10 Weird Fiction Books You Definitely Shouldn’t Miss from 2019

To Rouse Leviathan by Matt Cardin

This magnificent collection of weird fiction with a spiritual twist is certainly a must-read of the year. A compilation of many old, new, and reworked stories from Matt Cardin, To Rouse Leviathan dissolves just the right dose of theological and metaphysical speculation into the bleak medium of Ligottian pessimism. The result is an absolute gem for fans of Lovecraft, Ligotti, or weird fiction in general. This book is a particularly bright point 2019’s dazzling array of releases.

Grind Your Bones to Dust by Nicholas Day

Nicholas Day follows up last year’s novella, At the End of the Day I Burst into Flames, with a crushingly bleak debut novel, Grind Your Bones to Dust. Liberally spangled with moments of true, hair-raising horror, this is Day’s darkest and most accomplished work yet. Not many books can inspire genuine comparisons with harrowing masterpieces such as Blood Meridian and The Painted Bird–that these comparisons present themselves naturally throughout the span of Day’s blood soaked nightmare is a strong testimony to its greatness.

The Half Freaks by Nicole Cushing

The Half Freaks wields Nicole Cushing’s delicious brand of authorial metanarrative to tell a weird tale of hideous and downtrodden characters. Although the plot is relatively simple–a strange, sad man inhabits a strange, sad world and encounters much strangeness along the way–Cushing manages to brilliantly engage the reader with forays into her own authorial process in a way that feels neither intrusive nor unwelcome. This book gallantly displays Cushing’s ever-expanding talent, and should leave most readers with little doubt that she’s one of weird fiction’s most unique and important voices.

Whiskey and Other Unusual Ghosts by S. L. Edwards

Whiskey and Other Unusual Ghosts is S. L. Edwards’ debut collection, and it certainly packs quite a punch. Fans of T. E. Grau will find much to appreciate here, particularly if last year’s I Am The River awakened a hunger for war-themed weird fiction that has been difficult to satisfy. Dark, disturbing, yet deeply humane, Edwards’ collection will certainly leave an impression on readers that outlasts the year. You haven’t fully experienced weird fiction in 2019 without this one. See our full review of Whiskey here.

Wounds by Nathan Ballingrud

Somehow, Nathan Ballingrud has managed to put together a collection that many readers claim exceeds even 2013’s North American Lake Monsters. While I’m not prepared to make such a bold statement myself (I really, really liked North American Lake Monsters), Wounds is certainly a sight to behold. Ballingrud’s prose sparks here with vividly unsettling energy, climaxing in what could very well be the greatest story of the year, “The Visible Filth.” There’s not a single misstep in Wounds–it’s certainly destined to become a classic.

Song for the Unraveling of the World by Brian Evenson

Song for the Unraveling of the World manages to condense and amplify every element we’ve all grown to love in Brian Evenson’s work. Although it feels a little blasphemous to write it, Evenson’s latest collection is perhaps even better than 2016’s A Collapse of Horses. His stripped down prose is sharper than ever, and his penchant for subtly peeling away the frail sheaf of normality to expose the horrors beneath has grown masterful. Expect the places, people, and events that Evenson conjures here to haunt you well after you’ve finished reading.

Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer

If any reader still questions the success of weird fiction in 2019, Jeff VanderMeer’s Dead Astronauts makes a strong case against them. This divisive and challenging follow up to Borne is bold, forward thinking, and absolutely breathtaking. Here, VanderMeer sets out to immerse readers in a mind bending universe full of color–don’t expect simplistic narratives or clear answers to the many questions you will inevitably find yourself asking along the way. With a painstaking attention to detail, VanderMeer’s novel is truly unlike anything I’ve read before. It generously repays the effort it costs to read.

Pluto in Furs by Plutonian Press

Scott Dwyer has certainly managed to pull together an impressive array of talent with Plutonian Press’ latest anthology, Pluto in Furs. Named after the darkly erotic novel by Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch, this bold collection explores the intersection between horror and sex. Readers are treated to fourteen pieces of horror and weird fiction that center around the sexualized body, resulting in brilliant flashes of body horror, unsettlingly dark erotica, and a wide expanse of territory in between. Featuring writers like Gemma Files, David Peak, and Jeffrey Thomas, this is certainly among the best anthologies to be released this year.

