Frightening fiction - what's new and good?
September 20, 2022 10:22 AM   Subscribe

A once upon time diehard horror fiction fan is out of the game. What current spooky creepy fiction is chilling your bones these days? Details within.

I used to love horror fiction from my teens onward until I stopped reading it somewhere around 2010? It was just a natural evolution of growing out of tracking who was good or what was what. (I knew it was over when I stopped buying the Best New Horror every year.)

But as the days grow short, and the nights grow long, I have decided to dip back in, even if only for the month of October. There are caveats!

*Nothing overly gory; listen, I remember splatterpunk so hard pass on gross
*I love atmospheric and spooky lingering dread
*I'd like to find non-white non-male authors if possible
*Easy to find at a library or to request from a library
*I would like to read fiction written 2010 onwards
* Short stories are always welcome

This is not my first horror rodeo at 45 years old; I have read the classics (Blackwood and James are faves), I have gorged myself on Anne Rice/Clive Barker since adolescence, I was devoted for years to Caitlin Kiernan-who might be the best example of anything I could want from weird horror in those days--and Billy Brite. Again, please do not recommend anything before the date I've set.

The only current horror fiction I have read in the past decade is Grady Hendrix's stuff because I really like him.
posted by Kitteh to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Victor LaValle's The Changeling, which came out about 5 years ago, is phenomenally creepy. This is a Black male author writing about becoming a father to a newborn and getting into doing all the babycare and the weird mom/dad politics and divides at the playground and also, meanwhile, his wife has become increasingly certain that their baby is not the original baby she gave birth to, she thinks the baby's been switched with a soulless monster baby or something? And she's perfectly sane and the baby seems perfectly normal and narrator is flailing, trying to deal, and then shit hits the fan... It's fucking AWESOME. Oodles of atmosphere.
posted by MiraK at 10:33 AM on September 20, 2022 [7 favorites]

Best answer: The Twisted Ones and The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher (AKA Ursula Vernon) are excellent, creepy folk horror.
posted by tangosnail at 10:36 AM on September 20, 2022 [10 favorites]

Best answer: T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon) has a nice line in charming yet terrifying novels inspired by classic short stories. The Twisted Ones (2019), from Arthur Machen's The White People; The Hollow Places (2020), from Algernon Blackwood's The Willows; What Moves the Dead (2022), from Poe's Fall of the House of Usher. Atmospheric, spooky, lingering dread, not gory, not male. If you're in the UK, the first two are available in paperback and should be library-requestable; the third isn't out yet. If you're in the US, all three are out.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 10:37 AM on September 20, 2022 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh shoot, I should add I have read Lovecraft Country by Matt wossface as well as the Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle (so good!).

And I am in Canada.
posted by Kitteh at 10:41 AM on September 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also, if you're in the UK (not sure about availability elsewhere), I can confidently recommend two "I think I'm very glad I'm reading this in broad daylight" ghost/horror novels by Michelle Paver: Dark Matter (2010) and Thin Air (2016). I haven't been brave enough to try Wakenhyrst (2019) yet, but it sounds very promising.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 10:44 AM on September 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: "The Twisted Ones" is a fun take on a classic story and just a generally really awesome idea for a book, but I can't say I found it very scary. Something in a similar vein that I absolutely loved is Elizabeth Hand's novella "Near Zennor." It's beautiful, mysterious, and creepy, and you can read it here.
posted by cakelite at 10:50 AM on September 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: She's very dark and there might be moments that are over your tolerance for "gross," but Catriona Ward's "Sundial" is very good and very scary (and I've heard good things about her others). I think you'd vibe with her stuff if you like Caitlin Kiernan.
posted by Jeanne at 10:59 AM on September 20, 2022

Best answer: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones - Four native american teenagers have a weird collective experience while out hunting that continues to haunt them separately as they move into adulthood.

Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward
- A woman moves into a house next door to the man she suspects may be a serial killer who murdered her brother when they were kids.

Devil House by John Darnielle - A true crime author buys a house that was the setting of a 'satanic panic' sacrificial murder in the 80s.

+1 on The Changeling also
posted by mannequito at 11:04 AM on September 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Stephen Graham Jones might be slightly too gory for your purposes, but The Only Good Indians and My Heart is a Chainsaw are fantastic. Nthing T. Kingfisher, I've only read The Twisted Ones but it creeped me out hard. Rachel Harrison's The Return is short and creepy (I heard its setting described as "what if the Overlook was the Madonna Inn?" and that feels about right), and her recent book Cackle is mostly sweet with a malevolent undertone. Isabel Cañas' the Hacienda is what feels like standard gothic, but so, so well done! LaTanya McQueen's When the Reckoning Comes has a chilling premise (a modern-day plantation wedding gets creepy) and kept me on edge. Cherie Priest's The Family Plot is another gothic/haunted house that I found terribly spooky, if breezy.

