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19 Horror Story Collections for every Sam Hain Holiday Reading

October 31, 2017       Arts and Culture
19 Horror Story Collections
For the Sam Hain harvest festival aka
Halloween season, enjoy these timeless
tales of killer spooks and scary weird.

Wakasang Wasak  
by Siege Malvar

This contains just 3 short stories by marketing writer/novelist who calls himself, Siege, and it has the most interesting story riff of an old Monsters TV episode: the alien-demon bed that eats men.  In Wakasang Wasak, a woman rents an apartment where the bed is her guardian angel or rather guardian demon.  It devours men, the first, a rapist on her own apartment complex who makes a pass at her and tries to rape her.  She develops a taste for dating strangers to keep her bed happy, whether she actually bangs the poor blokes or not until she meets Prince Charming, who actually has his own killer alien hiding in the basement. 

A woman is assigned the role of maiden of the harvest in a grotesque beauty contest of a small town, and her effeminate best friend finds out too late that she's going to get shafted and her blood spilled on the rice fields as a thanksgiving offering to the Powers that Be for next generation's harvest bountiful.

All that Darkness Allows
from Summit Media

Known for their Wattpad-sourced pulp romance line up of collectible books, Summit Media has its first horror story project, All that Darkness Allows as a collection of all of its stable of in-house editors from other magazines as well as guest writers dishing out their take on horror.  Some of the stories in the collection might not be as scary compared with what Filipino horror readers are used to but they still provide readers with an eclectic fix of horror that Pinoy writers who are fans of the genre may go out and make their own as scary tales.

You get to read Joseph Nacino's typhoon stricken homebound trip on the LRT in downtown Manila that invariably crosses over into another kind of quantum separated Manila where unholy monsters lurk in the flood waters and everywhere else. Yvette Tan's YA horror All the Birds is about a supernaturally afflicted woman passing on her demon spirit, black sisiw to her best friend in a rite of passage as endearing as it is chilling. Mama's here relies on a familiar, psychological horror trope about an insane abusive mother.  Overall this collection is lite reading for fans of more visceral horror stuff because only Nacino and Tan are the hardcore supernatural horror scribes in the collection.  But it should still find a place in your spooky reading collection.

Smoke and Mirrors
by Neil Gaiman

A Gaiman first, collection of short story work, Smoke and Mirrors contains his immortal fairy tale horror retelling:  Snow White, titled Snow, Glass, Apples.
told from the point of the beautiful and witchy stepmother, who is cooked alive in grease while her murderous vampire daughter kills her own father and insinuates herself with a necrophile Prince Charming.

There are other poignant tales that have the scary and horrible as a pervading knowledge of something inevitable:  A black cat who fights the Devil himself every night at the threshold of a family home who might not make it for long.  A vampire who steals all of your memories after sex as her feeding frenzy multiple orgasm trigger.  A gorgeous poem called Babycakes--about cooking a nice young newborn cuddly wuddly. 

The British humor is all over the place, in its wry and matter-of-fact, in your face blackness.  And the stories are keepers for everyone who love good stuff.  Horror, as fairy tales, poems, and weird tales and a Snow White fairy tale for the ages.

Northern Frights Series
edited by Don Hutchinson

Northern Frights series is a horror collection penned by Canadian-based writers as a series showcasing the talents of local Northeners writing all sorts of spooks, scares and killing mysteries.  It is an eclectic bunch of stories with each book.  Sometimes, the payoff is gorgeous, as with the Northern Frights 5 tale: The Emperor's New Bones, a story about a Chinese war refugee paying back a beloved yet aging, worn down friend who is losing her mind in some asylum by giving her back her life.  By sacrificing some rapscallion from an ophanage through an exclusive supernatural restaurant using an age-old Chinese bake-fish recipe for eternal rejuvenation.  Remember how the Chinese stir-fry experts can cook a live fish and still have it breathing while you eat the poor thing. All for love and honor.  

Some stories in the collection might seem too camp like the one of the woman who gets afflicted by a strange madness after imbibing some canned oysters, but Northern Frights is as good a series to hunt down and own for your own writing reference and for your personal reading pleasure.

Love in Vein series
edited by Poppy Z. Brite

If you like Vampire short stories that range from sci-fi horror to horror fantasy and everything erotic in between, Poppy Z. Brite's Love in Vein collection is your guilty pleasure reading. 

