What it is
An annual award for superior achievement in horror writing, named after Bram Stoker. Categories are as follows:
- Superior Achievement in a Novel
- Superior Achievement in a First Novel
- Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel
- Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel
- Superior Achievement in Long Fiction
- Superior Achievement in Short Fiction
- Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection
- Superior Achievement in a Screenplay
- Superior Achievement in an Anthology
- Superior Achievement in Non-Fiction
- Superior Achievement in Short Non-Fiction
- Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection
What I’ve read
Last year, I didn’t read much, so the award is a reminder of all of the wonderful horror fiction, nonfiction, and poetry I’ve missed out on (I did see a number of the TV shows and movies that were nominated for Superior Achievement in a Screenplay, so there’s that). In fact, the only item on the whole ballot I read in 2019 is this one:
A thrilling, atmospheric debut with the intensive drive of The Martian and Gravity and the creeping dread of Annihilation, in which a caver on a foreign planet finds herself on a terrifying psychological and emotional journey for survival.
My rating: ★★★★★
What I’m looking forward to
- Goingback, Owl – Coyote Rage
Though I haven’t read this book, Crota by the same author is on my TBR for 2020 and has been on my radar for a while. Native American folklore + horror? Yes.
- Malerman, Josh – Inspection
I love Josh Malerman. While Bird Box is what he’s most known for (heads up—there’s a sequel coming out this year), and Unbury Carol got a lot of praise, my personal favorite is Black Mad Wheel. This book is on my 2020 TBR.
- Miskowski, S.P. – The Worst is Yet to Come
I didn’t know about this one, but I gave four stars to this author’s book Knock Knock and have been meaning to read more of her stuff. The Worst is Yet to Come appears to take place in the same creepy, backwater Washington town that was featured in Knock Knock, and for which The Skillute Cycle series is named.
- Taff, John F.D. – The Fearing
I keep hearing about this one. He also wrote The Bell Witch, which caught my eye some time ago and is on a wishlist somewhere.
- Read, Sarah – The Bone Weaver’s Orchard
I met Sarah very, very briefly at StokerCon last year and everyone was gushing about her book, so I added it to my list. I’m still mad at myself for not getting to it in 2019, but I’ll make it happen in 2020. Sarah also has a fiction collection that was nominated, Out of Water.
- Tremblay, Paul – Growing Things and Other Stories
I read A Head Full of Ghosts at the beginning of this year and it destroyed me. “Growing Things” is tied to that novel. I’m not sure I’m emotionally ready to dive into this collection, but when I do, I’ll leave a thorough review.
- Brozek, Jennifer – A Secret Guide to Fighting Elder Gods
Look at the roster on this anthology! Seanan McGuire, Jonathan Maberry, Tim Waggoner, Lisa Morton… not to mention the fact that Jennifer Brozek a wonderful editor.
- Datlow, Ellen – Echoes: The Saga Anthology of Ghost Stories
If you put a Datlow anthology in front of me, I will read it.
Other writers on the ballot I’m looking out for:
- James Chambers
- Ted Chiang
- Tim Waggoner
- Gwendolyn Kiste
- Greg Chapman
- Kate Jonez
- Alessandro, Manzetti
Here’s the thing. It’s shameful that I’ve only read one of these works. 2019 was a good writing year for me but a bad reading year, and that’s my own failing.
Every writer on the ballot and every piece of work they’ve written has accomplished something remarkable within the horror genre. I listed above only some writers I was already familiar with in one form or another, whose name I would pick out on a shelf, whose work I’m already committing myself to read. But this ballot? It’s another resource to introduce me to writers whose works I haven’t read, whose style I don’t know.
I almost didn’t write about the ballot, because I’ve read so few of the works this time around. But I am always, always excited to talk about and share books with other readers. And if you’re a reader, this ballot is a great place to start as you put together your plans for the year. This is good stuff.
“Look at the preliminary ballot for the Stokers and tell me horror hasn’t entered a new Golden Age.”Gabino Iglesias
Lists like this, and like Tor Nightfire’s All the Horror Books We’re Excited About in 2020, make me so happy to be a horror fan. If you’ve already read something, please link to your review or share your thoughts with me! And did you read something that came out in 2019 that isn’t on the ballot but you think it should be? Let me know. I want to hear recommendations.