We have original fiction from Dan Stintzi (“Methods of Ascension”) and Joanna Parypinski (“Dead Worms, Dangling”), along with reprints by Siobhan Carroll (“Nesters”) and Kurt Fawver (“The Myth of You”). We also have the latest installment of “The H Word,” plus author spotlights with our authors, and a book review.
Dec. 2019 (Issue 87)
Be sure to read the Editorial for a rundown of this month’s icy content, plus all our news and updates.
It wasn’t unusual for my brother to send me strange videos he found on the internet. If I’d had enough to drink, sometimes I’d even watch. They were all about pain, in one way or another, and often made me feel as though someone had poured concrete down my throat. There are afterimages burned into my memory that cannot be removed; grainy flashes of a woman swallowed up by an escalator, handing her child to a stranger before being pulled under; black and white street fight footage that ends with a neck snapped back.
They killed the last calf that morning. Ma wanted to hold off, give the poor thing a chance, but Pa said it were cruel to let a body live like that. He cracked the hammer on its head—a sick, sad sound. Later he slit the calf open and showed Sally the animal’s stomach, choked with dust. “Suffocated from the inside,” he said. Sally cried, or would have cried, but her face was too caked with dirt. The Vaseline in her nostrils couldn’t keep it out.
When the middle section of your story’s a meat grinder, as it always is in horror, chewing up characters and hope and anything good—blood on the wall, teeth on the floor—then staging an ending that saves those characters or suggests the possibility of hope, or just anything even good-adjacent, it’s a real trick, isn’t it? Really though, gore and transgression and mortal stakes aside, happy endings are a trick in whatever genre or mode you’re writing in, just because that’s the job of the second act: to make the third seem impossible.
When Milo got to the river’s edge, where the log fern gave way to a rough bank, Buck was already there. Shirt tied around his waist, his lean thirteen-year-old’s torso glossed with sweat, bent over with his hands on his knees. There was something in his face Milo didn’t like. “Drop something?” Buck startled and turned. “Nothing important. What took you so long?” Milo swatted away flies that had found a perch on his glasses.
You like myths, don’t you? Sure you do. They’re stories. Special kinds of stories. And stories, even if they don’t consist of bare facts or figures or polynomial equations, are containers for your sustenance, your lifeblood: information. See, stories wrap up their informational nutrients in a fat slice of possibility, and possibility glistens with a complex palate of flavors. So many meanings simultaneously hitting your tongue—if you have a tongue, that is. So many morsels of data, all converging at once.
This month, Terence Taylor talks about the role of setting as he reviews the novella The Monster of Elendhaven, by Jennifer Giesbrecht, and the novel Genocide on the Infinite Express, by Kevin Sweeney.