Help me read more horror fiction!
May 30, 2015 6:25 PM   Subscribe

I don't typically read horror and I want to read more. Specific tastes inside.

I read House of Leaves around when it was released and enjoyed it. I re-read it recently and it reminded me of how much I enjoy being scared silly by interesting, weird, creepy ideas. Gore doesn't get under my skin much. I enjoy psychological/conceptual horror much more as opposed to supernatural horror.

For example, House of Leaves has a conceptual horror aspect to it (the hallways really creeped me out for some reason I can't fully grasp). There is a monster of sorts, but it's not written in a way that requires that the reader suspend disbelief in witches, demons, Satan, etc.

But I'm also not looking for police procedurals, in the vein of Silence of the Lambs. I think what I'm aiming for is some descendent of Poe in a contemporary setting, written in a florid style.

Can you recommend some horror novels, ideally written in the last 10 years or so, that would fit this description?
posted by deathpanels to Media & Arts (28 answers total) 73 users marked this as a favorite
Yoko Ogawa's Revenge comes to mind. In retrospect, I wish I had charted the connections between the stories.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 6:38 PM on May 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Shining! The book ain't what the movie is.
posted by juliplease at 6:49 PM on May 30, 2015 [6 favorites]

Try Stephen King's early novellas and short stories, collected in Night Shift, Different Seasons and Skeleton Crew. This is where he was at his sharpest.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:08 PM on May 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

I prefer my horror old-school, but Laird Barron is pretty impressive among the moderns. The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All blew me away.
posted by timeo danaos at 7:11 PM on May 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

He's got a healthy dose of gore in his work, but I'd give Clive Barker a go. There's plenty of psychological/conceptual stuff and he's got a descriptive writing style that I think is basically unmatched in the genre Galilee in specific jumps to mind. (And since you mention Poe, check out Barker's short story "New Murders in the Rue Morgue")
posted by ELind at 7:26 PM on May 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have become strangely fascinated with T.M.Wright, who writes -- well, I don't really know what to call it. It is not even exactly that scary, just disquieting and in certain ways offputting.
posted by escabeche at 7:42 PM on May 30, 2015

Clive Barker again. I favor Cabal and the Books of Blood.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 7:57 PM on May 30, 2015

Weaveworld, by Clive Barker.
The Cipher, by Kathe Koja.
The short fiction of Thomas Ligotti.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:10 PM on May 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

I can't really think of another writer that does what Danielewski does. The only ones who come to mind are John Barth (I.e. _Lost in the Fun house_), whose work isn't especially creepy, and Laszlo Krasznahorkai, who is capable of serious creepiness at times, but who is kind of an acquired taste. Some of Robert Coover's work might fit the bill, as might some of Rikki Ducornet's.

For well-written, psychological horror with a bit of intellectual heft, my go-to guy is Peter Straub. (His stuff is occasionally gory, and sometimes involves cops, but those pieces aren't the focus of his work as a whole.)

Other writers who do this well include:

Shirley Jackson
Patrick McGrath
Thomas Ligotti

I also strongly recommend Melanie and Steve Rasnic Tem's novella, "The Man on the Ceiling."(They later extended it into a novel, but IMO, that's nowhere near as good.).

On preview: Ditto the recommendations for Laird Barron (So very tasty!!) and Kathe Koja.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 8:30 PM on May 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Joe Hill! I can't believe I forgot Joe Hill!

I'm not super-crazy about his novels, but his short stories can't be beat. _20th Century Ghosts_ is fantastic.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 8:36 PM on May 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

Apartment 16 by Adam Nevill

Silk by Caitlin R Kieran (Kiernan?)
posted by mermaidcafe at 8:59 PM on May 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Read Annihilation!! (The Southern Reach trilogy). So good, and were the same kind of creepy as House of Leaves.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 9:40 PM on May 30, 2015 [12 favorites]

Lovecraft! Try The Whisperer in Darkness, it is written as journal entries and letters. Or is that The Thing on the Threshold...?
posted by vrakatar at 9:46 PM on May 30, 2015

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Oldies but goodies:
Rebecca - Daphne DeMaurier
I Have No Mouth But I Must Scream - short stories by Harlan Ellison
posted by prewar lemonade at 10:19 PM on May 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

YES to Caitlin Kiernan, especially her short fiction. A number of her stories are about a fictional painter named Albert Perrault, and I think those are some of her creepiest, best work. Also "Onion" is the first short story of hers I ever read and it's what drew me to read everything else she'd ever written, for similar reasons as you outline here - I hadn't found anything else since reading House of Leaves that left me with that creeping, eerie feeling.

Also seconding Jeff VanderMeer - most recently the Southern Reach trilogy, and also his earlier work in the Ambergris setting. Finch and Shriek are my favorites (Shriek has a great sense of impending, unsettling doom throughout), but City of Saints and Madmen is what I'd read first as an introduction to the world.
posted by augustimagination at 10:51 PM on May 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Another vote for Caitlin Kiernan. Her novel The Red Tree scared the bejeezus out of me, kept me reading when I should have been sleeping or working and had very little gore. Shirley Jackson ditto, especially The Haunting of Hill House, which has been badly adapted for films several times. Ignore those.

I also find Fritz Leiber's novels Our Lady of Darkness and Conjure Wife quite atmospheric and creepy. Several scenes are seared into my imagination. Absolutely no gore though.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:57 PM on May 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh, and Brian Evenson! Windeye, his most recent collection, is very precisely this.
posted by augustimagination at 1:07 AM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

Mefi's own Charles Stross builds a magnificent creepy universe of eldritch horror's in his Laundry Series.
posted by nickggully at 6:26 AM on May 31, 2015

Robert Aickman is great - the saddest thing is that there's only a short career as a writer of strange stories to enjoy.
posted by winna at 7:41 AM on May 31, 2015

The Ruins by Scott Smith (who also wrote A Simple Plan) made me sleep with the lights on. There's some gore, but the real draw is the truly creepy situation.
posted by mochapickle at 9:45 AM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I've read the Southern Reach books but you are right in that its the same kind of creepy I'm looking for, so others who are following this thread, make note.

To clarify a bit, I think one thing I dislike in horror is camp or playing to genre tropes explicitly. I don't mind that usually, but in a horror novel I want to be SCARED and metafiction just ain't scary.
posted by deathpanels at 10:08 AM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

Caitlin Kiernan and Robert Aickman are goooooood.

Aickman isn't contemporary, but he's modern enough IMHO.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:49 AM on May 31, 2015

Koko and Floating Dragon, both by Peter Straub, are both quite good as well.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:51 AM on May 31, 2015

Serious ditto on Aickman and Evenson. IMO, Windeye is exactly what you're looking for.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 1:30 PM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yup, nthing Caitlin Kiernan.
posted by Kitteh at 3:17 PM on May 31, 2015

posted by ostranenie at 4:42 PM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

They aren't contemporary, and mostly they aren't horror, but they are timeless, and creepy in the same way the Excursions in House of Leaves were: Fantastic Tales edited by Italo Calvino; Black Water edited by Alberto Manguel; The Stories of Paul Bowles.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:07 PM on June 1, 2015

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