The horror novella has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years. Many believe the novella to be the ideal form for delivering a horror story—just long enough to get sucked in, but not so long you struggle to suspend your disbelief. And with the increased popularity of this intensely readable form has come a vital influx of stories told by Black authors. The valuable perspectives they bring add diverse characters and rich histories to the horror landscape, while also raising crucial questions of the past (and its effect on the present) through the lens of lived experience. These stories challenge what we think we know while celebrating and embracing the unique voice each author brings to their narrative.
By stripping away the line between fantasy and reality, horror allows us to recognize that while fear wears many faces, it’s also universal. We’ve gathered 11 novellas by Black authors that we guarantee will haunt your nightmares.
The Ballad of Black Tom
Charles Thomas Tester hustles the streets of Harlem to take care of his dad and make sure the bills are paid. He knows how important it is to blend in, making sure to wear a suit and carry his guitar case to avoid looking suspicious. But when he travels to Queens to deliver an occult book to a sorceress, he opens a door he should have left shut—one that threatens to swallow the world.
Told through two different perspectives, The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle captures the eerie atmosphere of the roaring 20’s through the lens of a terrifying evil lurking in the underbelly of New York City.
One summer night in 1989, a group of teenagers killed a dozen people at a local carnival in Shadows Creek, Florida. And then they disappeared. Thirty years later, the night has morphed into an urban legend where the teens still wander the abandoned park, looking for victims. When best friends Sam and Rochelle hear about the massacre, they decide dispelling the legend is the perfect last adventure before heading to college. But something waits inside the gates of Cirque Berserk. And it may not let them out.
The fourth book in the Rewind-or-Die series, Cirque Berserk is a flashback to slasher horror in all its glory. Dual timelines seamlessly weave the past alongside the present in a propulsive narrative that is simply impossible to put down.
Related: 8 Emerging Horror Authors Who Are Changing the Face of Horror
The Night Sun
Avery and her husband are driving out to a remote cabin to try and repair their marriage. But then they hit a deer. Except nothing in this isolated wilderness is what it seems. This book is incredibly short—32 pages—making it more of a novellette than a true novella—but it's so good it belongs on this list regardless. It starts with a vicious bite and never lets go. The tightly woven narrative is sharp and violent, malevolent and vengeful.
The Murders of Molly Southbourne
Whenever Molly Southbourne bleeds, another Molly is born—and wants nothing more than to kill her. She knows every way to kill herself because she’s done it so many times before. So the rule is simple. Don’t bleed. But no matter what she does, as long as she lives, one of the Molly’s will find her. If she doesn’t find a way to stop them, the next time a Molly dies, it might be her. The Murders of Molly Southbourne is the first in three novellas that explore the gruesome side of identity in the creepiest and bloodiest way.
Simon Hinch makes money doing what most people wouldn’t. He calls himself a Gore Reporter, prowling the late-night streets to record violent acts and sell to the highest bidder on the dark web. When he finds a man dying, Simon knows that a video capturing the moment of death will be worth a fortune. And he’s right. But while life is good, his phone is doing some strange things. Is it just a glitch? Or did Simon’s phone capture more than a video that night?
A creepy, layered novella that explores the darker side of social media and how dangerous the obsession to go viral can be. If you loved the movie Nightcrawler, Viral Lives is for you.
When Chris finds himself single and alone in large, empty house, finding a work-from-home job seems ideal. After all, who doesn’t enjoy going to meetings in their pajamas? But then encounters with neighbors start to feel sinister and the whispering voices start.
After two years of a pandemic, this psychological horror story may hit a little too close to home for some. But for those who like their horror with a twist of the (sur)real, Telecommuting is the perfect slow-burn descent into terror.
Demons are alive and well in America. They wear hoods, riding across the country sowing hate and discontent. Maryse Boudreaux, along with a sharpshooter and a Harlem Hellfighter, hunt these demons down and send the Ku Kluxes to Hell. But war is brewing. And Maryse has to stop it before it ends the world.
This terrifying world is rooted in history, making the evil elements feel so much more sinister. Ring Shout doesn’t hold back on the gore, combining non-stop action with stakes that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Below the surface of the ocean, the descendants of pregnant African women thrown overboard live idyll lives. The memory of the past is too traumatic, so only one—a young woman named Yetu—remembers. When the memories become too much for her, she escapes to the surface and finds a world her people left behind. As Yetu learns about the past, she discovers that in order for her people to survive, they’ll have to remember who they really are.
This stunning collaboration is a stunning story about finding yourself and all the pain and joy that discovery can bring. It’s vivid, heart-wrenching, and enthralling.
Related: 13 Essential Black Horror Movies
Ella and Kev are siblings with very different powers. But their childhood was still shaped and shattered simply by living in the wreckage of systemic racism and outright violence. When Kev gets sent to prison for simply being black in America, Ella tries to help him reshape his future. Sometimes the only way to move forward and rebuild, is to burn it all to the ground first. Riot Baby dives into the horrific ramification’s oppression inflicts on black Americans to this day. It's dark and angry, but the powerful story will stay with you long after the pages end.
The Nickel Boys
One mistake is all it takes for Elwood Curtis to get sent to The Nickel Academy—an abusive reform school where violence lurks in every corner and boys can disappear at any time. Elwood tries to hold on to the uplifting words of Dr. Martin Luther King but Turner—his only friend—believes that the only way to survive cruelty is by bring brutal right back. As the two struggle between their two perspectives, they end up making a decision with ramifications that will haunt them for years.
The Nickel Boys is based on an actual reform school that operated in Florida for over one hundred years. It’s a brutal story filled with the real-life horrors of the past.
Binti isn’t just the first of the Himba people to get accepted at Oozma University, she’s also the first to leave her ancestral land. She has to walk away from her family and travel to a distant galaxy surrounded by strangers. Knowledge always comes with a price, but when her journey puts her in the middle of a war, the cost may end up being Binti’s life.
While Binti may be more sci-fi than horror, the quiet tension that builds into unsettling dread gives off definite horror vibes. Plus, we think getting attacked in the middle of space by an alien species determined to kill everyone on board is absolutely terrifying.