The Fright Stuff

Women in Horror Month: Terrifying Short Fiction Collections

Hey there horror fans, I’m Jessica Avery and I’ll be delivering your weekly brief of all that’s ghastly and grim in the world of Horror. Whether you’re looking for a backlist book that will give you the willies, a terrifying new release, or the latest in horror community news, you’ll find it here in The Fright Stuff.

Happy February, Ghouls and Ghasts! It is officially my favorite month of the Horror calendar short of October itself: It’s Women in Horror Month! If you’ve been following this newsletter you may have noticed that I try to feature dark fiction by women and nonbinary authors year round, because let’s face it: even in this year of our calamity 2021, when we should be past this, most of the “big names” being bandied about the horror genre are cis men.

The belief that women don’t write horror is, unfortunately, a pervasive one. Just when we think we’ve rooted it out it sprouts back up somewhere new. And it often goes hand in hand with the dismissive idea that even if some women do write horror, the horror they create will automatically fall into the “softer” corners of the genre. Which, if you’ve been reading horror by women, particularly from the last few years, you’ll realize is patently false. I have read amazing, spine chilling Gothic novels. I have read body horror that made my skin crawl, ghost stories that left me sleeping with the lights on, and short works of strange fiction that still live rent free in my mind months later. The range is vast, and the talent is immense!

So for the month of February each issue of The Fright Stuff will spotlight titles by women and nonbinary authors in horror as we join the horror community in celebrating their work! And this week we’re starting with collections. I have said more than once that, aside from anthologies, collections are my favorite way to get familiar with new authors. If you want to get a snapshot of an author’s range, their aesthetic, and their style, there’s nothing better than a short fiction collection.

Thin Places by Kay Chronister

I have to open with Kay Chronister’s debut collection, Thin Places, because it is the epitome of everything I love in the horror genre. Her work is such aesthetic catnip for me. When this gorgeous cover from Undertow Publications first popped up on my Twitter feed I was intrigued because it definitely looks like a me thing. So I read the titular story “Thin Places”, which was published in The Dark magazine and is still available on their site, and loved it so much that I turned right around and ordered her collection. Gothic, monstrous, emotional and strange – this collection is everything.

All the Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma

Oh look Jessica’s talking about All the Fabulous Beasts again. But listen: I love this collection. It is breathtakingly gorgeous and I want to just crawl inside it and disappear. Priya Sharma’s collection is a powerhouse of imagery and tone. All 16 stories are a glorious blend of the monstrous and the beautiful, full of nature and humanity, life, death, and transformation. But my personal favorite was “Pearls”, a continuation more than a retelling of a Medusa myth, and a lushly emotional one too. I also loved “Fish Skins” about a man whose wife came from the sea, and “The Sunflower Seed Man”, a harrowing look at the nature of grief and how we survive.

Ghost Summer: Stories by Tananarive Due

Due’s collection Ghost Summer is well known and beloved in the genre for a reason. It’s a captivating selection of 15 short stories and an award winning novella that really showcases Due’s impressive range, from emotional realism to chilling horror. There’s a section of viral/contagion/zombie horror stories in this collection that will for real turn you into a hypochondriac. Due’s writing in this collection is as vivid and unforgettable as ever, and this is one of those books you’ll want to add to your permanent library so that you can revisit it again and again.

The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan by Caitlín R. Kiernan

Kiernan, though a member of the Horror Writer’s Association, is not really – or at least entirely – a horror author. While many of their stories are rife with horror elements, Kiernan’s short fiction covers a broad range of subjects and genres, from science fiction to fantasy to the cosmic horror that they’ve become so well known for with their novella Agents of Dreamland. Their stories are strange, beautiful, and full of emotion, possessing the sort of staying power that makes them linger with you for months. Kiernan is also one of my favorite Lovecraftian authors, giving me all that eerie, sea-themed weirdness I need in my life without having to resort to actual Lovecraft who is, of course, Not Great.

Everything That’s Underneath by Kristi Demeester

DeMeester’s work is another perfect example of my favorite horror aesthetic, steeped in powerful, unsettling nature imagery, with the horrors coming from deep below the earth. It’s the gritty, earthy feel of folk horror meets the vast, unknowableness of cosmic horror, and I could eat it with a spoon. In her debut short story collection Everything That’s Underneath DeMeester pens 18 terrifying stories that drag her readers into the dark corners of the world and the human soul.

Fresh from the Skeleton’s Mouth

How gorgeous is this cover reveal for Caitlin Starling’s forthcoming The Death of Jane Lawrence?! Starling describes it as lush, gross, gorgeous, and sinister and she is NOT wrong!

Ladies of Horror Fiction’s YA/MG horror spotlight for January has been posted!

To celebrate Women in Horror Month, Sadie Hartmann (AKA Mother Horror) is leading a group read of Kenzie Jennings’ Reception – a gruesome wedding from hell meets cannibalistic in-laws horror novel – starting quite appropriately on Valentine’s Day!

As always, you can catch me on Twitter at @JtheBookworm, where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.