Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke and Other Misfortunes by Eric LaRocca

Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke and Other Misfortunes is a collection of three horror novellas including the virally famous titular story. In the first story, set on the internet in the early 2000s, two women are caught in a strange interplay despite never meeting. In the second, a couple end up on a remote island after the death of their son, where they are plagued by a strange young man, and in the final, shorter story, a man ends up in a confrontation with his reclusive neighbour.

I’ve been wanting to read ‘Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke’ for a long time as a horror fan who loves fiction set over the internet and thinking about the internet of the past, and it didn’t disappoint. The format of telling the story through posts, emails, and instant messages, with a few mysterious redacted comments, worked well to show the actual relationship between the two women and leave you guessing what each of them actually wanted. The horror in the story is more underlying and uncertain (though there is a couple of gory bits too), and I liked how it had the vibe of an internet urban legend.

The two “other misfortunes”, aka the two shorter stories that follow, are quite different, though in the afterward LaRocca does explain the logic behind bringing them together in their representations of humans needing connections. The middle story has slightly The Shining vibes in terms of setup, and had an interesting engagement with religion and belief (and felt like you could adapt it into a film quite well). The final story is shortest and is quite straightforward, though with some intriguing undercurrents like the protagonist’s never seen racist husband he doesn’t think he’ll stay with. Overall, I enjoyed these less than the title story, though I think a lot of that is because I’m just particularly interested in the internet angle of that one.

This is well worth reading given the hype around the title story, particularly if you’re interested in how people connect over the internet and some of the horror potential for that, and I do like the novella format for horror that isn’t a full length thing. Also, it is just a great title.