Few genres lend themselves more to the short form than horror. The novel may provide a broader canvas on which to paint a story, but the short form allows for scares that are more intense, more concentrated, and more likely to frighten. Maybe it’s that maintaining tone and atmosphere is harder over a hundred pages than over ten. Maybe it’s that familiarity breeds contempt. Better to get in and get out and not think about things too much. Whatever the case, whether it’s Blackwood or Poe or Lovecraft or even modern masters like King, the best horror often comes in bite-sized chunks.
With that in mind, below are three authors of short horror out there today that I admire. I wish I could write like these guys. (Though if you want to check out my own short fiction, pick up The Fiddle is the Devil’s Instrument.)
I haven’t been shy about my love for Ronald Malfi. His novels are tremendous, and if you haven’t read December Park, do yourself a favor and buy it. But his short fiction is out of this world. The Mourning House is one of the best pieces of fiction I’ve ever read, long, short, or in between. Now Malfi is out with a collection that you won’t put down once you pick it up. Check out We Should Have Left Well Enough Alone.
A rock star in the horror community–particularly with those who have a penchant for Lovecraft–Barron can be a challenge for those who are unfamiliar with his unique style.
But if you stick with it, Barron gets in your bones, and you begin to see things in a different light. Darkness creeps into your nightmares and sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s real and what is illusion. But in the end it does not matter, for the same beautiful thing awaits us all.
Forget that he’s named after a cookie, Hamantaschen is a master of short-form horror. Probably one of the lesser known names on this list, his You Shall Never Know Security is stunning. It’s one of the books that I still find myself thinking about on occasion, years after I last put it down. He’s second collection, With a Voice that is Often Still Confused But is Becoming Ever Louder and Clearer, was equally powerful. Now Hamantaschen is out with a new book, A Deep Horror That Was Very Nearly Awe, that is terrific. Check him out, and let me know what you think in the comments.