I've been reading a lot of anthologies lately (mostly those edited by Ellen Datlow, Final Cut is one I was impressed with recently), Other Terrors might fit your bill well.
posted by quatsch at 11:06 AM on September 20, 2022

Best answer: So as not to abuse the edit window, I'd also suggest browsing back issues of/subscribing to Emily Hughes' newsletter, which provides tons of good recommendations and fodder for my library hold queue.
posted by quatsch at 11:09 AM on September 20, 2022

Best answer: I will second Michelle Paver's Dark Matter and Catriona Ward in general, though I will recommend The Girl from Rawblood since I haven't read Sundial yet.

I just finished Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey and really enjoyed it - properly creepy without much gore.
posted by darchildre at 11:14 AM on September 20, 2022

Best answer: A lot of Carmen Maria Machado's Her Body and Other Parties would fall under the horror umbrella for me, and is all great.

You mentioned Lovecraft Country, P. Djèlí Clark's Ring Shout is a different and excellent take on white supremacy and cosmic horror.

Stephen Graham Jones may be too splattery for you but I liked The Only Good Indians.

In case you missed out on Emily Carroll in 2010, His Face All Red is lovely and available free online, also recommend Through the Woods if you're open to graphic novels. Actually if you're open to horror comics/graphic novels that's a whole separate comment.

Kelly Link is maybe broadly considered more of a fantasy writer? but she tends to blend genres and frequently uses horror elements in a way I enjoy. "Two Houses" from her collection Get in Trouble doesn't seem to be easily linkable but it stayed with me for days.

I think Michael Wehunt is a white guy but his 2017 collection Greener Pastures was solid weird horror, "October Film Haunt: Under the House" is a neat structural experiment in doing found footage horror as prose.

Thanks for this question, I'll definitely be following for recs!
posted by jameaterblues at 11:31 AM on September 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Thirding Michelle Paver, they're fantastically, perfectly, pervasively eerie.
You might like Helen Grant, too - she's good at the subtley building Jamesian creep. Ghost is my favourite of hers.
Laura Purcell also does a great line in spooky lingering dread.
Maybe Sarah Lotz, The White Road in particular.
posted by BlueNorther at 11:37 AM on September 20, 2022

Would a historical Gothic Regency Jewish lesbian romance slot in here at all? Rose Lerner's The Wife in the Attic is a cool, atmospheric take on Jane Eyre; it has a really great sense of claustrophobic dread that I loved.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 12:03 PM on September 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

I just started T. L. Huchu's The Library of the Dead, and I'm liking it so far!

Eden Robinson's Trickster trilogy has some elements of horror to it. I wouldn't call them outright "horror," but they're damn good books that feel right for October, IMO.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:43 PM on September 20, 2022

Best answer: Oh - have you read any Premee Mohamed? Cosmic horror in Beneath the Rising and its two sequels; ghosts in The Apple-Tree Throne; and several novellas that I haven't laid hands on yet, so I can't swear to genre (but I'm confident they're good).
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 1:00 PM on September 20, 2022

I loved Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Mexican Gothic, gothic horror set in 1950s Mexico.

(I also loved The Only Good Indians, but it had some pretty graphic bits. I wouldn't say its gory throughout, but the gory scenes are memorable.)
posted by the primroses were over at 1:21 PM on September 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is the only horror book of hers that she's written - but Experimental Film by Gemma Files is fantastic!

Nthing The Only Good Indians, mentioned above.

The Fisherman
by John Langan is a good twisty layers upon layers read. Don't read the reviews, it is an odd book, but if you like the classics you will like this one.
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 3:35 PM on September 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I believe it is filed under YA, but Kate Alice Marshall's Rules for Vanishing is SO GOOD and truly scary. The other loosely linked ones in the series--Our Last Echoes and These Fleeting Shadows, are also excellent.

I also loved Soon, by Lois Murphy, about an almost-abandoned town in the middle of the Australian nowhere where you really can't go out at night.
posted by gideonfrog at 3:38 PM on September 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, also, read Margaret Killjoy! Queer punk anarchist horror, starting with The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion.
posted by gideonfrog at 5:54 PM on September 20, 2022

Best answer: I just reread Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand, it's a quick read but it got under my skin and creeped me out. Old bandmates do a retrospective about the summer they recorded a folk album at a strange old house in the English countryside. None of them have the whole story, but a careful reader can figure it out.
posted by zoetrope at 2:26 PM on September 23, 2022 [1 favorite]

I also love Grady Hendrix, so good. I have just finished The Hike by Drew Magary and it was very, very enjoyable, and have The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones recommended above in my next up pile right now. In the last couple of years, I really enjoyed Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero, Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth, The Boys of Summer by Richard Cox and the Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher which last one I found very creepy indeed. I also really loved We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry, and The Regional Office Is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales, don't know that I'd call those horror exactly, but definitely twisty and creepy and great.
posted by k_tron at 11:01 PM on September 23, 2022

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