Contemporary horrorists

On eldritch terrors from beyond and their Twitter accounts

A girl and her plushie by Bart

Staring into the abyss is an addictive past time. I do enjoy a bit of political-satire inflected horrorism myself.

Sidebar: The contemporary phenomenon of political horror writers is also independently interesting; Some of the conservative writers have a red-pill tint, in the sense of reading horror as seeing-of-painful-truths that the snowflakes can’t handle, or something? And the painful truth is that the horror is other people? Maybe black people, if you believe you are talking to white people? A couple of other writers on this list are probably similar, your quasi-biological class determinist Houellebecq and your Deep-State-is-Cthulhu-Actually Zero HP Lovecraft, are probably situated at various waypoints along the path to dark enlightenment and indeed the dark enlightenment progenitor Nick Land a.k.a. The Whiteness Out Of Space, is also a horror writer himself.

Anyway, there are politically diverse abysses to gaze into here. Gaze on. There is also a goodreads list.

Peter Watts

Everything this former marine biologist touches turns into posthuman ooze. Gritty depictions of a future in which humans are cockroaches to the diverse and uncaring biome that has arisen from them and which eradicates them in incomprehensible ways. Recommended: The Firefall series, in which the diverse superior post-humans that rule the future rarely stop to explain their fears to humans about the even more superior aliens that pop by.

Charlie Stross

In Laundry Files, a series gradually sliding from public-service/dotcom office snark into dark tech Sleeper-in-the-Pyramid weirdness. The density of the puns is decreasing as their magnitude increases throughout the series.

Heide Goody and Iain Grant

The Odd Jobs series is Birmingham comedy civil service horror. The monsters from beyond have a flavour of Brexit-climate-change-with-tentacles. I find it satisfying and cathartic and relatable in a prim medium-density-urban kind of way. The upwardly-mobile god monsters send their kids to private schools and worry about landscaping in between sucking out souls.

Zero H.P. Lovecraft

This guy (?) can turn an arresting phrase and a horrific image, in e.g., God-Shaped Hole, a tale of an augmented reality future in which our wistfully unsocialised protagonist and his PUA AI dating assistant encounter the spammy post-human dark sex gods arisen from Generative Amorous Networks, which is an excellent logic bomb / cheezy pun of doom.

Aside: I think this guy leans neoreactionary based on his tweets, which makes me wonder vaguely if I have missed some of the layers of horror a conservative would experience in his stuff. Maybe there would be still more if I was terrorised as well as titillated by his hot queer robot sex motifs. 🤷‍♂ There is still enough macabre to go around and some nifty social media future extrapolation.

Michel Houellebecq

He wrote a biography of H.P. Lovecraft and Atomised is indeed full of a certain type of biological horror so I’ll count him. His later books seem to be more things-that-scare-baby-boomers kind of horror, (“booror”) which has not grabbed me so much, but Atomised stuck.

Jeff VanderMeer

The lauded Southern Reach series has many fans and a lauded movie adaptation of the first book Annihilation. I am the only person in the world who did not like Annihilation. It did not land at all for me. The components here are body horror/weird trippy cut sequences/bureaucratic authoritarian satire framed as a found-footage 1984 with talking psilocybe. I dunno, maybe if it were the first time I had this combination should have blown me away, but for me it had the taste of a bunch of tasty ingredients stirred together into an undifferentiated mess. Also, cardinal sin in my narrative preferences: lack of narrative payoff. The payoff is not so much a plot twist as a perpetual plot wringing. Also I prefer my horror connected to my lived experience by stronger sinews than this; there is no horrifyingly plausible version of my future in here, or alternative take on my present but rather some suggestive parable about a world which I clearly cannot visit and in which I have no pen-pals. Recommended for lovers of numinous fungus.

Ahn, Woo-Young, Kenneth T. Kishida, Xiaosi Gu, Terry Lohrenz, Ann Harvey, John R. Alford, Kevin B. Smith, et al. 2014. “Nonpolitical Images Evoke Neural Predictors of Political Ideology.” Current Biology 24 (22): 2693–9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2014.09.050.

Boers, Elroy, Mohammad H. Afzali, and Patricia Conrod. 2019. “Temporal Associations of Screen Time and Anxiety Symptoms Among Adolescents.” The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, November, 0706743719885486. https://doi.org/10.1177/0706743719885486.

VanderMeer, Jeff. 2014. Annihilation. First Edition. Southern Reach Trilogy 1. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.