We have original fiction from A. Merc Rustad (“Mr. Try Again”) and Lilliam Rivera (“Crave”), along with reprints by M. Rickert (“What She Wicked? Was She Good?”) and Stephen Bacon (“Apports”). In the latest installment of our column on horror, “The H Word,” reviewer and author Charles Payseur discusses what reviewing horror means to him. Plus we have author spotlights with our authors, and Adam-Troy Castro brings us reviews of terrific new fiction.
In This Issue: Mar. 2018 (Issue 66)
Be sure to check out the Editorial for a rundown of this month’s content, plus all our news and updates.
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Six-year-old Violet Wellington was the only child to come out of the swamp. The boys were gone forever. She sat on the side of a muddied dirt road, digging her nails raw against the gravel; her jeans and pink t-shirt were damp but clean. She had a scrape over her left eyebrow and her hair smelled of mildew. Unharmed, otherwise. Dogs and professionals and volunteers spent days trying to find the other bodies. Violet couldn’t help. She wouldn’t draw pictures, she wouldn’t answer questions, she wouldn’t be cajoled with sugar.
She leaves the small creatures in tortured juxtapositions. Her mother and I find them on the porch steps, in the garden, drowning in small puddles, the green hose dripping water from the copper nozzle, guilty as blood. For a few weeks we are able to believe that these tragedies have nothing to do with our little girl whose smile breaks each morning like the sun. We scrape them up, gently, with the edge of leaves or blades of grass (once I cut one in half that way, a horrible accident and it bled while Sheilah laughed, I thought at some imaginary play) but we save none.
To me, horror is about fear. It’s about feeling. Which I think is why a lot of readers and reviewers shy away from looking at stories that are labeled as horror. Because fear is intense, and intensely personal, so what one person finds frightening another person will likely find . . . boring. And if a reviewer decides to judge horror stories solely on how well the stories scare them personally, they’ll likely find a lot of horror to be unsuccessful. But to me there’s so much more to horror than just the ability to make us afraid.
Taina crawls underneath the shack to unearth her wooden cigar box. She opens it and places the items in front of her: a piece of leftover mundillo lace from an unfinished handkerchief, an ivory ribbon she stole from Don Victor’s store, and the rosary beads given to her by Abuela. Everything is right where she left it. She carefully places the items back and covers the box with dirt. “Shhh,” Taina whispers, hugging the dog Choco. Choco licks the side of her cheek and nuzzles his cold wet nose on the crevice of her bony elbow.
They met at a café on the corner of Mulberry Street. It was a fairly nondescript place—greasy net curtains, laminated menus, chipped Formica tables. Probably bustling with overweight truckers first thing in the morning, but at this hour it was almost deserted. Casual patrons had possibly been deterred by the rain. Or maybe the poor hygiene. Cowan spotted Jimenez as soon as he stepped inside. He was sitting at a table in the corner, and he glanced up and waved at the sound of Cowan’s entrance.
Adam-Troy Castro reviews new short story collections from masters of horror David J. Schow and Jack Ketchum.