Horror & Dark Fantasy

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Editorial

Editorial: February 2021

Welcome to issue 101 of Nightmare! I’m Wendy N. Wagner, writing to you in my first-ever editorial, and let me just say: It is an honor and a privilege to be writing to you, our wonderful readers. Thank you so much for joining me on the next leg of our magazine’s terrifying journey. I hope we have a great time together!

When it comes to horror, I’m what might be called a “true believer.” Horror novels, video games and movies have gotten me through some of the roughest patches in my life. I’ve escaped unhappiness by diving into the thrills of countless monstrous adventures; I’ve felt my will to live return after a good jump scare—and I’ve found tremendous insight into the human condition in the work of horror creators across all mediums. Horror and dark fantasy offer us an amazing realm to learn about ourselves, our fellow humans, and our relationship to the world.

I feel so lucky that I’ve spent the last six years as a part of Nightmare, immersed in the work of an incredible community of dark creators. We’ve published stories ranging from the experimental to the revolting to the crushingly sad: a remarkable variety of fiction. But if there’s one thing that unites the last 100 issues, it’s a commitment to humanity. To sharing work that doesn’t just scare, but which touches you. Nightmare has always been a place for fiction with heart, and I hope this issue continues in the same fine tradition.

This month sees a few changes in the usual Nightmare line-up as we swap out reprints for original micro-content we’re calling “The Horror Lab.” Every month you’ll see a piece of flash fiction, plus a poem or a piece of creative nonfiction—all of it unsettling and delicious. This month’s nasty little bonbons include “The Girl with the Voice Made of Stone,” a prose poem by Anuel Rodriguez that spins the murder and social critique into a dark fairy tale. Our flash story is a tiny, bloody morsel from Erica Ruppert called “And Lucy Fell.”

Our short fiction this month includes Nightmare newcomer E.A. Petricone’s “We, the Girls Who Did Not Make It,” a story of ghosts, abuse, and our culture’s obsession with serial killers. The inimitable Stephen Graham Jones returns with an eight-legged tale of regret: “Hairy Legs and All.”

In “The H Word,” Justin C. Key talks about what it’s like being a Black horror fan experiencing a genre where he felt unwelcome—and what it’s like today creating horror through his own Black lens. We also have spotlight interviews with our short fiction writers, and an in-depth interview with author Hailey Piper.

There is also a special story about our cover art this issue. We were contacted by creative director and model Grace Legault with a photo submission of these very unsettling nurses. Of course we couldn’t resist them! If you’d like to check out more of Grace’s work, you can find her on Instagram, where she’s @heygracie_. The rest of her team includes photographer Marshall Stonefish (@marshalls.worldx), make-up artist Cassidy Shkimba (@thepowderrooom), and models Mya Matos (@myasoleil) and Emilee Farquhar (@emileefarquhar).

Throughout the rest of the year, I’d also like to take more time to celebrate our wonderful Nightmare community. Our staff of volunteers includes some of the most hard-working and insightful folks I’ve met, and you deserve a chance to get to know them a little better. I thought I’d start with one of our dirtiest jobs: copy editing. If it weren’t for the hard work of copy editor Melissa V. Hofelich, this magazine wouldn’t look nearly as good. We all owe her a standing ovation for her years scrutinizing punctuation and capturing typos! Here’s a little bit more about this hero:

How did you get started working with Nightmare?

My dear friend Rachael K. Jones originally told me about an open position at Lightspeed Magazine. I worked on Lightspeed for several years. When the Copy Editor position opened up at Nightmare, you asked if I was interested. Five years later, here we are!

What’s your favorite part of your work here?

I get to read some really amazing stuff. Every once in a while, I come across a story or author (Isabel Cañas or Livia Llewellyn, for example) that’s so good, I have to force myself to slow down and focus. A great story can still carry me away. I also really enjoy “The H Word.” There have been some very thought-provoking essays in that column.

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

Like a lot of people my age, I read Stephen King’s It way sooner than I should have. My parents are both big readers, and passed that love on to me and my brother. Someone had given my mom a copy of It. Since she’s not into horror, it sat unread on a bookshelf until I picked it up around age ten. (A few years later, that’s also how I came across my first romance novel. But that’s a story for another time.)

My mom was horrified when she found out, but she let me finish the book. Then she steered me over toward more age-appropriate fare. So, so, so many Christopher Pike books! I remember tearing through them incredibly fast and loving every minute of it. Even when I watched Disney films, I loved the villains more than any hero or heroine. I was particularly obsessed with Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. As I got older (and was allowed!), I moved onto reading more King, Clive Barker, and many other authors that are considered horror classics today.

What’s your favorite horror villain or monster?

Because he was indelibly imprinted on my mind at such a young age: Pennywise from It. I was absolutely terrified by the idea that he could disguise himself as anyone’s worst fear. While the clown and some of his other manifestations were really effective, finishing it up with spiders was a gut punch. I’m petrified by spiders.

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Thanks so much for all your hard work, Melissa!

And a thank you to all our authors and readers—we’re so glad to have you travel with us on this nightmarish road.

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 Nightmare‘s Queers Destroy Horror! special issue. She lives in Oregon with her very understanding family, two large cats, and a Muppet disguised as a dog.