Nox Pareidolia by Nightscape Press

Nightscape Press’ highly anticipated Nox Pareidolia is everything readers hoped it would be and more. Boasting yet another supercharged TOC full of names like Laird Barron, S.P. Miskowski, Brian Evenson, Gwendolyn Kiste, Micheal Wehunt, Kristi DeMeester, and more, Robert Wilson’s brilliant anthology gleefully inhabits the ambiguous spaces of weird fiction. There’s much between these pages to dwell on–many of the stories shine right along with the best of each author’s frequently impressive catalogue. Among anthologies released this year, Nox Pareidolia stands more than comfortably among the best.

The New Flesh by Weird Punk Books

No film director quite deserves a tribute anthology like David Cronenberg, and it’s truly amazing, in retrospect, that one took this long to resurface. Weird Punk Books succeeds brilliantly with this diverse accumulation of talent, boasting appearances from Brian Evenson, Cody Goodfellow, Gwendolyn Kiste, and many more. The stories presented here remain faithful to Cronenberg’s disturbing renderings of body horror without failing to add much in the way of unique voice. There aren’t many dull moments along the way–consider this essential if you admire Cronenberg’s wonderful work.


Kindle Kult: The Darkest of Dark Novels

This week, we’ve found some truly excellent Kindle deals on several novels frequently credited as “the darkest of all time” in lists across the Internet. While these are considered “literary” novels rather than “horror” or “weird fiction,” we can assure you the distinction is useless in this context–prepare yourself for some of the bleakest, most harrowing moments we’ve ever read. Fans of dark genre fiction will certainly find something to admire in these timeless classics. And don’t be fooled by the word “classics”–these books are not for the easily unsettled reader. 

Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird is just about as dark as it gets. This infamous novel transforms an Eastern European, post-WWII countryside into a sheer nightmare, complete with unspeakable violence, loneliness, and a scene where someone is eaten alive by rats. For $1.99, you really can’t miss this one.

Few depictions of alcoholism and existential suffering are more brutal than Malcolm Lowry’s highly celebrated Under the Volcano.  $1.99 is an absolute steal for this gargantuan beast, and it’s certainly not going to last. Beware: this novel will suffocate you in misery–try not to go into it if you’re not in a place to handle sincerely depressing subject matter.

Readers may not typically associate Graham Greene with brutally dark fiction, but it’s only because none of his books carry the same tone or thematic concerns. The Power and the Glory, a story of a dishonored priest fleeing for his life during the Catholic purge in Mexico at the beginning of the 20th century, is just about as darkly beautiful as fiction can get. A mere $1.99 is a small price to pay for the timeless experience of this novel. Fans of more politically-inclined weird fiction writers, such as T. E. Grau, Nadia Bulkin, and S. L. Edwards, will find much to appreciate here.

Hubert Selby Jr., the author of Last Exit to Brooklyn, The Room, and Requiem for a Dream, is an uncontested master of the dark, depressing, and utterly bleak literary novel. While The Willow Tree doesn’t quite reach the heights of the above-mentioned works, for $2.99, it’s well worth a spin.

Fernando Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet is far more introspective and philosophical than the novels included in this list so far. Nevertheless, it may be the most profoundly depressing and lonely book here as well. This one, if you ask me, is an absolute must-have. For an astounding $2.99, this beautiful new translation and complete edition is a worthy purchase for any thinking reader ready to delve into a profound and dreamy celebration of failure.

Aldous Huxley’s The Devils of Loundun is different kind of beast–it’s a true account of a witch craze in a convent that brings to mind the earlier roots of gothic fiction. It’s not exactly literary, but it’s dark, horrifying, and it inspired Ken Russell’s infamous film of the same name. It’s also a mere $1.99. Snag it while you can!

*All Kindle deals have nothing whatsoever to do with Silent Motorist Media. We are merely pointing them out to you, and we encourage you to verify the price before purchasing. None of these prices are guaranteed to last!


Kindle Kult: Folk Horror Edition

Adam Nevill, in case you don’t already know, is the author of The Ritual–yes, the book behind the excellent folk horror film. Given that alone, there’s no reason to pass up The Reddening at a slick $4.99 on Kindle!