It doesn't have shiny bloodsuckers that seem to be popular with millenials, but it certainly has some of the most riveting variations on what a vampire character can be.  In The Gift of Neptune, a mermaid who is trapped and slowly rotting away in a circus freak show is saved by a vampire who gives her a healing kiss before releasing her back to her saltwater environs.  In Gene Wolfe's The Queen of the Night, the proverbial snow queen of the Norsk, saves a young girl's life in exchange for the soul of a young boy, whose youth will keep her young for another age.

The second volume of this vampire erotica series has Neil Gaiman's Snow, Glass, Apples as a retelling of the Snow White fairy tale where the stepmother witch is the victim of a sly vampire who usurps the throne and has a necrophiliac prince as her consort.  It has less stories than the first Love in Vein book but both are must haves for your collection of vampire tales and have everything you want to read about them as sly yet honorable, or treacherous and scheming predators of the night.

Hot Blood Series
edited by Edward Lee and Bentley Little, etc.

You want your horror sexy?  Can't get Ryza Cenon off your mind from that recent manananggal flick?  Hotter Blood is a running horror anthology series that has all of its stories feeding off your fears about sex as a trap, by everything nasty your momma warned you about.  All wolves in sheeps' clothing and more.   The wackiers stories include Black and White and Bed All Over, a story about a studio assistant asked to enter the dressing room of a popular "Toon" character (a H.P. Lovecraft version of Jessica Rabbit if you will), and he finds out that the bombshell film star's idea of a good time involves more than just a ravishing feast on the casting couch.

There are aliens seducing men for a different kind of love, torture porn as snuff film serial killing, coming of age murders where an intended victim turns the tables on the perpetrators, alternate world horrors entrapping humans as slaves to their appetites, and one of the most brutal stories by renowned comics writer, Grant Morrison, about a kidnapped child turned into a living encyclopedia by a secret cult who tattoos their arcane secrets onto her skin before cutting off her tongue.  The range of scary varies but this series is not for the faint of heart, and it is a great inspiration for the kinds of stories one can dish out in the genre of horror erotica.

Pretty Monsters
by Kelly Link

Monsters literally come in all kinds in this collection by one of the most beloved horror and fantasy writers, Link is renowned by her ironic stories and constantly funny and engaging protagonists.  Her best story here is The Faerie Handbag, a Hugo and Nebula award winning story about a grandma who kept a dogskin bag that hid her old Slavic village, a faerie town of sorts in its own pocket universe, safe from the End of the World and people who wanted to hurt them, while a backdrop of a love story between her granddaughter who lost the bag and must find it because the love of her life escaped into the hiding village.  Other great stories in Pretty Monsters include The Cinderella Game, one about a strange, younger stepsister, who turns out to be the cutest and most murderously benign member of a young boy's family.

This is the collection that inspired Isabella Yap, Clarion Writing Workshop alumni and one of the Philippines' best genre and horror writers to commit to writing her own ironic stories.  Yap may just be the best young Filipino fantasy and horror authors right now and you should also check her work online particularly her courtesan and soldier tale, The Oiran's Story.  Get Pretty Monsters and be mesmerized how horror stories can be so endearing as children's tales and dark fairy stories.

Waking the Dead
by Yvette Natalie Tan

Yvette may just be the best local horror writer bar none.  Her first short story collection, Waking the Dead, shows us where all great scribes start out with their scary stuff.  Circa 2009, some of the stories are riffed off puns and urban legends of the era: Manananggals roaming an urban landscape, Shady tambays in crowded malls offering X-rated pirate movies but instead giving you memories of all your girlfriends in the strangest glitch of them all--a hack on your brain's embedded solid state memory chip.  The Madame of Martial Law era as an afflicted woman who is at odds with a dragon living under the San Juanico bridgeHer best weird horror fantasy story is found in the Philippine Genre Stories magazine anthology and which may be included in her upcoming 2nd short story horror collection which she plans to publish independently.

Kulog is about a Kapre childhood friend, and the better story, a guy and his bulimic girlfriend preying on other guys and getting off in the strangest way.  Tan has a way of surprising readers of horror with unforgettable imagery and life scenarios where creepy is all about atmosphere than just spooks, aswangs or serial killers.  Every horror writer starts from riffing off life situations that are ridiculous and strange enough on their own that they demand one's own spin to make it something one can call their own.  Tan writes tighter and more layered stories now and you should get everything she writes in whatever horror anthology she is published.

