The Call is Coming from Inside the Spaceship: 6 Works of Space Horror

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Alex Acks

Contributing Editor

Alex Acks is a writer, geologist, and sharp-dressed sir. They've written for Six to Start and been published in Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Shimmer, Daily Science Fiction, and more. Alex lives in Denver with their two furry little bastards, where they twirl their mustache, watch movies, and bike. Twitter: @katsudonburi Website:

This list of space horror books was originally published in our science fiction and fantasy newsletter, Swords & Spaceships. Sign up for it here to get science fiction and fantasy news, reviews, deals, and more!

I’ve noticed that the Halloween-themed Free Association Fridays have all been rather weighted toward the fantasy side of things (aside: sci-fi authors, get it together. I want some ghosts in space! And space witches other than the ones I wrote!). So this time around, it’s all Sci-Fi, or at least Sci-Fantasy, for our slightly horror-tastic offerings.

cover image of Salvation Day by Kali Wallace

Salvation Day by Kali Wallace

The House of Wisdom was a massive exploration ship; now it’s a ghost ship, abandoned for a decade due to an outbreak of a deadly virus on board, one that killed its entire crew — minus one — in a matter of hours. Any would-be shipbreak has a rich target, and all they need to do to get it is not care about the potential for the disease surviving…and kidnap the sole survivor of the disaster, whose gene code will allow entry to the ship. Zahra head a ship breaking crew brave (and stupid) enough to do just that…but none of them are prepared for what they find waiting on board.

Toxic by Lydia Kang

The bioship Cyclo is a home to many secrets — one of which is Hana, a child hidden by her mother in a secret room, until one day the entire crew simply disappears. But the Cyclo is destined to die as well, and a group of mercenaries have been sent to observe her death. One of the mercenaries befriends Hana, and the two of them must figure out how to survive the dying ship and all the secrets that the human government would like to die with her.

The Luminous Dead book cover

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

An expedition to map mineral deposits promises mundane dangers like gear malfunctions and cave collapses. The fat paycheck seems well worth the risk to Gyre…until she gets Em as her surface contact. Em who has no problem manipulating her with drugs, withholding information, and blackmail. And there’s more in the caves than just Gyre — there’s the Tunneler that calls them home, and the ghosts in her own head that grow ever louder.

Blindsight by Peter Watts

Two months ago, 65,000 alien objects coated the atmosphere of the Earth, screaming out that humans were being watched for a brief second before burning up in the atmosphere. After those days of tense silence, an almost-defunct probe catches an alien signal — but it’s not there to talk to us. Something is coming, and it doesn’t care about humanity. The only hope to attempt First Contact with a disinterested alien mind is to send a group of humans who seem alien to their own species, and hope they can handle what’s waiting for them out in the black.

cover image of Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda

Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda

Human civilization is dying, and the key to its salvation might wait in the hold of the USS John Muir, a chunk of Earth taken from the planet long before straits became so dire. The crew of the John Muir have been in cryogenic sleep for centuries and have no idea what’s going on…but that’s no problem for ship raider Laura Cruz. But soon she and the no longer sleeping crew have a different, more immediate problem: alien monsters that can kill with a sound.

Ring by Koji Suzuki, Translated by Glynne Walley

You may be familiar with the movies this book spawned — the evil video tape that kills, the mysterious monster named Sadako who crawls out of your TV. But the deadly threat that kills in seven days has a far different — and much more science fiction — origin in the book, and a much more tragic and horrifying history. I’ll also note this is one of the best translations from Japanese I’ve ever read that wasn’t a Murakami novel.