This month we have an original novelette from Usman Malik (“Dead Lovers on Each Blade, Hung”) that we’ll be serializing over two weeks. Our reprints are by Carole Johnstone (“Better You Believe”) and Lucy Taylor (“Nikishi”). In the latest installment of our column on horror, “The H Word,” A.C. Wise examines the roles mothers play in horror. Plus we have plus an author spotlight with Usman Malik and a book review from Terence Taylor.
In This Issue: Nov. 2018 (Issue 74)
Be sure to check out the Editorial for a run-down of this month’s content and for all our news and updates.
Jee Inspector Sahib, he came looking for a missing girl in Lahore Park one evening in the summer of 2013, this man known as Hakim Shafi. It was a summer to blanch the marrow of all summers. Heat rose coiling like a snake from the ground. Gusts of evil loo winds swept across Lahore from the west, shrinking the hides of man and beast alike, and Hakim Shafi went from bench to bench, stepping over needles rusting in bleached June grass, and showed the heroinchies a picture.
This is how Hakim Shafi gave away his life: First, he closed his shop. Next, he sold his house. “What in the name of God are you doing?” I said. Shafi grinned. That grin raised the hackles on my neck, sahib. “Burning bridges,” he said. I looked at him closely. In the four weeks since I’d told him about the qawwals, he had shaved his thick mustache and lost ten kilos. He was always thin, but now he looked like a needler at the end of his days. His temples were wasted, the flesh of his face pulled taut across the blades of his bones.
As a child, when something frightens you—a bad dream, or a monster under the bed—what do you do? You call for the ultimate protection: your mother. But what happens when mothers themselves are monstrous, and what makes them so? Mothers, like women in horror fiction generally, don’t tend to fare well. They suffer from the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” problem, becoming a source of terror for being too motherly, or not motherly enough.
It’s all downhill on a descent. The oldest climbing joke of the lot, but only because it’s true. If I like any bit of it at all, it could never be that slow, painful climb down from the highs of before and the bone-deep exhaustion of after. People make mistakes on a descent because everything’s against them: altitude, time, their bodies. And always their mind. No one gets excited about survival—not like they do about standing on the top of the world. And no one gets a good write-up in Nat Geo or Time.
Seasick and shivering, Thomas Blacksburg peered out from beneath the orange life boat canopy, watching helplessly as the powerful Benguela current swept him north up the coast of Namibia. For hours, he’d been within sight of the Skeleton Coast, that savage, wave-battered portion of the West African shore stretching between Angola to the north and Swakopmund to the south. Through ghostly filaments of fog that drifted around the boat, Blacksburg could make out the distant shore.
This month Terence Taylor reviews work that delves into the human condition: a new edition of Thomas Ligotti’s nonfiction classic, The Conspiracy against the Human Race, and Pornsak Pichetshote’s graphic novel, Infidel .