From Forums to the Front Page: Horror Authors Who Got Their Start On r/nosleep
By Jay Napoliello
Happy Halloween, dear readers, from the Singularity Press team! To celebrate the spooky season, how about we dip our toes into the spookies genre of all – horror! Specifically, let’s celebrate the writers who came from humble beginnings, posting their stories for free online, then later having their books hit the shelves.
Reddit is home to many different communities, referred to as subreddits, themed around countless different shared interests. One of the more popular ones is known as nosleep, which is home to independent works of horror. Anyone can post their works to nosleep as long as they follow a few guidelines; namely that they are encouraged to uphold the theme of the stories, being that they have to resemble a story being told by the person posting them, reminiscent of old internet urban legends.
Many new horror authors got their start on nosleep, reminding all of us that a successful author can emerge from anywhere. Dearest reader, next time you wonder if your work is good enough to be published, just remember that exceptional talent can come from the most unexpected places.
We’ll start with a heavy hitter. C.K. Walker (real name Rebecca Klingel) is one of the most popular and well-known nosleep authors. Her most well-known work from the subreddit is probably her longest; Borrasca, the absolutely stomach-churning subversive horror piece that rattled the entire community. It’s one of those pieces that is so absolutely sickeningly horrifying that while I think it’s a great read, it is so gut-wrenchingly foul that I hesitate to recommend it to anyone. If you want to give it a read, I implore you to look at the content warnings first. It’s such an effective work of horror, but goodness gracious, proceed with caution.
Other works of hers, also found on nosleep, include Betsy the Doll, Room 733, and Repressed Memories Are Meant To Stay Dead. None of them get as disgustingly visceral as Borrasca, nor are they as long, but her skill in crafting simpler self-contained works of horror as well as long-form ones both shine through. If you’re looking for something haunting to read, something that will stick with you for a long time, I cannot recommend her work enough. Volumes of her work can be purchased on Amazon under the title Cold, Thin Air.
Jack Anderson is the author of The Left-Right Game, a serialized horror story originally posted to nosleep in 2017. The quality and popularity of the story lead to it being adapted into an audio drama podcast in 2020. It was also recently announced that it would be adapted into a TV series by Amazon Studios.
You might think such a thing is incredible – and it is! – but the quality of The Left Right Game speaks for itself. It’s not just a work of horror that hopes to scare you (though some of the imagery is quite unsettling) but it’s also a heart wrenching story that will have you getting genuinely attached to many of the characters and their struggles. It’s a powerful story that definitely deserves all of the accolades it has received.
Such a success story starting with a self-published story on a website like Reddit is very inspiring for all independent writers. It goes to show that talent can be found anywhere, and all you need is the courage to put your work out there.
One of the longest running series on nosleep is that of the ‘Lily Madwhip’ series, following the titular character, a young girl with supernatural powers and companions, as she attempts to understand the darker underside of the world around her. She is accompanied by Paschar, an angel that has begun to inhabit an action figure and has sworn to protect her.
While the Lily Madwhip series remains freely available on Reddit (though it has moved to its own page, away from nosleep) Dalphin is a published author with an anthology of his other works available for purchase on Amazon. However, Lily Madwhip easily remains his most popular work that has garnered a dedicated fan following.
It goes to show that even if an author chooses not to have their works traditionally published, they can still find success in other ways.
Best known for his nosleep series ‘Penpal’, following the story of an unnamed protagonist as he attempts to make sense of strange childhood memories, Dathan Auerbach has gone on to publish several of his works, including the aforementioned Penpal. I looked at several posts asking nosleep fans what their favorite works were, and a large amount of the comments on each post cited Auerbach’s work.
Given that the story and its subsequent sequels were posted in 2011, yet still remain relevant to the nosleep community to this day, shows the staying power of independently published work. Though the stories are available for free to read, many fans have chosen to support the author financially and purchase the published version of the story instead.
If you’re looking for a spooky way to spend Halloween, or if you just want to lift your spirits with some success stories from other independent writers, feel free to check out some of the authors mentioned! Just remember to turn off the lights and close the blinds for the best experience, hehe…
Happy Halloween, everyone!