Wicked Good Reads | Genre Spotlight on Horror

We are in the midst of a horror renaissance. From blockbuster films like Jordan Peele’s Us and Stephen King’s It to TV series like Netflix’s Stranger Things and AMC’s The Walking Dead, dark storytelling has never been more popular. A bounty of top-notch horror books will be published in the coming months, titles that are perfect for general adult collections.

We are in the midst of a horror renaissance. From blockbuster films like Jordan Peele’s Us and Stephen King’s It to TV series like Netflix’s Stranger Things and AMC’s The Walking Dead, dark storytelling has never been more popular. Though horror fiction has always been a staple genre, during times of social and political unease and uncertainty in the real world the genre often becomes a viable "release valve," as best-selling author Brian Keene recently explained to a room full of librarians during the Horror Writers Association’s annual conference, StokerCon. "It is a comfort to get to curl up with a book about grave robbers, werewolves, and giant worms as opposed to having to watch the news." See also: author and literary critic Gabino Iglesias’s "Don’t Call It a Comeback."

Keene was joined by fellow authors Daniel Kraus and Stephen Graham Jones at StokerCon for a panel about Summer Scares, an initiative by the Horror Writers Association, Library Journal, Book Riot, and United for Libraries to help libraries promote excellent horror titles for readers of all ages. For librarians gearing up for summer reading, Summer Scares is an ideal starting place (See bit.ly/2wCdVTF for details).

Thankfully, a bounty of top-notch horror books will be published in the coming months, titles that are perfect for general adult collections.

Short Stories Rule

Paul Tremblay, fresh off winning his second Bram Stoker Award in the Novel category for The Cabin at the End of the World, has a new collection, Growing Things and Other Stories (William Morrow, Jul.), mixing pieces new and old—and, notably, a few that directly connect to the worlds of his previous novels. The stories here are trademark Tremblay, immersive tales that lull readers into complacency with what seems like ordinary situations, until the terror sneaks up and...wham! Also releasing this fall is a collection from the reigning king of the younger generation of horror, Joe Hill. Full Throttle: Stories (William Morrow, Oct.) features the Bram Stoker–nominated story "You Are Released"; two stories cowritten with Hill’s father, Stephen King; and two never-before-published tales of terror. Hill has captured the hearts of readers across genres with his ability to invoke sympathy and terror while mining contemporary issues for their fear factor potential.

Genre-defying Benjamin Percy’s Suicide Woods: Stories (Graywolf, Oct.) is filled with tales of crime and strange happenings in the woods. Jac Jemc follows on the success of her literary haunted house novel, The Grip of It, with False Bingo: Stories (MCD x FSG Originals, Oct.), a collection in which sinister forces—both supernatural and terrestrial—invade ordinary settings. Jemc is a master at creating tension.

Then there are the exciting, newer voices with critically acclaimed stories published across the genre landscape who are now garnering buzz over their own collections. The stories in salt slow by Julia Armfield (Flatiron, Oct.) are already being compared to the works of Carmen Maria Machado. Smaller indie presses are also offering standout collections next season: author and illustrator Betty Rocksteady’s In Dreams We Rot (Oct.) and author and librarian Sarah Read’s Out of Water (Nov.) are both being published by Trepidatio, an imprint of JournalStone, which focuses on horror by women and #OwnVoices authors. Raw Dog Screaming Press is publishing On the Night Border (Fall 2019), a horror collection by James Chambers, featuring the Bram Stoker–nominated short story, "A Song Left Behind in the Aztakea Hills."

In addition to the above single-author collections, there are some fantastic anthologies about to release, which offer a variety of authors and a chance to sample different styles. Arguably the most respected editor in the world of horror anthologies is Ellen Datlow. She has two impending collections of note: the eagerly anticipated Best Horror of the Year: Volume 11 (Night Shade, Sept.), and a themed anthology, Echoes: The Saga Anthology of Ghost Stories (Saga: Gallery, Aug.), featuring brand new takes on the well-worn and crowd-pleasing topic. Both anthologies have an inclusive list of contributors, a fact that Datlow appreciates: "I am most excited about the diversity [of] authors I am seeing submissions from. We are…seeing voices from all over the world. This is very different from three to four years ago.... It is exciting for readers, too."

