20 Short Stories That Inform and Influence My Fiction

Double Exposed film photo of an alley door with a light leak

Occasionally, someone will ask me what stories and authors influence my writing. That is a difficult question. Really, everything a writer reads in some way influences our writing. It all pushes or pulls our work in some direction. When I read a story that doesn’t work for me, I learn that I should not attempt something similar in my own work. But, when I read something that I love, I like to think that it informs my work; that it helps me to improve my own voice to better satisfy my own fancies.

So, I wanted to share a list of 20 stories that influence and inform my fiction. I made only one rule for myself: to limit myself to only two stories per author. Any author with an asterisk (*) is someone whose full body of work has a hand in defining my own. Anything and everything written by these authors is required reading for me and should be for you too. Also, the list is in no particular order. While ranking the stories would be fun, the task would be difficult and would change depending on my mood for the day.

Now, on to the list!


  1. ‘The Imago Sequence’ by Laird Barron* from his collection The Imago Sequence.
  2. ‘Andy Kaufman Creeping through the Trees’ by Laird Barron from his collection Swift to Chase.
  3. ‘Last Feast of the Harlequin’ by Thomas Ligotti* from his collection Grimscribe.
  4. ‘The Town Manager’ by Thomas Ligotti from his collection Teatro Grottesco.
  5. ‘Furnace’ by Livia Llewellyn* from her collection Furnace. I first read this in the anthology Year’s Best Weird Fiction: Volume One eds. Laird Barron and Michael Kelly.
  6. ‘Omphalos’ by Livia Llewellyn from her collection Engines of Desire. I first read this in the anthology Nightmares: A New Decade in Modern Horror ed. Ellen Datlow.
  7. ‘In the Hills, the Cities’ by Clive Barker* from his collection The Books of Blood: Volume 1.
  8. ‘Atlas of Hell’ by Nathan Ballingrud* from his collection Wounds. I first read it in the anthology Year’s Best Weird Fiction: Volume Two eds. Kathe Koja and Michael Kelly. Also found in Nightmares: A New Decade in Modern Horror ed. Ellen Datlow.
  9. ‘The Monsters of Heaven’ by Nathan Ballingrud from his collection North American Lake Monsters. I first read this in the anthology Inferno: New Tales of Terror and the Supernatural ed. Ellen Datlow.
  10. ‘Cat Calls’ by Rebecca Jones Howe from her collection Vile men. I first read this in the anthology Exigencies ed. Richard Thomas.
  11. ‘Fire in the Hole’ by Elmore Leonard from his collection Fire in the Hole.
  12. ‘Pop Art’ by Joe Hill from his collection 20th Century Ghosts.
  13. The Repairer of Reputations’ by Robert W. Chambers from his collection The King in Yellow.
  14. The Call of Cthulhu’ by H. P. Lovecraft.
  15. ‘The Lawnmower Man’ by Stephen King* from his collection Night Shift.
  16. ‘Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut’ by Stephen King from his collection Skeleton Crew.
  17. The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
  18. ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’ by Nick Mamatas from the anthology Year’s Best Weird Fiction: Volume Two eds. Kathe Koja and Michael Kelly.
  19. ‘Thirteen’ by Stephen Graham Jones* from his collection After the People Lights Have Gone Off.
  20. The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson.

That’s quite a list! And, it’s all wonderful stuff. Hopefully you’ve found a new story or author to check out. Above, when available, I’ve linked to places where the stories can be read for free. Below, I’ve included links to some collections and anthologies where these stories can be found. Note: these are affiliate links, and I make a small percentage from the sales when they are used.


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