Horror & Dark Fantasy



Editorial: July 2022

Welcome to Nightmare’s 118th issue!

Some days I look at the news and I think “Holy crap, why do I write and publish horror when the headlines are worse than anything we writers put on a page?” I could list today’s tragedies, but I’m sure you will think of newer, fresher ones. Depending on the shape or color of your body, depending on where you live, your vision of horror will look different from mine—but we will both think of nasty, horrible things that are happening all the time. And worse: when we think about the future, we probably feel that even more calamity and suffering is imminent. I think that for most people, at least for most people who read the news and think about the well-being of humanity, there has never been a more pessimistic time.

So why do we need horror?

I’ll answer that question with a question: Have you ever taken a first aid class?

When I was in elementary school, a local parent came to school every Friday for a few weeks to walk us through the Red Cross’s then-current emergency guide, an extremely comprehensive flip book that taught everything from how to splint a broken limb to how to prepare someone for travel when they’ve been stabbed in an eyeball. We probably spent a year’s worth of textbook money on all the bandages and surgical tape we used practicing for these emergencies. And for years afterward, I felt more confident about the world because I knew that no matter what happened, if I had access to duct tape and a moderately clean t-shirt, I could take care of nearly any injury.

Do I believe that in a zombie apocalypse I would do better than half of all other humans? Sure. I’m a horror fan! When I see someone stumbling in the street, I immediately launch into a mental zombie response list. When I hear an animal rustling in the bushes at night, I’m already planning how to kill that slavering Saint Bernard before it can chew through my hoodie. Deep down, I am always preparing for the worst, because reading horror has helped me imagine what the worst might look like.

I’m not saying that reading Nightmare Magazine will help you survive the imminent disasters confronting humanity. But it might give you a bit of inner fortitude when the time comes. After all, you’ve already practiced being terrified. In this month’s issue alone, you’ll confront serial killers (sorry for the spoiler, but there’s a very nasty one in Laura Blackwell’s “What the Dead Birds Taught Me” and another in Sarah Grey’s poem “Bitch Moon”) and the world’s most unsettling closet (Robert Levy’s “The Closet Game” will definitely make you reconsider ever setting foot in a wardrobe again). When you read Dante Luiz’s essay “Bunnies,” you will realize that not even fluffy, adorable bunny rabbits are safe or innocent. In the rest of the issue’s nonfiction, Terence Taylor reviews some unsettling reads, and our authors share a little about just why they write such horrible, nasty stuff.

And you need to know these things. You need to add steel to your spine, sharpness to your glance, and quickness to your step. You have to prepare yourself for whatever is coming. Because it’s out there, just waiting, the horror. The real horror: the nastiness of our world, the unpleasantness of each other, the destructive power of the forces of entropy and evil.

They’re coming to get you, Barbara.

But you knew that, didn’t you? That’s why you read this stuff. So thanks for joining us for what I’m calling the “First Aid” issue.

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.