It’s that time again, and we’ve never needed saving like we have in 2020. Thankfully, these authors provided us with some exceptional work. It may not solve all the world’s problems, but we firmly believe that burdens grow a little lighter with the weight of a good weird book in hand.
The writers listed below were nominated by readers and voted on by a group of writers and editors intimately familiar with the landscape of new weird, dark, and bizarre fiction.
As always, this list is intended to celebrate these dedicated writers. In the world of books, celebration is empty if it doesn’t end in support from readers. If it takes one thing to keep small presses and independent authors alive, it’s you. All we ask is that you do what you love: read. Follow the links, pick up a book, and dive into the strange and unsettling worlds of the writers listed below. Each new reader is encouragement to these writers to keep writing. And that’s what we want more than anything. We want these weird and wonderful writers to keep writing.
A heartfelt thanks goes out to those who supported a writer with a nomination, vote, or word of kindness. Above all, we thank the writers listed below for their tireless work.
The order of appearance below is random and does not indicate any preference
See our previous lists: 2018 2019
One trend we noted in this year’s nominations was a demand for V. Castro. Violet is a Mexican American writer (formerly a fellow Texan) fighting to increase representation of her culture in genre fiction from her new home base in London. She took the fiction world by storm in 2020, delighting readers with the release of the novels Hairspray and Switchblades, Sed de Sangre, in addition to an impressive batch of eight short stories. These include appearances in Worst Laid Plans, the first anthology out of Grindhouse Press, and Lockdown: Stories of Crime, Terror and Hope During a Pandemic from Polis Books.
As a great granddaughter of Mexican migrant workers, Violet often explores the theme of farm work and the role brown women play in society. All her main characters are Chicana or Latinx. In addition to Hairspray and Sed de Sangre, Violet’s releases include Maria the Wanted, 2018’s wild and unique vampire story. This winter Violet and Burial Day Books will release Latinx Screams, an anthology of horror and weird fiction from the Latinx community. Also forthcoming is Goddess of Filth, to be released in March of 2021, and The Queen of the Cicadas set to drop in June of 2021. Violet is the co-founder with Sonora Taylor of www.frightgirlsummer.com. This is a website dedicated to amplifying female voices in dark fiction. You find out more about her books at www.vvcastro.com
Scott R Jones is another writer who managed to thrive in 2020, releasing two stunning books: Stonefish, an apocalyptic-cyber-cryptid-novel (yes, it’s as strange as it sounds) and his celebrated short fiction collection, Shout Kill Revel Repeat. You may know him as the editor of RESONATOR: New Lovecraftian Tales From Beyond, Cthulhusattva: Tales of the Black Gnosis, A Breath from the Sky: Unusual Stories of Possession and Chthonic: Weird Tales of Inner Earth, all from Martian Migraine Press. If you’re still unfamiliar with his fiction, we strongly encourage you to remedy that! Ramsey Campbell himself has called Jones “a genuine master of horror.“
Scott is an editor and naturalized sorcerer living in Victoria, BC, Canada with his wife and two frighteningly intelligent spawn. His fiction and poetry have been published in Innsmouth Magazine, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Pseudopod, Lackington’s, and others, as well as a few anthologies and podcasts. We also implore you to check out his “self-help book for the weird fiction crowd”, When The Stars Are Right: Towards An Authentic R’lyehian Spirituality, which continues to enlighten/upset/derange hardcore Lovecraftians. He has yet to issue a public apology. Jones was once kicked out of England for some very good reasons. You can visit his website at http://scottrjoneswriter.com.
Fiona Maeve Geist has been stirring up some serious admiration from readers for quite some time now. Her work has appeared in varied venues including CLASH Media, Vastarien, Ashes and Entropy, Lovecraftian Proceedings, Lamplight, and The New Flesh: A Literary Tribute to David Cronenberg. Geist remains one of those authors we are always excited to see on a TOC. Check out her work; it doesn’t take long to become enamored with her vicious, thoughtful brand of horror.
Geist resides in WXXT country with her cat. She has written fiction and nonfiction which has appeared in varied venues She is primarily known for being a relentless editor and occasional writer of pen and paper roleplaying games. Her role as developer and writer for the ENnie Award winning Mothership: Sci-Fi Horror RPG is particularly notable. In a previous life she was an academic. She is currently predominately working as a purchaser for Exalted Funeral and editing RPGs but will hopefully write fiction again soon.
Readers have been clamoring to induct Brendan Vidito into the “Ten Weird Writers” hall of fame since last year, and it’s telling that the demand hasn’t flagged a bit. Vidito is the author of the Wonderland Award-winning collection, Nightmares in Ecstasy (Clash Books, 2018), featuring thirteen harrowing tales of body horror that delightfully blur the line between eroticism and terror, desire and death. His work has appeared in several anthologies and magazines, including Dark Moon Digest, Splatterpunk Zine, Tragedy Queens: Stories Inspired by Lana Del Rey and Sylvia Plath, and Pluto in Furs.
Vidito is also known for co-editing the Splatterpunk Award-nominated anthology, The New Flesh: A Literary Tribute to David Cronenberg (Weirdpunk Books, 2019) with Sam Richard. He lives in Sudbury, Ontario, and is hard at work on his next project, The Inoculated, a novella coming out in 2021 from Clash Books. You can visit him at brendanvidito.com, or follow him on social media.
Zin E. Rocklyn is another author who amassed a surge of more-than-deserved nominations, and it’s easy to see why. Their story “Summer Skin” in the Bram Stoker-nominated anthology Sycorax’s Daughters received an honorable mention in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year, Volume Ten. We say this with sincere conviction: go read their work if you haven’t yet.
