The Year in Horror Fiction

And what wickedness is coming in 2022

Every year it feels like the horror genre is reaching new plateaus of popularity, and 2021 was no exception. A blitzkrieg of new horror novels, movies, story collections, anthologies, and podcasts have erupted onto the scene over the last twelve months, and a whole lot more is approaching in a dark cloud of dust on the horizon of a new year to satiate the seemingly unquenchable thirst of horror lovers everywhere.

Even more importantly, the voices coming from the horror genre today are more diverse than ever before. Writers are bringing fresh perspectives to the field, with historically under-represented voices smashing through the proverbial glass ceiling and entering the mainstream, bringing a vanguard of groundbreaking ideas that represent all communities, cultures, genders, and ways of life. There’s a lot more work, and a lot more talent, waiting to break through to readers across the globe, but the future is bright, the platform has been shattered and rebuilt, and the horror is coming.

In addition, independent presses are beginning to push up-and-coming writers into arenas that have previously been dominated by “big five” publishers. Chain stores like Barnes and Noble and Powell’s now have shelves fully-stocked with small press horror authors, and the reviewers from mainstream publications such as The New York Times are covering a wider swath of titles, regardless of the publisher logo on the spine.

To that end, for consumers who may want to know more of what’s out there in the surging new world of modern horror, here is a breakdown of notable releases — both mainstream and independent – that have been released in the last year. Titles that are story collections versus novels have been indicated as such, and titles separated between “mainstream” publications from “indie” presses, albeit somewhat subjective, have been made for purposes of this article.

Now, let’s talk horror books.

It came from the mainstream

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A handful of novels from mainstream publishers in 2021 that created serious buzz with readers and critics alike were The Burning Girls by C.J. Tudor, Later and Billy Summers by Stephen King, The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris, The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig, Getaway by Zoje Stage, My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones, The Thing Between Us by Gus Moreno, and Chasing the Boogeyman by Richard Chizmar. The horror novel that had the biggest splash in the last year, however, was The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward, a stunning, twisting, terrifying new classic of the genre.

Other notable novels from mainstream publishers include:

Children of Chicago by Cynthia Pelayo

All the Murmuring Bones by A.G. Slatter

The Lost Village by Camilla Sten

Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman

Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian

The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

Goblin and Pearl by Josh Malerman

Survive the Night by Riley Sager

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

Come With Me by Ronald Malfi

Rovers by Richard Lange

Revelator by Daryl Gregory

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Cackle by Rachel Harrison

Reprieve by James Han Mattson

Slewfoot by Gerald Brom

Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff

Where They Wait by Scott Carson

Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith

Near the Bone by Christina Henry

Closing Costs by Bracken MacLeod

It came from the indies

On the independent publishing front, there were some major standouts that seemed to propel the future of the horror genre into fascinating, gruesome, and previously untapped arenas. These titles include Queen of Teeth by Hailey Piper, Nothing but Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw, The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez (stories), and Midnight Doorways by Usman T. Malik (stories). But easily the most buzzed about release, a book that hit the field like a bloody black stallion born from fire, was Eric LaRocca’s jarring novella Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke, a terrifying, gut-twisting epistolary tale about two women each seeking comfort in different ways, and the disturbing lengths they’ll each go to in trying to achieve it.

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Image from the cover of ‘Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke,’ by Eric LaRocca.

It would be impossible to list all the additional worthy releases from independent presses over the last year, but the following titles will offer a solid starting point for readers who want to experience cutting-edge horror:

Big Dark Hole by Jeffrey Ford (stories)

Goddess of Filth by V. Castro

Fit for Consumption by Steve Berman

The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell by Brian Evenson (stories)

Red X by David Demchuk

Among the Lilies by Daniel Mills (stories)

The Seven Visitations of Sydney Burgess by Andy Marino

Rookfield by Gordon B. White

Crossroads by Laurel Hightower

The Ghost Sequences by A.C. Wise (stories)

