When I was asked to write something on ten ‘must read’ Aussie horror writers, I thought, “Hell, how can I narrow it down to so few?” I know many, many writers that I consider ‘must read’, both here in Australia and internationally. Well, here they are. In a random order, as well, to avoid being accused of favouritism.
10. Greig Beck
First up, I couldn’t make a best of list without including Greig Beck. An internationally-published author of (what he calls) horror thrillers, Beck has just released his fifth novel. Black Mountain is the fourth novel in the Arcadian series, the ongoing adventures of an ‘enhanced’ soldier, equipped with superhuman abilities, who faces off against supernatural menaces. Cryptozoologists would delight at the adventures of the Arcadian. From vampires to inter-dimensional bug-like xenomorphs to Bigfoot, each antagonist is meticulously-researched and scientifically explained. Beck is to Australia as Jonathan Maberry is to the US.
Read: Beneath the Dark Ice, the first Arcadian adventure, for a starting point.
Kylie Chan is a Queensland writer, internationally published by Harper Voyager. She writes urban fantasy with a horror bent, inhabited by the Chinese pantheon of gods and demons. Chan writes in a way which makes this culture easily accessible by anyone, whether they have an understanding of Chinese legends or not. She describes her fiction as “…about an Australian woman who falls for a Chinese god who’s living in today’s Hong Kong. It has gods, demons, martial arts, a love that can never be, violence, sex, all that good stuff.” Classy stuff in an eminently-readable package.
Read: White Tiger, the first in the Dark Heavens trilogy.
8. Steve Gerlach
Next, I’d like to introduce you to Steve Gerlach, a protégé of the late Richard Laymon and a fantastic writer in his own right. Gerlach writes realist horror based on the evil inherent in every man, much like Laymon did during his long and lauded career. The author of many novels, novellas and short-story collections, Gerlach is mainly available in limited editions, although there is one novel – his first, Rage – which was published mass market. Gerlach is one of Australia’s darkest writers, and his work is not to be missed if you love the splatterpunk style.
This wouldn’t be a ‘best of’ list without looking at Brett McBean. Another writer who began more in the style of the late, great Richard Laymon, McBean has come into his own voice and unique, laconic style. He won the 2011 Australian Shadow Award for Best Collection for his dark yet beautiful Tales of Sin and Madness, republished with extra content by Legumeman Books, a Melbourne small press making a name in the international horror community. McBean has been published in Delirium Book’s New Dark Voices II, an anthology whose name speaks for itself. He has at the moment moved from his own unique creations to working with film production companies producing novel tie-ins.
Read: The Last Motel, McBean’s first published novel.
6. Kirstyn McDermott
Kirstyn McDermott is one of Australia’s hidden treasures. First published in 1993, she has since haunted anthologies and collections with her critically-acclaimed darkest dreams. She has been nominated for and won various awards, including an Aurealis (twice), a Chronos, and a Ditmar, as well as being nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. Her first novel, Madigan Mine, was published in 2010 and immediately won another Ditmar for Best Horror Novel, as well as being nominated for three other awards. She writes speculative fiction, especially within gothic, horror, dark fantasy, or weird fiction. She is married to fellow writer Jason Nahrung, and continues to scare us to this day.
Read: Madigan Mine.
Another award-winning author, Kaaron Warren has had many short stories, collections and novels published. Her short story collection The Grinding House won the 2006 ACT Writing and Publishing Award. Her short stories have won both the Ditmar and Aurealis Awards. First published in 1993 (a great year for Aussie writers, it seems), Warren has since had over 45 shorts published, as well as two collections and two novels. With four awards and over ten award nominations under her belt, she is recognised as one of our best and most prolific writers of dark fiction.
Read: Dead Sea Fruit (collection).
4. Rocky Wood
Rocky Wood, serving his second term as president of the worldwide Horror Writers Association, is a proud Australian. It’s the first time an author outside of Europe or the US has helmed the renowned genre association. This coveted position aside, Wood is better known for his academic works on the writing of Stephen King. The winner of the 2011 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement Non-Fiction for his book Stephen King: A Literary Companion, Wood has also both been nominated and won other awards, including the Black Quill Non-Fiction Award and the Aurealis awards. Wood has been writing non-fiction for over thirty years, and is considered one of the world’s leading experts for his five books on the work of Stephen King. His graphic novels include: Horrors! Great Tales of Fear and Their Creators and Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times (co-written with Lisa Morton/illustrated by Greg Chapman).
Read: Witch Hunts
Will Elliott is the highly-acclaimed author of The Pilo Family Circus, a break-out literary genre novel which won the ABC Fiction Award prior to publication, and won six other literary awards when published in 2006, as well as being shortlisted for the 2007 International Horror Guild Award. It is currently being adapted into a stageplay in New York. He has also published a memoir, Strange Places, in 2009, followed by a visionary fantasy, The Pendulum Trilogy. A stand-alone fantasy, Nightfall, is soon to follow. Elliot is still an emerging writer, but to have such a pedigree with so few publications shows the great scope of his skill and potential.
Read: The Pilo Family Circus
2. Martin Livings
Martin Livings has been writing for over twenty years, having been first published in 1990. He has been nominated for many awards, and has won the Tin Duck Award twice, and has had over sixty short stories published in magazines and anthologies. His recent collection, Living with the Dead, is a grand achievement which presents the very best of his short and dark fiction from his long time as a published writer. Livings is deeply-entrenched in the Australian speculative fiction scene, and has had his work listed in the Year’s Best Horror and Fantasy Recommended Reading, and reprinted in Year’s Best Australian SF and Fantasy Volume 2 and Australian Dark Fantasy and Horror, 2006.
Read: Living with the Dead (collection)
Angela Slatter has won many awards, including the 2012 British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story ‘The Coffin-Maker’s Daughter’. Other award wins include the 2010 Aurealis Award for Best Collection, The Girl With No Hands and Other Tales, and the 2010 Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Short Story, ‘The February Dragon’, co-authored with Lisa Hannett, an author Angela works with regularly. With eight shortlistings and nineteen honourable mentions, all from Ellen Datlow, Slatter is an author that is recognised internationally. Her other collection, Sourdough and other Stories, collects much of her newer work in the short form. Her latest collection, Midnight and Moonshine, with Lisa L Hannett, is just available now, having been launched on November 15.
Thanks for sticking with the article to the end, and for giving me a chance to wax lyrically about some of Australia’s most talented writers. If you give the recommended reads a chance, they will not disappoint.
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