Since the extremely talented Simon Strantzas has graced us with a very unsettling Christmas special, “Making Merry,” I thought that this was a good time to pick up on a couple of modern classics of free festive fear. Or Gratis Gibbering Ghoulishness. That’s modern, because free out-of-copyright chilling Christmas classics are more plentiful than Jacob Marley’s chains. And there are those who maintain that this habit of mixing horror with your holly and terror with your turkey is very much a Brit thing, foreign to Americans – although that I doubt. So, for others who do want to shiver under the mistletoe, here are a couple of other terrific modern options.

Admittedly, Neil Gaiman’s “I, Cthulhu, or, What’s A Tentacle-Faced Thing Like Me Doing In A Sunken City Like This (Latitude 47° 9’ S, Longitude 126° 43’ W)?” offered at Christmas by Tor, does play up the laughs rather heavily. And arguably, not to such a sublime degree as “Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar” – read here by the Gai-man himself. But who could forget the immortal line: “We’re going to feed the shoggoth”? Answer: Very few.

Another story that uses almost as much dry humor to salt a far more serious and periodically chilling Christmas narrative is Charles Stross’s “Overtime” – also presented free by Tor. And Stross does manage to capture certain qualities of the traditional English Christmas that will be strange, perhaps fascinating, and maybe even horrific in a Kafkaesque sense – the creeping dreariness of an underfunded, greying, tawdry English Yuletide. Oh, with the end of the world thrown in, of course, courtesy of a very unsettling take on Santa. After reading this story you’ll never look at a Christmas stocking quite the same way again …

There, that should be enough to feed your fetish for festive frights. And a Shuddersome New Year to you all.

Previous articleMy top ten titles of 2014
Next articleG.K. Chesterton on Christmas
Paul St John Mackintosh is a British poet, writer of dark fiction, and media pro with a love of e-reading. His gadgets range from a $50 Kindle Fire to his trusty Vodafone Smart Grand 6. Paul was educated at public school and Trinity College, Cambridge, but modern technology saved him from the Hugh Grant trap. His acclaimed first poetry collection, The Golden Age, was published in 1997, and reissued on Kindle in 2013, and his second poetry collection, The Musical Box of Wonders, was published in 2011.


The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail