Tag Archives: nightmare magazine

Short Tuesday #42: “No Exit” by Orrin Grey

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine to read Orrin Grey’s short story “No Exit.” (Not to be confused with No Exit by Taylor Adams, which has been making the rounds the last couple years.) You can read it here for free here…

I loved this short story! It features an MC whose sister was involved in a brutal, ritualistic killing at a rest stop by a cult based in Kansas. The bleak setting and the author’s rock solid voice had me sold from pretty much the first paragraph.

“No Exit” read extremely Lovecraftian to me, not just in terms of the evocative descriptive details and the too-monstrous-to-understand world-building, but also the format. I’m no Lovecraft expert, but a lot of what I have read by him involves pages and pages of exposition and set-up without any actual scenes, followed by a horrifying conclusion where we at last get a POV scene that thrusts us front row center into the madness. In this day and age where the popular writing style has such a focus on “show, don’t tell” and close first POV, it requires a really talented writer to pull off this kind of a story.

This is a fun one that has an eerie, slow crawl to the visceral details at the end. I can actually kind of see it as pairing well with another Nightmare Magazine favorite of mine, “Methods of Ascension” by Dan Stintzi. Anyway, I really enjoyed this and would love to read more by this author!

Short Tuesday #40: “Today’s Question of the Day in Waverly, Ohio” by Adam-Troy Castro

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine to read “Today’s Question of the Day in Waverly, Ohio” by Adam-Troy Castro. You can read it here for free here…

I thought this short story was a really fun read! It’s quite short, and the set-up is fascinating: a mysterious entity who interviews a small town under the pretense of being a news crew, then deletes their memories of the interview. Aliens, perhaps? I’d really like to see more of this type of framework, as well as some expansion on the purpose of these interviews.

I thought the dialogue was great, and I enjoyed the wide spread of people who were interviewed, from a grocer to a truck driver to a reverend. I did start to lose interest when one of the interviews got political near the end, and I thought the ending interview was a cheap way to end the piece, but the whole framework of the short story really worked for me. It was short and sweet; if you’re looking for a quick read with a great hook, I’d try this one out.

Short Tuesday #39: “Alligator Point” by S.P. Miskowski

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine to read “Alligator Point” by S.P. Miskowski. You can read it here for free here…

This short story didn’t inspire much horror in me, I’m afraid to say. Not much is happening throughout the story–you get some vague details about a woman escaping an abusive relationship with her two daughters, but nothing really comes together into a tangible story, to the point that I skimmed back through a couple times because I felt like I was missing something. (Maybe I am; correct me if I’m being an idiot over here!)

In terms of scariness, there’s not much here beyond a foreboding mood and a scary dream. Don’t get me wrong; in the right hands, an eerie mood and some well-written bad dreams can pack a wallop, but this short story wasn’t doing it for me. That’s a real shame, because I’m a sucker for horror set in the swampy South (Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, for example). Maybe with some expansion (this short story weighs in at a scant 2700 words) there could have been something here, but as is I can’t recommend it.

Short Tuesday #38: “Elo Havel” by Brian Evenson

This week I went back to Old Faithful, i.e., Nightmare Magazine, to see what new short fiction they had on offer. I didn’t actually realize until I got to the end of “Elo Havel” that it’s by Brian Evenson, who wrote the excellent short story “Cult.” You can read Elo Havel for free here…

I liked “Elo Havel” okay, but it didn’t measure up to “Cult” in my opinion. The writing is strong, and there’s a lot of forward momentum, but the letter framework and the ending took away from the overall piece. This is one of those short stories that feels like it could be part of something larger, but because there isn’t any continuation of the story, what readers do have to work with ends up feeling hollow and incomplete. What’s going to happen to the main character? How did he even end up receiving a letter in his current state–did it just simply appear? Why is he so impatient to take action, when it seems he has all the time in the world in his changed state?

Some short stories manage to make their ambiguity satisfying, but that’s a tightrope line that most often ends in disappointment. I’m definitely up for reading more by Evenson, but “Elo Havel” was just so-so for me.

Short Tuesday #36: “Methods of Ascension” by Dan Stintzi

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine for Short Tuesday to read “Methods of Ascension” by Dan Stintzi. You can read the story for free here…

This short story was right up my alley–some body horror mixed with Lovecraft (oh, those non-Euclidean geometries!), all with an I-found-it-on-the-Internet framework. The premise of the story is that the MC’s brother has been following the online coursework of a man who promises to be able to help him access other planes of reality via his dreams. The MC, his brother, and his brother’s friend are all down on their luck or seemingly on the outskirts of society; it was never mentioned in the story, but I couldn’t help thinking about how a lot of men in the US who have dropped out of society have fallen into opioid addiction. Sad and isolated people can be drawn to dangerous and unhealthy things, and that’s exactly what happens to these guys as they get sucked into an alternate and terrifying reality.

