In Search of Short Horror Collections
January 24, 2023 4:20 PM   Subscribe

What are your very favorite collections of short horror fiction? Multiple authors only, please!

I'm just starting to explore short horror fiction after getting into horror movies fairly recently. When I was younger and getting more into sci-fi, I read a whole bunch of "best of x subgenre/best of x year/best ever" type anthologies and kept a list of my favorites and least favorites; it was an awesome way to discover my personal favorite authors and subgenres without any pressure to "learn the canon," and I'd like to do that again with short horror. So, what's your favorite collection?

I don't want to prejudice the answers by saying anything about my likes and dislikes, except to say that I'm really up for anything and have no real triggers. Any era, subject matter, level of gore, etc is fair game - in fact I'm actively looking to read stuff from all over the spectrum.
posted by showbiz_liz to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror anthology series was very high-quality and horror-heavy - I haven't read it in a long time, for that reason. You'd have to find it used, though.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:47 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]

Been reading horror since I was a teen in the early 90s, and those "best ofs" (Windling/Datlow rah rah rah) were how I figured out what I liked, knew what/who to look for. Now I get a lot of mileage out of Nightmare Magazine in the same sorta way, specifically re: new horror.
posted by cocotine at 4:49 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]

My local library has all the copies of the years best series linked by restless_nomad, and the related best horror of the year series that datlow edited referred to by cocotine, for free online reading for patrons. Both series have definitely been digitized and sold at least once, so maybe your local library have them too.
posted by holyrood at 5:11 PM on January 24

I used to say Best New Horror, and if Stephen Jones is still editing it, it's probably still pretty good. I collected those annual anthologies for years (especially 1995-2007) before I got bored with horror fiction.
posted by Kitteh at 5:16 PM on January 24

Cold Shocks, edited by Tim Sullivan, which contains the scariest story I've ever read, "The Sixth Man" by Graham Masterton.

David Hartwell's magisterial The Dark Descent.
posted by goatdog at 5:44 PM on January 24

A good shopping list is the Bram Stoker Awards "Superior Achievement in an Anthology" category. You can see all the winners and nominees here.
posted by goatdog at 5:53 PM on January 24

The Weird is excellent.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 6:43 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]

Tiny Nightmares!
posted by rhiannonstone at 8:43 PM on January 24

Straub's American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from Poe to the Pulps is awesome. The two volume set was what I used to teach the American horror short story
posted by LucretiusJones at 9:45 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]

Taaqtumi: An Anthology of Arctic Horror Stories
posted by cnidaria at 9:54 PM on January 24

As others have mentioned, Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year anthologies are excellent jumping off points. They have lead to me discovering many of my favourite authors.

The Weird as sevensnowflakes pointed out is also good. It is a *mammoth* volume and also doubles as a paperweight or bludgeon when not being read.

Others I have enjoyed:

- Any short story collection by Brian Evenson. I believe he has a few. His prose is quite sparse but he has an incredible knack for delivering weird and disturbing tales using such precise language. One of my favourite working writers.

- Various short story and flash collections by Matthew Bartlett. His stories leer into the grotesque and the Lovecraftian. Much of his work interconnects and centres around the U.S town of Leeds and the strange radio station that is situated there. It's like the MCU but featuring strange, contorted old men lingering in the forests at the edge of town.

- When Things Get Dark is another recent anthology edited by Ellen Datlow all featuring work that serves as a tribute to the great Shirley Jackson.

- She Said Destroy by Nadia Bulkin is, alongside Evenson's work, one of my favourite books full stop. It's an amazing collection that whilst horrifying and eerie brings in socio-political and historical elements.

- All the Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma. A great writer from the U.K, Priya's collection brings in more fantastical elements that are juxtaposed against the everyday. It gives her tales a kind of mythic or 'modern fairytale' type vibe.

- Velocities by Kathe Joja is a solid collection by one of the unsung heroes of the genre.

