Horror Corner: September 2023
Short Story September
By Christina James
There is honestly something comforting about adding a short story to your daily routine. It’s just a little bite-sized portion of fiction every day. And if you’re a macabre reader like I am, a scary short story makes it all the better! Seeing as we’re leaving summer behind for autumn and the impending Spooky Season, here are a few short story collections/anthologies for macabre readers to begin a spooky short story September binge:
Robert Westall’s Antique Dust will be a treat for anyone who, like me, loves books featuring antiques and dealers of old, broken, lost, or ancient things. This short story collection is best suited for when you find yourself at home on a lazy, rainy day. It moves at a leisurely pace and feels reminiscent of the ghost stories of M.R. James—to whom the book is actually dedicated.
Our protagonist, Geoff Ashden, is an antique dealer who regales his audience with chilling stories of the haunted places he’s had the misfortune of encountering and cursed objects he’s collected over the years. From an unholy 18th-century clock to a very unnerving collection of old dolls, each story is dripping with sinister gothic atmosphere. I absolutely loved it and was surprised to learn that this was Robert Westall’s first collection of stories for adults after spending many years as an award-winning children’s author.
For readers who love authors like Mariana Enriquez, Monica Ojeda, and perhaps even Shirley Jackson, Agustina Bazterrica’s Nineteen Claws and a Blackbird will be calling your name. Similarly to the author’s most recent novel Tender is the Flesh—a dystopian novel about humans having to farm other humans for meat due to a virus making the world’s animals inedible—Bazterrica’s short story collection is a dark reading experience.
The best ways to describe it are morbid, cynical, and unsettling, with a touch of dark humor. There are common themes of death, violence, and complex desires. Right from the first page, the first story—“A Light Swift Monstrous Sound”—is about a woman dealing with the shock of her upstairs neighbor jumping to his death. In another story—“Candy Pink”—a woman experiences grief in the form of “five easy steps” after a breakup. In one of my favorite stories—“Unamuno’s Box”—a woman creates a disturbing narrative in her head about her taxi driver. All the stories are brief, harrowing, and beautifully written! Readers who enjoy writing that centers dark realism and unsettling imagery will literally finish these 154 pages in one sitting.
Looking for something extra suspenseful and gory? Nights of the Living Dead might be your cup of tea if you’re craving a zombie anthology. Co-edited by Jonathan Maberry and George A. Romero (the father of the zombie film himself), each short story takes place within the same night as the notorious outbreak of Night of the Living Dead (1968).
Fans of the film will be pleased to know there is even a short story—“The Girl on the Table” by Isaac Marion—from the perspective of one of the characters from the movie! My absolute favorite story—“Orbital Decay” by David Wellington—is set on the International Space Station! I swear there is nothing more terrifying than a zombie outbreak on a claustrophobic space station. For lovers of apocalyptic fiction, zombie fiction, and/or director George A. Romero, this anthology delivers suspense, gore, and plenty of shambling, rotting corpses hungry for braaaiiinnnsss!!!
Add any of these collections/anthologies to your Fall reading list and your short story September binge is sure to be filled with chills both autumnal and spooky alike! Happy Reading!
Christina James (she/her) is a part-time Bookseller at the Raven Book Store and a Readers’ Services librarian at Lawrence Public Library. She is extremely passionate about spreading the gospel of horror fiction far and wide and you can find her on Instagram at @the_wandering_reader where she's known by her coven of creeps and ghouls as The Spooky Librarian.
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'Creepy . . . develops a sense of palpable evil . . . well worth the time of readers who prefer slyly civilized British ghost stories' - Kirkus Reviews'Fiendishly clever, spine-tingling short fiction' - Publishers Weekly 'Marvelous M. R. Jamesian-style ghost stories' - Michael Dirda, Washington Post
A collection of nineteen dark, wildly imaginative short stories from the author of the award-winning TikTok sensation Tender Is the Flesh.
From celebrated author Agustina Bazterrica, this collection of nineteen brutal, darkly funny short stories takes into our deepest fears and through our most disturbing fantasies.
In 1968, the world experienced a brand-new kind of terror with the debut of George A. Romero’s landmark movie Night of the Living Dead. The newly dead rose to attack the living. Not as vampires or werewolves. This was something new . . . and terrifying. Since then, zombies have invaded every aspect of popular culture.