Demons of the New Year
edited by Joseph Nacino and Karl de Mesa

Demons are a constant challenge for any horror storyteller to write about, and in this collection, Filipino writers create all sorts of Fallen, Djinn and the not so scary, psychologically tainted characters as inner demon stories.  Demons of the New Year is a black metal riff of what Pinoy horror writers visualize as evil spirited, enemies of Light.  If you are bored with retreads of TV-formulaic, horror stories about azwang and scorned witches out for vengeance against hapless men who reject the darkness, you can get some good stuff here:  A Hansel and Gretel horror retelling in Brother and Sister by Dean Francis Alfar is as lovable as the original and all its variations.

There is an End-of-the-World story, The Different Degrees of Night, where the Moon unleashes strange monsters that descend onto cities of the earth and create worldwide madness.  In Uno Grotesquerie by Yvette Tan, a strangely erotic tale featuring a man with a peculiar taste for voyeurism and murder playing out his fetish in a tryst with a demon.  And finally, The Magdalene Fist, a demon hunting woman in the illustrated comic book part of the anthology written by the co-editor, Karl R. De Mesa.

How to Traverse Terra Incognita
by Dean Francis Alfar

Dean Francis Alfar is one of the more popular local horror scribes, and his literary style might be more readable for those who want their stories to mean something, or have some insight into the human condition--as well as putting an indelible image of what horror is all about.  In How to Traverse Terra Incognita, you get horror good stuff from one of the more dedicated scribes writing the genre.  One story that riffs local  folklore and western fairy tales in a steamy tale is East of the Sun, where a tikbalang-rapist prince kidnaps and woos a beautiful child, who then poisons him and steals his kingdom and powers out of spite and honor.   Another story is a series of love letters of one man to all sorts of lovers of scary, mythological female personas. 

Strange Weather is Alfar's horror fantasy tale where a druid and a wizard fight each other to the death, only to find out that the real enemy, an unspeakably loathsome entity is afflicting the kingdom with the supernaturally induced drought while hiding inside a remote town's water well.  Alfar can surprise as well as disappoint with some of his more contrived stories, but all fairy riffs and folklore scary yarns are contrived in one way or another, and having a local author champion the cause is good enough for the gems you can read from all of his horror-inspired collections.

My Favorite Horror Story
by Mike Bauer and Martin B. Greenberg

As fans of scary stories, we'd like to know what tales inspired our favorite horror story authors most.  From Stephen King to Poppy Z. Brite, several established and bestselling horror writers offer up their fave writers' work and these are collected in the anthology, My Favorite Horror Story.  In the book, Stephen King extols the snap ending bite of the horror tale by Robert Bloch, Sweets for my Sweet, a witch story of sorts that involves a hexing (kulam in Filpino). 

Fan favorite novelist and editor, Poppy Z. Brite, extols the virtues of another snap ending horror tale, The Pattern, a story about a strange place that forebodes the most brutal supernatural predator taking on the unsuspecting narrator and his life partner.  Other stories include H.P. Lovecraft's The Rats in the Walls and  as well as other really riveting stories that turned horror as more than just a variation of pulp from the 60s to the 80s, inspiring many writers to make the genre a more enjoyable literary reading experience in spite of its penny dreadful roots.

Under my Hat: Tales from the Cauldron
edited by Jonathan Strahan

Do you like tales about witches?  Under my hat: Tales from the Cauldron is a YA-themed collection from various popular horror writers about witches, both male and female. From one story with Jim Butcher's wizard-sorceror Harry Dresden watching out for a bullied Sasquatch-human hybrid and protecting him from hybrids of dark Elf killers from Svartlheim.   Frances Hardinge has a heart warming story about a granddaughter paying back a bailiff for confiscating her grandma's heirloom belongings after a fraudulent credit card transaction by animating all of his own possessions and having them march out from his home and transform themsleves into the impounded belongings of her grandma.

This series is rather YA-themed with not so much of the more visceral treats from a witch flavored supernatural horror short story collection but nonetheless, the stories are good and almost indelible from memory.  It was written with the author's 8-year-old kids in mind so expect some of the most engaging reading for young horror fans.

