloween is also great for disturbing short story or two. Or ten.
Personally, I don’t always have time to read the latest horror novel or unearth a classic gothic ghost story. So I settle for a shorter but no less unnerving story. For me, a good creepy short story is like a deliciously morbid morsel. For others, a short horror story is an easy way to step out of one’s comfort zone.
There are countless horror short stories, and I sure haven’t read them all. However, I did compile a list of ten of my absolute favorites, along with links for you to read them right now!
I didn’t realize until fairly recently, but February is Women in Horror Month! February 2016 marks the 7th annual Women in Horror Month, or WiHM, which aims to “encourage supporters to learn about and showcase the underrepresented work of women in the horror industries.” Women in all parts of the horror genre are represented—female horror directors, female horror writers, female horror artists, and many more.
I love that this initiative exists! Why should boys have all the fun? Everyone can contribute to horror. It’s refreshing to see women who love horror come together to support each other. There are many talented individuals sharing in this genre, be it through fiction, film, comics, or art.
Ah, February. In keeping with the human need for tradition and ritual, this is the time of year where everyone becomes temporarily obsessed with their and others’ relationship statuses. If you’re in a relationship, you’re bombarded with messages to spend hours planning the perfect candlelit Valentine’s Day date and spend a chunk of change for flowers, candy, stuffed animals, jewelry, perfume, and lingerie. If you’re not in a relationship, then you’re bombarded with messages about how you either need to find a Valentine or become recluse for those weeks that the grocery store explodes into a red and pink mess of cheap cards, candy, and other cheesy knick-knacks.
Why do we go to all this trouble? We tell ourselves its because if you love someone, you buy them “romantic” stuff, right? And if you don’t have a Valentine, then you should be constantly reminded of it, right?
But in all the bustle to buy and surprise and spoil, no one really stops to think about love itself, which is odd. After centuries, love is still an enigma, a cypher. Countless hearts and minds have attempted to elucidate the twists and turns of love, but no one has ever been able to truly plumb those murky depths. Everyone knows about love and its paradoxes, how it can make you feel happy and sad, grounded and insane. Love can introduce you to your soulmate and in the same moment cause you to feel a chilling loneliness.
Love is immense and pervasive. It touches everyone, sneaking unexpectedly into unsuspecting lives and wrecking the best-laid plans, for better or for worse.
Love is scary.
It’s Christmas Eve, a few hours before midnight. Presents are wrapped. Stockings are hung. If you went to a Christmas Eve party, you’re probably home by now. Any children in the house are tucked snuggly into bed. Before you go off to bed yourself, you and your family might enjoy the fire as it slowly goes out. You might reminisce about past Christmases or tell stories about the meaning of each ornament on the tree. Or you could tell each other ghost stories. Christmas ghost stories.
It’s not as weird as you might think and, in fact, Christmas ghost stories are a time-honored tradition that has been somewhat forgotten as of late. The tradition started in Britain and quickly spread to the U.S. Every Christmas Eve, whole families gathered around the fire and scared each other silly with ghost stories.
Halloween is only a few days away! In case you aren’t yet in the spirit, or if you are and you want to add a bit more scary fun to these last few days, consider picking up one of these classic horror books!
There are a lot of scary stories out there, too many to read. However, if I have to recommend some good scary books, I’ll recommend the following eight classics of the genre. These books are essential reading for anyone even remotely interested in horror fiction because they are 1) thoughtfully written and well-crafted; 2) unsettling, creepy, and horrifying; and 3) insanely influential. Stephen King wouldn’t be famous at all if it weren’t for Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson, and Robert W. Chambers.
Also, its worth noting that while you may “know” about these classics, if you haven’t read them, you’re missing out. So run to your nearest bookstore, library, or Amazon account and get yourself any one of these for a spooky read. If you’re pressed for time, you might like some of the short story collections, which are quick, morbid reads. Enjoy!
*Beware of some spoilers!*
Earlier this year, I read Gutshot by Amelia Gray. It’s a collection of short stories, written like lightning bolts—short, crackling, stunning. Each story is an well-placed incision in the brain, offering slices of the darkly funny, the disturbing, the oddly romantic, and the grotesque.
While the collection isn’t straight horror literature, it definitely shares the aim of literary horror fiction, which as I’ve posted about before, is to acknowledge and explore the scary parts of ourselves. Gray is not afraid of the darkness. She uses her considerable skill to spin strange, visceral stories. She’s done it before with THREATS, a disorienting novel about a grieving widower who keeps finding threats hidden in the nooks and crannies of his house. She’s examined the absurd and unique in her two other short story collections, AM/PM and Museum of the Weird.
And in Gutshot, Gray expertly confronts her readers, blending genres, juxtaposing humor and sensuality with provocative scenes of body horror, weaving challenging and enigmatic premises, introducing alien yet somehow familiar characters, and refusing to explained the ensuing freakiness. If you this sounds like your cup of tea, you won’t regret following her stories into the shadowy twists and turns of the human mind.
Almost anyone I’ve ever asked has fond memories of the classic children’s series Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark. Even now as adults, most people I’ve talked to excitedly remember the vivid tales and the terrifying illustrations. Remember those?
Back in October, I wrote a blog post about Scary Stories. In that post, I reminisced about how much I loved those books—how they creeped me out, how I felt compelled to read them despite their scariness. Those books struck the perfect balance between whimsy, horror, and folklore, creating a darkly inviting world.
Sometimes I’d read the story with one hand covering the picture until I had worked up the nerve to look at! Even now, I feel like a little kid reading these, scaring myself silly.
IT’S LOOKING AT ME
I’ve always thought that these books held a power far strong than nostalgia alone. As this blog demonstrates, I’m fascinated by the way in which Scary Stories resonate with us and teach us about ourselves.
So imagine my utter joy and excitement when I heard that a team of filmmakers is producing a documentary about the history of this series! You read that right! Director and Producer Cody Meirick and his team are currently working to explore everything from the publication history of the Scary Stories, the legacy of the iconic illustrations, the importance the books lend to children’s literature, and efforts by some to restrict access to the books, among other subjects. The team has already begun production on the film, having already conducted a handful of interviews, with plans for many more.
I love vampires. I think they might be my absolute favorite monsters. As far as monsters go, vampires are especially threatening because they can move amongst humans undetected. They are often beautiful, cunning, and charming, all the while masking a barely restrained brutality. Sometimes the vampire is full of self-loathing and struggles with the moral and existential repercussions of her bloodlust. Other times, the vampire fully embraces her power and relishes each victim.
Why do kids love being scared?
What is about sneaking down in the middle of the night to watch slasher films? Telling ghosts stories and urban legends while gathered in a tight circle around the campfire? Playing “Light as a Feather” or messing around with an Ouija board? Gathering the courage to summon Bloody Mary in a dark, cramped bathroom?
There are tons of psychological and physiological reasons behind our human attraction to scary stuff. Kids, like adults, enjoy the feeling of watching a scary movie–increasing heart rate, blood pressure and, respiration rate. The amygdala goes to work, flashing signals to the pituitary glands and adrenaline glands, which, depending on how intense the situation is, release adrenaline and cortisol. It’s a rush. It’s something different and exciting.
Best of all, it’s safe. There’s no actual danger, no risk, nothing that can go wrong. It is a cathartic experience. For kids and adults alike.
Which brings me to the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series.