1. srwilson

    srwilson Member

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2017
    Messages:
    79
    Likes Received:
    45
    Location:
    London

    Your favorite short horror fiction?

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by srwilson, Dec 3, 2017.

    As a big fan of horror, as well as having a preference for short stories, I'm looking for recommendations of short horror fiction, of any age, to help me with developing my own short horror writing skills.

    So what do you guys like and why?

    Which stories frighten you?

    Which ones get under your skin?

    Which ones are just so well written that you have to finish them, even if they are not scary or horrible?

    Which collections do you like?

    Have you read any more than once and still liked it?


    Please do go into detail about your favourites.
     
  2. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    6,708
    Likes Received:
    8,461
    Location:
    London, UK
    This is tough because I've read so many, and I don't tend to remember the titles or authors. :/ I've probably read a hundred horror anthologies. I can answer your questions in a vaguer way than you were looking for:

    These are the same question, for me. In short horror stories I look for:

    - A good hook that snags my attention from the beginning.
    - A sinister atmosphere. I want to feel that something heinous is brewing in the background.
    - A good twist at the end. The main reason I don't rate Stephen King is that his endings are usually terrible (due to him not bothering to think about it before he starts writing, and often writing himself into a corner.)

    There are some tropes I don't read because they don't interest or scare me - most supernatural creatures fall under that heading, besides demons (I love a good demonic or exorcism trope). Vampires, zombies, werewolves - yawn. My favourite horror stories are about normal people falling into horrific situations. As an example, one story that's stuck with me for years:

    - A kid desperate to be accepted by the 'cool kids' is delighted when they invite her to go and explore a railway tunnel with them. Inside the tunnel they find a kind of hatch, and crawl inside. The space is barely wide enough for them to shimmy in on their stomachs. It leads to a dead end. A rock falls down and strikes the kid behind the MC on the head; the kid dies, and the MC is trapped in the space. This story stayed with me because it ended there, and the rest was left to my imagination - thinking of that child stuck, slowly dehydrating to death with a corpse behind her.

    None. It's not a well-written horror story if it isn't horror-y.
     
    srwilson likes this.
  3. srwilson

    srwilson Member

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2017
    Messages:
    79
    Likes Received:
    45
    Location:
    London
    "I want to feel that something heinous is brewing in the background."


    I couldn't agree more. I think all my favourites have an undercurrent which you can't always put your finger on. A subconscious thing.


    And your tropes are also what I usually avoid, because usually they are done without any originality, and fall into cliché.


    "It's not a well-written horror story if it isn't horror-y."

    I suppose my question is more about where to draw the line, what is horror? For example, I love some of Robert Aickman's classics, such as The Hospice - c.1975? (a truly great piece). But he called his stories "strange tales", although they are generally classified as 'horror'. The Hospice is borderline horror, but really works as an unsettling, engaging and unforgettable story.

    Can you remember any anthologies that you liked in particular? I read a lot of "Mammoth book of Best Horror."
     
  4. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    6,708
    Likes Received:
    8,461
    Location:
    London, UK
    'Unsettling' would definitely quality as horror-y for me. In fact, I'd say I prefer unsettling to more explicit forms of horror like savagery and gore; it stays with me longer. Horror movies are the same - those lists of 'the most terrifying horror movies' never resonate with me, because mine are horrifying in subtler ways than torture and rivers and blood.
     
  5. Damien Loveshaft

    Damien Loveshaft Member

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2017
    Messages:
    80
    Likes Received:
    21
    Location:
    Louisiana
    Well, you already seem quite acquainted with Lovecraft so I'll recommend Junji Ito shorts, his manga can really teach one a lot about horror despite it's graphic novel nature. There's too many to try and list right now, but try finding a collection, I've noticed he's been getting heavily printed in English recently. Other than that though I think I mostly read manga and novellas/novels, not short stories.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
    Seven Crowns likes this.
  6. srwilson

    srwilson Member

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2017
    Messages:
    79
    Likes Received:
    45
    Location:
    London
    For sure I'll have to check him out, being also a fan of Japanese horror movies like Audition.
     
  7. NobodySpecial

    NobodySpecial Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2015
    Messages:
    334
    Likes Received:
    251
    Edgar Allan Poe is still tops on my list.
     
  8. srwilson

    srwilson Member

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2017
    Messages:
    79
    Likes Received:
    45
    Location:
    London
    I've read some Poe in the past, but might revisit him. What are your fave stories?
     
