Dark Wonderland, horror and dark fantasy stories

Dark Wonderland, horror and dark fantasy tales for those long, dark winter nights…check out reviews for stories included in Dark Wonderland, from their original appearances in magazines and anthologies…

“‘Signal To Noise’ by Gerard Houarner is a real gem. In it, the protagonist is unable to filter out all the extraneous signals that we are bombarded with every day. At first, it’s just parents; but as his social circle expands, more and more signals join the chorus. The protagonist is the receiver, unable to stop the voices of all the others in his head. Medication fails him, as his life and marriage disintegrate. He knows his mission——he was given the answer, and now he only needs to be asked the right question and be discharged of his responsibility. The stream-of-consciousness prose is effective, and Mr. Houarner puts his experience working in a psychiatric hospital to good use, creating a convincing and deeply sympathetic portrait.”  Tangetonline.com, review of Cemetery Dance 49

“They Play in the Palace of My Dreaming”’ builds slowly in a way character-based stories tend to do, but Houarner knows how to keep a reader reading. The climax is sudden and completely unexpected, yet is entirely within the character of the power-hungry Carlos. There are writers who write stories for the sake of entertainment, and then there are storytellers who understand what stories and myths are meant for. Gerard Houarner is both a writer and a storyteller.” Tangetonline.com review of Heliotrope 2

“…’The Three Strangers’ is a fantastical glance at corrupt law and revenge.” The Last Pentacle of the Sun: Writings in Support of the West Memphis Three, Rue Morgue

“…Gerard Houarner’s ‘Dead Snake Medicine Woman’ will shake you up.” Bill Cider’s Pop Culture Magazine (online)

“The finest piece to be found in this unsettling collection of unsavory vignettes would have to be ‘Boxes and Bags’ by Gerard Daniel Houarner, a surreal and poetic indictment against the fallacies of desire and the shortcomings of human nature.  To say this dulcet and philosophically detached paean to compartmentalized grief is out of place in this gathering is an understatement.  But existing as it does–a precious jewel amongst the bitter dregs of sociopathic cravings–makes this anthology a recommended must.”

– Blue Food, reviewing ‘Boxes and Bags’ from the Nasty Snippets anthology



Hi all

My new short story collection, Dark Wonderland, was just released by Hellbound Books.

It’s a thick one at 120,000 words, and includes 27 stories published between 1991 to 2012 taken from the pages of magazines like Deathrealm, Brutarian, Cemetery Dance, Horror Garage, and anthologies like Strange Tales, Indian Country Noir, Mojo: Conjure Stories, Lost on the Darkside, as well as, of course, many other others.

15  stories received Honorable Mentions in various editions Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror and Year’s Best Horror, and one of those was anthologized in Best Dark Fantasy and Horror.

Like the title says, the stories are dark but also have elements of the fantastic. They range from strange to scary, with maybe a touch of the surreal here and there, and hopefully filled with characters and situations you’d never want to run into.

21 years of pouring out the heart’s darkness, yours for the reading.

Here’s the book blurb:

Change your shades. Get a new prescription for those glasses. Take a fresh look at the world, the real world of wonders and darkness that is the heart beat of reality, the truth behind the shadow theater of human existence. Listen for the whispers, pay attention to the voices speaking like static beneath fear’s desperation.

Feel what’s coming. Embrace it. You might…

…find what makes a dead man, and a live one, crawl.

…walk the unnameable path, serving masters who are teeth and hunger.

…search for another question to replace the one you cannot answer – are you insane?

…discover gods in mirrors, and in yourself.

…reach for the glory of youth on a road to nowhere.

… hear the Whistle Men coming for you.

…find life again among ghosts from the past.

…help three strangers make things right.

…pay a price in your heart for falling in love with a woman chased by a monster.

