Jason Heller

What constitutes cosmic horror? The term has been in use for decades, usually to describe the work of H. P. Lovecraft and his ilk — that is, authors who explore the marrow-deep terror humanity feels in the face of the unknown. We're not talking about things that go bump in the night. We're talking about inscrutable beings with godlike proportions who straddle the universe, who wield mysterious forces that predate the Earth itself.

"Then I made faces like the faces on the rocks, and I twisted myself about like the twisted ones, and I lay down flat on the ground like the dead ones." So goes one of the most chilling lines from "The White People" by Arthur Machen, a 1904 short story that H. P. Lovecraft considered one of the greatest horror tales ever written. It's no coincidence that the title of The Twisted Ones — the new book by Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author T.

Scott Thomas has it in for Kansas. His debut novel, the acclaimed Kill Creek, took place in a haunted house in Kansas' rural countryside, and the author has returned to his native Sunflower State for his second standalone novel, Violet. There, however, the similarities end. Where Kill Creek was a meta-commentary on horror authors and their chosen genre, Violet is a direct, affecting, and psychologically thrilling slice of Midwestern gothic.

"How long until the world hollows me out?" Eunice Turner asks her younger brother Noah in one of her many letters to him — most of them suicide notes. That question lies at the heart of A Cosmology of Monsters, Shaun Hamill's debut novel. It's a horror tale unafraid to tackle big issues of familial fealty, the architecture of fear, and the metaphysics of love, all while shocking the pants off the reader.

Dystopian stories are, in essence, thought experiments. And few come as thoughtful as The Divers' Game.