We've talked about scary movies the last two weeks, but what about books? After all, most of you reading this are writers.
I prefer my horror in short form these days, though it wasn't always that way. My first tastes of horror were in collections of urban myths and middle grade horror stories. I still remember a few of the stories in those first books.
After that, I quickly resorted to sneaking Stephen King and Dean R. Koontz books off my parents' bookshelves. Then I found more and more novels at the library. Ouida Sebestyen's The Girl in the Box has stuck with me since middle school. Given, this is likely considered suspense instead of horror, but as a pre-teen girl reading about a teenage girl being kidnapped and left in a dark hole with only a bottle of water and a typewriter, it was certainly frightening.
As a teenager, I returned to short stories, discovering the "Best of" collections. Ellen Datlow's name became synonymous with awesome horror short stories, followed closely by Stephen Jones. And roundabout I went. Novels to shorts to novels to shorts.
In reading through Nightmare Magazine's Best Horror list, I've come to discover that a lot of horror authors have a hard time keeping the suspense going enough to also keep the reader tense and on edge. With some of them, I've made it through three-quarters of the book before anything horror-related has happened. That's too long to set the scene before reaching the horror. Yet from this list, a book that isn't actually horror captured my attention and kept me riveted to the end, terrified at how it might end. The Handmaid's Tale appears to be listed as Literary (and Science Fiction, interestingly enough). But it's my #1 read on the Top 100 list, so far, and it has maintained that position for several months now. Given, I'm not counting the books from the list I'd already read, but I may reread those once I finish the ones I've never read before, and then we'll see where I rank them.
With short stories, the writer can pack a punch. There's just enough time to set the scene then wallop the reader with the horror. And it's possible to draw tension out without the in betweens getting dull.
Stephen King is, of course, a favorite author of mine, both in novels and short stories. I'm delighted that he's continued putting out short stories, despite having found success with his novels.
And, of course, if it's short fiction you're looking for, who better than Edgar Allan Poe? It's been a long time since I read him, and I've been thinking about dusting off my big, fat collection of Poe's works. "The Tell-Tale Heart" is one of my favorites, and it's a piece I performed in high school.
Who are your favorite horror authors, both old and new? Your favorite novels? Short stories? Do you prefer short stories or novels when it comes to horror and suspense? Why?
May you find your Muse.