The tone is equal parts ethereal and grounded: great poetic imagery, but the MC doesn’t hesitate to talk like a normal person.

“Freud said that the buildings inside our dreams are pulled from a collective pool of unconscious architecture.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“It’s an evolutionary development. The blueprints are engrained in our DNA. Every single person. If you learned to dream actively you could walk the rooms of these dream places and every time you returned, they’d be exactly the same.”

“I genuinely don’t understand.” I zip, zip, zipped a line of screws into the drywall and Rob took his hands away. It floated there like a kind of magic.

What else was great about this? The woodsy setting was perfect, along with the descriptions. And best of all, it has a great horror ending that fits the rest of the piece, hallelujah. That’s not always common ’round these parts. So if you’re feeling up for a bit of horror as we move into the dark months of winter, give this one a try; it’s good fun.

Hey, one more thing: on the off-chance that the author reads this post (which has actually happened in the past), or really anyone who has ever written short fiction, I really recommend you get your short fiction listed on Goodreads! I always try to post reviews of short fiction on GR if possible, and it can be a crapshoot whether the stories are there or not. I was pretty bummed to see that this author is only listed in anthologies on GR with no individual story entries; he’s so good and should really list his stories separately! Short fiction can be a great way to start gathering a fan base (I often add books by Short Tuesday authors to my TBR) so why not use your short fiction to its full potential? Just my two cents.

Short Tuesday #35: “The Secret Life of the Unclaimed” by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine for Short Tuesday to read “The Secret Life of the Unclaimed” by Suyi Davies Okungbowa. You can read the story for free here…

I loved this short story! It’s set in Nigeria and incorporates tons of the local flavor, in terms of the dialogue, setting, and local superstitions. I’m realizing that maybe I have a thing for African horror, since I also love the South African duo S.L. Grey–maybe I should put in a conscious effort to read more genre fiction from that area of the world, since I always find the African-tinged worldbuilding so fascinating.

All the body horror fans listen up, because this story is for you. If you’ve ever wanted a first-person view of what it’s like to turn demonic, with all the gory teeth-gnashing and claw-growing details, definitely check this one out. That’s the story in essence–as simple as a poor high school boy who is unlucky enough to go through a second monstrous puberty. The author gets it done with vivid imagery and a pacing and tone that I found riveting and oddly poetic. It was the kind of story where I just couldn’t look away; if you’re looking for a quick horror read, this is one I highly recommend.

Short Tuesday #34: “Growing and Growing” by Rich Larson

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine for Short Tuesday to read “Growing and Growing” by Rich Larson. You can read the story for free here…

I thought this short story was great! It follows two Mexican brothers who discover a baby in the middle of the road while they’re walking home from a night spent drinking. I was really impressed with the atmospheric tone Larson sets immediately, as well as the quick characterization that nevertheless totally allowed me to understand the dynamic between the two brothers in the story. Larson accomplishes a lot in this quick short story; the whole thing wraps up within 1500 words!

The Mexican cultural details contributed a lot to the piece, and everything had just the right amount of ambiguity–I’m never on board with horror that shines a light on every detail. I also loved the author’s voice, and would definitely read more by Larson. It didn’t have that extra je ne sais quoi to take it to a five-star read, but nevertheless, I really recommend giving this story a read if you have ten minutes to spare.

Short Tuesday #33: HALLOWEEN SPECIAL

It’s spooky season, and I thought the only proper way to do Short Tuesday this week would be to give a whole bunch of suggestions for short stories that will scare you senseless! No need to crack open a thousand-page Stephen King novel when you can get your scares done in less than ten thousand words. 😀 Some of these short stories are tamer than others, but all of them pack a wallop; each story is a five-star read for me, and every single one of them you can read for free! So pick your candy, and have a great Halloween.


Snickers: the crowd-pleaser

I had a couple different contenders for this category, but “Some Kind of Blood-Soaked Future” by Carlie St. George, which I just read for the first time last week, had to be the winner. “Future” features a teen MC who just can’t stop encountering eighties slasher-type killers. It’s great for anyone who wants a more YA feel, it’s bloody, it has a start-to-finish arc (sometimes hard to come by in short fiction!), and it’s brilliant.