Zin is a contributor to the Bram Stoker-nominated and This is Horror Award-winning Nox Pareidolia from Nightscape Press, in addition to the anthologies Kaiju Rising II: Reign of Monsters, Brigands: A Blackguards Anthology, and Forever Vacancy. Their work has also appeared in the Weird Luck Tales No. 7 zine. Zin contributed the nonfiction essay “My Genre Makes a Monster of Me” to Uncanny Magazine’s Hugo Award-winning Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction. Their short story “The Night Sun” and flash fiction “teatime” were published on Tor.com. Their debut novella will be published by Tor.com in Fall 2021. Zin is a 2017 VONA and 2018 Viable Paradise graduate as well as a 2021 Clarion West candidate.
Gordon B. White’s 2020 collection, As Summer’s Mask Slips and Other Disruptions (from Trepidatio Publishing) has caused quite a stir this year. He’s been called “one of the major new voices of speculative fiction” by Gwendolyn Kiste, and we suspect more than a few of his contemporaries are inclined to agree. His story “Birds of Passage” appeared in Ellen Datlow’s The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Twelve. Recommendations don’t come much stronger than that.
Gordon’s lived in North Carolina, New York, and the Pacific Northwest. A graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop, Gordon’s stories have appeared in dozens of venues, including the Bram Stoker Award winning anthology Borderlands 6. He regularly contributes reviews and interviews to outlets including Nightmare, Lightspeed, and The Outer Dark podcast. You can find him online at www.gordonbwhite.com.
Sara Tantlinger is the celebrated author of the Bram Stoker Award-winning The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes, and the Stoker-nominated novella To Be Devoured. The sheer volume of nominations made her inclusion in this list nearly inevitable. Readers unhesitatingly advocated her as a “vital voice in horror and weird fiction” (quoted from a nomination), a claim that we’re proud to second. We implore you to familiarize yourself with an author who is clearly destined to loom ever more prominently in the world of weird writers.
Her other works include Love For Slaughter, The Devil’s City written with Matt Corley, and Cradleland of Parasites. In addition, Tantlinger is known for editing the anthology Not All Monsters. Along with being a mentor for the HWA Mentorship Program, she is also a co-organizer for the HWA Pittsburgh Chapter. She embraces all things macabre and can be found lurking in graveyards or on social media and at www.saratantlinger.com.
There’s something particularly exciting about a writer who generates a dedicated readership from anthology appearances alone. Such is the case with LC von Hessen. Readers and editors alike implored us to celebrate von Hessen’s work in Nox Pareidolia, Nightscript 6, Pickman’s Gallery, Oculus Sinister, and Machinations & Mesmerism: Tales Inspired by ETA Hoffmann, along with a few self-published releases including two chapbooks and four issues of sex-and-death zine Mass Culture. We’re more than happy to comply. They also have stories forthcoming in Vastarien, Would But Time Await: An Anthology of New England Folk Horror, and The Bleeding Rainbow: A Spectrum of Weird Fiction. Their literary influences are as diverse as old-school Gothic and weird fiction, ’80s and ’90s body horror, Decadent and Symbolist purple prose, and absurdist and “transgressive” literature.
Von Hessen grew up quite unhappily in the Midwestern suburbs. They later had the misfortune of graduating into a major recession with minimal prior job experience and a Bachelor of Fine Arts. In addition to writing fiction, von Hessen has also been an interdisciplinary artist, noise musician/performer (as Madame Deficit and a guest member of Smell & Quim), occasional actor (most notably playing a psych ward inmate dancing the Cha Cha Slide on Orange is the New Black), film critic, and Morbid Anatomy Museum docent. They share an apartment in Brooklyn full of books and curios with a talkative orange cat named Monty. All of their fiction currently in print is available here. They can also be found on various social media platforms.
Hailey Piper’s nominations were liberally peppered with descriptions like “amazing,” “fascinating,” and “terrifying”—you know, all the right stuff. She is the author of 2020’s Benny Rose, the Cannibal King from Unnerving Books, and 2018’s The Possession of Natalie Glasgow. We can’t help noting that Gwendolyn Kiste says to “keep an eye on Hailey’s work; she is seriously going places.” We absolutely will, and in that spirit, we urge you to join us in preordering her upcoming cosmic horror novella, The Worm and His Kings, which releases from Off Limits Press on November 15, 2020. We have to admit, we’re happily anticipating this one!
Hailey is a member of the Horror Writers Association, and her short fiction appears in Daily Science Fiction, Flash Fiction Online, The Arcanist, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror, Volume 5, and elsewhere. She lives with her wife in Maryland, where they spend weekends raising the dead. Find her at www.haileypiper.com. Her first short story collection, Unfortunate Elements of My Anatomy, releases from The Seventh Terrace in spring 2021.
2020’s A Season of Loathsome Miracles is Max D. Stanton’s debut collection and it already has readers in a frenzy. You know as well as we do that this is a feat generally reserved for the greats of the genre. Speaking of the greats, Jon Padgett calls it “a marvel from every literary angle.” We can certainly affirm that it’s more than worthy of any horror fan’s attention.
Max is a librarian, academic, and Dungeons & Dragons nerd who lives in West Philadelphia with his wonderful girlfriend and their two savage, unruly hounds. Max embarked on writing after an encounter with the Devil. His work has appeared in publications including Vastarien, Corporate Cthulhu, We Shall Be Monsters, and the The New Flesh: A Literary Tribute to David Cronenberg. He has a forthcoming story in Nightmares in Yellow: A Tribute to Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.
Twitter: @max d stanton