Horror & Dark Fantasy

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Editorial

Editorial: July 2021

Welcome to Nightmare’s 106th issue!

Well, Dickens must have been looking in his crystal ball, because his “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” line seems pretty fitting for 2021. Here in Oregon, we’re facing a statewide drought, and authorities are already concerned about the potential of violent clashes over water rights in the Klamath basin. Homicide has hit levels not seen in Portland for twenty-five years. And the elastic in my favorite running shorts is starting to give out.

But enough about the bad stuff! Is horror literature smoking hot this year, or what?!?

Cool new small presses are showing up seemingly every day, producing fantastic new horror chapbooks, weird zines, and tasty anthologies. Big publishers are seeing success with their horror imprints. Websites like Night Worms are curating cool horror packages and promoting new books. Writers from all backgrounds and identities are finding exciting ways to connect with readers and scare their socks off. And we here at Nightmare are having a great time being a part of this vibrant, bubbling horror community!

Needless to say, we’re feeling good at the magazine this month, and we want you to feel good, too. In fact, our H Word this month (written by Jose Cruz) is all about cozy horror—those delightful, comforting horror stories that you turn to time and again when you need a dark little hug.

Our fiction is here for the hugs, too. Nightmare alum Benjamin Peek returns to bring us a dark fantasy tale (“At The Periphery”) of a woman hiding from magic-using gangsters. Is there blood? Is there creepy stuff? Of course! But there’s also a wonderful, supportive community that will make you want to pack your bags and head to the Australian Outback.

Gordon B. White has been contributing nonfiction for years, but this month his fiction gets the showcase: “Gordon B. White is creating Haunting Weird Horror.” If you use Patreon, you’ll either be really creeped out by this story, or just glad that you’re not supporting a creator quite as scary as Gordon.

Over in the Horror Lab, Donyae Coles brings us the tiny story (“Sometimes Boys Don’t Know”) of a charming, naïve young girl meeting her crush at a party. Does it end horribly? You’ll just have to read and find out! And our poem this month—“The Returned”—is from the Stoker award-winning dark poet Stephanie M. Wytovich. There’s nothing cozy about this poem, but if you like beautiful language, you’ll love this one.

We’ve also got spotlight interviews with our authors and book reviews from the ever-insightful Terence Taylor. And this month, I sat down to chat with our assistant editor, Lisa Nohealani Morton. She’s been with the magazine longer than I have, so it was exciting to learn more about her dark side!

How did you get started working with Nightmare?

I started out reading slush and doing Author Spotlights (where we ask a few questions of each author we feature) right at the beginning—my first Spotlight was of Genevieve Valentine in Issue #1 (October 2012).

It’s funny—John had originally put out a call for both Lightspeed and Nightmare, and I applied to work for Lightspeed. My reasoning was that most of what I wanted to get out of being a slush reader was to learn to be a better writer, and I mostly write science fiction and fantasy. But I’d sold a story to Lightspeed the year before, and slush readers can’t submit to the magazine they read for (a very fair rule, to be clear!), so John suggested I read for Nightmare instead, and keep submitting to Lightspeed open as an option.

After a few years, Sean, who had been managing the author bios, stepped down, and I took that over as well as Editorial Assistant. Over the years, I started reading more second-round recommended stories as well as first-round slush reading, and when one of the Assistant Editors stepped down a couple years back, John asked me to take the job.

What’s your favorite part of your work here?

I like reading slush the most. Like I said above, I really do think it helps me improve my own writing. I get to see the common mistakes writers make—after all these years, I’ve seen them over and over—and that helps me recognize when I’m making one of them. And I get to see so many more great stories than we’d ever be able to publish, which means I get to study the ways stories go right, too.

Every time I come across a deliciously creepy tale or a beautifully-crafted dark fantasy in the submissions pile, I’m excited for other people to read it. Seeing people get excited about a story we published, when I’m the first one who pulled it out of the submissions queue is just such a great feeling.

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

I’m absolutely a horror fan, across a bunch of media! Prose, movies, graphic novels, video games—if it’s darkly entertaining, I’ve probably perused it at some point. I grew up on authors like RL Stine and Caroline B Cooney, TV shows like Are You Afraid of the Dark? and ’90s splatterpunk greats like Clive Barker and Poppy Z Brite, and this week I watched Army of the Dead and picked up the first volume of Locke and Key.

I’ll always be a goth at heart, so part of the appeal that horror holds for me is definitely aesthetic, and of course there’s a ton of overlap with other speculative fiction. But I think the thing I most like about horror is seeing characters react to extreme situations, or to extremes of negative emotion—rage, fear, disgust, despair. There’s also something to be said for the uncomplicated joy of Our Hero(es) defeating a horrible monster, too!

What’s your favorite horror villain or monster?

Oh jeez, this is a tough one. Something I really liked recently, that did something unusual in the horror-monster department, was Carrion, a video game released last July. Its creators described it as “reverse-horror,” in that you play an unspeakable monster exploring and ravaging the lab in which you were created and studied.

So you’re controlling this tentacled abomination as it crawls through tunnels, grabs screaming scientists and rips them in two, and so on, and one thing you need to understand is that everything about the way this thing (that you are) moves is just wrong. It triggers that same feeling of disgust-terror that slithering tentacled aliens do in movies, only you’re it, and it’s you. It’s a very strange feeling.

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That’s it for this month! All in all, I think this issue is like a snuggle with a warm, cozy teddy bear—albeit one possessed by a bloodthirsty demon. That’s just our style!

Wendy N. Wagner

Wendy N. Wagner is the author of the horror novel The Deer Kings and the forthcoming gothic novella The Secret Skin (coming fall 2021). Previous work includes the SF thriller An Oath of Dogs and two novels for the Pathfinder Tales series. 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! She lives in Oregon with her very understanding family, two large cats, and a Muppet disguised as a dog.