Nightmare Magazine is a literary magazine dedicated to collecting quality short dark fantasy and horror for its readers. I found the magazine when I happened upon Alyssa Wong’s “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” years ago. Never able to shake its imagery, I re-found the piece, re-read the piece, and bought the entire collection. I would have happily given the 2.99 just for Wong’s story alone; it was an easy price to pay. After reading the rest of the pieces, I can assure everyone it’s a fantastic investment if you’re at all interested in dark fantasy or horror.
Golden Hair, Red Lips – Five Stars
The story to kick off the collection hooked me immediately. Told from the pov of Dorian Gray, this piece features gorgeous prose to depict horrible things, and poetic repetition that fills the reader with ever-mounting discomfort. As Dorian remains beautiful and ageless, a community and world crumble and decay around him. Why? How?
Endings are difficult, but Golden Hair, Rep Lips, nails it.
Alien Jane – Four Stars
In the short time you spend with this piece, you’re given not only interesting characters, but ones who grow. That’s impressive, and the narrative kept me interested even when the opening scene made me feel like it wasn’t a story suited to my tastes. I struggled with the ending, and my initial reaction was less positive. However, the more I thought about it, the more the narrative grew on me. It’s a story not about the destination, but the journey. As soon as I accepted that, I felt I understood it on a deeper level.
The Lord of Corrosion – Four Stars
This story swept me up right from the beginning. The narrative voice was relatable without being overly colloquial, and I felt for the characters immediately. It kept me on my toes the entire time. The ending was… something. It felt a lot more like today’s modern horror movies than the other stories in this collection—very external horror, very reactionary—which I think adds and subtracts from the piece in different areas. In spite of (or perhaps because of?) that, it was satisfying. The imagery will never leave me.
Rats Live on No Evil Star – Three and a Half Stars
Man, it’s hard to wrap my words around this one. My biggest complaint would probably be the lack of a satisfying resolution, but I feel like that’s what the author intended. They played me, and I suppose that’s okay. The writing really steeps you in the mind of the characters you’re following, and it makes the piece all the more disconcerting for it. Still I want more information, and still I grind my teeth over no “chapter 2”.
Dispatches from a Hole in the World – Five Stars
What a story. What a calm, calculated, horrifying story.
This was extremely well executed. When I got to the end, I set down my iPad and stared at the wall for a good long minute. Maybe two. It makes you think, and wonder, and guess. I kept spinning ideas and theories, but they’re all useless. In contrast to The Lord of Corrosion’s external horror, this was a psychological horror that lays its seed deep in your head. Even with all my wall-staring and guessing post-read, it didn’t leave me irritated to be without ‘the rest’. It felt complete, even if that meant ‘completely unsettling’.
Bayou de la Mere – Two Stars
This is the only story that really disappointed me in the collection. The author was great at painting a scene and really leading the reader through the setting, but the story felt stilted. There was some good repeated imagery and the concept behind the piece was good, but it felt half-formed. I didn’t feel uneasy or chilled, and I found one of the characters to be generally unlikable. The final sentence was great—poignant—but unable to make up for the rest of the piece’s mindless moseying.
Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers – One Million Stars
I already wrote a review on this individual story, because damn do I love it. It’s a tiny paranormal horror that satisfies wholly and completely. Even if you don’t buy the collection, I would implore you to read the piece for free on Nightmare’s site.
The imagery is horrible and lovely, sickening and beautifully written. The main character is one that is strong and flawed, and this piece is another that shows growth even within its short span. The concept is unique; I haven’t read anything quite like it, but the world feels enough like other paranormal worlds that it was all very easy to grasp.
Reading this piece made me better appreciate and understand the craft of short stories. In short: its masterfully written. I could go on forever, but your time is better spent actually reading it. Any interest in horror, dark fantasy, or paranormal genres means this is worth your attention.
Let’s See What Happens – Three Stars
This is the one story to not feature a queer MC, but is written by queer mastermind Chuck Palahniuk. I didn’t pay attention to the author when I started reading, which meant I didn’t realize it was him. This helped and hindered; it left me truly unbiased, but perhaps if I had known the type of author I was dealing with, the beginning wouldn’t have irritated me so much.
The tone of the first few pages gave me a long-enduring scowl, which didn’t let up until the very end. The author was clearly playing with form in this piece, and used narrative structure in a radically different way than I’m used to reading.
Well, than anyone is used to reading.
The main characters—two out of three, that is—are absolutely insufferable. This is on purpose, but that didn’t make me like it more. It was difficult to follow these two assholes around, although it did make the coming events much more satisfying. I suppose that’s where the piece redeemed itself; the conclusion made me swell with righteous pleasure, so much so that it almost made up for the grating narrative up to that point.
I had to step away from it for a while, because on first read-through I honestly hated it. After the end scene really settled and I looked at the piece as a whole (instead of experiencing immense irritation in the moment for many moments at a time), I thought it was alright. So I will give it an alright score, and recommend it to anyone with an open mind.
I won’t comment on the poetry present in the magazine because I truly know nothing about poetry. Some of the poems I thought were great! Others I didn’t like so much. They make up a very small portion of the collection, so I saw them as a pleasant bonus.
I expected not to care a bit about the non-fiction section, but wow was I wrong. The essays published here were fantastic, and many I wound up quoting and highlighting all over the place. They are well thought-out, well-delivered, and wonderfully poignant. They touch on being queer and being a writer, the connections between horror fiction and queerness throughout history, and a host of excellent topics. If you pick up the magazine, please don’t skip them as I almost did. I promise you will be pleasantly surprised.
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