While we’re talking high-quality folk horror, we’d be remiss to neglect this excellent little anthology for $3.99. “The Fiends in the Furrows, takes the bustling in the hedgerows and turns them into your darkest nightmares…this is an anthology that will stir up those primal fears that are ingrained in all of us.” –Jim Mcleod, GingerNutsofHorror.com, JIM MCLEOD’S TOP HORROR BOOKS OF 2018

And while we’re talking anthologies, this gem from Aphotic Realm is a steal at $2.99. Everyone knows nothing’s scarier than horror in the mountains… I know I can’t wait to give Appalachian Horror a read.

Lovecraftian horror tends to touch shoulders with the folk horror universe, so I don’t feel like Jeffrey Thomas’ short collection of Lovecraftian tales, The Coming of the Old Onesis too out of place here. At $0.99, it’s not like I could miss out on sharing this with you anyway.

And speaking of Lovecraft, here’s a sale that’s guaranteed not to last. Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Countrya highly-celebrated blend of eldritch dread and the true horrors of racism, is currently going for $1.99. Get it while you can!

*All Kindle deals have nothing whatsoever to do with Silent Motorist Media. We are merely pointing them out to you, and we encourage you to verify the price before purchasing. None of these prices are garunteed to last! 


Arthur Machen’s Cat, or Some Thoughts on Pre-Lovecraftian Weird Fiction by Alistair Rey

A few years ago, I considered writing a short article entitled “Arthur Machen’s Cat.” I was not exactly certain of the subject the article would treat at the time. Nor was I even certain whether Arthur Machen ever in fact owned a cat (I assume he did). I am ashamed to say that as I sat down to write, I realized I did not know much about Arthur Machen aside from his literary works and various references scattered throughout essays on horror and weird fiction. I had a title I liked and nothing more. Needless to say, the article was never written.

Yet in sitting down to compose the piece, I did take the time to acquaint myself with the more recondite details of Machen’s life and career. While often considered one of the founders of horror, Machen was a versatile writer. If he is known for his works treating themes concerned with mysticism and the occult, he also turned out pieces of decadent fiction, numerous newspaper editorials, and even contributed propaganda to assist the British effort during the First World War. He was a regular among the Fleet Street journalists in London during the early 1900s and produced two volumes of an autobiography which remain among some of his finest publications. His reputation as an overlooked or “lost” writer during his lifetime—a mainstay of the Machen lore to this day—often obscures the fact that Machen was a well-respected cultural figure in his own period. The more I examined Machen, the less he seemed the unappreciated spinner of weird tales that critics tend to idealize. In fact, his extensive body of work did not appear to be a corpus heralding a new genre at all. Certainly, seminal works like “The Great God Pan,” or “The White People” fit this description, but as for other works it was difficult to peg Machen as an originator of “weird” tales as they are understood today. Where did this attribution come from? How had it come to be that Machen, a Welsh writer and actor who dabbled in numerous genres, was considered one of the forefathers of modern horror and the weird?

Although Machen was known for writing decadent horror or “shilling shockers” in the late Victorian period, this output was not what secured his reputation as a forerunner of weird fiction, a genre which hardly existed in his day. As with most aspects of weird fiction, it is necessary to turn to H. P. Lovecraft to understand Machen’s place in the pantheon. In his famous essay Supernatural Horror in Literature written between 1925 and 1927, Lovecraft acknowledged Machen as an author whose works embodied a “cosmic fear raised to its most artistic pitch . . . [in which] hidden horror and brooding fright attain an almost incomparable substance and realistic acuteness.” As Lovecraft firmly argued, Machen’s style of cosmic horror and mysticism marked “a distinct epoch in the history of this literary form.” This was a strong endorsement that cemented Machen’s place in a lineage chronicling the origins of modern horror and, ultimately, the brand of “weird” fiction that Lovecraft would promote in the years ahead.

