Short American horror fiction by authors who aren't white men?
January 28, 2017 11:21 AM   Subscribe

I'm teaching a unit on American horror fiction to 11th graders, and the curriculum I inherited is made up of 100% white, 100% male authors. I would like to to supplement that with other voices. I'm looking specifically for contemporary short horror fiction by American authors who are not dudes and / or not white. Again, we're talking high school kids, so nothing too graphic / inappropriate, but I am also willing to consider at least rubbing up against the boundaries of propriety. This is not an area in which I am at all well-read, so no suggestion should be considered too "obvious."
posted by dersins to Writing & Language (28 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Joyce Carol Oates! (White, but not male)
posted by Waiting for Pierce Inverarity at 11:25 AM on January 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Shirley Jackson (white female).
Black women in horror fiction.

Dark Dreams (all stories by POC)
Voices From the Other Side (Dark Dreams 2) (all stories by POC)
(both of these for the list of authors and for the stories themselves)
posted by the webmistress at 11:31 AM on January 28, 2017 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Came to suggest an excerpt from Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. Anything Jackson!
posted by Threeve at 11:33 AM on January 28, 2017 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Maybe something from Kelly Link's Magic for Beginners.
posted by lisa g at 11:33 AM on January 28, 2017 [7 favorites]

Best answer: A lot of Tananarive Due's short work is pretty horrr-y.

Octavia Butler's short stories often have a lot of horror elements although they generally have happy-ish endings.

This review of the Apex Book of World SF lists some stories with strong horror elements (the blood and bone cake one, frex). I've read a few of the horror ones from that book and they're pretty decent.
posted by Frowner at 11:33 AM on January 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: how contemporary is contemporary? (can the authors be dead?)

I'm not too well read in Octavia Butler but Bloodchild is in like every collection ever, easy to find. The best Tanith Lee short horror has all kinds of sexual content but much of it is subtle enough you could probably use it. If you can count mid-20th-century as contemporary, you can fill your whole syllabus with Shirley Jackson, Joyce Carol Oates, and Daphne DuMaurier and not need to drag in any token men at all.

my mind reels at the concept of "appropriate" horror (that is, I can think of plenty that isn't terribly graphic but if it's any good at all, that means it's extraordinarily upsetting. but, well.) like: JCO's "Big Momma" is so upsetting I feel vaguely nauseated just thinking back about it but I don't think the really very bad events that happen are described in detail as they happen. that one, though, put that on your list if you can.
posted by queenofbithynia at 11:37 AM on January 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I've been really enjoying the science fictiony horror of Alyssa Wong's short stories, most of which are available online. She won a Nebula for Starving Daughters of Hungry Mothers, though that particular one may not be suitable for your class depending on how conservative the school is.
posted by Pwoink at 11:41 AM on January 28, 2017 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong might be a little too violent, but it's a lovely piece of contemporary horror centered around the generational experience of femininity and otherness.
posted by zinful at 11:44 AM on January 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I might consider The Screwfly Solution because it can also lead into a discussion on why Sheldon mostly wrote under the name James.

The Litany OF Earth, both because it's a good story and can lead to discussion of Lovecraft's Racism.

Eugie Foster had works that were towards the horror side of things - maybe Returning My Sister's Face?

Gemma Files

Elizabeth Bear has some stuff that's in the horror spectrum.

Caitlan R. Kiernan

Victor Lavalle

Poppy Z. Brite if transgendered authors is something that you can get away with in your district.

The Pseudopod horror podcast has participated in a women writers month with some of the other podcasts in its family called Artemis Rising, you might listen to those and see if any of them are appropriate.
posted by Candleman at 11:58 AM on January 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas by Ursula K. LeGuin seems more like fantasy but is a horror story through and through.

Poppy Z. Brite is a trans man, in case that qualifies for your purposes as another voice. I haven't read his short stories, only novels, but maybe someone else can make suggestions.

Seconding Kelly Link.
posted by ejs at 11:59 AM on January 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: more suggestions: Some of Sarah Monette's short stories in The Bone Key are technically horror in the ghosty kind of way but they aren't very horrible. which makes them fine for a class I guess. Her quality is variable but when she's good she's quite good. A good contrast to anything sweaty and bloody.

again depending on what you can get away with era-wise but get some Flannery O'Connor in there? & Angela Carter.

If you're restricted to short stories only then I don't know if any of hers count, but if you can fit in a short novel or at least a supplemental reading list for the interested, tell your students to read Helen Oyoyemi. A good brief overview of her themes in that interview.

cannot believe I didn't mention Margo Lanagan. probably because she is SO UPSETTING. but she's marketed as Young Adult, so it must be ok for kids.

