Tom Doherty Associates (which houses the imprints Tor, Nightfire, and Tordotcom, among others) launched its first titles in 1980, publishing at first in the mass market format. From the beginning, alongside legendary science fiction and fantasy authors, Tor published horror authors such as Graham Masterton and T.M. Wright, Charles Grant, John Farris, Dan Simmons, Richard Matheson, Fred Saberhagen, and Ramsey Campbell.
The late 80s and 90s saw the addition of Brian Lumley to Tor’s horror roster, along with authors like Joe Lansdale and Robert Bloch. Late, great Tor editor David Hartwell put out horror short story anthologies throughout the 90s. As the genre gained prestige and libraries grew more interested, Tor shifted over to hardcover for horror, then began publishing in trade paperback as well, with many of the same authors who were part of Tor’s early horror program, plus new additions like Mick Farren and P.D. Cacek.
The 1980s were the heyday of mass market, and horror mass market was big. By the 1990s, though, the mass market horror boom started to wane due to a number of factors (among them a glut in the market and changes to the mass market distribution system), and sales began to drop. Some stores dismantled their horror sections and folded horror back into other sections–these days you’ll most likely find horror grouped with “fiction,” though some retailers are bringing back the designated horror section.
Over the decades, Tor has remained committed to publishing horror throughout the genre market fluctuations, shifts in prevailing formats, and trends in popularity of different kinds of monsters. The Tor horror line has seen everything from ghosts, vampires, and zombies, to haunted houses, demons, and hell dimensions; from witches, curses, and serial killers, to forest spirits, creepy dolls, and even Freddy Krueger tie-in novels.
In April 2019, Tor announced a brand new dedicated horror imprint, Tor Nightfire, set to launch in fall 2021. The Tor Nightfire imprint will join horror’s modern resurgence in books, movies, and television, one that reflects an ever-expanding point of view and willingness to push the limits of the genre and reinvent or subvert standard tropes.
Genre fiction is an alternate prism onto our reality, giving us another avenue to reflect on the world and ourselves, while offering escape. Horror gives us the freedom to experience fear and look at darkness from the safety of our comfy chair. It is often laced with social commentary, and taps into deep-rooted societal fears, legends, and beliefs.
Below are a few notable titles from Tor’s history in horror publishing.
Nightfire will carry on Tor’s scary lineage this fall, when our first season of books hits shelves!