As the titan and pioneer in horror literature H. P. Lovecraft once ascertained: “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”.
This line of thinking has given rise to a genre which transcended the literary domains from where it originated, seeping into countless aspects of modern culture, including movies, television shows, video games, and even haunted house experiences.
Over the relative few decades it has existed, horror has undergone more transformations than most other literary genres I could think of, and I believe it’s for a simple reason: once a horror idea leaves the unknown and becomes known, it ceases to induce the horror it once did, requiring writers to move further to try and come up with fresh concepts, which in turn will also be explained, repeating the cycle.
With horror now being one of the most popular literary genres, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see it saturated with many stories which, despite using established horror elements, can’t ever come close to instilling an actual sense of dread in the reader. Unfortunately, ideas seem to be taking a back-seat to gratuitous violence and laughably overdone monsters these days… but not always.
In this section you will find the horror books which I personally believe to still be true to what the horror genre ought to be at heart, from the great classics to the most recent works… and maybe along the way a few examples of the ones I believe to be taking the wrong route. May the fear of the unknown rise again.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes Short Summary William Peter Blatty has certainly written many novels worthy of our attention, but I think it’s safe to say none of them have stood the test of time like The Exorcist, which also received a timeless silver screen adaptation. It tells the story of Regan MacNeil, a young girl who becomes possessed by a demon, and the two priests who are brought in to fight for her life, facing an evil none have ever seen before. Read more …
Ira Levin has populated the realms of literature with some of the most original classics it has seen from the fifties to the end of the seventies, and Rosemary’s Baby is perhaps his best-known work, at least among horror aficionados. The story follows the titular Rosemary and her husband Guy Woodhouse as they move into an ominous apartment building where an elderly couple begins to take an unusual and uncomfortable interest in their lives.
Rachel Harrison certainly hasn’t taken a long time to put her writing degree to use, with her second novel, Cackle, having already come out in October 2021. Presenting a new and modern twist on the witch story, it follows a young woman who moves into a small town upstate from Manhattan and finds herself drawn to Sophie, a young lady whose magnetism seems utterly unnatural.
Stephen King has added nearly innumerable chapters to his legacy over the past few decades, but I still firmly believe none of his new works can hold a candle to the classics which defined him, such as The Shining. Having defined the horror genre in its time, the novel tells the story of a caretaker and his family stuck in a haunted hotel, slowly driven insane by its paranormal inhabitants.
Camilla Sten has for too long of a time published her stories only in her home country, as her most recent novel clearly shows, titled The Lost Village. The story, in its essence, follows a documentary crew trying to unravel a bizarre mass disappearance which took place in the titular village decades earlier. The closer they get to the truth though, the closer danger seems to be swarming around them.
Beverley Lee has recently decided to step outside of the book series she made her name with, penning the standalone novel The Ruin of Delicate Things. The story it tells is one of grief and loss, following a couple struggling to cope with the loss of their teenage son. They retreat near Barrington Hall, where the husband grew up, and the appearance of a strange boy at midnight in the woods gives his wife a new and dangerous purpose to follow.
Max Brooks has always had a predilection for more unusual stories, and he keeps the streak alive with his new horror novel, titled Devolution. It follows the story recovered from the journals of Kate Holland, one of the victims to a monstrous massacre which took the lives of an entire hippie commune. This is her story in the face of legendary terror and the unstoppable power of inevitability.
Simone St. James burst on the literary scene like few others before her, being showered with awards and nominations from her very first novel. Years later she still continues her streak with The Broken Girls, a psychological ghost story centred on a boarding school, split into two narratives following a disappearance in 1950 and a murder decades later.
Though H.P. Lovecraft is generally considerate enough to spare his characters from more than one venture into the heart of madness, Randolph Carter suffered a rather different fate. The sole character written by the author with the distinction of being the protagonist across multiple stories, Carter appeared in the following three stories we will explore: The Dream-Quest of Kaddath, The Statement of Randolph Carter and The Unnamable.
As much as H. P. Lovecraft enjoyed writing about otherworldly horrors, he was also no stranger to the more grounded and dark compulsions laying dormant within us, seldom shying away from exploring them if his mind wandered this way. The Alchemist, The Cats of Ulthar and The Terrible Old Man are three of his lesser-known short stories, each one dealing in their own strange ways with the theme of retribution.
H.P. Lovecraft was undoubtedly a genius when it came to finding new angles from which to approach the horror genre. Shifting themes and focuses from one story to the next he left a great collection of works strewn across the genre’s entire spectrum. Today, we’re going to take a look at “Beyond the Wall of Sleep”, “Polaris” and “From Beyond”, short stories where we dive deep into overlapping and transcending realities beyond the waking world of awareness.
H.P. Lovecraft was an author who endeavored to push the boundaries of the horror genre and explore frontiers no writer has touched before. His stories cover an impressively wide array of subjects, with the horror elements often maintaining a more psychological rather than physical presence. In his short stories The Beast in the Cave, The Tomb and Imprisoned in the Pharaohs we actually get to see both types of horror at work as we are taken deep below the earth to become acquainted with the evils dwelling within.
H. P. Lovecraft’s tales cover a wide array of subjects and ideas, and many of them can be grouped in a thematic fashion. Take for instance three of his better-known stories: The Colour Out of Space, The Shadow over Innsmouth and The Whisperer in Darkness. Each of those stories, in its own fashion, deals with the idea of alien visitors from the beyond coming down to Earth from space or emerging from the depths of the sea in order to influence humanity for their own ends. While their intentions may be debatable, the unmitigated suffering they inflict upon their subjects is not.
H.P. Lovecraft has covered a vast array of themes and ideas in his stories, but more than anything he seemed to love when his protagonists were not only confronted with the kinds of horrors that would be specific to their perspective and/or madness, but also when they became the said horrors. In The Outsider, The Evil Clergyman and The Rats in the Walls, we are presented with three stories where the protagonists end up on the other side of the fence, so to speak, and we dive deep into the resulting evil and lunacy.
H. P. Lovecraft has pioneered much of the horror genre by himself, touching on an absolutely dazzling array of themes and concepts that have endured up until this very day. While most people know him as the creator of the Cthulhu Mythos there is indeed much more to his writings. For instance, he authored a few timeless stories which are centred around the macabre idea of conquering death at all costs, and what follows is a look at three of the most popular ones, the last of which you may already be familiar with: “Celephais”, “Cool Air”, and “Herbert West – Reanimator”.
H. P. Lovecraft has been one of the most influential horror writers of all time, pioneering many of the concepts and tropes we’ve come to enjoy time and time again in all kinds of media. It is safe to say that without his groundbreaking work, we wouldn’t be enjoying the likes of Stephen King and his peers. Among the many short stories he wrote where Dagon, Nyarlathotep and the all-time famous The Call of Cthulhu , all three revolving around the theme of ancient and otherworldly gods coming to Earth.