Last time, we discussed “Thrillers with a Science Fiction Edge.” Continuing our trip along the outskirts of the genre, today we will explore the region where science fiction overlaps with the realm of horror. While the subgenre has inspired a number of successful works, including the film series that began with Alien, Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers, and much of the extensive catalogue of H.P. Lovecraft, in general horror science fiction isn’t a popular or well-developed genre. For many, the risk of writing horror science fiction isn’t worth the reward, and while the two genres may seem similar based on their being pushed aside by “more literary” fiction, the two bodies of work are in fact drastically different. Frequently, science fiction explores humans as they are today, using this to explore science fictional concepts both in the present and future. Some expert practitioners, thinking here of Poul Anderson and his great novel The High Crusade, do buck that trend and focus on the past, but they do so not from the point of view of modernity, but of placing the present in the past. Horror frequently focuses on deep-seated fears that run the length and breadth of humanity, all the way back to our core beginnings: darkness, the animality of our fellow man, the supernatural and darkly religious, and, going back to Lovecraft again, the Unknown. Taking these two different approaches to storytelling and meshing them well takes a considerable amount of skill. Here we will take a look at 5 such works, with a bit of a focus on Edward Lee. Lee, best known for his bizarre, graphic, and gore-filled horror tales, has also very quietly written a number of exciting, engaging horror science fiction works that are well worth reading. Without further delay, here are five horrific science fiction tales that you might have missed, but are great choices for fans of either genre.
1) Crescent by Phil Rossi
While Phil Rossi hasn’t quite caught the legion of fans that fellow indie horror science fiction author Scott Sigler has, his writing still very engaging, bringing a different type of horror to the page. Rossi’s debut novel, Crescent, brings darkness and horror to Crescent Station, right on the edge of space populated by humanity. However, on this station, where people are continuing to reach for the next frontier, horror is hiding among them. While Rossi’s writing isn’t as polished as some other authors (perhaps the key to Sigler’s mainstream success), once you get into the novel it is gripping and exciting, let down only by a somewhat less than stellar ending. Well worth a shot, especially at the very accessible ebook price.
2) Infected by Scott Sigler
Scott Sigler snared the podcast novel genre from early on, and really took that genre by storm with his novel Infected, the first novel of the Infected Trilogy. Alien seeds from outer space fall to Earth and infect a number of people, creating a group of homicidal maniacs in the process. As the infected get more and more wrapped up in the alien infections, deeper and darker horrors reveal themselves. Sigler’s tale is a great work of modern horror, comparable to Robin Cook’s Invasion from a decade before, both featuring alien illnesses as the focus of evil. Check out Infected, and try Invasion if you enjoyed the first book, as well as the sequel to Infected, Contagious.
3) “In the Year of Our Lord: 2202” by Edward Lee
This writer’s introduction to Edward Lee came by the novella “In the Year of Our Lord: 2202,” found in the book Triage, an anthology collecting three novellas based on the premise of a psychopath entering a workplace after making a threatening phone call. The other novellas, “Triage” by the late, great Richard Laymon and “Sheep Meadow Story” by Jack Ketchum, are good and okay, respectively, but the best story of the anthology is Lee’s. Lee’s heroine lives in a future controlled completely by a form of Christianized tyranny. As she shoots out into space on a large ship, she encounters a subversive horror that leaves the entire space trip in conflict. The novella flies all over the place, both figuratively and, plot-wise, literally. With a nod to Lovecraft, Lee creates a fast paced and powerful novella of a horror both space-borne and deeply human.
4) The Stickmen by Edward Lee
Ripped from UFO conspiracy tales like X-Files, Edward Lee’s novel The Stickmen pulls together every conspiracy genre cliché out there, from a journalist hated for his quest for the truth, to a child with special powers, aliens frozen and hidden by the government, nuclear weapons, evil military cover-ups, and more. Yet through all of this, Lee creates a very fast paced plot that is, barring anything else, fun.
5) Operator B by Edward Lee
Edward Lee seems to enjoy the UFO cover up tales. In Operator B, Lee presents another UFO cover up, this time in which the military is trying to reverse engineer an alien craft for human use. However, the only way to pilot the ship is to have your hands surgically altered to create a three-fingered hand. This alienates pilots from their families, as a mission to Mars is planned, to stop other countries from bringing back a deadly Martian virus. However, nothing goes as expected, and the twists are what make the story successful. Another fun, crazy, wild UFO tale.