Nightmare Magazine is the new online venture from John Joseph Adams, through Creeping Hemlock Press. Whereas Lightspeed focuses on science fiction and fantasy, Nightmare will feature new and reprint horror and dark fantasy, with interviews, nonfiction, and artist spotlights thrown into the mix.
Funded by a Kickstarter campaign, Nightmare is out of the gates and running, having gone live on October 1. If the quality holds, it will definitely be worth the money I spent to support it. Supporters got their electronic copies the same day the magazine went live, or I would have posted a review in advance.
While current plans are to publish two new and two reprint stories a month, the first issue has four new stories, an editorial by Adams, a column by R. J. Sevin, Author Spotlights in which the authors discuss their stories, and part one of an interview with Peter Straub. Cover artist Jeff Simpson is the featured artist in this issue’s Artist Spotlight.
Since this blog tends to be fiction oriented, let’s take a look at John Joseph Adams’ selections, shall we?
First up is “Property Condemned” by Jonathan Mayberry. In this story, four kids explore what is rumored to be the most haunted house in the most haunted town in America. This one is thought provoking and disturbing, and ultimately deals with the choices we make and whether we actually have those choices. It features some characters from Mayberry’s Pine Deep trilogy. I didn’t know this until I read the Author Spotlight on him. The story is a great stand alone, but I suspect if you’ve read some or all of the trilogy, it will have deeper meaning. (I downloaded the first volume on my ereader after reading the Spotlight.)
A man participating in the Iditarod runs afoul of the Wild Hunt and years later becomes their prey in Larid Barron‘s “Frontier Death Song”. This piece of dark fantasy was my favorite in the issue and is one of the best things I’ve seen from this author. Barron captures the fear and panic of being pursued and makes it real. I should have seen the ending coming, but I didn’t.
Genevieve Valentine takes us into Ramsey Campbell territory with “Good Fences”, an ambiguous story about a bitter man and a decaying neighborhood. Calling this story “ambiguous”isn’t meant to be slight. It’s the ambiguity that makes it work. Valentine deftly weaves several possibilities together, never letting us know which one is real.
The final fiction piece is “Afterlife” by Sarah Langan. This tragic tale concerns a middle aged woman living with her hoarder mother, waiting to be evicted, and running a school for ghosts reluctant to pass on. (A ghost story isn’t the same as a haunted house story, although the two overlap to the point it’s hard to tell them apart at times.) The real horror he doesn’t come from the ghosts, although they can be horrifying when they choose to. Rather, the horror unfolds as we learn more about Mary, the protagonist, and her mother Corrine.
I was impressed by the high quality here. I would expect any of the stories could be picked up for a Best of the Year anthology next year, they’re that good, especially the Barron (IMNSHO). Adams has set himself a high standard. Anyone with any familiarity with his work can see that he’s becoming one of the premier editors in the field today. If you like good horror and dark fantasy, check this one out. Stories and features are posted free online, with a new ones going live each week. If, however, you would like to show support for this publication, subscriptions are available here.