One of Datlow’s go-to authors is the aforementioned Jones, who has a brand new story in Echoes; he is also featured Straight Outta Deadwood: The Weird Wild West Rides Again! (Baen, Oct.)Straight Outta Deadwood: The Weird Wild West Rides Again! (Baen, Oct.), editor David Boop’s follow-up to the best-selling weird western anthology Straight Outta Tombstone. It’s good timing: with HBO bringing back the cult hit Deadwood in a recent feature-length movie, you can expect fans to eagerly devour this anthology come fall.


As horror continues to trend upward, there’s been a steady increase in the popularity of the novella (a single story longer than 17,000 words but shorter than 40,000); in fact, both the Tremblay and Hill story collections contain novella-length pieces. American readers may be somewhat new to the novella trend, but, as author Usman T. Malik noted on a panel about the rise of the format at StokerCon 2019, "in other parts of the world, the novella has been an accepted form forever." Many horror classics are novellas, including Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw. Much of the recent rise in novella readership can be traced to Tor.com’s commitment to the economical format. After garnering awards with titles like Victor LaValle’sThe Ballad of Black Tom and Stephen Graham Jones’s Mapping the Interior, Tor.com has two promising stand-alone horror novellas coming out this fall. Jennifer Giesbrecht’s The Monster of Elendhaven (Sept.) is a twisted Gothic tale set on the shores of a northern city, where a dark magician and an unnamed monster join forces to seek revenge (LJ 7/19, p. 56). The slightly less terrifying but still haunting Ormeshadow by Priya Sharma (Oct.) follows a family in rural England with deep, dark, and fantastically dangerous secrets.

Finally, there are the most hotly anticipated novellas of the season, packaged together in one novel-length book: John Hornor Jacobs’s A Lush and Seething Hell: Two Tales of Cosmic Horror (Harper Voyager, Oct.), which features the Lovecraftian tale "The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky," framed by life in a South American dictatorship; and "My Heart Struck Sorrow," in which a librarian may have discovered a recording of the devil’s music. These novellas use techniques from horror’s past and present to craft immersive and thought-provoking storytelling experiences that will terrify and captivate.

Listen closely

Most librarians know how popular podcasts are among patrons, but they can also serve as a collection development and/or readers’ advisory tool for library staff. Podcasts can help spotlight new voices in genre fiction and help librarians identify emerging trends. Horror aligned early with the form, both in podcasts that feature horror fiction and in nonfiction about the genre.

Tonia Thompson, the director of Nightlight and a librarian, explained, "Our mission, first and foremost, has always been to help black horror writers get their work out there in the world. The question ‘Do you know any black authors writing horror?’ gets asked so often, but not many have an answer beyond Jordan Peele, Tananarive Due, and Octavia E. Butler. People, both in the publishing and media industry and as fans, are so hungry for original work from marginalized perspectives, but publishing and Hollywood move slow. Podcasting is a perfect medium to help these writers get discovered, and to help more fans connect with the stories they’re desperately searching for." See our spotlight above on excellent podcasts for fans and librarians alike.

Novel Scares

Just this past spring, Macmillan announced that it is starting a horror imprint, Nightfire. Publisher Fritz Foy remarked, "There is a renaissance in progress for all things horror. There is a new generation of horror fans who are setting weekend genre box office records, who are binge-streaming episodic TV, subscribing to weekly chat and drama-based podcasts, and purchasing more graphic novels. More importantly, there are new literary voices we want to bring to our reading communities and followers.... And also because we just plain love horror."

While Nightfire’s first titles won’t darken doorsteps until 2021, librarians would be wise to keep an eye on another new player in the horror market, Flame Tree Press, which is entering year two of its onslaught on the world of dark novels with an impressive catalog for the coming season. A few standouts include Tim Waggoner’s They Kill (Jul.), a novel that contemplates just how far we will go to bring back a lost loved one; J.G. Faherty’s Hellrider (Aug.), a fun, fast-paced thriller featuring a vengeful ghost and motorcycles; and J.H. Moncrieff’s Those Who Came Before (Oct.), a present-day murder mystery with ancient supernatural roots.

