Bitter Apples ed. by Eric Raglin

Bitter Apples is a collection of horror stories about teaching, written by teachers and exploring both realities and dark permutations of both school and university level teaching. There are seven stories in the book, each quite different and using different kinds of horror, from ghostly students to zombie apocalypse teaching, cult-like teachers’ groups to offering morbid payment in return for a better classroom. All of them, however, consider the stresses of teaching in some way, particularly around education budgets and frustrations about what you can actually do as a teacher.

My favourite story in the collection was ‘The Chalk Martyrs’ by the book’s editor, Eric Raglin (who I’ve read other stories and a collection by), as it combined a wince-inducing body horror conceit with the harsh realities of wanting better for your students, and I loved the details in the story. I also liked ‘Make Sure You Fill Out Those Evaluations’ by Aurelius Raines II, which has a fun training session format whilst creating a picture of a zombie horror dystopia in which teachers still need to try and make school a safe space for students, and the different uses of hauntings in both ‘Drip Drop’ and ‘There’s a Reason They Collect the Pencils’. A couple of the stories didn’t work so much for me as they were more low key, surreal horror that I didn’t click with, but that’s often the case with anthologies.

Combining a variety of horror with the often horrifying reality of the conditions teachers have to work in, Bitter Apples is a clever anthology that would probably make a particularly good gift for teachers or ex-teachers who like horror, and a good read for fans of horror anthologies in general.