From mythology to modern movies, monsters have always been a ubiquitous feature of storytelling. They satisfy our love of the unknown as well as get under our skin in the best possible way. And monsters can be almost anything: from the familiar werewolves and vampires to more obscure legends from around the world, we’ll never run out of creatures to delight and terrify us.
So as the winter months wear on, cuddle up to a few monsters of your own with these six creepy tales.
"The Food in the Basement"
Laura Davy should be a name that’s on every horror fan’s radar. In her tale, “The Food in the Basement,” first released in Apex Magazine back in 2014, she takes on the vampire genre with aplomb.
The young Sondra has been kidnapped by a vampire named Kaden, and she’s currently living in his locked basement, serving as his regular midnight snack. While she’s certainly unhappy to be there, the story goes beyond the ordinary terror and instead tracks her day-to-day life in astounding detail, from the things she eats to the reruns she watches on TV. Consequently, the ennui of being imprisoned is balanced with the omnipresent threat of death in a way that’s perfectly understated yet wholly effective. This story makes vampirism seem downright banal, and that makes it even scarier and more unsettling. A highly recommended tale.
This story, first published in the Dark Faith: Invocations anthology, is an extraordinary take on the zombie apocalypse. Much like our own pandemic era, a virus has infiltrated society yet life simply moves forward, sometimes with dangerous results. Whether you’re a fan of the zombie trope or not, this is a tale that will draw you in and not let go. And once you’ve read “Magdala Amygdala,” be sure to preorder Snyder’s forthcoming novel, Sister, Maiden, Monster, which expands upon the world featured in her apocalyptic short story. It’s sure to be one of the biggest horror books of 2023.
"The Vampire of Kovácspéter"
At this point in literary history, we all know about vampires—in fact, they’re as commonplace as they come in the horror genre. Author P H Lee relies on our knowledge and attachment to the trope in crafting this fabulous tale of a vampire hunter who arrives in a remote village to take down the local castle-lurking bloodsucker once and for all. This is a wonderful deconstruction of the vampire legend, and with a sly wit and clever attention to detail, it’s a story that you won’t soon forget.
Not All Monsters
A group of harpies roost in the attic of a house, and the two sisters living there must decide what they’ll do next. Featured in the Not All Monsters anthology, this one will stick with you. K.P. Kulski is one of the most vibrant voices in horror today, so if you haven’t read her work yet, you are seriously missing out. After you check out “Black Feathered Phlogiston,” be sure to pick up her debut novel, Fairest Flesh, which tackles one of the real world’s most notorious monsters: none other than Elizabeth Bathory.
The Night Sun
Over the past few years, Zin E. Rocklyn has become a major author in the genre. Their fiction is among the very best in horror today, and with their recent Shirley Jackson Award win, it’s clear they’re just getting started. Their story, “The Night Sun,” is a unique spin on the werewolf trope, examining themes of racism and domestic violence in the process. This isn’t always an easy story to read, but it’s an absolutely necessary one, and a tale you should put on your reading list ASAP if you haven’t already.
The October Country
Like many speculative fiction readers, I’ve been a huge Ray Bradbury fan since childhood. It started in elementary school when I read the short story, “Homecoming,” and my adoration for his work hasn’t abated since.
While much of his fiction—both short stories and novels—are celebrated even today, “The Man Upstairs,” which is featured in his acclaimed collection, The October Country, doesn’t often get as much love. Perhaps that’s because it’s one of the weirdest vampire stories you’ll ever read. In fact, calling it a vampire story doesn’t even do it justice. Regardless, if you’re looking for a monster tale unlike any other, then Bradbury has got you covered with this bizarre coming-of-age yarn that ends with a deeply strange and oddly amusing denouement.