Yes, Stephen King had a major role in popularizing the horror genre; his works are widespread, iconic, and enduring; and many readers enjoy them for his own merits and out of a sense of nostalgia. yet, oranges are not the only fruit in the world. I am compiling a list of authors that can stand up to King in the horror genre. Many horror novels are rising in popularity and will likely remain popular for some time after Halloween has passed.
If you’re tired of reading the same old horror authors like Shirley Jackson and Octavia Butler, but you still want to expand your horizons, try these works instead…which are destined for much greater fame in the near future.
GRADY HENDRIX BOOKS
Grady Hendrix’s books are poised to revolutionize the horror genre, even if you’ve only heard of him because of the film he co-wrote, Satanic Panic. His writings are entertaining in part because their structure mirrors the narrative. Several guests have taken up Horrorstör from my desk and murmured, “Oh, I assumed…” and politely read through it before getting either profoundly engaged or very off-put; the setting is an off-brand IKEA, and the book LOOKS like an IKEA catalogue. We Sold Our Souls’ cover is also reminiscent of Rolling Stone, with the main character and her guitar striking a rock star pose. My Best Friend’s Exorcism, which I consider to be his best work, has the feel of a high school yearbook from the late 1980s. Check out this blog about this book: Blogging A to Z Day 3: Currently Reading – My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
One distinctive aspect of this writer’s work is the prevalence of strong female protagonists and other female characters. That’s a refreshing change of pace in the horror genre. All of the characters, regardless of gender, are well-developed and fit well into their respective environments. As in: (Like, you have have metal in your blood to compose metal. Writing from inside a large box retailer requires you to be familiar with customer service. All of these books are “page turners,” meaning that you’ll start reading one and suddenly realize that it’s 4 in the morning. I pray that you haven’t sold your soul.
CARMEN MARIA MACHADO MEMOIR AND FICTION
If you haven’t read “The Husband Stitch” by Carmen Maria Machado, you’re in for a wicked treat. That story is based on urban legends, specifically The Girl with the Green Ribbon, and it is one of my favorites by any horror author. This is one of the most well-known poems from her first book, Her Body and Other Parties, along with “Inventory” and “Especially Heinous.” That is, in fact, her FIRST public appearance. (What the hell am I doing with MY life?)
Also, don’t miss out on her revised version of Carmilla, the original vampire story by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. That novel about lesbians that no one would acknowledge was about lesbians is so much better after this retelling, which they term an edit but is actually a retelling. This is described as a “orgasm” in the accompanying footnote. Though you may be familiar with the story of Carmilla, reading this edition will be a whole different experience. What’s fantastic about these books (among other things) is that they retell classic tales from a female perspective. The stories might also be entirely original.
Also coming out soon is In the Dream House, a book by Carmen Maria Machado in which she narrates the narrative of her violent lesbian relationship using literary motifs and tropes. This novel is groundbreaking in that it successfully marries the genres of horror and nonfiction while also depicting the realism of this marital dynamic in a way I have never seen before.
SAMANTA SCHWEBLIN BOOKS
Welp. Despite enjoying Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream, I read it cover to cover in less than 24 hours simply because I couldn’t handle the suspense any longer. I reasoned that maybe it wouldn’t be so uncomfortable if I could only find out what happened. Wrong. How’s this for form imitating function? The novel reads precisely how it sounds. While we can follow the tale in the moment because to Schweblin and her translator Megan McDowell’s skillful use of syntax, the story’s overall context is constantly shifting. The reader is kept on their toes, always searching for a way to make sense of the story for themselves, and this is exactly what the author intended. Yet, as The Office’s most despised character, Gabe, put it: “Sometimes even story is comfortable.”
The stories in her collection, Mouthful of Birds, are distinctly surrealist and horror in tone. All of the tales are chilling in their own unique way, despite their brevity. The story’s title alludes to the fact that a sick daughter’s decision to eat live birds puts her parents to the test, but also investigates what it is that demonstrates their love.
PAUL TREMBLAY BOOKS
Paul Tremblay isn’t exactly a rookie when it comes to the world of horror fiction writers, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be included on a list dedicated to the genre’s finest. Growing Things, a collection of short stories, was released in the summer and is a hefty book that details various forms of terror. The title narrative, in which a plant grows to apocalyptic proportions and discloses a family nightmare to the protagonist, is at the very least strange and disturbing. Stories like “Monsters Take Over the American South” and “A meth-addicted woman kidnaps the child DFCS previously confiscated from her care,” for example, combine two distinct threats into a single, novel one. There’s one that’s eerily thrilling in the same way that Netflix’s The Ritual is terrifyingly thrilling. Another favorite of mine is “Our Town’s Monster,” in which the inhabitants of a small town either don’t notice or even actively welcome the presence of a monstrous creature in the nearby swamp.
However, this isn’t the only Paul Tremblay book out there; in fact, he has quite a few. After Marjorie’s mental condition is shown on a reality show, he continues the narrative of her and her sister in the novel A Head Full of Ghosts. Check out my review here: Book Review: Head Full of Ghosts His novel The Cabin at the End of the Woods, which won the Bram Stoker Award, centers around a lesbian couple and their adopted daughter on a New Hampshire vacation. In order to save the end of the world, four strangers burst in and say the family must sacrifice a member. Generally speaking, the content of Paul Tremblay’s works is very horrifying.
Stephen King is a great author, and I’m not trying to take away from his accomplishments. However, there are many other authors who write horror novels that are just as good (if not better). In fact, some of these authors may even eclipse King in terms of popularity in the near future. If you’re looking for something new to read this Halloween season (or any time, really), check out some of these underrated horror writers. Have you read any of them? Let me know in the comments below.