The end of the decade has come and gone, and with it, another strong year for Terror House. Our 2019 was full of tumultuous twists and turns: editors departing, Twitter suspensions, e-drama, and the launch of our much-awaited publishing division and podcast. All through it, we’ve become stronger and stronger; our best traffic month ever was in August of this year, and the quality of our submissions has gone up as well. To date, we’ve published over 1,000 submissions from over 300 different writers, with more great things to come in the new year.

Much in the same fashion Glahn did last year, I want to highlight 25 of Terror House’s best submissions that you may have overlooked. You know about the winners of our Best of the Month Award and our Easter and pulp submission contests, but I want to shine a spotlight on some of my personal favorites, works that moved me in some way.

“Limp Dicks and Other Reasons Why My Ex-Lover is a Dick” by Ikhnaton Skypeople

Years ago, I was eating with a boomer friend of mine in a Manhattan café when he gave me a bit of wisdom: women don’t start to enjoy sex until they turn 35. Before that, they’ll have sex because they feel the urge, because they want to please their boyfriends, but it’s not until the biological clock is nearly out of sand that they throw the pretensions out the window and just start having fun. Of course, by that point, they’re supposed to be married with children; what happens to the ones who fall through the cracks? Who still find themselves perpetually single, on a revolving carousel of increasingly dumb and unlikable men as the good ones get snapped up?

“Limp Dicks” has the answer. It’s the tale of a woman dealing with her avoidant lover, alternately stalking him and trying to find some action elsewhere. It’s hilarious and sad in turns, depicting the lengths she goes to—and the iniquities she puts up with—out of sheer horniness. I already spotlighted Skypeople’s story “Self-Destruction” in my personal roundup last year, but “Limp Dicks” builds upon the themes in that story, depicting the maelstrom of emotion and conflict of sex in a way that only a woman can. There’s no female empowerment in this story, no you-go-grrlisms or face-saving lies; just a woman’s quest to get some dick from a man who doesn’t much care for her.

Read “Limp Dicks and Other Reasons Why My Ex-Lover is a Dick” by clicking here.

Poetry by David Lohrey

I always crack a smile when I see a new submission from Lohrey in my inbox. His poetry is about the absurdity of modern life, delivered with a wink and a nod, in the voice of a bemused observer witnessing the devolution of man from afar. Whether he’s musing on perverted female teachers, Japanese culture, or modern politics, Lohrey knows how to wring laughter from even the most tragic of moments.

Read David Lohrey’s poetry by clicking here.

Poetry by Mark J. Mitchell

Rhyming poetry is dead. It’s impossible for most poets to write rhyming verse these days without sounding like a balladeering yokel wandering the Lake District on a group tour package. Mark J. Mitchell is the rare exception, a bard who blends rhymes into modernist poems in a compelling and entertaining fashion.

Read Mark J. Mitchell’s poetry by clicking here.

“Endless September” by Blaisewell

John Dolan once quipped that because authors have spent the last half-century trying to imitate the voices of the mentally ill, eventually the mentally ill would become the only proper writers. Not that I’m implying that Blaisewell is mentally ill, but “Endless September” captures the voice of an Extremely Online man immaculately well, weaving online chats, monologues, and dreams into a pastiche of mental breakdown.

Read “Endless September” by clicking here.

“Not for the Faint of Ear: An Analysis of the Mars Volta’s The Bedlam in Goliath” by Gorgeous George

Reviewing is a grift, and music and video game reviews are the biggest grift of all. It’s near impossible to write a good album review that doesn’t devolve into an elaborate version of “me likey” unless you’re an actual musician, at which point your analysis devolves into music theory arcana that is impenetrable to the reading public. And then there’s the fact that music reviewers exist solely as corporate PR representatives, rubber-stamping the latest dreck, pop or indie, in exchange for a nice layer of grease in their wallets.

Gorgeous George’s Bedlam in Goliath analysis rises above. It’s an article that delves deep into the album’s themes, wringing meaning and comedy out of them, laying it out for the average reader. It actually got me to listen to the album, which is more than any mainstream music review has ever done.

Read “Not for the Faint of Ear: An Analysis of the Mars Volta’s The Bedlam in Goliath” by clicking here.

“A Year in Four Parts” by Father Lucius Phoenix and Johnny Scarlotti

Writing good poetry is about mastering “negative space”: the ability to tell more with less, to allow readers to fill in the empty spots with their own images and speculations. I’d argue that all good literature uses “negative space,” but it’s especially important in poetry, a form of writing defined by its economy of language and use thereof to create repetitious, musical motifs that invade your brain like HIV.

Father Lucius Phoenix (aka Durban Moffer) and Johnny Scarlotti have this down to a science. “A Year in Four Parts” tells a story in which the depravity and twists come in part from the reader’s own imagination. It haunts you, lingers in the air like cigarette smoke, leaves you chilled, disgusted, or elated, depending on how you see the world.

Read “A Year in Four Parts” by clicking here.

