Top Ten Horror (Short Fiction): A New Feature

I'm considering adding a new list feature, possibly one a month, depending on my own interest. Let's start with horror short stories (we'll include novellas):

10. Guts, Chuck Palahniuk (from, Haunted, a novel in stories)
A supremely horrific masturbation accident, leads to another, another. Stephen King says that if he cant' scare or horrify, he'll go for the gross out. Chuck achieves it in spades.

9. Bright Lights, Big Zombie, Douglas E. Winter
Winter is a lawyer (I think still), and an editor of horror anthologies, who pumps out these delicious little tales, like blood sausages. They are horror, comedy, and a skewering of writers du jour. You just want to eat 'em up.

8. The Turn of the Screw, Henry James
It's not on the list, because I'm drawn to it. I'm not, really. But I respect the pacing and the twists. It can be torturous trudging through the historical machinations of sentence structure. But you can't deny, it works.

7. Quitters, Inc., Stephen King (From Night Shift)
When I was just breaking free from the elementary school library (5th grade, I think), I couldn't get enough of Stephen King, Carrie was first and then Night Shift. Loved his way. Quitters, Inc. is just a great nastiness, and probably more effective than the patch.

6. The Dunwich Horror, H.P. Lovecraft
Head trip freak out, couldn't have a list without him. The story itself is arbitrary. Could have been any number of his fictions.

5. Autopsy Room Four, Stephen King (From Skeleton Crew)
This one just plain creeped me out. The simple idea of being alive on the autopsy table, chills like an exposed nerve being poked with a dental pick. Did you feel the current run through your spine?

4. I am Legend, Richard Mathesen
Who would dare to change up the Stoker's Dracula, if Mathesen hadn't brought us such a brilliant revision, to light the way through the dark. And, even though vampires seem to be inundating our culture, don't we just love the bloodthirsty bastards? Note: Will Smith has signed on as the lead in the film version.

3. The Lottery, Shirley Jackson
Brilliant, piece of work. Should be higher, but it's my list. I don't have the words for Ms. Jackson. A writer that can take fear and paranoia and put it into every literature class in the country. Thank you, Shirley. Anyone for a stoning?

2. Midnight Meat Train, Clive Barker (Books of Blood, No.1)
I know what you're thinking. Barker above Mathesen, Jackson, Lovecraft, and King. And no Poe or Crane mentions-blasphemy. WTF? (Then you'll read ahead to number one and really shake your head). This choice has to do with nostalgia and geeky adolescence. Midnight Meat Train is scary, horrific, and memorable. The entire volume of the Books of Blood, were genius. You wondered whether Barker was insane in the writing. "We are all books of blood, when we are opened we are red..."

1. Less than Zombie by Douglas Winter
This is the one I first remembered, when I thought to do the list. It is a brilliant mimicry of Bret Easton Ellis's minimalism, and hilarious, to boot. A huge inspiration, particularly for my book, The Undead Socialite's Guide to Nightlife. To take supernatural characters and spin them out of horror and throw them into '80s party and drug culture while staying true to flesh eating? Brilliant.

So, that's the list. Go discuss, disagree, comment, whatever…


Joe said…
Novellas: It's not straight-ahead horror, but for sheer nostalgia appeal, the 90-page solid gold ingot that is "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" may have been the story that convinced me to be a writer. Perfectly pitched voice, mesmerizing pace, and a setting that was at once horrifying and somehow absolutely familiar. Maybe my favorite King piece ever.
Mark Henry said…
And you must love King's The Body. It's a law, or something.

I think lists are liquid, on any given day completely different. Depending on the voices…shut up!

Anyway, yes. Absolutely loved "Rita".