Gwendolyn Kiste: Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked by Christa Carmen
There are so many wonderful horror and weird fiction collections out there, but one that has stuck with me is Christa Carmen’s debut collection. The breadth of stories is breathtaking, from tales that aren’t afraid to get visceral and gutting to quieter horror that’s profoundly heart-wrenching. With characters that are strong, smart, and unforgettable, Christa’s love for the horror genre shines through in every story, and there isn’t a weak entry in this table of contents. A definite must-read for genre fans.
Christopher Slatsky: You Will Never See Any God by Ervin Krause
Krause has been all but forgotten since he was published in several award winning Best Of compilations alongside the likes of Flannery O’Connor and Joyce Carol Oates in the early 60s, but his posthumous 2014 collection attracted a smattering of renewed appreciation. His stories explore the brutal apathy of nature projected against a petty humanity squabbling while they toil to make the best of their cruel, short lives. Krause does this while never trivializing their miseries, their labors, or their hopes in contrast to a universe as mysterious as anything Algernon Blackwood conjured, or an existence as Old Testament cruel as any Cormac McCarthy novel.
Krause never wrote about ghosts or the supernatural or anything remotely speculative—these are firmly grounded tales with dirt under their fingernails. But his stories are resplendently haunted, his writing filled with monsters and terror in the face of a cosmos as indifferent to a farmer crushed beneath his tractor, slowly bleeding out as he stares at the overwhelming cruelty of the sun, or the sorrow of a pathetic misogynist meeting up with a former lover in a tawdry hotel room, only to realize that “There was no more than this,” as he regrets the one night stand. The universe is dead, and everyone within it is dead inside, and this truth means the only possible beauty in this world must blossom from the very fertile human soil that makes this life such an ordeal.
Nicole Cushing: The Annotated Poe ed. by Kevin J. Hayes
I suspect most people think of Poe’s short stories as little more than morality tales. The arrogant madman in “The Tell-Tale Heart” and the greedy prince in “The Masque of the Red Death” get their comeuppance, right? Well…not exactly. I think these stories, like all of the best Poe stories, take place in an amoral nightmare world; a grotesque place where logic caves in on itself, reason speaks backwards, and existence is exposed as the most burdensome of revels.
I’m a fan of annotated editions of the classics, and The Annotated Poe is a treasure. Editor Kevin J. Hayes does a fine job of giving the twenty-first century reader the literary and historical context needed to develop a deeper understanding of Eddie’s work.
Philip Fracassi: Imago Sequence by Laird Barron
Laird Barron’s Imago Sequence is arguably one of the greatest short story horror collections of all time. Definitely a classic. Introduced me to Barron and a whole new world of literature and style. He’s handily the best horror writer of our generation, and his debut collection is a masterpiece.
Matthew M. Bartlett: The Secret of Ventriloquism by Jon Padgett
My choice is Jon Padgett’s The Secret of Ventriloquism. Jon is a student of Thomas Ligotti, but this collection proves that he is absolutely his own writer. These interlinked stories are compelling, creepy, and beautifully written. They knock the world off its axis.