“The Woman Who Couldn’t Cum” by Mason Masters

A Twitter user once described Terror House as specializing in graphic stories with a “traditional” message. I’m not sure about that, but that description certainly fits Masters’ story, about a nymphomaniac who tries everything to get off, save for the one thing that is actually proven to work.

Read “The Woman Who Couldn’t Cum” by clicking here.

6 to 6 by Mather Schneider

Donald Trump once said that one of the first things he does when he goes to a new city is hop in a taxi and asks the driver what’s up. Taxi drivers are the unsung messengers of the city’s circulatory system; they see and hear everything, from where the best hookers in town are to the buckets of vomit left by drunk couples in their backseats. If you want the real news, the information polite society doesn’t want you to know, ask a taxi driver.

6 to 6 is a memoir about Schneider’s days as a taxi driver in the sun-blasted landscape of Tucson. Over the course of his career, he saw and heard everything, from crazy people trying to kill him to crazy people escaping from asylums to obese Mexicans getting their homemade porn developed at the photo shop. He relays his experiences without sentimentality or bathos, from the perspective that lets you bask in the insanity of it all: a working stiff trying to pay his bills.

Read 6 to 6 by clicking here.

“Delonte Lost” by James Nulick

I love James Nulick. I love him to death. This excerpt from his recent short story collection Haunted Girlfriend (go buy it! Now!) shows him at his best: using deft prose to invite you into his world. Indeed, one could call Nulick the premier world-builder of our generation, only he’s not burying you with layers upon layers of dense fantasy or sci-fi babble, but merely pulling you into a realm of violence, depravity, and heartbreak that is much like our own.

Read “Delonte Lost” by clicking here.

“Featherweight” by Dawson Wohler

A common misconception writers have is trying to sketch out a plot before they develop their characters. That’s putting the cart before the horse. When you develop a well-thought-out character, plots and story arcs create themselves within the scope of actions that the character is capable of. That, and reading about a well-developed character’s thoughts and feelings is a pleasure in and of itself.

“Featherweight” is the tale of a fighter recovering from a match. Not much happens, but the inner monologue of the main character is compelling enough that it doesn’t matter. Wohler pulls an additional twist by writing the story from a second-person perspective, directly inserting the reader into the fighter’s agonies, wants, and desires.

Read “Featherweight” by clicking here.

“6:35” by Bill Marchant

Bill Marchant tells me he’s not that experienced with fiction writing. Coulda fooled me. A runner-up in our Easter submission contest, “6:35” is a wonderfully presented metaphor on Christian salvation and the nature of God.

Read “6:35” by clicking here.

“True Love” by Rachael J. Llewellyn

I’ve stressed repeatedly that writers, regardless of their personal beliefs, should avoid didactism, that insufferable urge to turn your works into morality plays. Nobody wants to be lectured about the evils of misogyny or anti-white racism or whatever; people want to be entertained. A good writer knows how to weave their beliefs into the background, use them to create a genuinely human story, one that makes us laugh, cry, or recoil in shock.

“True Love” is one of those stories. It’s about a high school teacher who’s living the life, sleeping with his female students, all seemingly enraptured by his handsomeness, his charm, his position of authority. But when he encounters a girl who is immune to his wiles, his sex obsession becomes a weapon turned against him, forcing him to see the reality of his life and the girls he’s forced himself on. There’s no moralizing, no lesson crammed down the readers’ throats; just a series of twists that leave us aroused, disturbed, and eventually disgusted.

Read “True Love” by clicking here.

“High of 97°” by Clowny

God gives us more work than we can handle, and at times, it seems like we’re going to drown in it. “High of 97°” symbolizes that perfectly, depicting a man who is steadily drowning as the obligations slapped on him by work, his girlfriend, and everything else slowly fill up to the ceiling.

Read “High of 97°” by clicking here.

“Not Actually a Lizard” by Charlie Chitty

Charlie Chitty has been on fire recently, turning out story after story, each a masterpiece of terror, comedy, or more often a blend of the two. There are many stories of his I could spotlight here, but “Not Actually a Lizard” shows him at his best: a seeming horror story that dissolves into tragicomedy with the ease of a Coen brothers film.

Read “Not Actually a Lizard” by clicking here.

“Owen Benjamin Burns Down KyoAni” by James Philips

Terror House is a proud pioneer in the burgeoning field of “meme lit”: stories lampooning the trials and tribulations of your (least-)favorite e-celebs. Over the summer, we put out a writing prompt for a story about Owen Benjamin, failed comedian and YouTube crazy person, setting fire to an anime studio and being stopped by a recently decapitated e-girl. Philips answered the call and threw in Nick Fuentes and Jeff Goldblum for good measure to create a hilarious story of alcoholism, self-delusion, and catboys.

Read “Owen Benjamin Burns Down KyoAni” by clicking here.

“McDonald’s Sprite” by WokeManlet

I’ve often said that a talented writer can write about the dumbest shit imaginable and it’ll still have you hiccupping from laughter, and “McDonald’s Sprite” is glorious proof of my statement. It’s a story about pot paranoia and a missing cup of Sprite, but I challenge you not to chuckle all the way through.

