Category Archives: John Joseph Adams

A Quick Look at the Second Issue of Nightmare Magazine

I realize that November is almost over, and the new issue of Nightmare will be out in a matter of hours, at least if you have a subscription.  So I’m behind for the month.  Like you aren’t?

Anyway, I wanted to take a look at the second issue since the first was a little different.  It contained four pieces of original fiction.  Starting with the current issue, Nightmare will run two original stories and two reprints. 

So let’s take a quick look, shall we?

The opening story is “Construction Project” by Desirina Boskovich.  This one is the tale of two lovers who live in fear of something that is coming to destroy their love and separate them forever.  Ms. Boskovich employs a literary device where you never know which protagonist is speaking.  They will refer to each other in third person in one of them performs a particular act, but often the pronoun the narrator uses to refer to self is “we”.  This adds to the sense of paranoia that seems to pervade the story.  Of course, this type of literary trick isn’t exactly new.  Alfred Bester did something similar in his classic story “Fondly Fahrenheit”.  I’ve not seen anyone successfully pull it off since then.  Until now that is.

The two reprints are next, with Joe Haldeman’s “Graves” leading off.  It’s hard to go wrong with Haldeman, and this story in particular is one of his strongest.  I still remember lines from it when I read it the first time, nearly 20 years ago.  It’s about a soldier on burial detail in Vietnam who gets called out to the front to recover a particular body.  Only this one isn’t like any other corpse he’s seen…

“The Ash of Memory, the Dust of Desire” is a bleak tale from Poppy Z. Brite concerning the end of a relationship.  I’ve not read anything by this author before.  I found the writing to be smooth and polished.  The author captured the voice of the narrator quite well.  I have to admit this one wasn’t my cup of tea, although I liked the ending. 

The final new story is “At Lorn Hall“, a haunted house story from Ramsey Campbell as only he can write a haunted house story.  Campbell is one of those writers who hits with me about 2/3 of the time.  The rest of the time I can’t stand either his characters the bleak or hopeless landscape the move through and occasionally both.  But when he hits with me, I can’t put his work down.  This one worked for me.  In fact it was my favorite of all the issue.  If Nightmare only published one story per issue this good, it would be worthy of our support.

The rest of the issue included part 2 of an interview with Peter Straub, an interview and selection of art by the cover artist Maxim Verehin, a column on ghost stories by R. J. Sevin, and an editorial by John Joseph Adams.  Plus each a short interview with each author.

In short, I’d have to say this was another fine issue.  While I the stories in this issue weren’t as much to my taste as those in the first, it was still an issue I enjoyed very much.  I’m looking forward to the next one in the next day or so (one of the advantages of having a subscription).

The Premier Issue of Nightmare Magazine is so Good It’s Scary

Yes, I’m starting another review with another bad pun.  As I said previously, some things just have to be done.

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

I Told You So

This isn’t exactly breaking news.  I’ve known about it for a couple of days but had other things I wanted to discuss; I have no idea how long the announcement was been out there.  What am I talking about?  John Joseph Adams’ announcement that Lightspeed and Fantasy were going to merge into a single magazine.  I think the way he’s going about it is smart.  It also falls right in line with what I suggested recently about what should happen if anyone decides to resurrect Realms of Fantasy again.

Specifically, my suggestion to cut back on the nonfiction in the magazine and focus more on the fiction.  If you read his announcement, that’s what Adams is doing with the two magazines.  He’s cut the nonfiction back considerably, while leaving the amount of fiction the same.   Actually that’s only true if you read the magazine online.  If you subscribe, there’s an exclusive novella with each issue.

In other words, here’s a publisher who realizes people read his magazine primarily for the fiction, and furthermore he’s taking steps to ensure they get what they want.  I said this was the smart way to run a fiction magazine when I reviewed the last issue of RoF.  Now that someone with the credentials of John Joseph Adams thinks the same thing and is willing to act on that idea, I’m going to say “I told you so.”

I wish Mr. Adams and his magazine the greatest success.  Oh, and I told you so.