  9. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Wrting is never clean. :) Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    7,406
    Likes Received:
    4,737
    Location:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    So far The Body Politic in Inhuman Condition by Clive Barker. It is a
    creepy, mind fuck, that makes you wonder. (Shudders).
     
    Seven Crowns and OJB like this.
  10. NobodySpecial

    NobodySpecial Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2015
    Messages:
    334
    Likes Received:
    251
    The Fall Of The House Of Usher, Masque Of The Red Death, The Pit And The Pendulum, The Cask Of Amontillado...take your pick. Poe was probably my first consistent read. The language and style may be outdated, but the stories are timeless.
     
    Rosacrvx likes this.
  11. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    6,708
    Likes Received:
    8,461
    Location:
    London, UK
    I find Poe dull. He manages to take interesting premises and suck all the interest out of them. :/

    Having said that, the best one of his I've read is The Black Cat.
     
  12. NobodySpecial

    NobodySpecial Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2015
    Messages:
    334
    Likes Received:
    251
    That's harsh, T.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2017
  13. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2016
    Messages:
    1,122
    Likes Received:
    953
    Location:
    Chicago, IL.
    Top three Clive Barker short stories

    1. Rawhead Rex: I love his use of Allegory in this story. The story is very suspenseful.
    2. Jacqueline Ess: This story -while horror- is what made me start reading romantic novels.
    3. The hellbound heart: The first Clive Barker story I've ever read, and still my favorite. This story is really what made me want to write Erotic Horror and is my go-to book for inspiration.
     
    Seven Crowns likes this.
  14. srwilson

    srwilson Member

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2017
    Messages:
    79
    Likes Received:
    45
    Location:
    London
    I think Poe is a bit dated, true, although still his originality and skill shine through. I also need to re-read some Barker.
     
  15. srwilson

    srwilson Member

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2017
    Messages:
    79
    Likes Received:
    45
    Location:
    London
    Here are my favourite short horror stories of all time, in something like chronological order.



    Firstly, some old classics, many recommended by Lovecraft himself:


    Guy de Maupassant (a French master of short fiction) - The Horla

    Arthur Machen (big influence on Lovecraft) - The Novel of the White Powder (in fact 7,000 words)

    Francis Marion Crawford - The Upper Berth

    M R James (A master of macabre ghost stories) - The Ash Tree, Oh Whistle and I'll Come…, The Treasure of Abbot Thomas.

    Walter de la Mare - All Hallows

    Charlotte Perkins Gilman - The Yellow Wallpaper

    H G Wells - The Cone

    Hanns Heinz Ewers - The Spider

    Robert E Howard - The Black Stone (maybe not a classic, but very Lovecraftian)




    And some great modern ones:


    Fritz Leiber - Smoke Ghost

    Robert Aickman - The Hospice, The Swords, Ringing The Changes.

    Ramsey Campbell - The Face at Pine Dunes, The Voice of the Beach, Call First, Baby, The Brood, Down There, Again, The Other Side.

    Thomas Ligotti - Dream of a Manikin.

    Nicholas Royle - Standard Gauge

    Terry Dowling (a rare Aussie writer) - The Nightside Eye
     
    Seven Crowns likes this.
  16. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    6,708
    Likes Received:
    8,461
    Location:
    London, UK
    You'll have to ask me about Stephen King if you want to see harsh. ;)
     
  17. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2016
    Messages:
    1,122
    Likes Received:
    953
    Location:
    Chicago, IL.
    My issue with Poe really isn't Poe, it is his fan-base (No hate, Nobody). A lot of people try to 'copy' Poe without realizing what it was he was doing.

    Example: A lot of people try to mimic the language used in 'The Raven' not realizing that it is written in Meter and uses a number of metrical devices. People see these Metrical devices, and, not understanding what they are and how they work, they try to use them in Prose.

    Poe is very good at writing Fantsical horror and having his work be onomatopoetic. These two aspects are what people should be paying attention to they want to write like Poe, not his use of Elisions and outdated Syntax.

    -

    End of Rant.
     
  18. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2016
    Messages:
    577
    Likes Received:
    396
    Can't believe nobody has mentioned, Richard Matheson!
    The most memorable Twilight Zone episodes are his, I Am Legend is a classic, and he was one the most versatile writers of the last half century.
     
  19. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2016
    Messages:
    1,122
    Likes Received:
    953
    Location:
    Chicago, IL.
    I might be wrong, as I've not read the story in a decade, but I thought 'I am Legend' is a full novel, not a short story (which this thread is about.)
     
  20. srwilson

    srwilson Member

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2017
    Messages:
    79
    Likes Received:
    45
    Location:
    London
    I've heard good things about Matheson and will get round to him, but can you recommend any shorts?
     