Perhaps the most anticipated novel of the season is Josh Malerman’s Bird Box sequel, Malorie (Del Rey), out in December. In the meantime, prepare to offer ravenous horror readers Chuck Wendig’s Wanderers (Del Rey, Jul.), an original, provocative apocalyptic tale, epic in scope and full of dread; The Toll (Tor.com, Jul.), which marks the return of Cherie Priest to pure horror with a terrifying trip deep into the swamp; or The Saturday Night Ghost Club (Penguin, Jul.), in which author Craig Davidson sheds his usual horror nom de plume, Nick Cutter, for a Stranger Things–esque story about a group of kids investigating their town’s supernatural legends.

And then there is the most surprising horror announcement of the season: Stephen Chbosky, perhaps best known for his coming-of-age drama, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, returns with his long-anticipated second novel, Imaginary Friend (Grand Central, Oct.), a frightening tale of a young boy who, after disappearing for six days, returns with a voice in his head and a mission to save his town from destruction.

Other novels worth a look include the U.S. release of Australia’s 2017 horror book of the year, Soon by Lois Murphy (Titan, Oct.); Violet (Inkshares, Sept.), the follow-up to Scott Thomas’s RUSA CODES Reading List Horror winner, Kill Creek; and C.S. O’Cinneide’s Petra’s Ghost (Dundurn, Aug.), in which secrets, nightmares, and ghosts haunt a man as he travels the Camino de Santiago, an ancient 500-mile pilgrimage across northern Spain, while carrying his wife’s ashes. Andy Davidson also returns, after numerous awards and nominations for his debut, In the Valley of the Sun, with The Boatman’s Daughter (MCD x FSG Originals, Feb. 2020), a Gothic thriller that is both beautiful and terrifying, pitting a young woman against an ancient evil deep in the bayou—a novel that Paul Tremblay has proclaimed "a lush nightmare."

Recent winner of the Bram Stoker Award for the collection That Which Grows Wild: 16 Tales of Dark Fiction, Eric J. Guignard will release his debut novel this summer, Doorways to the Deadeye (JournalStone, Jul.), a Depression-era dark fantasy in which a hobo realizes he can do more than just ride the rails—he can travel into a realm of shared memories. Speaking to LJ about the importance of horror in his life, Guignard, who works as an author, editor, publisher, and fan, explained that the genre has always appealed to him as a "source of excitement, the same way action and adventure movies appeal to me: it’s a rush. But as I get older, the horror genre has also become a sort of therapeutic balm, an outlet for depression, anxiety, or grief, in which my coping skills are strengthened and in the process I have a helluva good time." Like his fellow genre creators, Guignard captures the depth of emotion underlying his fictional terrors.

Three other horror debuts that should be added to any collection development list include Dubai author A.M. Kherbash’s Lesath (Asma Kherbash, Sept.), a psychological thriller about an amateur journalist who investigates rumors about an abandoned building. What could possibly go wrong? Getting the coveted Stephen King seal of approval is A Cosmology of Monsters (Pantheon, Sept.), Shaun Hamill’s first novel. It follows family members who run a haunted house attraction and the monsters that stalk them. Rounding out the promising debuts of the season is Rachel Eve Moulton’s Tinfoil Butterfly (MCD x FSG Originals, Sept.), an intense and chilling story of a troubled young woman and a young boy as they face down their demons and a coming snowstorm in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Additional titles sure to attract shambling hordes of readers include the original and captivating The Remaking
by Clay McLeod Chapman (Quirk, Oct.), a haunting tale, based on a true crime, in which an urban legend recycles itself every generation with terrifying results. There’s the edge-of-your-seat, supernatural thriller Kill Monster by Sean Doolittle (Severn House, Sept.), featuring an excavated monster wreaking havoc on the modern world, a great read-alike for fans of this past spring’s hit The Pandora Room by Christopher Golden. And two novels from the groundbreaking small press Apex: Rudolfo A. Serna’s Snow Over Utopia (Jul.), a genre-bending novel with threads of apocalyptic fantasy, sci-fi psychedelia, and doom metal; and Cody Luff’s Ration (Aug.), set in a dystopia where men and plant life are extinct, and calories need to be rationed to young girls based on their chances of carrying on the human race. Both novels were described by Apex managing editor Lesley Conner as "deliciously dark."

