As the nights grow longer and the dark closes in, the desire for literary thrills and chills may last beyond Halloween. Fortunately, horror is always in season in our collection. In this post we're highlighting short horror fiction, which has been a staple of the genre since the 19th century and has remained popular ever since. Whether you're already a fan or just getting interested in short-form horror, there's a lot to explore.
These and other titles will be on a display near the Elsie Coulter Reading Terrace starting October 29th, but the anthologies listed in the first part of this post can always be found in our Short Stories section. It's a little out of the way, but well worth perusing. If you're not already familiar with this hidden treasure trove, feel free to ask a librarian to help you find it! Single-author collections can be found in the fiction section under the author's last name.
Edited by Ellen Datlow
Ellen Datlow is a name you'll see a lot over in our Short Stories section. She's an award-winning editor known for her work in speculative fiction genres (science fiction, fantasy, and horror). This particular collection is a good introduction to trends and big names in short-form horror from the past few years, drawing from the Best Horror of the Year anthology series that Datlow edits. If you enjoy this anthology, we also have several of the yearly volumes in the series available.
American Fantastic Tales:
Terror and the Uncanny from Poe to the Pulps (Volume 1)
Terror and the Uncanny from the 1940s to Now (Volume 2)
Edited by Peter Straub
This two-volume collection provides an overview of the American horror fiction tradition as it has developed since the early part of the 19th century. In addition to many writers well-known for writing horror, Straub has chosen historical writers who were famous in their own time but less known to modern audiences (like Charles Brockden Brown and Harriet Prescott Spofford), as well as writers who are more famous for writing in other genres (like Isaac Bashevis Singer and Truman Capote).
Edited by James D. Jenkins & Ryan Cagle
For those looking for a more international selection, this collection presents short horror stories from around the world, many of them appearing in English translation for the first time. While some big themes are universally scary, this is also an interesting look at culturally specific folklore, tropes and fears. You may find new literary interests, as well as new things to be scared of! And, based on the "volume one" appended to the title, Valancourt has plans for future journeys into international horror.
Edited by Lincoln Michel & Nadxieli Nieto
If you're short on time or just a fan of bite-sized thrills and chills, this collection of flash fiction is ideal. The book is divided into four bodily-inflected sections by theme or tone (Head, Heart, Limbs and Viscera), though it's not all as gory as those designations may lead you to dread, if you're squeamish. Some are much more psychological or conceptual. It's a good blend of the wide variety of horror being written now, with a mix of big names, genre-famous names, and newer writers. The short form also lends the reading experience a quick pace.
Edited, illustrated and introduced by Audrey Niffenegger
Best known for her work as an author of novels such as The Time Traveler's Wife, Niffenegger also studied art, and this collection features original illustrations to accompany each story (along with a note on why it was selected for inclusion). While less wide-ranging than some of the other anthologies in this list, Ghostly is elegantly assembled and more manageably-sized for readers just getting interested in the genre.
The Best of Michael Marshall Smith by Michael Marshall Smith
A multi-award-winning British author, Smith is nevertheless not a familiar name to many readers. This collection includes Smith's first published story (and 1990 winner of the British Fantasy Award) "The Man Who Drew Cats," with a focus on small-town dysfunction and a mysterious stranger that is reminiscent of Ray Bradbury at his darkest. It also has notes from the author on each story selected.
The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan by Caitlín R. Kiernan
Like Smith, Kiernan is well-known to many fans of horror, but perhaps less so to general readers. They have been a major figure in horror fiction since the 1990s, though they have said they don't consider their fiction exclusively in those genre terms. This collection includes some stories that were previously only available in limited print runs and may be new even to Kiernan's fans.
Interior Darkness by Peter Straub
In addition to editing the American Fantastic Tales anthologies discussed above, Straub is a legendary horror author in his own right. Interior Darkness collects stories from 25 years of his oeuvre. If you liked the eerie novella "The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine" in Datlow's Best of the Best Horror of the Year anthology, this collection includes that and more from Straub.
The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares by Joyce Carol Oates
Oates is not only a prolific novelist, but also a prolific writer of shorter fiction, both novellas and short stories. She has written several short story collections that specifically focus on dark and disturbing subject matter, including The Doll-Master, Dis Mem Ber, Haunted, and Night-Gaunts. Oates' monsters are often human rather than supernatural, but are all the more chilling for that.
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
This award-winning speculative fiction collection isn't pure horror, but there is plenty to unsettle readers and linger in your mind long after you have finished reading. Machado is also known for her nonfiction writing, including the horror-inflected memoir In the Dream House. If you're looking for more of her horror fiction, she also wrote the graphic novel The Low, Low Woods.