Thanatrauma by Steve Rasnic Tem (stories)

Cunning Folk by Adam Nevill

In that Endlessness, Our End by Gemma Files (stories)

Slattery Falls by Brennan LaFaro

Almost Ruth by Tyler Jones

The Gulp by Alan Baxter (stories)

We are Happy, We are Doomed by Kurt Fawver (stories)

To Dust You Shall Return by Fred Venturini

Dark Across the Bay by Ania Ahlborn

Keening Country by Sean O’Connor

Never Have I Ever by Isabel Yap (stories)

Beneath a Pale Sky by Philip Fracassi (stories)

Devil’s Creek by Todd Kiesling

More horror on the way

As stated earlier, there’s a lot more horror on the way in 2022. And while there are many titles that have yet to be announced, here is a quick preview of some titles that are already getting readers excited as we push into the new year:

Road of Bones by Christopher Golden is already receiving serious praise, having received a rare trifecta of starred reviews from Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal. Stephen King has already proclaimed it “creepy as hell”.

Daphne by Josh Malerman was a recent surprise entry into the 2022 playing field. A reimagining of the slasher genre by one of the biggest names in horror.

Sundial by Catriona Ward is the follow-up novel from the author of the aforementioned, The Last House on Needless Street. If it matches the impact of her last novel, this could be the one everyone is talking about in the year to come.

Devil House by John Darnielle is the newest from the author of Wolf in White Van and Universal Harvester. A novel about murder, memory, and obsession.

The Book of the Most Precious Substance by Sara Gran. Known more for her crime series, Gran also wrote one of the most horrifying novels of the last decade, Come Closer. In 2022, she returns to horror with a story about the most powerful occult book ever written.

Echo by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, is the newest novel from the Dutch author who brought us HEX.

Gwendy’s Final Task by Richard Chizmar & Stephen King is the final book in the Gwendy trilogy by two leading voices in horror.

Spontaneous Human Combustion by Richard Thomas is the newest collection by the author and editor, putting together stories that blend fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Publishers Weekly calls it “equally devastating and refreshing” (starred review).

The Fervor by Alma Katsu. A new supernatural horror novel from the widely-acclaimed author of The Deepand The Hunger.

Other notable 2022 releases include:

The Pallbearer’s Club by Paul Tremblay, author of Survivor Song

Such Sharp Teeth by Rachel Harrison, a werewolf novel by the author of The Return and Cackle

How to Sell a Haunted House by bestselling author Grady Hendrix

Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi

Don’t Fear the Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones, a sequel to My Heart is a Chainsaw from the bestselling author of All the Good Indians

Wayward by Chuck Wendig, a sequel to his epic breakout hit, Wanderers

The Hollow Kind by Andy Davidson, author of The Boatman’s Daughter

When the Night Bells Ring by Jo Kaplan

The Devil Takes You Home by Gabino Iglesias

Breakable Things, the debut short story collection by Cassandra Khaw

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Philip Fracassi

Philip Fracassi, an author and screenwriter, lives in Los Angeles, California. His short stories have been published in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Best Horror of the Year, Dark Discoveries, Cemetery Dance, Lovecraft eZine, and Strange Aeons among others. He is the author of the award-winning story collection, Behold the Void.

3 thoughts on “The Year in Horror Fiction

  • December 8, 2021 at 11:06 am
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    Excellent piece. I remember the thrill I had way back in the 1980s when discovering literate horror writers like Patrick McGrath, Ramsey Campbell, T.E.D. Klein, Elizabeth Hand, Steve Rasnic Tem, Joe Haldeman, and many, many others.

    Reply
  • December 10, 2021 at 9:47 am
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    Don’t see my Victorian Dreadpunk novella Floaters from Crystal Lake September 10, 2021, which Bram Stoker winner Lee Murray called “historical horror at its best.”

    Reply
  • December 14, 2021 at 5:52 pm
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    This post was truly worthwhile to read. I wanted to say thank you for the key points you have pointed out as they are enlightening.

    Reply

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