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The 13 Best (or Worst) Writers of Splatterpunk & Hardcore Horror


Written by: Matthew J. Barbour

Splatterpunk, known more commonly in the 21st century as extreme/hardcore, is a brutal and uncompromising horror movement. Nothing is left to the imagination. Everything is there on the page in front of you. It is spelled out in graphic detail. Splatterpunk seeks to terrify the reader through shock and disgust.

To accomplish this task, nothing is off the table. Taboo topics, such as racism, religious intolerance, homophobia, rape, and torture, are all explored. Sex and violence is not only present, but celebrated.

To the naysayers, this “torture porn” is smut meant to satisfy the lowest rung of society. To fans, it is a good hard look at a malevolent and immoral world we pray only exists in our nightmares. There is perhaps merit to both interpretations. Here are the thirteen best (or worst) writers of splatterpunk and hardcore horror.

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Clive Barker

Author, director, producer, and visual artist are among the many hats which Clive Barker wears. His writing often blurs opposing concepts such as the physical and the fantastical, pleasure and pain, or Heaven and Hell. It can be infinitely detailed or brutally simplistic depending on what the situation warrants. Barker was also among the first to feature openly gay protagonists in his tales. He is a powerhouse both inside and outside the subgenre. When not writing splatterpunk, Barker even has a bestselling children’s series. Recommended Reading: Books of Blood.

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Poppy Z. Brite

Poppy Z. Brite is among the most well respected and renowned authors within the horror genre.  During the 1990s, Brite’s narratives served to define the subgenres of erotic horror, splatterpunk, and southern gothic. The author’s ultraviolent tales focus on gay and transgender characters living in the south. Scenes of an erotic nature are not simply presented alongside the carnage, but rather intertwined until the devouring of intestines becomes sexual and a shared kiss becomes gore. Recommended Reading: Exquisite Corpse.

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F. Gonzalez

F. Gonzalez, along with Richard Laymon, was a writer lost too soon. Infinitely likeable, Gonzalez’s writing was immediately accessible and brutal. Nothing was off limits. Gonzalez tackled everything from monstrous aquatic crabs to the snuff film industry. Every single novel written, in his all too short career, was an instant cult classic. Recommended Reading: Survivor.

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Brian Keene

To classify Brian Keene as a hardcore horror author is something of a misnomer. He has demonstrated that he has a broad range of stories to tell. Along with Robert Kirkman, Max Brooks, and others, Brian Keene is often credited with reinventing and revitalizing zombie horror in pop culture. Some have even hailed Keene as the next Stephen King. When Keene tackles hardcore horror, it is certainly worth notice. Recommended Reading: The Rising.

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Jack Ketchum

Jack Ketchum is a familiar name in horror. Often cited among the top ten horror writers of all time, much of his work is centered on reality instead of fantastical elements. Humans are the real monsters. Ketchum’s stories are surprisingly plausible and in some instances, based off actual historic events. Recommended Reading: Off Season.

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Joe Lansdale

Joe Lansdale has never embraced the splatterpunk moniker for his writing, preferring that readers come to his work without preconceived notions of a particular subgenre. However, much of his writing, especially those tales written in the late 1980s, could be considered splatterpunk. Lansdale does not pull his punches. His narratives hit hard. Yet, unlike many on this list, the focus of his rage has focused more on racial and religious bigotry than sexuality. Recommended Reading: On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert with Dead Folks.

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Richard Laymon

Richard Laymon was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, writer of the splatterpunk genre. Over the course of about 20 years, he published more than 50 short stories and 30 novels.  Like his contemporaries, Jack Ketchum and Edward Lee, Laymon pushed the boundaries of the horror genre by writing clear straight-forward passages of violence and sexual deviancy. These blood-laced narratives served to shock and disgust the reader. Recommended Reading: The Woods are Dark.

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Edward Lee

Many “extreme,” “hardcore,” and “splatterpunk” authors use sexual content in their stories to disturb the reader. Edward Lee is certainly among them. It is from Lee’s twisted mind that the idea of a “header” was born and from his narratives that the world has been educated as to the nature of a “southern douche.” Some of his books include more sexual content than horror. He has published over 40 novels, all of which stand out both for their absurdity and audacity to push past any form cultural decency. His writing has been described as nothing short of “sexually revolting” for good reason. Recommended Reading: The Bighead.

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Monica J. O’Rourke

Perhaps most surprising to those unfamiliar with hardcore horror is the black comedy prevalent throughout many of the tales. With Monica J. O’Rourke, this humor isn’t always subtle. She wants to shock you through your own laughter at the terrible deeds she puts to paper. The true horror is the reader’s own inability to turn away at the evil before them. In the words of Wrath James White, O’Rourke is “one sick bitch.” No one is arguing with him. Recommended Reading: In the End, Only Darkness.

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Matt Shaw

For those unfamiliar with the author, Shaw is a relative newcomer to the horror genre, beginning his publishing career in 2004. He has been incredibly prolific. In the decade since he began, Shaw has written more than 50 horror stories. His most widely praised works have been in his extreme horror collection. All of the novels within the collection are instantly identifiable by their unadorned black covers and graphic content. Recommended Reading: Porn.

