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Editorial: August 2022

Welcome to issue 119 of Nightmare!

One of my favorite video games is Mad Max. While the action in the game is not based on the films, the universe is, and George Miller was consulted on some of the finer points of the worldbuilding. It’s a game about exploring and surviving in a post-apocalyptic desert dotted with the wreckage of shipyards and sunken ships. The dust plume trailing your muscle car was, in fact, once the silt at the bottom of the ocean.

Like most entries in the Mad Max franchise, there’s some pointed social criticism going on. George Miller has credited his work as an ER doctor treating car accidents as part of the inspiration behind the original Mad Max, and all of the films quietly address the nature of environmental devastation. Mad Max the video game simply works harder to draw attention to our current situation. Water cycles on this planet are borked. In one hundred years, people’s lives on planet Earth are going to look a lot more like the lives in this game’s desert wasteland than anybody really wants.

I don’t know about you, but I have zero desire to spend my old age scavenging cans of Dinki-Di dogfood. Like most of us, I want to help bring back the trees and restore the soil and keep the temperature from soaring too far into the red, but the situation sometimes feels impossible to solve. Because society is complicated and the environment complex, there are no easy answers.

Our first story in this month’s issue is “Every Atom Belonging to Me as Good Belongs to You,” by Endria Isa Richardson. (Fans of Walt Whitman will recognize the title as a quote from “Song of Myself.”) It’s a terrifying story about complications wrought by climate change, but it’s also a touching exploration of the meaning of family. Just as importantly, it’s a story about No Easy Answers—the theme of this month’s issue.

Adam-Troy Castro returns to our pages with a blast of body horror in his new short, “The Arm Ouroboros.” Mel Kassel brings us a flash story about pettiness and ghosts: “Skitterdead.” And in his poem “Around the Corners,” Jarod K. Anderson explores the labyrinth of life with depression.

To lighten up the mood, horror scholar Melanie R. Anderson delves into the world of fungi in her essay for The H Word column. Our staff writers interview the authors of our short fiction, and Gordon B. White returns with an exciting long-form interview with rising star Cynthia Pelayo.

I also have a little treat here in the editorial. For almost a year now, Leighanna DeRouen has been proofreading our issues and helping out with all sorts of oddball editorial projects. She’s saved the day over and over, and I am beyond grateful to have her on board! It’s beyond time you got to know a little about her.

How did you get started working with Nightmare?

I was walking to my dead-end job, daydreaming about a different life, when I was hit by a bus and woke up in the pages of—wait, that’s a different thing. In reality, it’s a very mundane story about wanting to pivot my skill set away from the industry I was in and into something I cared about. I reached out to a friend who happens to be one of our Nightmare authors, and they put me in touch with our illustrious Editor-in-Chief!

What’s your favorite part of your work here?

Ooh, that’s a tough one. I love that I get the opportunity to poke at the brains of our authors and ask questions about their work and influences. As a reader, I’ve always loved those peeks behind the curtain. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say my favorite part of working with Nightmare is getting an early look at each issue.

Would you call yourself a horror fan? If so, what brought you to the genre?

I am absolutely a horror fan—it’s the genre that speaks to me the loudest and most urgently. It’s the breadth that does it for me—anything can be considered horror if it’s viewed from the right (or wrong) crooked angle.

I wasn’t allowed to watch horror movies as a kid, but I was allowed to read whatever interested me. I remember being utterly obsessed with the Point horror YA books when I was in elementary school—Caroline B. Cooney and Christopher Pike in particular. A short time later I read IT and there was no going back.

What’s your favorite horror villain or monster?

Krug Stillo (David A. Hess) from Last House on the Left is the villain who scares me the most—see also Frank Zito (Joe Spinell) from Maniac. The villain I adore is Minnie Castavet as played by Ruth Gordon in Rosemary’s Baby (1968).

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This might be the “No Easy Choices” issue, but I think choosing to read it is a pretty easy decision!

Wendy N. Wagner

Wendy N. Wagner is the author of the horror novel The Deer Kings and the gothic novella The Secret Skin. Previous work includes the SF thriller An Oath of Dogs and two novels for the Pathfinder Tales series, and her short stories, poetry, and essays have appeared in more than fifty venues. She also serves as the managing/senior editor of Lightspeed Magazine, and previously served as the guest editor of our Queers Destroy Horror! special issue. She lives in Oregon with her very understanding family, two large cats, and a Muppet disguised as a dog.