Or, go ahead, ignore the wonder, run from the darkness. They’ll catch up to you, sooner or later. The Dark Wonderland always does…

And here’s a sample of the first tale…


Night Service

Born dead.  Murdered by the age of three.  At seven, thrown into a pit and buried alive with others of my ethnic background.  It wasn’t until I was thirteen that I killed.  Fourteen, hung by vigilantes seeking vengeance.  Eighteen, sentenced to death for murder.  Twenty-one, executed.

Then I became a man.


Simon flipped the card over.  On the back, a telephone number in a small, thin font invited him to call.  He read the front again.

No.  Really.  He didn’t need the help.  Not this time.  Not yet.

“Thanks for thinking of me,” he said, turning to look up at whoever had placed the card on the table, next to the wine.  There was no one there.  The waiter was at the bar picking up an order of drinks.  The busboy was busily scrapping crumbs from another table.  The people at the surrounding tables seemed immersed in their conversations, company, or thoughts.

When he returned to his meal, the card was gone.

It was only then that he realized no one else in the room would have accepted the card’s message, and understood it, as he just had.  No one else would have picked up their fork and knife and cut into their steak, au jus, after the card’s disappearance.  There should have been outrage.  Fear.  A free meal.

Simon put the meat into his mouth and chewed, savoring the texture, the warmth, the bloody juice squirting against his gums, trickling over his tongue, savory, piquant.

What he feared was finding the card, again.

What made him set down his fork and knife and clutch at the cell phone clipped to his belt as if it was a hand grenade about to go off, was the terror in remembering that number, and calling it.

He’d just escaped.  There was no trace left of the encounter.  He was innocent.  Untouched.  There was no reason to call.  It would be foolish – no, crazy, to struggle to recall that number.  Everything would work out.

Simon waved for the check, leaving his steak and bottle of wine unfinished.


He couldn’t remember how to work the remote.

“Mommy, what’s wrong with Daddy?” his little girl asked.

Yvonne, his wife, could have said he was drunk, or sleepy, or just fooling around.  Instead, she asked, “What Daddy?” in a tone that sent a chill down Simon’s back.

She appeared suddenly in the doorway, silken night gown fluttering.  Gloria, his little girl, sat in front of the dead TV with the remote in her hands.  Yvonne’s eyes were hard as she scanned the living room.  Her lips were set in a purposeful line straight across her face, like a zipper sealing everything she wanted to say inside.

Already, he was gone, though he’d never been there.  This was the apartment she’d taken after leaving him.

Yvonne relaxed, sat down next to Gloria, took the remote from her hands.  Powered the television up.  “Silly, you were pushing the wrong buttons,” she said, her body visibly relaxing from shoulders to feet.

Then Simon lost touch, found himself back at work, tracking reports of terrorist activity in a basement bunker office, darkened except for his cubicle.  He was working overtime for the homeland’s defense.  The terrorists never slept.  Neither would he.

At least he wasn’t dead.  Yet.

Welcome to My Dark Wonderland

Welcome, and thank you for visiting my new web site, “Gerard Houarner: Dark Wonderland.”

What a long, strange trip it’s been: my first story was published  Space and Time Magazine, March of 1974, and here I am, 44 years later, still in the game, having published all kinds of stories in speculative / dark fiction genres (including horror, science fiction, fantasy, weird, extreme and some that fall between boundaries).

Thanks to site designer Matt Bechtel, I’ve landed in these spiffy new digs where you can check out what I’ve been up to all these years, from writing short fiction and novels long and short to editing anthologies and serving as Fiction Editor for Space and time magazine. You can click HERE to browse my complete bibliography, or HERE for more information regarding my individual publications.

I’ll be posting here regularly, of course, certainly with some thoughts on writing, news and updates, down the line reviews, samples, who knows what else, so please make sure to revisit my “Dark Wonderland” for the latest. You’ll also find multiple ways to follow me on social media or contact me in the righthand sidebar, along with a form to sign up for my e-mail newsletter.

Feel free to drop me a line and say hi!

Thanks again for your interest in, and support of, my work. I hope you enjoy this “Dark Wonderland!”