Looking for Jake
by China Mieville

You want to know what otherrealm lurks behind your mirror?  China Mieville's first short story collection, Looking for Jake, has the gorgeous, The Tain: a novella hiding among short stories about the anti-reality reflections that lurk with evil purpose in a mirrorworld waiting to usurp the lives of every living thing on Earth.  Familiar is
 a delicious story about a conjuration that is carelessly thrown away and survives by eating its way to back to its own host' sorceror's own annihilation.  Mieville will blow you away with his creepier novel length stories, like the Bas-Lag trilogy, King Rat, Un Lun Dun, Kraken, and Embassytown, all of them sci-fi-horror or fantasy horror flavored with weird and sexy, fever dream worldbuilding.

Looking for Jake gives readers a taste of what China can do with a shorter form tale and he really smacks you with stories that should send you reeling with a sense of satisfaction, only horror fans appreciate from storytellers worth their salt.  And weirdness.

Snow White, Blood Red (fairy tale-horror series)
edited by Terry Windling and Ellen Datlow

Fairy tales as horror yarns is nothing new.  The original fairy tales by authors The Brothers Grimm are actually scarier and more lurid than the Disney-fied stories that now feed the children's book libraries.  Fairy tale stories were meant as moral lessons to adults and even younger readers of the genteel class during the time of the Brothers Grimm in Europe.  Scary and adult reader fairy tales can also deliver something horror fans always crave for, a romp of a yarn with familiar characters and settings but with mystery, suspense and a more pervading sense of dread than the original versions could ever draw on.  They can be sexy too as horror should always be some kind of invite into a forbidden zone where one should always remember what Mom always wags her finger about, from wolves lurking around, to the Devil disguised as genteel aristocrat, to strange women and things that go bump in the night.

Terry Windling and Ellen Datlow have several impressive stories from some of the best fairy tale retellings from horror authors in their Snow White, Blood Red series of 6 books with the other collections having their own ironic puns like Black Birch, Blood Moon, and Black Swan, White Raven. 

In the first collection we have Neil Gaiman's Troll Bridge, a tale about a coming of age story that fizzles when a boy's life turns out to be less happy ending and selling his soul is the way out.  Peter Straub's Ashputtle is a warped version of Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel, where an unseemly teacher is actually a brutal serial killer prowling for kids to turn into cinder mush.

The Talisman
edited by Sam Lewis

We have already listed The Talisman as one of the books young boys should have in their book hoard, but we're recommending this anthology of shared world short stories, each one a distinct chapter in an end-of-the-world scenario where Horrors, Lovecraftian-like entities invade a realm to feed, a cyclical event where the world's societies, elves, humans, and other fantasy races maneuver to save their lives from an onslaught and plague of Hell-on-their planet.  Like Lovecraftian monsters, the horrors destroy one's sanity first before they feed on the flesh, and one monster is enough to obliterate an entire city.  A faerie is shrunk and trapped in amber with runes inscribed on her body as the spell to destroy the Horrors and send them back to their realm, she becomes the book's Talisman that glows whenever Horrors are nearby.  The next story is about a treacherous ambush by elves to steal runes and seals from a human convoy journeying to their safehaven underground. 

The middle story is about an underground safehaven being breached when a foolish youth opens the door into their stronghold after being seduced to come outside by his possessed friend.  The last story is about the Horrors going back to their dimension after their feeding cycle and one last city having one last creep wrapped around the city walls for one last psionic and flesh orgy before a dwarf woman discovers the trap and unleashes the trapped faerie from the Talisman to perform an exorcism on the city walls and finally rid their world of the last greedy Nightmare Boss Creep, sending it back to its dimension.  If you like Lovecraftian monsters and a fantasy setting, the Earthdawn series of books , an RPG-based fantasy world is a setting for a horror anthology-shared world writer exercise that pays off real well and should be an important part of your own horror book reference stack.

Dark Holidays
edited by D.A. DeCuzzi

Themed stories are a horror fix every reading fan should have in their hoard of good stuff.  Some short story collections specifically work off character archetypes--vampires, zombies, demons, werewolves and the like.  In Dark Holidays, the character archetypes that are played off are holiday icons:  Santa Claus, Uncle Sam, Cupid, the groundhog of groundhog day, leprechauns of Saint Patrick's Day, as well as some not so familiar icons such as the long necked-ghost of Chinese Ghost Month, farmer's daughters for Thanksgiving, a dead mom calling her daughter home during the Hispanic-inspired, Dia de los Muertos, the homely witch finding her beau in a Sadie Hawkins dance celebration, and even Maria Makiling as a Sam Hain harvest-thanksgiving icon. 