The question of whether such accolades are merited or not is a moot point. More important is the fact that Lovecraft was providing weird fiction with what might amount to a canon and a history. He was, at base, constructing a genealogy through which his conception of supernatural horror could be made intelligible in light of his own influences. In Supernatural Horror in Literature, Lovecraft even offered a set of principles and criteria by which to identify weird fiction, setting it apart from cruder and more vulgar genres such as mere “horror.” As Lovecraft saw it, weird fiction did not “conform absolutely to any theoretical model.” Rather, weird fiction possessed “atmospheric touches” that affected readers. “We must judge a weird tale not by the author’s intent, or by the mere mechanics of the plot, but by the emotional level which it attains at its least mundane point,” he urged. “If the proper sensations are excited, such a ‘high spot’ must be admitted on its own merits as weird literature.” Simply put, Lovecraft saw weird fiction as an aesthetic rather than a genre. Weird elements can be found in works, but “weird” fiction is not guided by narrative conventions or particular literary structures. It is a mood or a sentiment. Whereas horror is concerned with the grotesque or arousing fear in the reader, weird fiction resides in the disturbing and the problematic nature of representations. To paraphrase Xavier Aldana Reyes, weird fiction emphasizes the limited knowledge of the natural world that we inhabit, a realization that is both frightening and awe-inspiring.


It is precisely this element that allows for the “cosmic” horror noted by Lovecraft. It is found in key works such as William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland (1908) or Algernon Blackwood’s classic “The Willows” (1907). Both works play upon a certain supernatural dread which looms over the characters, but which is never fully explained or made manifest by the conclusion. In “The Willows,” it is the impenetrability of the natural world that persistently reinforces the aesthetic of the weird. The menacing willows which haunt the two characters throughout the story signify the “keen sense of the horrible” that ultimately comes with unknowing. In Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland, the narrator not only faces grotesque creatures from the “The Plain of Silence” but also experiences an accelerated state of time as he watches the universe slowly extinguish and die around him. The sense of “cosmic” horror here is complete, whether in the sublime experience of gazing upon an obliterated cosmos or in the unsettling feeling which Blackwood evokes in a threatening natural world that is ultimately beyond our comprehension.

For all their originality, however, neither Hodgson nor Blackwood worked in a vacuum. They employed certain standard motifs such as characters lost in the wild or foreboding houses with troubling histories that were common to gothic horror written a century earlier. And yet, one would be hard pressed to label either of these writers as practitioners of gothic horror. From Horace Walpole to Edgard Allan Poe, the so-called “gothic romance” rested upon a sense of finite human history that frequently looked back to the Middle Ages. Old, decaying family lines and medieval castles frame settings that, if calling up a remote past, are still recognizable. Moreover, if gothic stories fed on the uncanny and grotesque, they often explained away seemingly supernatural events, providing readers with a sense of resolution. One need only consider Poe’s “Murders in the Rue Morgue” in which a bizarre series of murders are revealed to be the doings of an escaped orangutan to grasp this explanatory tendency. Therefore, while the gothic tradition delved into concepts of psychological fear and elicited fright in its readers, it clearly stands apart from the type of “cosmic” horror Lovecraft attributed to weird fiction.

As recent scholars have noted, weird fiction utilizes a completely different chronological spectrum compared to its gothic predecessor. Coming of age in a period in which disciplines such as anthropology and geology were gaining primacy, weird tales often evoke the “deep time” that extends beyond the Anthropocene. It conjures up old, primeval horrors or distant future horizons that dwarf human conceptions of time and existence. We are in the realm of the “elder gods,” old lore, or the ancient civilization of Machen’s “Little People.” The extended sense of time that pervades weird fiction is what generates the sense of awe and unknowing central to so many works. It stretches the natural world across eons, showing it to be something apart from man with its own history, logic, and even destiny. To recognize deep cosmic time is to appreciate nature’s impenetrability, its utter vastness and inhumanity. Weird fiction grew up among a world that was increasingly seen in secular and scientific terms, and it often reflected such outlooks in its use of scientific motifs such as antediluvian monsters, conceptions of the cosmos, or an acute attention to nature. However, it also infused these elements with mystical and arcane meaning, shrouding them in an aura that is both horrifying and sublime.

