Over at This is Horror recently, Stephen Jones, one of Britain’s most acclaimed and prolific anthologists of horror and dark fantasy, posted a list of ten of his favourite horror stories. Here are the stories he listed (click the link back there to see the full list with his commentary – I’m just reposting the author and story title here):
1. A Warning to the Curious by M.R. James
2. The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft
3. Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper by Robert Bloch
4. Sticks by Karl Edward Wagner
5. The Chimney by Ramsey Campbell
6. One for the Road by Stephen King
7. The Dark Country by Dennis Etchison
8. Dance of the Dead by Richard Matheson
9. The Man Who Drew Cats by Michael Marshall Smith
10. Homecoming / The October People / Uncle Einar by Ray Bradbury (Jones says “take your pick: they are all as wonderful as each other.”)
That’s a pretty solid list. In response to Jones’ list, Ramsey Campbell (at the #5 position above) posted his own personal top ten on Facebook. He referred to these as “Ten that I think are crucial”:
The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe
Carmilla by J Sheridan Le Fanu
The White People by Arthur Machen
The Monkey’s Paw by W W Jacobs
The Willows by Algernon Blackwood
The Colour Out of Space by H P Lovecraft (this one is my personal favourite HPL story too.)
A Warning to the Curious by M R James
Smoke Ghost by Fritz Leiber
Running Down by M John Harrison
The Hospice by Robert Aickman
You’ll notice the only story which appears on both lists is the M R James one. Now that’s a seriously solid reading list of short horror fiction. And I need to fill in a few blanks myself based on those recs, so I’ll be searching out the ones I haven’t yet read. But you know what else I noticed? Cockforest. Wang-a-rama. Sausagefest. Yeah, basically, they’re all blokes. Horror is a notoriously male-dominated genre. But it shouldn’t be, because there are loads of fantastic female horror writers out there. And several men on the lists above are contemporary and still working today, so it’s not even fair to say it’s just an historical aberration. And even then, historical aberration would be a bollocks excuse. What about Mary Shelley? Shirley Jackson? Ursula Le Guin? Gertrude Barrows Bennett (writing as Francis Stevens) who wrote in the early 20th century and has been called “the woman who invented dark fantasy.”? There are so many more.
In a more contemporary list, there are loads of great women horror writers at work today. Kaaron Warren, Margo Lanagan, Sarah Langan, Sarah Pinborough, Angela Slatter, Lisa Hannett, Joanne Anderton. This is just off the top of my head. By all the tentacled gods of the nether darkness, there are loads of them out there making fantastic work.
So while you’re tracking down those stories above recommended by Jones and Campbell (which you really should), seek out some of the tremendous women of horror too. You owe it to yourself to experience their work and, as readers, we owe it to these wonderful writers to ensure their audience grows regardless of their lack of cock.
Feel free to leave your recommendations in the comments below, both for your favourite stories and your favourite women horror writers. And don’t worry if you don’t know any women horror writers right now. That’s okay. But fix it, as soon as you can.