  21. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2016
    Messages:
    577
    Likes Received:
    396
    There are few writers I'd recommend to just about everyone, but Matheson is definitely one.

    I'll have to double check my audible.com library to make sure, but I'm almost certain it was this collection... https://www.amazon.com/dp/0312878273/?tag=writingfor07a-20

    Short story collections normally break down this way... 1/3 are good to great, 1/3 average, 1/3 duds. Matheson didn't write duds.:)
     
    srwilson likes this.
  22. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2016
    Messages:
    577
    Likes Received:
    396
    I want to say it's a short novel. I read it so long ago I can't remember anything else except, like 2001, A Space Odyssey, I read it in two sittings. I reckon it's about the same length at 2001... as the crow flies.:)
     
  23. NobodySpecial

    NobodySpecial Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2015
    Messages:
    334
    Likes Received:
    251
    I'll have to agree with you there, it's King's older stuff I like- Bachman and older- his newer stuff is rather weak by comparisson. I did like Doctor Sleep though, but probably because of its relation to The Shining. My favorite piece from King is a short story he wrote in the 60's called The Ballad Of The Fexible Bullet. Wasn't published till the 80's though. Everyone needs a fornit.
     
  24. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Member Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2017
    Messages:
    234
    Likes Received:
    262
    Here are my favorites. I'm just sticking to the new ones. No Lovecraft, Bierce, Blackwood, Quinn, James, etc.

    When Susurrus Stirs – Jeremy Robert Johnson


    Vile beyond words. Expertly crafted. It’ll remind you of a bloody Chuck Palahniuk (I actually spelled that right on the first go!). It was made into a movie short that is very accurate to the story (and horrifically gruesome). If you have any moral compunctions, do not watch. (In fact I’m deleting the link. I had it posted. Sorry, I can’t do this to someone. It’s worse than you can imagine.)
    Blood Music – Greg Bear

    Ah, the nanobots. Nothing’s worse than rogue nanobots. Now this time it’s programmed blood cells, but the end is the same. It’s sci-fi horror like a depraved Asimov. There’s a novella written of it too, but the short story really ends perfectly. I suppose there’s a beauty in it if you can stand it.
    The Green Revolution – Cody Goodfellow

    My favorite very recently written story. The depth achieved in this is almost lyrical. It’s a descriptive density as thick as a slurry. It reminds me of Heart of Darkness for some reason . . .
    The People of Sand and Slag – Paolo Bacigalupi

    The story isn’t horrific to its protagonists. They’re rather at ease. But the reader isn’t. When you see what humanity devolves to, it’s really unsettling. The style is a little like Goodfellow’s story with an immense setting that’s strangely tactile. Sci-fi though. Sci-fi and horror mix well, like lime and vodka.
    When Darkness Loves Us – Elizabeth Engstrom

    This one turns on a dime. I’m struggling to think of another story that starts so benignly and then devolves into such rot. Your trigger has been warned. Yuck. It’s notable too for its lack of visuals. For a lot of the story, the MC isn’t seeing.
    Sandkings – George R.R. Martin

    Yeah, that old guy. The story was redone as an Outer Limits (which is pretty fun) but the original is something else. The setting is very space-opera, but the premise is genius. It’s genuinely fun to read.
    Confessions of a (Pornographer's) Shroud – Clive Barker

    Every one of the stories in the Books of Blood is top notch. I would give even the worst (I don’t like even typing that) 4 out of 5 stars. This one always bothered me because of the MC’s innocence. And then the ending . . . what is the one thing he wanted? Forgiveness. It’s perfectly done. It’s all about desire. Barker writes about desire the same way Borges writes about labyrinths.
    The Good Husband – Nathan Ballingrud

    With all of the stories above, this one is my favorite. I consider it the best piece of horror ever written, and I’ve read a lot. It starts a bit crude, okay. That’s fine. You have to stick with it enough to feel it. What’s shocking about it is the depth of the narration. Ballingrud hits one profundity after another. It reaches the point where it almost transcends the story. It’s almost Shakespearean, like you’re reading a soliloquy (not in style, but in message), and every line feels immortal.

    The husband is flawed, but you can understand why. The ending shows horror genius. I can’t believe this was even written, but I’m glad it was. Seriously, read this. There are these genius flourishes, and as the story progresses and becomes darker and darker, they hit ten per page:
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2017
  25. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2016
    Messages:
    1,122
    Likes Received:
    953
    Location:
    Chicago, IL.
    Seven Crowns likes this.

Share This Page