(Lanagan and Oyoyemi and Monette are all alive writers! )

this is very facile lit theory nonsense, but I think a lot of the very best horror, because it's written by women at a time (late 19th-end of 20th century) when the female sphere of interest was understood to be the domestic and the interior, is not going to be suitable by strict standards because focusing on horror in the domestic interior sphere means: mental breakdown, monstrous marriage, horrifying sex, childbirth, child death: everything "unsuitable" for children, in the way that child production and all its attendant paraphernalia and backstory always is. this is my attempt at an explanation for why the curriculum you inherited was the way it was since horror is a women's genre if anything is.
posted by queenofbithynia at 12:05 PM on January 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: (sorry, I really did read the whole question but for some idiot reason put a bunch of non-Americans on my lists and missed the edit window. Disregard Oyoyemi, Carter, Lee, and Lanagan and pretend I recommended Joyce Carol Oates five times instead. she's written enough stories, I might as well have.)
posted by queenofbithynia at 12:18 PM on January 28, 2017

Best answer: These are mild stories, but they deal with horror themes and have dark elements--they're also among my very favorite stories ever:

Karen Joy Fowler, "Younger Women" (a quick take on Twilight-style vampires)
Naomi Kritzer, "So Much Cooking" (a cooking blog during a global epidemic)
K.M. Ferebee, "The Earth and Everything Under" (amazingly beautiful story by the violinist from Beirut)
posted by Wobbuffet at 12:23 PM on January 28, 2017

Best answer: I came here to recommend Poppy Z. Brite. Mira Grant has a collection of short fiction in the Newsflesh universe; something in there might work.
posted by epj at 12:25 PM on January 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Another suggestion: Lesley Nneka Arimah, "Who Will Greet You at Home" (WRT being American, the author was born in the UK and lived in Nigeria, but her bio in Granta says she moved to the US in her teens)
posted by Wobbuffet at 12:47 PM on January 28, 2017

Best answer: Also, Leslie Banks and Linda Addison.
posted by Candleman at 12:57 PM on January 28, 2017

Best answer: Stephen Graham Jones is Native and amazing.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 1:37 PM on January 28, 2017

Best answer: Forever Vacancy: A Colors in Darkness Anthology has POC authors (many women), and POC characters.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:54 PM on January 28, 2017

Best answer: A lot of the stories in Tiptree's Her Smoke Rose Up Forever (including the titular tale), are as much horror as SF, or more.
posted by jamjam at 1:59 PM on January 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Perhaps something by Elizabeth Hand.
Nthing Shirley Jackson (specifically The Haunting of Hill House , which teaches really, really well and has some queer subtext that you may or may not wish to highlight), Kelly Link, Joyce Carol Oates.
If you can do comics, maybe Emily Carroll.

Depending on how much leeway you have, you might also consider talking about the relationship between horror and gothic fiction, which is much more often considered a "feminine" genre. Plus then you can at least urge them to read Frankenstein on their own time.
posted by dizziest at 2:31 PM on January 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: "Onion" by Caitlin R. Kiernan, uses the f-word but IMO totally appropriate.
posted by augustimagination at 3:35 PM on January 28, 2017

Best answer: How about The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. A feminist psychological story. Written in 1892, so probably doesn't meet the 'contemporary' requirement.
posted by isthmus at 3:40 PM on January 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Seanan McGuire does some scifi/creepy short stories that brush up against horror (example: Ye Highlands and Ye Lowlands). Most of her horror is written under the name Mira Grant, so you may have some luck there too. Rolling in the Deep in particular is amazing.
posted by specialagentwebb at 4:13 PM on January 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Melanie Tem would be worth checking out.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:51 PM on January 28, 2017

Best answer: Depending on how much leeway you have, you might also consider talking about the relationship between horror and gothic fiction, which is much more often considered a "feminine" genre

oh my god and if you get into genre definition and demarcation, make them read some Ann Rule (a bit of The Stranger Beside Me? ) on the other end of the gothics and have them tell you why that's horror or not. If you have any arguers in the the class that will be a fantastic time.

in almost all seriousness, if you include any Stephen King and if this class is not just about pure literature but is also about the contemporary universe of primal American fear and longing and revulsion you almost have to include some Ann Rule or V.C. Andrews. the three titans. like King, Rule and Andrews didn't need to be good to be effective or important in recent history. the spirit of the age, or at least of the 80s and 90s.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:42 PM on January 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Check out Nisi Shawl's stories "Cruel Sistah" and "The Tawny Bitch." The second goes into issues of race, class, and Carribean Colonialism, so it might be especially good to teach.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 12:58 AM on January 29, 2017

Response by poster: Oh wow you folks are the best. Thank you so much! I can probably only get away with adding a couple of these to the actual curriculum, but I now I can at least also provide a lengthy supplementary reading list for those few students actually interested in exploring the genre more deeply (and more diversely).
posted by dersins at 11:30 AM on January 29, 2017

Best answer: I'm a little late to this thread, but please check out Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. Her short horror stories have been extensively anthologized so you'd be spoiled for choice. She's a big fan of M.L. James so her stories tend to be subtly horrific with mounting tension. Probably her best-known story is "Do I Dare to Eat a Peach," but there are many many more.
posted by MovableBookLady at 4:26 PM on January 29, 2017

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