- Also, any short story collection by Laird Barron. He takes the bones of the Lovecraft sub genre and fuses them together to make something new. I also highly recommend his Isiah Coleridge series of PI novels that have gradually veered into horror territory with each passing entry. How it hasn't been adapted yet is beyond me.
posted by d_hill at 9:56 PM on January 24

Apologies, it being real early here meant I didn't clock the 'multiple author collections' only bit. Disregard 80% of my comment above. Doh!
posted by d_hill at 10:20 PM on January 24

It's probably out of print at the moment, but I still sometimes get unsettled by remembering stories out of The Young Oxford Book of Nasty Endings. Although the anthology is targeted at children or teenagers, I think many of the short stories in it were originally targeted at adults.

I also quite enjoyed The Young Oxford Book of Aliens edited by the same Dennis Pepper, which is more sci-fi as you'd expect from the title but still includes a number of stories with a creepy bent. So if his choices suit you, you might give some of his other anthologies a try, like the (New) Young Oxford Book of Ghost Stories or the Young Oxford Book of Nightmares. He also did the Oxford Book of Scarytales but despite the lack of the word "young" in the title, ironically that one seems to be aimed a bit more juvenile than some of the other titles I linked.
posted by sigmagalator at 10:54 PM on January 24

Pan Book of Horror Stories (1959) ed. Herbert van Thal was followed by a couple of dozen other anthologies: The [Second | Third] Pan Book of Horror Stories etc. They didn't get much traction in the US but the 1st vol is in NYPL.
posted by BobTheScientist at 11:00 PM on January 24

Hexus Press did two really excellent anthologies - no.2 'Secret Agreements' is still available. Worth it for the late Eric Basso's contribution alone but pretty much uniformly great. Luxurious book visually too.
posted by remembrancer at 5:23 AM on January 25

Ellen Datlow is the reigning monarch of horror anthology editors. Anything with her name on the cover is worth reading.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:38 AM on January 25

[Caveat, I write horror, have been published in a number of the below, and know a lot of the authors, anthologists, etc. That said, I am not handing out any wooden nickels.]

First, a big trend/change/conflict in the genre over time has been how good the diversity of tables of contents is. That's a long discussion, but one of the things that's come about as a result is anthologies featuring new takes on horror that aren't, uh, white, old, male, or all three. She Walks in Shadows is a good example of this: Lovecraftian fiction from female authors.

The Valancourt Book of World Horror Stories, Vol. 1 & 2.

In addition to the Stokers, take a look at the anthology winners for the Shirley Jackson Awards, the World Fantasy Awards, British Fantasy Awards, and more recently the This Is Horror Awards. The Goodreads Reader's Choice awards are interesting for being popularly voted, often in large numbers, and occasionally the winners are a surprise or disgruntling to Major Genre Pundits because they aren't from the cool kid crowd or whatever.

The Weird and The New Weird are together a great summary of the stuff that lies in the middle place between fantasy and horror. (Weird fiction is sort of its own thing, but it's more complicated.)

The Dark Descent was a landmark.

American Fantastic Tales didn't have the same impact as Descent, but it's very good.

There are a bunch of year's best anthologies that are worth looking at. Stephen Jones, Ellen Datlow's stuff. There have been various year's best weird fiction, splatterpunk, etc.

I like Nightscript. Strong "quiet horror" vibes for this annual anthology series.

If you like audio, check out Pseudopod, the biggest horror fiction podcast.

There are many historical anthologies that might be of interest, not all of which will resonate as strongly with contemporary readers. Splatterpunks really did capture that particular moment. Prime Evil and Dark Forces give good '80s.
posted by cupcakeninja at 12:30 PM on January 25

The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories (1986) really hits a ton of the best of the Victorian and post-Victorian era of British ghost stories (not solely English). Covers all-timers like Blackwood, Le Fanu, Stoker, and M.R. James but also lesser known people and authors not known for their scary work.

You may or may not like Lovecraft, but "H.P. Lovecraft's Book of Horror" is a catalogue of the authors and stories referred to in his famous essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature" and as such is an interesting mix of the well and lesser known.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 4:28 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]

Strongly second BlackLeotardFront's suggestion of The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories. It contains several items I have rarely or never seen in other ghost/horror anthologies (of which I've read many and own more than a few). While they are wonderfully varied in mood and tone, many of the pieces are some of the scariest I can remember reading.
posted by peakes at 3:44 PM on January 27

« Older Costco almond keto bites copycat recipe   |   Canadians in Canada filling prescriptions = points... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments