In recognition of the legacy of Shirley Jackson’s writing, and with permission of the author’s estate, The Shirley Jackson Awards are given annually for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic.
The Hole by Hye-young Pyun
Oghi has woken from a coma after causing a devastating car accident that took his wife’s life and left him paralyzed and badly disfigured. His caretaker is his mother-in-law, a widow grieving the loss of her only child. Oghi is neglected and left alone in his bed. His world shrinks to the room he lies in and his memories of his troubled relationship with his wife, a sensitive, intelligent woman who found all of her life goals thwarted except for one: cultivating the garden in front of their house. But soon Oghi notices his mother-in-law in the abandoned garden, uprooting what his wife had worked so hard to plant and obsessively digging larger and larger holes. When asked, she answers only that she is finishing what her daughter started. A bestseller in Korea, award-winning author Hye-young Pyun’s The Hole is a superbly crafted and deeply unnerving novel about the horrors of isolation and neglect in all of its banal and brutal forms. As Oghi desperately searches for a way to escape, he discovers the difficult truth about his wife and the toll their life together took on her.
Fever Dream by Samantha Schweblin
A young woman named Amanda lies dying in a rural hospital clinic. A boy named David sits beside her. She’s not his mother. He’s not her child. Together, they tell a haunting story of broken souls, toxins, and the power and desperation of family.
Fever Dream is a nightmare come to life, a ghost story for the real world, a love story and a cautionary tale. One of the freshest new voices to come out of the Spanish language and translated into English for the first time, Samanta Schweblin creates an aura of strange psychological menace and otherworldly reality in this absorbing, unsettling, taut novel.
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The Lost Daughter Collective by Lindsey Drager
Using bedtime stories as cautionary tales, a Wrist Scholar relays the story of a fabled group of fathers coping with dead and missing daughters. When the girl sacrifices everything to send a final message to her father through her art and one lost girl is revealed to be not dead or missing but a daughter who has transitioned into a son, fathers are faced with the reality that their children’s “play” is anything but.
Caught in a strange loop that—like Escher’s “Drawing Hands”—confuses the line between reality and artifice, folklore and scholarship, far past and near future, The Lost Daughter Collective illustrates how the stories we receive are shaped by those who do the telling.
“Take the Way Home That Leads Back to Sullivan Street” by Chavisa Woods from the collection Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country
The eight stories in Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country paint a vivid image of people living on the fringes in America, people who don’t do what you might expect them to. Not stories of triumph over adversity, but something completely other.
Described in language that is brilliantly sardonic, Woods’s characters return repeatedly to places where they don’t belong—often the places where they were born. In “Zombie,” a coming-of-age story like no other, two young girls find friendship with a mysterious woman in the local cemetery. “Take the Way Home That Leads Back to Sullivan Street” describes a lesbian couple trying to repair their relationship by dropping acid at a Mensa party. In “A New Mohawk,” a man in romantic pursuit of a female political activist becomes inadvertently much more familiar with the Palestine/Israel conflict than anyone would have thought possible. And in the title story, Woods brings us into the mind of a queer goth teenager who faces ostracism from her small-town evangelical church.
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“The Convexity of Our Youth” by Kurt Fawver
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
A wife refuses her husband’s entreaties to remove the green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague slowly consumes humanity. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery within the seams of the store’s prom dresses. One woman’s surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted houseguest. And in the bravura novella “Especially Heinous,” Machado reimagines every episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a show we naïvely assumed had shown it all, generating a phantasmagoric police procedural full of doppelgängers, ghosts, and girls with bells for eyes.
Earthy and otherworldly, antic and sexy, queer and caustic, comic and deadly serious, Her Body and Other Parties swings from horrific violence to the most exquisite sentiment. In their explosive originality, these stories enlarge the possibilities of contemporary fiction.
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Shadows and Tall Trees Volume 7 edited by Michael Kelly