John Joseph Adams Buys Lightspeed and Fantasy Magazines

John Joseph Adams

Prime Books announced today that it is selling both Lightspeed and Fantasy magazines to current editor John Joseph Adams.  The sale is part of the expansion of Prime Books.  Publisher Sean Wallace stated that the book publishing side of his job was taking more and more time.  Adams is a highly respected editor not only of the magazine but of numerous anthologies as well.  Adams issued the following statement:  “It’s an exciting time to be involved in publishing.  Models are changing and so is the readership, and online magazines have a better shot at sustainability than ever have before. I believe the possibilities for growth are tremendous, and I look forward to staying in the vanguard of this new frontier.”

With the announcement last week that Realms of Fantasy was closing again, it’s been an eventful week in sff periodical publishing.  As I promised when I posted about RoF I’ll have more to say about these changes in a post later this week.

Seven Days of Online Fiction, Day 5: Fantasy Magazine

Some of you may have been wondering when in this project I would get to Fantasy Magazine, as it’s one of the more high profile online publications.  I’m trying to alternate between venues with which I am familiar and those that are new to me.  The drawback is that what’s new to me might not be new to some of you.  One of the goals of this series is to introduce some new sources of reading material to some of you as well as expand my reading horizons.  For those reasons, I’m not necessarily going to look at the more well-known venues.

Anyway, onto Fantasy Magazine.  This publication started out in print form and made the transition to electronic format a few years ago.  The format of this one is slightly different than the others we’ve looked at so far.  It’s a monthly publication consisting of fiction (2 new and 2 reprints) and various nonfiction features, but they don’t put all the stories up at once, nor do they leave the stories and features up once they’ve been posted.  Instead the contents of the main page rotate on a weekly basis throughout the month, changing on Monday.  Of course, if you don’t want to wait, you can purchase the complete issue in electronic format on the first of the month.  (And if you like this magazine, you should consider doing that to support them.) Once something is rotated off the main page, it is available through the archives..

The story I’m going to look at is “The Devil in Gaylord’s Creek” by Sarah Monette.  This was an enjoyable urban fantasy in a rural setting.  The main character is Morgan, a young lady who happens to be dead.  She travels with her companion Francis.  He’s the replacement companion; the first was eaten in the line of duty. 
So Morgan and Francis are in the small town of Gaylord’s Creek.  Devils can grow in this universe,subsuming people, and there’s one that’s gotten big enough to threaten the entire town.

I’m not sure who Morgan and Francis are working for other than it’s some type of supernatural para-police organization.  Monette tells us Francis works for some sort of organization, but Morgan doesn’t know much about it.  Nor does she wish to.  I, on the other hand, would like to know more.  A lot more.  There’s potential for a series here. 

Monette never gives us more background than is necessary to follow the action or develop the characters.  Morgan’s preferred weapon is a sword named Stella Mortua.  If you don’t know the Latin, you’ll need to read the story to find out what it means.  We don’t know where the sword came from or how it got its name.

The plot was straightforward on this one, so in the interest of avoiding spoilers, I’ll not give you many more details.  The thing I liked best was Morgan’s character and her snarky attitude.  She and Francis aren’t on the best of terms when the tale opens.  By the end their relationship has changed.  And no, it hasn’t turned romantic or sexual.  She’s in her teens, and he’s a middle aged man.  But their relationship does grow as a result of what they experience.

There’s plenty of action.  Morgan and Francis are trying to save the town, after all.  I’d like to know more about Morgan.  We know she’s dead but not a lot about how her previous partner brought her back.  About all we know of her death was that she was beaten to death; by whom and under what circumstances isn’t revealed. 

This was better than average story.  Much better.  The characters acted like real people.  They changed and grew.  Not only did they affect events, but they were affected by them.  There’s enough mystery about the organization Morgan and Francis work for to leave the reader wanting more. 

I’d read Fantasy Magazine before.  Not a great deal, but now that John Joseph Adams had taken over the editorial reigns, I’ll be reading more, especially if the quality is this good.  Applying the same yardstick I’ve applied for Days One, Two, Three, and Four:  if I were not familiar with this publication, would I read more of it based on the story I’ve randomly selected? Definitely.  The editorial page of Fantasy Magazine says they publish all varieties of fantasy.  This story shows they publish the kind of fantasy I would be reading.

Total quality count (high, low), Day 5: 6-2.