In his autobiography Far Off Things (1922), Machen described the influence he believed the Welsh countryside which he grew up in had upon his fiction writing. “I shall always esteem it as the greatest piece of fortune that has fallen to me that I was born in that noble, fallen Caerleon-on-Usk, in the heart of Gwent …” he claimed. “Anything which I may have accomplished in literature is due to the fact that when my eyes were first opened in earliest childhood they had before them the vision of an enchanted land.” This “enchanted land” would play a role in many of Machen’s works, but it also expresses a broader goal of weird fiction: embedding mystical experience in the modern scientific world. This premise would, ultimately, provide the substance for later authors like Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Aickman and Ramsey Campbell, to name a few. It underscores the very idea of the “cosmic fear” theorized by Lovecraft.

In noting these various conceptual threads and thematic convergences that cut across authors such as Machen, Hodgson and Blackwood, we may ask whether we can speak of pre-Lovecraftian “weird fiction”? This question poses numerous problems. Lovecraft popularized the term “weird fiction” but he also provided it with a history as well as an aesthetic to a greater extent than others before him. In doing so, he constructed a genealogy that drew together the various parts and synthesized them into a veritable tradition. Did Lovecraft invent an aesthetic and retrospectively imprinted it upon his predecessors in order to validate his conception of “weird” fiction? Or, conversely, did he act as an objective critic, discovering and identifying these qualities already evident within the works themselves? This question is not so much theoretical as it is a matter of perspective. Nevertheless, it is not one that we need puzzle over here. Other nagging questions may demand our attention at present. I have yet to see a picture of Arthur Machen with a cat. It makes me wonder.

–Alistair Rey
Further Reading

Noël Carroll, The Philosophy of Horror, or Paradoxes of the Heart. New York: Routledge, 1990.

Mark Fisher, The Weird and The Eerie. London: Repeater Books, 2016.

Matthew Hills, The Pleasures of Horror. London: Continuum Press, 2005.

James Machin, Weird Fiction in Britain, 1880-1939. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.

Alistair Rey, “A Horror So Sublime: From Poe to The Elephant Man,” Transmundane Press (25 July 2018).

Aaron Worth, “The Horror of Geologic Time,” The Paris Review (31 October 2008).

Alistair Rey began his career in Romania writing political propaganda for post-authoritarian governments. He has since advertised himself as an author of “fiction and parafiction,” an archivist, a political satirist and a dealer in rare books and manuscripts. His work has appeared in the Berkeley Fiction Review, Juked magazine and Weird Book, among other publications. A complete list of works and stories is available at the Parenthetical Review website (parentheticalreview.com).


Introducing: Kindle Kult

Dear Readers,

As you may have noticed, our beloved Kindle Crack segment, in which we give you a heads up on Kindle eBook sales of weird, bizarro, horror, and other forms of dark fiction, has been defunct for quite a while.

Truth is, we’re hardly ready to give up on it entirely, even if the previous format was imperfect. That’s why were bringing you Kindle Kult! This is essentially BookBub for the above-mentioned forms of genre fiction. We’re fixing the layout, including linked cover images that work with more browsers than before, and we’re sticking to a bi-weekly schedule (Saturdays for the main post, and Wednesdays for the “deal of the week”) What’s even better is that we’re hoping to give you an option to subscribe to a mailing list; that way, you’ll never miss a weird fiction Kindle deal again, and you won’t have to closely watch our site or Twitter accounts to keep up.

Dear Authors and Publishers, 

I’ll be honest with you: as a broke author, I spend an inordinate amount of time researching Kindle deals in the genres I love. I’m simply trying to share the fruits of my endless efforts here. Kindle Kult was never intended to make a buck, but running this site and publishing exciting anthologies such as Mannequin: Tales of Wood Made Flesh and the upcoming Nightside Codex is expensive. Of course, it will remain absolutely free to subscribe to the list. We are, however, giving authors and publishers a chance to feature their Kindle sales on Kindle Kult. Interested parties should feel encouraged, starting now, to send a brief description of their book, discount date, and link to the eBook sale to KindleKult@gmail.com.  Approved applicants will be charged a $10.00 fee, and we do the rest.

All of our Kindle Kult posts, just like before, will be featured on our Facebook, Twitter, and various relevant subreddits. With the addition of our mailing list, we hope that we will reach even more readers than Kindle Crack ever did. Let’s make it happen!

Justin A. Burnett