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Lost in The Wood -- Leonard and Ann Marie Wilson

In Search of Epic Fantasy Horror

Ghostly skulls in a forest fire Composite photo by Giacomo. Original skulls by Ville Hasala on Pixabay. Original butterflies by Igor Levchenko on Pixabay

So here's something that feels kind of weird.

I grew up thinking I didn't like horror stories because, but it turns out that was because during most of my childhood, "horror" was practically synonymous with "gory slasher flick".

At the same time I'd loved Scooby-Doo from an early age and found myself fascinated by pretty much anything Gothic and spooky. I started playing and game mastering D&D when I was nine, and within a couple of years I was latching onto any D&D material that skewed toward Gothic horror.

It started with the gonzo haunted-house goodness of Bob Bledsaw's classic Tegel Manor, made it inevitable I'd snap up The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh when it first appeared, and—as will surprise absolutely no one with any deep knowledge of D&D—led me straight down the Raveloft rabbit hole.

Oddly, I never got into playing Call of Cthulhu or any of the World of Darkness games. Guess it turns out I prefer my horror with a little more distance too it--set in some magical land beyond the wardrobe, or maybe in a galaxy far, far away.

I think what that means is I love the rollercoaster ride, but when I close the book or walk out of the theater, I'm done. I don't want to be left trying to convince myself there's nothing lurking out there in the night or just out of sight in the cabinets. The real world is plenty scary and dreadful enough without any help.

Sprinkle in the fact I love long, evolving stories full of characters I get to know and revisit, and I guess it was inevitable I'd wind up writing epic fantasy horror with Gothic sensibilities.

The weird part is realizing even though I've been telling epic fantasy horror stories in one form or another for most of my life, I haven't actually read much of anything I'd call "epic fantasy horror."

I'd like to change that. But so far I'm finding the search engines mostly spit out grimdark fantasies like "A Song of Ice and Fire" when I ask for "dark fantasy" books, and they mostly spit out modern horror/urban-fantasy horror when I search for "fantasy horror".

The audience is there—getting people to stop and go, "Oh, cool!" over the books Ann Marie and I write is easy—but finding other peoples' stories in the same vein feels harder than it should be.

To be clear, what I'd like most to find is books with sensibilities like the streaming mini-series "The Haunting of Hill House" and "Midnight Mass"--great fun--but I'd like to see those sensibilities transported into a world that's clearly not Earth.

Bonus points for books that:

  • Have audio versions
  • Feature proactive, capable, and interesting female characters
  • Were written by indie authors.

So do you have any specific recommendations for me? Tips or tricks for pinpointing them through search algorithms? Author or reader communities good for discussion?

Self-promotion absolutely allowed. Just please keep it simple and non-garish.


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