Reissues for New Fans

One of the most exciting things about horror’s resurgence is the crop of reissues rising from the dead. Leading the pack is Valancourt’s partnership with best-selling horror author Grady Hendrix, through which it is reissuing five long-out-of-print horror gems from the 1970s and ’80s in its "Paperbacks from Hell" series. One of this summer’s releases, Bari Wood’s The Tribe (Valancourt, Jul.), explores the terrifying and supernatural connections among a group of WWII concentration camp survivors and a gruesome murder in New York City 35 years later. Later this summer, readers can relive one of the best Bigfoot novels of all time, Thomas Page’s The Spirit (Valancourt, Aug.). Both titles feature the original awe-inspiring cover designs as well as a brand-new introduction, penned by Hendrix, about the importance of these pulp titles within the context of the genre.

Award-winning editor Leslie S. Klinger is also back with his second examination of H.P. Lovecraft tales, The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft: Beyond Arkham ( Liveright, Sept.), and this time he has Victor LaValle along for the ride, contributing an incisive and timely introduction. These are but two examples of a vast number of older voices that are gaining a fresh lease on life and the chance to haunt future generations. Expect more titles to come back in print as interest in horror keeps climbing.

Nonfiction: UNITING Fans and Scholars

The increasing popularity of horror also brings more legitimacy, and, thankfully, publishers are offering a range of nonfiction in which horror scholars and fans alike can find something to enjoy. Quirk, the leader in nonfiction where the creepy and geeky collide, is releasing a newly updated edition of its crowd-pleasing bestseller, Seth Grahame-Smith’s How to Survive a Horror Movie (Sept.), a title that can be easily paired with DVD/film collections; and the more scholarly but equally entertaining Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror & Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson (Sept.). Meanwhile, noted paranormal investigator Richard Estep presents The Horrors of Fox Hollow Farm: Unraveling the History & Hauntings of a Serial Killer’s Home (Llewellyn, Sept.), creating a reading experience perfect for the space in the Venn diagram where true crime and horror readers converge.

Those who enjoy looking at horror through a STEM lens will love the newest entry in Skyhorse’s "Science of" series, which previously featured deep dives into "Harry Potter" and "Star Wars," among other popular franchises, with The Science of Monsters: The Truth about Zombies, Witches, Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Legendary Creatures by Meg Hafdahl and Kelly Florence (Oct.).

No list of horror nonfiction would be complete without a literary criticism option. This one comes courtesy of the organizers of the annual Ann Radcliffe Academic Horror conference: Michele Brittany and Nicholas Diak compile some of the best academic papers into one volume, Horror Literature from Gothic to Post-Modern: Critical Essays (McFarland, Fall 2019)—with, full disclosure, an afterword by this librarian.

As Iglesias told LJ: "Human emotions can all be boiled down to love, hate, happiness, sadness, and fear. That is it. And that is why horror matters. We need horror more than ever to entertain, for social commentary, and to help us through." 



Becky Spratford is a Readers’ Advisory Specialist in northern Illinois. She trains library workers all over the world on how to help leisure readers in the public library. Spratford runs the popular and critically acclaimed RA for All (raforall.blogspot.com) website and its evil twin, RA for All: Horror (raforallhorror.blogspot.com). She is the author of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror, 2d Edition (ALA) and is currently working on the third edition. She is a proud member of the Horror Writers Association, whose membership recently elected her Secretary. Connect with her on Twitter @RAforAll

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Priya Sharma

Dear Becky, Thanks so much for the mention!All the best,Priya (Sharma)

Posted : Jul 12, 2019 05:53

Linda Addison

This is a wonderful article, listing what's happening and coming up for horror fans of every sort, fiction, non-fiction, etc. The list at the end is a keeper!

Posted : Jul 11, 2019 09:45



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