Last week, the nominees for the 2019 Shirley Jackson Awards were announced in Boston, and we are over the moon to add so many sensational titles to our “To Be Read” lists!
As we’ve noted here in the past, the Shirley Jackson Awards were established in 2007, and named after the beloved and revered author of such seminal works as “The Lottery” (among a phenomenal collection of short stories), We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and The Haunting of Hill House. In recognition of the legacy of Shirley Jackson’s writing, and with permission of the author’s estate, the Shirley Jackson Awards recognize outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic. The final winners are determined by a jury of professional writers, editors, critics and academics, with input from a Board of Advisors, who are charged with selecting the best work published in the preceding calendar year in the following categories: Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Single-Author Collection and Edited Anthology. The final announcement of the winners will be made at Readercon, right nearby in Burlington, MA! You can click on this link here for more information on Readercon itself.
So here is a selection from the categories of winners and nominees for the 2019 Shirley Jackson Awards, with links to the titles in our catalogs. We hope you find some new books to add to your list here, and would love to help you find even more dark fiction to add to your summer reading!
Be sure to check out the Shirley Jackson Awards website for a full list of nominees and more information about the awards! And, as ever, a hearty Free-For-All congratulations to all the nominated authors. We can’t wait to see who is crowned the winner at Readercon in July!
Love all things horror? Looking for a good story to scare your pants off? We’ve got our top 5 picked out for you right here!
The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich A chilling mix of the paranormal and a psychological thriller! You will follow the diaries of Carly Johnson and her alter Kaitlyn Johnson as well as re-opened police records, psychiatric reports, and transcripts of video footage to find out what really happened in the Elmbridge High fire. Who was Kaitlyn and why did she only appear at night? Did she really exist or was she a figment of a disturbed mind? What were the illicit rituals taking place at the school? And just what did happen at Elmbridge in the events leading up to ‘the Johnson Incident’?
Diary of a Haunting by M. Verano Similar to The Dead House this story is told in diary entries, letters, and photographs that the main character Paige left behind. Paige has moved into a particularly spooky house after her parents divorce and starts to notice that strange happenings are going on during the night. Things only get creepier when she learns about the sinister cult that conducted experimental rituals in the house almost a hundred years earlier. The more Paige investigates, and the deeper she digs, the clearer it all becomes: whatever is in the house, whatever is causing all the strange occurrences, has no intention of backing down without a fight.
The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude Rowan’s Glen is a remote farming community in the Missouri Ozarks with only three rules: Stay on the roads. Don’t enter the woods. Never go out at night. Ivy Templeton knows that it’s old superstition and that kids at school think them weird, but she doesn’t care, she has her best friend Heather by her side.When Heather goes missing after a May Day celebration, Ivy discovers that both her best friend and her beloved hometown are as full of secrets as the woods that surround them.
There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins Makani Young thought she’d left her dark past behind her in Hawaii, settling in with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska. She’s found new friends and has even started to fall for mysterious outsider Ollie Larsson. But her past isn’t far behind. Then, one by one, the students of Osborne Hugh begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasingly grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and her feelings for Ollie intensify, Makani is forced to confront her own dark secrets. A new take on the age-old “call is coming from inside the house” trope!
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting – he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. A haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined!
For those of you still having feelings about Superbowl LII…we see you, and we support you. For those of you good readers who watched the Superbowl for the commercials, it was a pretty decent showing, all in all. Particularly those Tide ads, that played heavily on genres, tropes, and gimmicks within familiar commercials.
But for fans of the series, there was no ad quite like the trailer for the upcoming season of Westworld, which debuts on April 22. You can catch that trailer below if you missed it:
For those who aren’t familiar with the show, Westworldis a science-fiction western thriller airing on HBO. The television show was inspired by a 1973 film of the same name that was written and directed by Michael Crichton, and stars Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin, James Brolin. The story takes place in the fictional Westworld, a technologically advanced Wild West-themed amusement park populated by android (robotic) hosts. Westworld caters to high-paying guests, who come to experience life in the frontier town of Sweetwater, and interact with the robotic “hosts”, whose advanced programming allows them to follow a pre-defined set of intertwining narratives, and to deviate from these narratives as visitors interact with them. The hosts repeat these narratives anew each day, having their memories wiped of the previous day, until they are re-purposed or put away in storage. For the visitors’ safety, hosts are unable to harm any other living life forms, allowing visitors nearly unlimited freedom to engage in whatever activities they want without retribution. A staff oversees the park, develops new narratives, and performs repairs on hosts as necessary. The series begins when a routine update in the hosts’ programming causes unusual deviations in their behavior that allows some of the hosts to understand the truth about themselves and their world…
Though there was some behind-the-scenes drama that postponed the premier of the show from 2015 to 2016, the finished product has been, according to nearly everyone, sensational. The debut of the series garnered one the HBO’s highest viewership ratings and remains one of the most-watched series on HBO (which, given some HBO series’ devoted followings, is saying quite a lot). And there are plenty of reasons why it’s continued to be such a talked-about and intriguing show. First off, the sets, costumes, and scenic details are sensational (hats off to costume director Ane Crabtree, whose historic research paid dividends). But beneath the stunning veneers, the story of the show itself is a deeply unsettling, curiously arresting consideration of what it means to be human, and what lengths humans are actually capable of going in order to feed their appetites, and what consciousness really means. As The USA Todaywrote, “The reward, beyond the visual splendors you’ve come to expect from big-budget HBO productions, is a set of characters who grow ever more complex.” Mary McNamara of Los Angeles Times wrote that Westworld “…isn’t just great television, it’s vivid, thought-provoking television that entertains even as it examines the darker side of entertainment.”
