Welcome back to Into the Night, Tor Nightfire’s monthly review of horror short fiction and poetry. I’m here every month to recommend some spooky tales and words I found on the net. My main objective with this series has always been to give horror readers a wide selection of authors, publications, and stories to read every month–like a subscription box, but for dark fiction and poetry.
This month, we have stories and poems ranging in themes and subgenres from publications like Devils Hollow Press, Kaleidotrope, and more. Typically, I have a favorite story or poem out of a given month’s list, but all January’s pieces are great, unique, and worth a couple of reads. If you want to check out Into the Night’s favorite picks from 2021, check out last month’s installment.
‘Coffin Cat‘ by Meg Smith (Rune Bear)
I’m glad to say I was able to find quite a few poems to include in this month’s roundup, starting with Meg Smith’s ‘Coffin Cat’ out of Rune Bear’s January slate. Smith’s poem is a creepy and chilling piece that also carries the weight of a thousand-word story. In fact, when I think back on this piece without looking at it in its small form, a larger narrative comes to mind. A story, a world, and a very particular cast of characters come to life all from one stanza–a good sign of a great poem. There’s a cat and their companion, and there’s nothing in the world that can stop them.
‘Creature of Habit‘ by Joseph Danoski (Black Petals)
To be honest, I’m not usually a fan of rhyming poetry; it usually comes off too cliché or predictable. But Danoski’s ‘Creature of Habit’ in Black Petals Issue #98 switched things up on me. While the poem’s opening is steeped in usual conventions, the ending unravels into something a bit more original. ‘Creature of Habit’ is a fun horror poem with turns of phrase both expected and unexpected, and the rhyme scheme gave more weight to the poem’s traditional horror and spooky imagery.
‘Fruiting Bodies‘ by Kemi Ashing-Giwa (Tor.com)
At times, Kemi Ashing-Giwa’s science fiction horror story reminded me of classic vampire tales, but the science of the story’s creatures kept me rooted within Ashing-Giwa’s vivid world. Sometimes, I got a little lost in it, but the prose always took me back home to where the story was really centered. My only complaint about this story is that it was too short: Ashing-Giwa gave me a taste of this new planet with these die-hard characters, and all I want is more.
‘Your Night Creature‘ by John Grey (Devils Hollow Press)
The final poem on this month’s list is John Grey’s six-stanza poem, a beautiful depiction of a vampire hunt and feeding. And though it didn’t break free from traditional vampire lore, it offered another strong image of a well-known figure. Like with Smith’s ‘Coffin Cat,’ ‘Your Night Creature’ wove a tale in my head, bringing images and characters to life in the stanzas. And I do love me a good vampire to occupy the imagination.
‘Shells of Monsters‘ by Rhonda Eikamp (Kaleidotrope)
If there’s one story whose retelling or translation I will never get sick of, it’s the story of Beowulf and Grendel. Those brutes can battle it out for eternity in my mind rent-free. Rhonda Eikamp’s ‘Shells of Monsters’ is just the type of retelling I like, too: the events are the same, but the motives, voices, and themes are different, creating a new tale of Beowulf, Grendel, and Grendel’s mother. ‘Shells of Monsters’ toes the line between dark and emotional, creating a captivating journey for the reader with a solid voice to latch onto.
‘How Lovely Are Your Branches‘ by Tim Pratt (Drabblecast)
Tim Pratt writes a new story each year during the Christmas season for Drabblecast about a Santa who has given up the bag for the blade—sorta. In Pratt’s universe, Santa has decided to give special attention to particularly evil people on his naughty list. With the help of Rudolph, Saint Nick rides around the world, dealing out gruesome punishment. The most recent story in the series is a murder mystery that finds Santa searching for a killer tree and the one who controls it. I’ve listened to a few of the past year’s stories and am never disappointed with the dark Christmas tales Pratt spins around his vindictive Santa.
As always, I hope you found a new magazine, writer, or story to satiate your horror hunger. Also, if you have a favorite publication that puts out excellent horror poetry or fiction, please tell me about it by leaving a comment on this article or dropping me a line.
The same goes for writers and editors of publications. I would love to connect and read the horror stories and poems you’re publishing! Just send me an email.