The stories might sound cheesy given the theme of the collection, but when you read them, they fit perfectly for the horror flavor this collection is played out as.  Enjoy your favorite holiday tropes and icons in a different light with this self-published, underrated gem.  Be inspired to write your own holiday spooks too as horror fans.

edited by Douglas E. Winter

Another theme for horror fans that always hits the spot is End-of-the-World scenarios.  Revelations is a collection of tales about what happens when time runs out on everyone.  Each story is set in a time period that is almost 10 to 20 years after the other until the year 2000, which doomsayers were predicting to be the beginning of the end.  One of the stories set during the fall of the Berlin wall, is about an assassin and his secret network of Nazi operatives working on reviving Hitler as an A.I. construct before having the project self destruct thru the sheer treachery involved in getting everything together, and the ridiculous part of the apocalypse coming when Nazi punks celebrating the fall of the Berlin wall, single out the surviving assassin and brutally rob him blind. 

Poppy Z. Brite tells the tale of two young boys who fall in love as they work for a theater company and conspire to beat the underworld of organized criminals at their own game in Triads, but end up on the tragic end of a suicide mission where the only redemption is denying the boss creep his game's resolution.  There is a tale by Joe R. Lansdale, set at the turn of the century, about a hired slugger, at a time when fisticuff boxing was still an illegal sport, who was supposed to beat a black boxer to death in the ring, but a hurricane changes the fate of both fighters, destroying the lives of the mobsters who set them up for high stakes betting and redeeming the pugilists in a strange twist of fate.  Every tale is the end of the line for each character portrayed but is also a coming-of-age story as well, and the horror of reversals and well laid plots falling apart ring true as the inevitable takes place.

Dark Forces
edited by Kirby McCauley

This is the short story collection that contains Stephen King's novelette:
The Mist which is an end-of-the-world kind of shit hits the fan when as strange fog that hits a town hides demonic creatures that prey on everyone.  Other gems in Dark Forces include Gene Wolfe's Hunting the Dream Master, a tale with prose stylist leanings that narrates in crime noir mystery that is actually Biblical in its metaphors and hides the authors conviction on what darkness is lifted when one realizes what lurking overseer is actually intervening and making itself felt in one's dreams.

Clifford Simak's The Wishing Well is about a writer and chronicler who is asked to find his family's genealogy by his old aunt, and he stumbles upon a terrible secret about an old uncle who apparently had dug a well that opened a way for demons to walk the earth.  Dark Forces has stories all about supernatural forces that overwhelm individuals or groups of people from out of nowhere.

Tales of the Flat Earth / NightMasters
by Tanith Lee

The Tales of the Flat Earth are gothic sci-fi horror that tell of what happens when Demons come among men from under the Earth.  The Lords of Darkness are about these sort of Demons and the anthology series is similar to The Arabian Nights classical and tragic adventure tales.  Of men and demons cavorting with each other in stories of love, lust and adventure.  Tanith Lee is a known gothic prose stylist storyteller, and even if the tales in the collection are more dark fairy tale than straight forward horror, the series is one of the most beautifully written.

One story has a demon trying to seduce one of his created lovers, who had left the Underworld to walk the Earth and find his fortune, he sends him an illusion of a princess onboard an unusual watercraft docking on the seashore and mysteriously affecting the object of his honey trap, who is seduced by the demon disguised as a beggar, telling him to wish for the one thing he can to go out at sea and meet with the lady of his dreams.  The poor creature wishes for his old Nightmare steed, a warhorse made of shadow, and desperately goes out at sea to chase the princess on the alien boat, which turns out to be just a mirage.  As the sun rises from the east, the mirage wanes and disappears, and the sunlight dissipates the shadow horse, killing it and leaving the poor victim out at sea to drown in his folly.

The other stories follow the similar parable, prose stylist Arabian Nights tales and relate stories of passion and tragedy as demons play with the lives of their creations and with the paltry lives of men.

For Halloween aka Sam Hain festival, you have a long holiday away from school or work where you can kick back and enjoy some really good short reads that may even inspire you to write your own stuff.  As Filipinos, horror is a huge part of our cultural entertainment and a serious hobby, as far as writing and book collecting is concerned.  Don't miss out on these good horror short story collections and gift your friends a horror book hoard this Halloween or even for the coming Yuletide season.


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