So, for those of you looking for a new binge-watching treat, Westworld might very well be the series for which your searching, especially as one series isn’t, comparatively speaking, a huge amount to watch before the Season Two premier on April 22. But for those of you who are already long-time visitors to Westworld, fear not! We have a wealth of suggestions to keep your imagination spinning and your gears gyrating until the next episode airs! Check out some of our top picks below:
Silver on the Road:Readers who are taken with scenes of the ‘Wild West’ in Westworld, and intrigued by the idea of women finding their identity while traversing it, look no further than Laura Anne Gilman’s sensational Devil’s West series. The series is set in a fantasy west, ruled by The Boss…some might call him the Devil…and full of spirits, stories, and other things too terrible to name. On her sixteenth birthday, Isobel decides that her true calling is in working for The Boss. In turn, she is made his Left Hand–but what that title truly means is a mystery. Rather than explain, The Boss places Isobel in the company of a man named Gabriel, and sent to explore the territory that is now hers. The story that unfolds is a gently-paced, deeply emotional, and utterly vivid one, that will have you trying to brush the dust from your coattails after every scene. Isobel’s comradeship with Gabriel is fascinating, unexpected, and stunningly equitable, the lessons she learns about herself and her role along the road are unforgettable, and the best part is that this is just the first book of an outstanding series. So anyone looking for a Wild West that is just as weird as Westworld, but with a lot more occult and feminism thrown in, look no farther that this book.
Karen Memory: Elizabeth Bear takes inspiration from the very real Seattle Underground to create a story about airships, gold miners…and, most importantly, Karen, and her fellow “soiled doves” working at Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. When a badly injured young woman arrives on their doorstep, pursued by the man who holds her indenture, Karen realizes that trouble has fixed its eye on Madame Damnable’s. But when a body is soon left on their rubbish heap, all hell seems near to breaking loose around them. While the steampunk genre deals less with robots than automatons (the distinction can be found in the power keeping the machines working and, often, the level of autonomy and consciousness afforded to them), there is a lot of the same high-tech, Wild West skull-duggery going on in this sensational story as in Westworld. Best of all, once again, we get a feminist perspective on violence, history, and tech, that is heartily welcome.
Utopia: Lincoln Child has terrific fun with the tech-thriller genre, and this book, set in a futuristic theme park, deals with many of the same themes as Westworld, including huge conspiracies, techno-wizards and techno-pocalyspes, and elaborate sabotage schemes going on behind the idyllic scene. Utopia is a technologically advanced, family-friendly theme park off the Las Vegas strip. Not only do people flock there for a day of fun, they come to see the system known as the Metanet, a highly secretive and enormously ingenious robotics system designed by Dr. Andrew Warne–a system that essentially runs the park on its own. But when Andrew is brought in to consult on the possible expansion of the park, he soon uncovers evidence of tampering with the system–from the inside. His worst fears are realized when one of the rides is sabotaged–and park officials are unable to turn off the rest of the park due to threats of further violence. Full of fancy techno-details that will appeal to those who love programming potential in Westworld, and told in a thrill-a-minute, breakneck pace, this story is sure to feed your need for danger until Westworld surges back onto the screen.
FantasticLand: This one is a bit of an outlier, but for those of you drawn to the premise of an amusement park from hell, look no further than Mick Bockoven’s vivid, violent novel about an abandoned theme park–and the people who were abandoned inside it. When the (fictional) Hurricane Sadie threatened Florida with inevitable destruction, the decision was made to evacuate visitors from FantasticLand, but to leave park staff behind with some supplies in order to hold down the fort, so to speak. But when help finally arrives five week later, they find gruesome and visceral evidence (literally) that something went terribly wrong at FantasticLand. This book is presented as a dossier of testimony from survivors about what precisely happened during those weeks, when the staff broke into tribes–complete with names and mottoes–and began hunting each other. There are a number of echoes of Lord of the Flies in this book, and though there is a lot of Milennial-bashing in Bockoven’s work, this is just the thing for a reader whose looking for another dystopian theme park full of menace to tide them over until Westworld‘s gates re-open.
"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." ~Frederick Douglass