10 Authors You Should Be Reading Right Now

Here are ten authors you should be reading right now. (I’ll link to stories when I can.) I could have made a list of 100, but these are ten that have stayed with me and influenced my writing, and continue to hold my attention story after story, novel after novel, year after year. Who would you add to the list?

1. Stephen Graham Jones

I mean, if you’re here at LitReactor and haven’t heard of Stephen, then something has gone horribly wrong. When I came to The Cult after discovering Chuck Palahniuk, it wasn’t long before I got sent to The Velvet, where I devoured SGJ, Craig Clevenger, and Will Christopher Baer. Stephen is prolific, and one of the best authors in horror today. He has finally gotten the recognition he deserves, recently winning several major awards. His last two books—My Heart is a Chainsaw and The Only Good Indians were amazing. My personal favorite is still All the Beautiful Sinners. Having edited and published his collection, After the People Lights Have Gone Off, and published several stories at Gamut, he’s a favorite voice of mine for sure, and has been a HUGE influence on my writing. Here’s a recent story of his over at Tor, “Wait for Night.”

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2. Catriona Ward

I’ve only recently discovered her work, but The Last House on Needless Street is sitting in a pile of books right here on my desk. What brought me to her writing was the story, “A Hotel in Germany,” which was in The Best Horror of the Year, Volume 13, edited by Ellen Datlow. It is such an original take on vampires, and as a maximalist, it really appealed to my senses as well as emotions. I feel like I can learn a lot from her, so I’m taking notes as I read, as always.

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3. Victor LaValle

Obviously Victor has been blowing up the last couple of years as well. He got a lot of attention for The Ballad of Black Tom and The Changeling. I think what cemented his voice for me was a story in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy anthology, entitled “Up From Slavery.” Wow. With a title like that, of course he’s going to talk about race in this country, but he did so in such a fresh way. There is such darkness in this story, but also history, passion, and originality. You may be seeing a theme here in the works I’m focusing on—originality, unique voices, and a transformative reading experience. Victor brings all of those things.

Get The Ballad of Black Tom at Bookshop or Amazon 


4. Rich Larson

I’ve been reading Rich’s work for a few years now, and have always enjoyed it. Whenever I see a story in a best of the year anthology I’m always excited to dig in. The story that really cemented my relationship with Larson was over at Tor, entitled, “Painless.” Again, to say this was original—well that wouldn’t be very original. The voice, the use of language and context, as well as place, not to mention the twists and turns in his story—the ending really packs a punch. He uses violence in some extremely effective ways, and this story has a ton of heart as well.

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5. A. C. Wise

When I think back to the classes I've taught, and the stories that really stood out to me, there are a few I just can’t shake. And while I’ve been a fan of ACW for many years, and her latest collection, The Ghost Sequences, is quite amazing, it’s her story, “Harvest Song, Gathering Song,” that rocked my world. I first ran across it in The Best Horror of the Year, Volume 10. I study "Harvest Song..." all of the time, and point my students to it as an example of a story that gets everything right. It’s original, dark, compelling, unsettling, and haunting. When I sit down to write a new story, this is the story I think about more often than not. The mix of wonder and horror, the ways she gets us to care about her characters, and the strange places she takes us—so amazing.

Get The Ghost Sequences at Bookshop or Amazon 


6. Usman T. Malik

Usman was the first Pakistani author to win the Bram Stoker Award, and when I published him in the Exigencies anthology back in 2015 I knew he was going to shake things up. I love his voice. Quite often, Usman takes me to places I’ve never been, showing me culture and mythologies that aren’t familiar to me. But it’s more than that—his work hypnotizes me, and lulls me into a false sense of safety, before ripping out the rug, and punching me in the gut. I’ve taught quite a few of his stories in my classes, and they always go over well. One of my favorites is “Dead Lovers on Each Blade, Hung.” Check out his work, you won’t be disappointed.

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7. Maria Dahvana Headley

What really put Maria on my radar were two stories in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy anthology, 2018: “Black Powder” and “The Orange Tree.” Whenever I see an author get TWO stories into a best of the year anthology, I teach them both. I mean, they must be doing something right, right? And wow, while these were two totally different vibes, they both had depth, mythology, history, culture, emotion, and originality. I loved them both.

Get The Mere Wife at Bookshop or Amazon 


8. Kelly Robson

While I’ve taught a few of Kelly’s stories in my various classes, the story that stays with me, that I keep coming back to is “A Human Stain,” over at Tor. What a spell she weaves with this tale, filled with family history, strange creatures in the water, and secrets in the basement of an old castle. She mixes passion and desire with violence and horror, in ways that shock and amaze, while showing us something new and different. The last line in this story is so simple, but that singular “Oui,” just floored me. A major voice in horror, I love what Kelly is doing.

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9. Livia Llewellyn

I’ve been reading Livia for quite a few years now, going back to “Allochthon” in The Best Horror of the Year, Volume 7, which directed me to her amazing collection, Furnace, in 2016. That is one of my favorite collections of all time. Such a powerful voice, she tells these epic stories that impact all of your senses, while taking us to places we’ve never been, showing us things that are at times nearly impossible to see and comprehend. “Bright Crown of Joy” and “The Last, Clean, Bright Summer” are two more favorites, but I have many.

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10. Priya Sharma

The novelette that put Priya on my radar was of course, “Fabulous Beasts.” What a dark, mysterious, unsettling story. It is one, much like many I’ve mentioned today, that I've taught in my classes, discovering it over at Tor. Which eventually led me to her amazing collection, All the Fabulous Beasts. Another author that isn’t afraid to go deep into the shadows. Her mixture of realism and the supernatural, fantasy and horror, is just amazing. Huge fan.

Get All the Fabulous Beasts at Bookshop or Amazon

Hope you made some new discoveries today. Leave your own recommendations in the comments. 

Richard Thomas

Column by Richard Thomas

Richard Thomas is the award-winning author of eight books—Disintegration and Breaker (Penguin Random House Alibi), Transubstantiate, Staring Into the Abyss, Herniated Roots, Tribulations, Spontaneous Human Combustion (Turner Publishing), and The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books). His over 175 stories in print include The Best Horror of the Year (Volume Eleven), Cemetery Dance (twice), Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders (Bram Stoker winner), Lightspeed, PANK, storySouth, Gargoyle, Weird Fiction Review, Midwestern Gothic, Shallow Creek, The Seven Deadliest, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Qualia Nous, Chiral Mad (numbers 2-4), PRISMS, Pantheon, and Shivers VI. He was also the editor of four anthologies: The New Black and Exigencies (Dark House Press), The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers (Black Lawrence Press) and Burnt Tongues (Medallion Press) with Chuck Palahniuk. He has been nominated for the Bram Stoker (twice), Shirley Jackson, Thriller, and Audie awards. In his spare time he is a columnist at Lit Reactor. He was the Editor-in-Chief at Dark House Press and Gamut Magazine. For more information visit www.whatdoesnotkillme.com or contact Paula Munier at Talcott Notch.

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