The Top 20 Greatest Horror Writers of All-time Comments -


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PhillipBrian 2/20/2009 8:56:44 PM

Nice list... I would moved Koontz to 4th and King to 5th. I'd place Poe at 1st.


Overall a good list though.... once again I SAY Koontz should be at 4th.



darkheart00 2/20/2009 9:48:48 PM

Great looking list but yeah, Poe is number one. Lovecraft number two.

Switch Robert Bloch and Robert R. McCammon and I think your good to go IMHO. Sure Bloch wrote "Psycho" (which is a huge moment no doubt) but McCammon is one of the true masters of this medium and his catalogue of great stories speaks for itself. The man had nine novels between 1978 and 1989 alone and everyone was an amazing read. I would not have a second thought to say "Swan Song" is every bit as good a novel as "Psycho" or better, regardless of the latter's cultural impact.

Walker 2/21/2009 6:29:36 AM

I don't want to argue about the rankings.  However, you say this about H.P. Lovecraft:

The conception of the Cthulhu Mythos, and its pantheon of terrifying deities and monstrosities remains the most important creation in horror during the 20th century.

To list this as the major contribution of Lovecraft is to completely trivialize his legacy.  Indeed, the "open sourcing" of the Cthulhu mythos did a lot to tarnish H.P.'s reputation as he became to be associated with they myriad of pastiches that sprung up after his death.

Lovecraft's true contribution was cosmic horror; this is an incredibly modern concept that did not exist before H.P. introduced it.  But now it is all over the place.  Any time you have a story that emphasizes the insignificance of humans in the universe, you can point back to H.P. In fact, I do not understand why how you can claim Matheson was not influenced by Lovecraft when the apocalyptic story I am Legend definitely has strong elements of cosmicism in it.  

It is for this reason, and not the Cthulhu mythos, that Lovecraft was "canonized" by The Library of America.

LittleNell1824 2/21/2009 7:48:51 AM

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for this list!! So much reading to do and so little time. I'm especially glad that you included authors whose greatest legacy is in their short stories. This is going to be my go-to list for a while.

A little trivia on Ambrose Bierce... I love true tales of the paranormal and there are many "true tales" out there that are direct retellings of Ambrose Bierce stories. His stories had a feeling of everyday reality, and he liked to tell them in a way that made it sound like someone was just passing on a story of something that happened just one town over a few years ago. It's almost like he invented the urban legend.

Trivia on Dean Koontz's Fun House... They were making the movie and asked Koontz to write a tie-in novel. (I believe he was a writer for episodic TV at the time, so he had connections) They gave him the story basics - mutant loose in the funhouse after a teenage girl - and he had to create a backstory and plot filler and all that. Koontz thought that very few people would bother reading the book, but it turns out that the book did much better than the movie.

AMiSHPiRATE 2/21/2009 8:37:17 AM

Solid list.  Glad to see Matheson get some recognition.

Slightly unrelated, but you got me wondering on when Sci-Fi really started.  Wouldn't Jules Verne or Mary Shelley be considered science fiction?

Walker 2/21/2009 9:57:38 AM

 Slightly unrelated, but you got me wondering on when Sci-Fi really started. Wouldn't Jules Verne or Mary Shelley be considered science fiction?

It depends on how "hard" or "soft" you are, which are terms that themselves depend upon the context of scientific knowledge at the time.

Swift and Gulliver's Travels (1726) is largely recognized to be proto-science fiction, if not the first instance of the genre.   Seeing as the modern concept of science was born with the Enlightenment, you cannot really go earlier than that and have the term "science fiction" meaningfully distinguished from fantasy.

Hobbs23 2/21/2009 10:13:29 AM

Worth a mention: Matheson is one of my favorite writers, but he didn't write the Kolchak novels.  That honor goes to Jeff Rice, a reporter turned novelist, who pretty much got rolled over on credit (and income) for creating Carl Kolchak.

The novel -- called The Kolchak Papers -- was unpublished, but sold as property to be made into a TV movie.  Matheson wrote the teleplay and it's sequel (very well, I might add!), but Rice deserves credit for the novel.

redhairs99 2/21/2009 12:58:54 PM

Good list, but I too have to vote Poe number 1.

GIJew 2/21/2009 8:49:11 PM

I'd have to move Poe to at least 1 or 2. I'd bump Lovecraft higher up just because no ignorant antisemite pos, no matter how imaginative his writing, should be 1 on any list of awesome things.

snallygaster 2/21/2009 9:03:59 PM

Excellent list. It's great to see a well-balanced list, going back to the 19th and early 20th centuries. I'd like to toss another name out for at least Honorable Mention: William Hope Hodgson.

Hodgson's "House on the Borderland" was a great influence on Lovecraft, and all of his stories are every bit as creepy and disturbing as Lovecraft's. True to the curse of great horror writers, Hodgson died young, killed by an artillery shell late in World War I at age 40.

Two thoughts this column brought to mind:

1) Instead of remaking and rehashing every horror movie ever made, why not adapt more already existing stories? Any one of the above authors have a wealth of adaptable stories which have never made it to the screen.

2) Speaking of remakes, I'd much rather see more original and thoughtful columns (like this one) than the rehashes. Intelligent writing and discussion is always more interesting to me than snarky columns (snark comes cheap on the net; intelligent not-so-much). But if you must give us a weekly dose of snark, at least use some of your talented in-house writers.

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