Popcorn: the classic

For this category I suggest H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Rats in the Walls.” I think that Lovecraft can sometimes seem a bit unapproachable to people who haven’t read him, because there have been so many other works inspired by him. I mean, he sparked an entire horror sub-genre, for crying out loud. “The Rats in the Walls” is an easy gateway into Lovecraft, and for a story from 1924, it features some truly terrifying imagery and an awesome ending.

By the way, I just want to give a small warning that the name of the cat in this story infamously features a racial slur, and the name of the cat has featured a lot in discussion about Lovecraft’s racial views. This isn’t the place to go into that, but I just wanted to give anyone reading a heads up.


Candy Corn: the love-it-or-hate-it

I’m putting “The Enigma of Amigara Fault” by Junji Ito in this category for a couple reasons. First off, it’s a short horror manga, so if manga is not your thing then… this won’t be your thing. 😛 Secondly, this story is basically a claustrophobe’s worst nightmare. “The Enigma of Amigara Fault” has made all the rounds on the Internet, and it totally deserves its infamy; it will stick with you.

All right, you’ve been warned! ❤


King-Size Candy Bar: just keeps on giving

For this category I suggest the sprawling “Interface Series,” which was a series of bizarre, non sequitur Reddit posts by username _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9. You can start reading here. The posts swiftly attracted interest, garnering media attention and questions about whether the project would be turned into a book. There was also some speculation about whether the posts had any link to Stranger Things, as there were similar elements between the two works and the first season of the TV show was released just a few months after _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9 started posting. Anyway, “The Interface Series” isn’t a short story per se, but each post is pretty short and will keep you hungering for more, so I think it’s a great fit for anyone who’s craving a king-size candy bar. 😀


Tootsie Caramel Apple Lollipop: the dark horse

If you love SCP, r/nosleep, and creepypasta, then I suggest the classic “Ted the Caver” as a seriously creepy Halloween read. (And if that’s a bunch of gobbledygook to you, well, you’re missing out!) You want to know what I love about this? It’s a website from literally 2001, that is still on Angelfire, that gets the spook done in a magnificent way. This one story has stuck with me for years. Definitely a good one for anyone who has claustrophobia as a horror trigger. 😀


Reese’s: perfection

We’re still a few months away from the end of the year, but if I had to make a prediction, “In a Canyon, In a Cavern” by Laird Barron will remain my favorite short story of 2019. Everything in this story works in perfect harmony: the characterization, the back story, the setting, the description, and the classic folk song “Oh My Darling Clementine” that forms a creepy musical background to the piece. Enough of me waffling–just go read it already!


What are some of your favorite horror bits and bobs–any suggestions? And how are you getting in the Halloween spirit this year?

Short Tuesday #32: “Some Kind of Blood-Soaked Future” by Carlie St. George

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine for Short Tuesday; I mean, it’s almost Halloween, so how can I not? The short story I picked this week was “Some Kind of Blood-Soaked Future” by Carlie St. George. You can read the story for free here…

I loved this short story from start to finish! It details a high school girl who keeps finding herself in eighties slasher-type situations where she is the only survivor. After all her friends and her mom are killed, she decides to leave town to embark on a journey where she inserts herself into situations where a killer is bound to surface: frat parties, sleepy two-bit towns, etc. The hope is that she saves some people in each massacre, who will give her some money to continue her journey. If you’re into self-referential horror (and what true horror fan isn’t?), then this is the story for you.

The use of a second-person POV is an interesting narrative choice, and I don’t mean that in a “bad-interesting” type of way; I think it really works for the piece! Basically I don’t have anything critical to say here; it’s a great read for Halloween, especially if you’re at all a fan of eighties slashers.

Short Tuesday #29: “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” by Alyssa Wong

This past weekend I happened to be looking up Stoker Award nominees and finalists for the past few years and noticed that one of the award winners for short fiction was published in Nightmare Magazine! So you know me and my love of good old NM; I plowed through Alyssa Wong’s story in no time. You can read the short story here…

Kirkus called “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” a take on a vampire story, but as I was reading I was feeling succubus vibes all the way; the MC literally sucks evil thoughts from her (usually male) victims. She normally meets her victims through Tindr, a touch that I just loved for whatever reason, maybe for the subverting of the common wisdom that it’s normally dangerous men you have to watch out for when it comes to online dating, rather than women.

Other things I enjoyed about this story included the touches of Chinese culture throughout the piece and especially the opening scene, which was just so unexpected in the best way possible. I will say, though, that this story did go a little off the rails for me in the final act. There’s a turn of events that felt a bit too much “betcha didn’t expect that” for my tastes. Nevertheless, I can see why this piece garnered attention for literary awards, and it’s definitely worth a read.