Read “McDonald’s Sprite” by clicking here.

“The Death of Jeffrey Epstein” by Helios

“Epstein didn’t kill himself” may be a grifter slogan, but it’s still the truth. So how did Epstein die? Helios, known for his Twitter threads on everything from demonology to petroleum, gives his answer in a chilling, Lovecraftian story. Terror House has published many “meme lit” stories, but Helios’ tale is another beast entirely, examining the horrors that lurk beyond human comprehension.

Read “The Death of Jeffrey Epstein” by clicking here.

“Φωσφόρος” by Proteus Juvenalis

I’ve commented in the past that, contrary to the New Yorker’s jibe that “no one knows you’re a dog on the Internet,” it’s impossible to be a phony online for very long. You can fool people in the short term, but in the long term, the real you begins leaking out. Ethos and verisimilitude can’t be faked, at least on a long enough timeline. Moreover, you can only wear a mask for so long before it becomes you, as your brain tries to reconcile the reality of who you are with the fantasy you present online. When the “you” is a mentally disturbed person who hates his real life, well, the results are just flat-out hilarious.

“Φωσφόρος” is the story of a federal agent who gets paid to radicalize right-wingers online, inspiring them to break the law and get arrested. He despises his job and his life, and he spends most of his waking hours reading Bronze Age Pervert, jamming to Negative XP, and edging to Anna Khachiyan. It’s a darkly comic tale of what happens when you wear a mask for too long, particularly when the reality underneath it is too terrible to bear.

Read “Φωσφόρος” by clicking here.

“Allen” by Benjamin Welton

Benjamin Welton’s oeuvre covers everything from horror stories to poetry to bizarre personal anecdotes, with “Allen” being a standout in the latter category. The tale of a relentlessly annoying grad school colleague of his, Welton expertly weaves Allen’s descent into insanity and his own struggles to stay solvent into a thick tapestry of chuckles.

Read “Allen” by clicking here.

“The Genie” by Whisky Smokes

Yungpec is back, and he’s back with a vengeance. “The Genie” is a story about a man who happens upon a magical lamp, expecting three wishes from the genie trapped within. Said genie isn’t interested, however, putting our hero in a no-win position. It’s a metaphor for life itself: if you can’t win, you might as well do what you want.

Read “The Genie” by clicking here.

“Demons in the Loo” by Warren Lyons

As Glahn and myself have often lamented, too many people think outsider literature is synonymous with depravity. Your manuscript doesn’t need buckets of blood and cum to be good, and Warren Lyons knows this; he specializes in writing supernatural stories with a twist of hopefulness, a ray of sunshine peeking out from the cloud of modernity.

“Demons in the Loo” is about a married couple who attend a Halloween party, after which the husband stumbles on a portal to another dimension. Through this experience, he gains a true appreciation for the wonder of existence and the importance of his family. No graphic sex or death required.

Read “Demons in the Loo” by clicking here.

In the Shadow of the Belt by Serge Clause

I’ve always had a hard time getting into Russian literature, save for literature from the Soviet period, which endlessly fascinates me. And I mean the real stuff that gets into the nitty-gritty of the time, like Kolyma Tales, Memoirs of a Russian Punk, and Moscow to the End of the Line: toss that careerist hack Solzhenitsyn in the garbage where he belongs.

In the Shadow of the Belt is the story of Clause’s upbringing in Soviet-era eastern Ukraine, with a particular focus on the mischievousness he got up to and how his parents and teachers dealt with it. As you can guess from the title, it involved a lot of blunt objects and screaming. It’s an affecting story that shows the Soviet system from the eyes of someone who was born into it.

Read In the Shadow of the Belt by clicking here.

“Fun with Pedro” by Michael J. Moore

As the good book says, there’s nothing new under the sun, but a skilled writer can turn shopworn tropes into fascinating new stories. “Fun with Pedro” is one such story, a tale of a girl who gets a train run on her in a trailer park, a tale that doesn’t go where you’d expect.

Read “Fun with Pedro” by clicking here.

“The Body in Whole” by Cath

I like Cath. She’s a depressed young girl doing what depressed young girls often do, but with far more skill. “The Body in Whole” is a poetry cycle about the human body, shifting from tenderness to hilarity as effortlessly as a bar of soap glides down a wet bathtub.

Read “The Body in Whole” by clicking here.

“Ghost Queen” by Jakob Zaaiman

Every writer has a subject, a point of life that they enjoy dissecting. For Twain, it was the prejudices of small-town America; for Bukowski, it was the drudgery of modern work; for Zaaiman, it’s the insane lengths that pampered Westerners go to in order to lionize savage third-world cultures. “Ghost Queen” is a story about a culinary critic who journeys to Africa to sample the rarest of rare foods: a delicacy produced from the anus of a castrati. It’s gross, it’s sickening, it’s absolutely sidesplitting, precisely because we all know people like this.

Read “Ghost Queen” by clicking here.

I’d like to thank all of Terror House’s contributors and readers. Stay tuned: we have great things planned for 2020.