Today marks one year since The Dread Machine launched, and we’ve come a long way. Last week, we successfully funded our first anthology, Mixtape: 1986, much to our surprise. Our community has exploded to over 200 members. We’ve been given so much support and encouragement, and we realized that we’re finally in a position to start giving back.
We’re proud of these stories and the writers who birthed them. We want everyone to experience and enjoy the art we’ve been hoarding to ourselves.
Our Cultists will retain a variety of benefits, including:
We now have a merch line! We purchased samples of every item in the store and can personally vouch for the quality. (We removed the apparel because the quality was garbage, but we’re going to keep searching for a new vendor.)
If you’d like to support The Dread Machine, please share our stories with your friends, hype us and our writers on your socials, gift our merch and books to your loved ones, and consider becoming a Cultist or shooting us a small donation every once in a while.
Could we agree on the top five stories we’ve published in our first year? Of course not. (Our editorial process is more like a constant, real-life battle royale.) So instead, we’ve put together our personal favorites and shared our reasons for selecting them.
After reading “Fringe Benefits” by Larina Warnock, I literally jumped out of my bed and ran downstairs to accept it. The story (which is almost like The Hunger Games meets The Office) is funny and stressful with a triumphant but bittersweet ending.
“Are You Still There” by Hudson Wilding rattled me pretty hard. I identified with the protagonist and so badly wanted for her meeting with her clandestine phone friend to be everything she hoped and feared it would be. The entire narrative seemed very much like something that could happen in real life, heavy with Joyce Carol Oates vibes, so it’s one of those stories that will stick with me for a long time.
I love stories that make me laugh out loud, and “I Have Your Eugene” by Peter Emmett Naughton does that. I had to push hard to justify accepting it because it deviates from what we normally publish, but I think it was worth it.
“Under the Skin” by David Smith has such a strong narrative voice. You read the first few paragraphs and you know this guy. I loved the plot and the way the ending subverts expectations.
“Blood Runs Cold” by Josh Rountree hits my top five for the same reason. I love the protagonist’s voice, the heist-gone-wrong plot, and the ending that came out of left field (in a good way).
If we were including reprints, “No Regrets on Fourth Street” by Lauren C. Teffeau (an action-packed cyberpunk love story) and “The Domovoi” by Avra Margariti (a beautiful, eerie story about a Russian immigrant) would rank among my top picks also. They’re longer stories, so before you read them, settle in.
Edith Lockwood’s “The Silent Miscarriage” is a beautiful, painful story that hurt me to read and forced me to take pauses to pause and reflect on my own traumas. I’m keenly aware of the dismissive attitude physicians can take toward women’s medical issues (particularly when the patients are women of color), and I think Edith captured that dread quite well while also providing a vindicating resolution.
“Fringe Benefits” by Larina Warnock was an instant OMG YES WE MUST ACCEPT THIS RIGHT NOW! vote from me. I love how Larina deftly wove together compelling plot, high stakes, and desperation into this short satire of how office managers try to boost morale by introducing mandatory fun/team-building activities in the workplace.
Avra Margariti’s “The Architect” absolutely perfectly captures the sheer, visceral dread that you feel in nightmares about your teeth falling out. You know, the dreams when your teeth fall out, shatter, and/or crumble away. Except this isn’t one of those nightmares, it’s a story about growing up and aliens.
“Satan’s Ridge” by Cody Mower stood out to me because not only is it well-written, but it’s also a true story! Discovering this dreadful, autobiographical story in the slushpile was a joy, and I was (and still am) excited that we got to publish a great example of suspenseful non-fiction.
Parker Ragland’s “Cherry-Blossom Droid” was another ACCEPT THIS NOW PLS vote from me. Unique takes on a future, dystopian Washington, DC fascinate me, particularly when they feel right to me (a DMV native). I’m a huge fan of how Parker makes memory a central, humanizing concept in this story.