Short Stories for Dark Nights was originally published in our horror newsletter, The Fright Stuff. Sign up for it here to get the latest and greatest from the world of horror!
Generally, if you ask a horror fan what the best season of the year for scary stories is, we’re probably going to say Halloween. It’s our season! The one time of year when we have license to be as scary as we want, whenever we want, and it seems like everyone is celebrating all things horror with us. My mom refers to Halloween as my Christmas, since I go all out with my celebrations on October the way she does for Christmas in December.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t excitedly pull down my Halloween decorations in November and prepare to replace them with a tree, ornaments, tinsel garlands, and an abundance of lights. Because even though I love the crisp, autumn nights of the Halloween season, there is a part of my horror-loving heart that lives for the long, dark nights of winter. Especially around Christmas, when we’re just barely past the Solstice and still short on daylight. It’s no wonder people used to gather around the fire this time of year to tell scary stories, or that some of the myths and legends surrounding this season are particularly dark and frightening.
So in the spirit of season, I offer you a selection of horror anthologies and collections with my heartfelt best wishes for this delightfully liminal, ghostly season. Whether you read these stories for yourself, or read them out to an appreciative audience, may they make your dark holidays a little creepier.
Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales of Insatiable Darkness ed by David Ring
May I offer you some queer short fiction in these trying times? No but seriously, this anthology is everything that I want an anthology to be. Not only is it full of delightfully dark stories, but almost half of the thirty-some authors and artists who contributed to Unfettered Hexes are authors and artists of color, and two-thirds are women or nonbinary, or otherwise gender-nonconforming. You know there’s nothing I hate more than a largely white, straight, cis anthology – I’ve never bothered to hide my frustration about that – and I went through easily a dozen anthologies for this list trying to find one that had actually representation in its TOC. Thankfully, I remembered that Unfettered Hexes exists. This collection of dark speculative fiction is diverse, delicious, witchy perfection, and you couldn’t ask for a better collection of stories to fill out your midwinter evenings.
The Ghost Sequences by A.C. Wise
A.C. Wise’s 2021 new release, Wendy, Darling, was the first book of hers I’d ever read, and it instantly made a fan of me. So when I found out that one of my favorite indie horror presses, Undertow Publications, was publishing her new collection of short fiction (complete with that absolutely gorgeous cover) I made sure to pre-order my copy asap. Wise is one of those authors whose work is so gorgeous that it leaves you feeling starry-eyed when you finish reading, like you’ve just emerged from a dream. The synopsis for The Ghost Sequences describes these stories as “profoundly and intimately human” even when brimming with horrors and darkness – and I honestly couldn’t think of a better way to describe the appeal of Wise’s work. No matter the external monsters or dangers her stories present, the real heart of her work will always be its humanity.
Never Have I Ever by Isabel Yap
Like a lot of single author collections – and a lot of anthologies, honestly – stories in Never Have I Ever veer freely to either side of the genre lines, from sci-fi to horror to fantasy and back again. Honestly that’s why I love collections by authors of dark fiction! You get the best of all possible variations. This is Yap’s debut collection, and I’m honestly so excited to see where she goes from here, because every one of these stories was a gem. They’re a mix of urban legends and stories inspired by the legends of the Philippines, and many of them also feature queer themes and/or characters. Which is always a plus! It’s such a great, creepy, creative collection that’s also suitably gruesome for folks who want their horror stories to contain a certain amount of viscera and monsters devouring children.
Unfortunate Elements of My Anatomy by Hailey Piper
I honestly can’t believe that I haven’t recommended Hailey Piper’s new collection yet in The Fright Stuff. Someone ring the shame bell. I have made no secret of my adoration for Piper’s work. Her novella The Worm and His Kings is still one of my top horror reads, so obviously I was beyond excited to read Unfortunate Elements of My Anatomy and get familiar with her short fiction as well. There are 18 stories in this collection, and they cover a range of themes and subgenres, which means there’s a little something for every kind of horror reader. If you want more queer horror in your life (and you know you do) then I highly recommend picking up a copy of Unfortunate Elements of My Anatomy and filling your long evenings with a collection of stories that span everything from cosmic terror to terrifying fantasy.
For even more frights and delights, check out the rest of our horror content.