Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Singular Effect: the best horror short stories I'm thinking of right now.

I've been on something of a short story kick the last couple weeks. yes, it is because I finally had some stories of my own accepted for publication. Also, it's the end of another year, which means I should make some kind of a list. I could do a "best of" (NOS4A2, Doctor Sleep, Joyland, The Conjuring, Insidious Chapter 2, Evil Dead, World War Z... you get the picture) but everyone and their mom does year-end best of lists. So instead, I'm doing a list of the best horror short stories I can think of while sitting here.
(Before you get too far, check out the Facebook release party for Holiday Horror 2014 which includes my story "Voices Carry.")

If you are into social media and how an author can toy with it, read Joe Hill's "Twittering from the Circus of the Dead." The title is longer than some of the paragraphs. While I'm on the topic of Mr. Hill, any of the stories from his collection 20th Century Ghosts will serve you well, but my favorites are the title story (set in a classic single screen movie theater) and "Bobby Conroy Comes Back from the Dead" (set during the filming of Dawn of the Dead) and "Best New Horror," a grisly-fun tale that I enjoy even more now that I am a grad student in literature.

Hill's daddy isn't too shabby, either, when it comes to short form terror. Stephen King's "Quitters, Inc."; "Dolan's Cadillac"; "The Man Who Wouldn't Shake Hands"; "The Children of the Corn"; "The Ten O'clock People"; and "Sneakers" have always done it for me. With so much short fiction from King available, I'm sure you have your own favorites.

Another master of the short story is H.P. Lovecraft. Like Poe before him, he never really caught on to the novel. Try "The Rats in the Walls" if you are new to Lovecraft.

Poe, of course, had his own rats in "The Pit and the Pendulum," but my favorites of his short horror are "The Fall of the House of Usher" and "Hop-frog."

Getting back into the 20th century, I wouldn't be doing my job if I left out Richard Matheson whom the world lost in 2013. "Prey," "The Dance of the Dead," and "Button, Button" are lessons in how to write short fiction, be it horror or not.

Then there is Clive Barker. His collected Books of Blood will make you wet your pants. The best of the lost, for me, is "In the Hills, the Cities." You couldn't go wrong with "The Midnight Meat Train"; "Pig Blood Blues"; or "The Last Illusion." (I also have a soft spot for "Rawhead Rex.")

I could go on, and maybe I will at another time. For now, feel free to add your own favorites. Remember, this was meant to be a short list of the best stories on my mind right now. Ask me this question tomorrow and I'd likely give you a different list.

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