Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Chilling Short Fiction: Five of My Favorites

I've never been much a fan of "best" or "top five/ten/twenty-five" lists (even though I've thrown together a few myself). Call this a list of some of my favorite works of short fiction fitting the Halloween spirit. I'm sure I'll add more in time.

1. "The Lonesome Place" by August Derleth. No other single story has influenced my own writing more than this short story by Lovecraft's biggest fan. You can find snippets on the 'net (like at Google Reader), but the real value is in finding a dusty old book with the whole text.

2. "The Assembly of the Dead" by Chet Williamson. I've read this piece more than any other I've not taught. (as a teacher, I have too many touches with some stories to count) The end still baffles me, but in a good way: just enough mystery, just enough darkness.

3. "The Caterpillars" by E.F. Benson. You can read this one yourself.

"Occasionally one fell off on to the floor, with a soft fleshy thud, and though the floor was of hard concrete, it yielded to the pincerfeet as if it had been putty, and, crawling back, the caterpillar would mount on to the bed again, to rejoin its fearful companions."

4. "The Rats in the Walls" by H.P. Lovecraft. Only recently has this piece unseated "In the Vault" as my favorite by Mr. Lovecraft. Gawd...the ending. Just read it.

5. "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road" by Joe R. Lansdale. Say what you will about Mr. Lansdale, he spins one helluva entertaining story. "Incident..." kept me going right up to the end, then blam!--punch to the gut (in the best way possible).

I'll add more before Halloween. Promise. I haven't even touched King or Poe, so you know it's going to get messy.

What else should I consider? What are some of your favorites?


Alan W. Davidson said...

One of my favourites was "The Cask of Amontillado" by Poe...but I bet that'll be on your list eventually.

Anonymous said...

Cool, gonna check these out. "The Lonesome Place" might be hard to track down though.Did you read it in an anthology?

Rebecca Nazar said...

Have you experienced Joe Hill's "Best New Horror"? Whoa, Joe's father must be so proud. 20th Century Ghosts is fantastic.

Aaron Polson said...

Alan - Nearly read my mind. Of all the Poe, "Cask..." is my favorite. Very readable, lovely irony in all its forms.

Justin - You can find "The Lonesome Place" in American Supernatural Tales at Amazon (or other places fine books are sold... ;) I read it in a book club anthology (OOP) called Hauntings: Tales of the Supernatural (1968). The book is edited by Henry Mazzeo with illustrations by none other than Edward Gorey.

Becca - I've read bits and pieces from 20th C...have to check out "Best New Horror".

Fox Lee said...

"The White Ship" by H.P. Lovecraft

Katey said...

I think I've fangirled at you about "The Rats in the Walls" before, and how it's my favorite creepy short ever. God every time I read it I'm just in awe. And scared.

(Also, for Poe, I agree with you guys about "The Cask..." When I was introducing my husband to him, I insisted he read that one first.)

Mmm looking forward to more recs!

Jamie Eyberg said...

Sweets for the Sweet, by Robert Bloch

hands down one of the creepiest, most atmospheric stories I have ever read.

Danielle Birch said...

I'm a fan of The Lottery by Shirley Jackson and have to admit I love The Rats in the Walls.

K.C. Shaw said...

Ooh, the second I saw your post I thought, "I hope he lists The Rats in the Walls." And you did! That is one freaky-deaky story.

Aaron Polson said...

Natalie - I'm going to track that down (I'm sure it's online).

Jamie - Just read "The Cape" by Bloch and it was fabulous. Thanks for the rec.

Danielle - "The Lottery" is definately in round two.

K.C. - I think it's Lovecraft's best. I know it isn't all Cthulhu-y, but I can almost believe "Rats", making it more frightening in a way.

Aaron Polson said...

Katey - My poor brain is already stewing with more ideas. I'm going to rifle through some old anthos later tonight.

Unknown said...

love incident, and it was turned into a decent hour thing by masters of horror as well.

rats in the wall is my favorite lovecraft as well, if only because of the ending.

Akasha Savage. said...

The short story that always makes me feel uneasy is: The Long Walk by Stephen King. You can find it in his collection: The Bachman Books.