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Ten Works of Cosmic Horror Fiction NOT Written by Straight White Men

Written by Vaughn A. Jackson and Stephanie Pearre

Dead Old White Guys of Cosmic Horror might seem like a cool name for a band, but when it comes to reading options, you can do better. There's a wealth of material in the genre from underrepresented communities, many of whose cultures originated concepts fundamental to the writing of H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and their contemporaries. Each of the authors listed below has breathed new life into the existential dread of being human in a universe of incomprehensible terrors.

small-cover The Worm and His Kings by Hailey Piper

Who better to kick this list off other than the phenomenal Hailey Piper and her award-winning novella The Worm and His Kings? Set in 1990s New York City, it follows Monique as she tracks a monster underground on a hunt for her kidnapped girlfriend. This classic cosmic horror tale combines cults, an unknowable threat and biting commentary on classism and homelessness in a way only a true master like Piper can achieve.

small-cover The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The Only Good Indians follows four Indigenous men as they deal with the repercussions of their past mistakes in the form of a haunting entity. While exploring the themes of racism and intergenerational trauma, this book manages a creeping feeling of claustrophobia as the entity begins closing in on each of the four men. I can neither confirm nor deny that this book still has me side eyeing deer on the side of the road.

houses under the sea poster small Houses Under the Sea by Caitlin R. Kiernan

A phenomenal collection of Kiernan’s stories adding to the “Cthulhu Mythos,” Houses Under the Sea shows she has thoroughly mastered the art of cosmic horror. While playing in a sandbox so many have left their mark in, it can be hard to carve out your own niche in the mythos. However, Kiernan takes these myths and shapes them to her own design allowing for haunting tales that will stay with you long after you finish reading.

uzumaki poster small Uzumaki by Junji Ito

Junji Ito is often called the master of Japanese horror, with delights ranging from gas-powered fish monsters to the infinitely memeable “This is my hole! It was made for me!” quote. However, perhaps his most iconic cosmic horror comes in the form of Uzumaki (or Spiral) in which a small town is haunted, or perhaps cursed, by the recurrence of the same winding pattern over and over until it starts to consume everything. Who knew pattern recognition could be so terrifying?!

small-cover Sister, Maiden, Monster by Lucy A. Snyder

With Sister, Maiden, Monster, Lucy Snyder decided that living through COVID-19 wasn’t scary enough and made it ten times more terrifying by adding cosmic horror into the mix. This novella follows three women trying to survive an apocalypse caused by a global pandemic. Perhaps Christopher Golden said it best when he blurbed this book as, “A hideously gory, kink-fueled, feminist cosmic horror apocalypse novel that should be on the top of everyone’s reading list.” If you’re a little more reserved, maybe you don’t want to read this on the train!

small-cover The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom is, at its core, a rebuttal to and a deconstruction of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Horror at Red Hook, a story widely regarded to be his most racist work. It flips the focus of the story to center on a struggling black musician who gets pulled unwittingly into an underbelly of cosmic weirdness and eldritch horror that, in some ways, pales in comparison to the racism he already experiences in his day-to-day life. It’s a beautiful and lyrical subversion that makes the “other” in Lovecraft’s story a protagonist with agency, heart, and, most importantly, a power so often missing in their depictions.

small-cover The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin

The City We Became is a beautifully written love letter to New York City. It takes place in a world where major cities have human avatars that make them sentient and we pick up as five new avatars take on the different aspects of New York’s five boroughs. Together, they team up to fight “The Enemy,” a cosmic horror creature that is often used to represent gentrification. The novel balances fun and wittiness with a poignant message.

small-cover The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker

Does anything really need to be said about The Hellbound Heart or Clive Barker at this point? I mean, who hasn’t seen Hellraiser? Blurring the lines between cosmic horror and the darker impulses of human sensation, The Hellbound Heart, drags readers to a place where the sights are so beautiful they’re grotesque, so pleasurable they hurt. While often considered more for its body horror aspects, Barker’s novella has no lack of cosmic terror threaded into its pages.

small-cover The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher

The Twisted Ones follows a woman, Mouse, as she cleans up her grandmother’s house and reads her step-grandfather’s journal where he recounts terrifying tales that seem to be the ramblings of a mad man. However, the more time Mouse spends at the house, the more her step-grandfather’s journal seems to be telling the truth. Allied with her lovable dog and her hippie neighbors, Mouse has to take on more than she bargained for in the woods behind the house. This book gave me toe-curling anxiety, the desire to pet a redbone coonhound and a terrifying rhyme that got stuck in my head.

small-cover Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

Scooby Doo, but make it cosmic horror. Meddling Kids captures the engaging mystery hunting vibe and comedic aspects of everyone's favorite crime solving teenagers, but blends in the true horror and lasting trauma that comes about with being thrust into dark situations at a young age – and facing down an eldritch horror in the process. If you want to combine nostalgia and an insatiable hunger for the existential, check it out!

As you can see, even just this small sampling is full of unique visions and new ideas. But there are so many more authors in the field you're probably missing out on. That's why Stephanie Pearre and I decided to create an anthology of stories exactly like these. If you like what's on this list, and want to make sure more cosmic horror from diverse creators is available to the reading public, please support the Kickstarter for Beyond the Bounds of Infinity.


About the Authors
Vaughn A. Jackson writes under the speculative fiction umbrella, often blending elements of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. He is an Affiliate Member of the Horror Writers' Association, and is the author of two novels: UP FROM THE DEEP and TOUCHED BY SHADOWS.

When he isn't writing, Vaughn is probably playing video games, watching bad (read: great) science fiction movies, or trying frantically to keep up the guise of being an adult. You can find Vaughn screaming into the void @Blaximillion on Twitter or posting photos of whatever tickles his fancy on Instagram @blaximillon_author.

Stephanie Pearre is the co-chair of the HWA Maryland Chapter and is an Affiliate Member of the Horror Writers Association. While she is currently working on her first novella, she also enjoys writing short stories and poetry. Her true passion lies in supporting independent authors and publishers, and hopes to become a consistent editor in the future. She lives with her fiancé, two adorable cats, and an equally adorable dog.

Horror DNA would like to thank Vaughn and Stephanie for this great list! Make sure you visit the Kickstarter page to pledge!

This page includes affiliate links where Horror DNA may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.


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