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John Skipp (and Craig Spector)

To many John Skipp is a living legend. He is often co-credited, along with Craig Spector, as the founder of the splatterpunk subgenre. He has inspired writers, directors, and just about everyone who works in the horror industry today. Skipp released a flurry of ultra-violent and overly-sexualized horror literature in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He has only started writing splatterpunk horror again recently.  Recommended Reading: The Light at the End.

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Bryan Smith

Bryan Smith is really just beginning his career in hardcore horror. Yet, he has proven to be both highly versatile and prolific. Over the last several years, Smith has written dozens of stories on a variety of subjects. Serial killers, zombies, demons, and slavers in the sex trade industry are among the monsters lurking in his compelling narratives. However, as the author finds himself, he appears to be settling into a strange mix of splatterpunk and urban fantasy. Smith combines fantastical elements in a real world setting with copious amounts of gore and sex. Recommended Reading: Kayla and the Devil.

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Wrath James White

While African American protagonists in horror literature are not that uncommon, there are few African American writers dedicated to the genre. One of the most notable is Wrath James White. His writing hits like a sledgehammer to the face. It is filled with both the macabre and erotic, often interwoven with humor and the most disturbing social commentary imaginable. While still a relatively new face in horror literature, Wrath James White has managed to capture -in a decade- more than most authors do in a lifetime. Recommended Reading: Succulent Prey.

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About The Overseer (1669 Articles)
Author of Say No to Drugs, writer for Blumhouse, Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

12 Comments on The 13 Best (or Worst) Writers of Splatterpunk & Hardcore Horror

  1. Great article!

    Like

  2. Hmm, I wouldn’t classify Barker as splatterpunk, but there’s no doubt his Books of Blood is one of the most visual, visceral horror collections going.

    O’Rourke, Shaw, and Smith are all new to me, but absolutely no argument with the rest. Richard Laymon is indeed one of the greatest, while Lee and Keene are definitely more graphic.

    Like

    • Matthew J. Barbour // December 25, 2014 at 1:19 am // Reply

      Barker has done a ton. I was trying to get that across in his blurb, but among the things he has done is take a good hard look a gore and sex in some of earlier stories, like the Hellbound Heart -which inspired Hellraiser. The Books of Blood were shocking when they first came out and really did kind of solidify the visceral writing which was to come by other authors. If not splatterpunk, it is proto-splatterpunk.

      It is good I put in some names you hadn’t heard of. My goal was to showcase modern talent along with writers who perhaps wrote their “best” work in the 1980s or early 90s. I also tried to pick people who are still writing. With the exception of Laymon and Gonzalez who are dead and Poppy Z. Brite who has descended into some sort of quasi retirement, most of these authors are still writing.

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      • While Barker is a beast with the hardcore, I find it fascinating that he can COMPLETELY flip the switch and deliver such an awesome, fun and kid-friendly series like Abarat. That blows me away. So damn extreme, yet so perfectly capable of giving a wider audience something almost wholesome. True talent there!

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  3. Great list. Most are favorites. Really nice to see Monica O’Rourke on the list. Really cool site.
    -L.L. Soares

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  4. My favorite current writer of this genre is J.A. Konrath (AKA Jack Kilborn). Afraid, Endurance, and Haunted House are some of my favorite books I’ve ever read.

    Like

  5. Nice list but it’s JF Gonzalez not L Gonzalez! Also nice to see new writers like Shaw listed with my favorites, Ketchum-Laymon-Lee, the “trilogy of terror”. I’d add Mendal Johnson to the list.

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  6. Matt Barbour // January 11, 2015 at 3:41 pm // Reply

    I am not sure what happened. I swear the page had JF a day or two ago, lol. I am not sure why it now says F. Gonzalez.

    Thanks for the feedback. I tried to mix it up. The idea was to give some newer writers exposure while also acknowledging the classics. I am not sure I would change anything if I had to write it again, but I know a strong case could be made for people like Shane McKenzie and Robert Devereaux.

    I also debated removing Monica O’Rourke from the list. That is no slam against her. She is the undisputed Queen of Splatterpunk. Especially now that Poppy Z. Brite is retired and is a man after the surgery. However, some of Monica’s writing hits a little too over the top for me, like Ryan Harding. She is a great writer, just not one of my personal favorites. Still, it would have been hard not having her on the list.

    Cheers

    Like

  7. carlos cordova // January 13, 2015 at 1:42 am // Reply

    I do feel David J. Schow is missing from this list. A great writer and along with Barker, Skipp and Spector is responsible for the Splatterpunk movement.

    Like

    • Matthew J. Barbour // February 3, 2015 at 10:43 pm // Reply

      I agree Schow is missing. It was hard to limit myself to 13 entries. Schow was listed among the original Splat Pack. However, I am not as familiar with Schow as a writer. I have only read a fraction of his work…. obviously I need to do something about that. The thing that springs to mind for me as his biggest contribution is Silver Scream which is a collected anthology he edited.

      Like

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