The best modern cosmic horror

The Books I Picked & Why

Hammers on Bone

By Cassandra Khaw

Hammers on Bone

Why this book?

Khaw, known for their genre-spanning sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, does a terrific job flipping the script on many older cosmic horror tropes in this cosmic horror noir novella. In crisp, graceful prose we watch as the unknowable monsters threatening our hero (and his client) turn out to be human, and the powerful forces assisting them are the more traditional horrors. I love it when cosmic horror is presented in a way that lets imagination do the work, and Khaw delivers here--leaving mysteries intact, and letting the reader scare themselves.


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The Ballad of Black Tom

By Victor LaValle

The Ballad of Black Tom

Why this book?

Older cosmic horror often contained misogyny, classism, ableism, and flat-out racism. The Ballad of Black Tom turns a spotlight right back onto that legacy, taking H.P. Lovecraft's story 'The Horror at Red Hook' and telling the story from the point of view of a Black man who resists getting pulled into a scheme involving evil magic and ancient gods. It does not flinch from the racism either of the story, or of the period in general, and in so doing, exposes the narrative flaws and the xenophobia of the source material. I found it a sharp, fresh presentation of a perfectly paced story.


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Can You Sign My Tentacle?: Poems

By Brandon O'Brien

Can You Sign My Tentacle?: Poems

Why this book?

This book of poems is a truly unexpected combination of current pop culture, social commentary, and cosmic horror--and a hugely enjoyable read. It deals with the themes of sacrifice, thoughtless loyalty, collusion, survival, colonialism, and the very idea of the monstrous. How do we know when the forces around us are asking too much of us? How can we trust what we will get in return? How do our personal histories inform how we will respond to the void when it comes knocking? A lively, thoughtful read.  


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Winter Tide

By Ruthanna Emrys

Winter Tide

Why this book?

I was honoured to panel with Emrys at a con a few years ago, where it was clear that she was a cosmic horror expert and had done reams more reading on its context, legacy, influences, and analysis than the rest of us. What she writes with all that scholarship, though, is deeply human, affecting, and emotional. In focusing on the persecuted people of Innsmouth, this book becomes a study of family and connection, and answers in a very different way the traditional cosmic horror questions of 'What is a monster?' and 'How do we decide what should be called monstrous?'  


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The Fisherman

By John Langan

The Fisherman

Why this book?

This book tells a small, human story of grief and loss, set in a cleverly nested series of reveals about the horror of the history of a particular area. What I loved most about this book was the grandness and scale of the eldritch creatures that the characters face (at different times, with different weapons, and with varied ideas of what on earth is going on)--this felt truly cosmic to me, a real look into the abyss. I also loved how the horrors were presented in the mind as well as the world, which constantly kept me on my toes.


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