By Jeff Baker
I’m one of those readers who believes that the short-story is the perfect form for the horror story. M.R. James’ ghost stories for openers, like “The Haunted Doll’s House” which blends terror with laughs. H.P. Lovecraft was a mixed bag, but I’ll recommend a few classics like “Cool Air,” “The Color out of Space” and “The Haunter of the Dark.”
Robert Arthur is largely forgotten today (there needs to be a retrospective anthology) but he wrote short mystery, fantasy, sci-fi and horror. I’ll list a couple of his horror stories; “Footsteps Invisible,” and “The Believers.” Arthur was a radio writer who co-created “The Mysterious Traveler” radio show and “The Believers” is about a live radio broadcast gone horribly wrong.
Fritz Leiber wrote all kinds of speculative fiction, and helped modernize the horror story. His stories “The Girl With the Hungry Eyes,” and “The Button Molder” are still chillers.
The contemporary writer Ramsey Campbell has written novels but he does not neglect short-stories. He follows in M. R. James’ footsteps but also walks his own, dark paths. I’ll recommend anything by Campbell but start with his collection “Waking Nightmares.”
For LGBT-themed fiction, “Bending The Landscape” was a 2001 anthology of gay-themed horror stories; think of it as a precursor to the recent boomlet of LGBT fiction, such as the Wilde Stories and Heiresses of Russ anthologies, which collected their fair share of horror. Lethe Press also publishes original anthologies of horror, such as their takes on Poe and Dracula. (“Where Thy Dark Eye Glances,” and “Suffered For the Night.”)
Speaking of Poe, he was the Grand Master. Seek out his works, like “Fall of the House of Usher,” “Pit and the Pendulum” and “Masque of the Red Death.” And pleasant dreams!