Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Quick Sips - Nightmare #67

Horror comes with a second person perspective in the April offerings from Nightmare Magazine. And, like a lot of great SFF horror, these stories are largely about fear. In one, how a being that strikes fear into almost everyone that they come across is made to feel a bit of themself. In the other, how a person who has felt fear for most of their life finds themself in a position where all that training is paying off in the face of something huge and terrifying. It’s a nice one-two punch when it comes to stories, the first a bit more meandering and slow, the second immediate and intense. And both do a nice job of examining fear and how we experience it. To the reviews!

Art by Sean Gladwell / Fotolia

“Pitcher Plant” by Adam-Troy Castro (6145 words)

No Spoilers: Told in second person, you are a thief faced with a house designed to be difficult to break into. At every turn, you are warned away, told you are not welcome, and yet you push further. Further. You meet people from your path, but the real person that you seek always seems just a little bit further. The piece is heavy with its prose and light with its dialogue, delivering mostly descriptions of the house and what it contains with scenes from a past that seems to stretch infinitely back. Your true nature, and what game is really being played, really doing get fully revealed until the end, at which point there’s a momentum that can’t be stopped, a catastrophe that snaps into place.
Keywords: Death, Revenge, Traps, Theft, Obstacles
Review: So a story with Death (or some similar deity) as its main character can go in a lot of directions, and I like that the character is depicted as a thief here, that the focus is kept very keenly on the way that death isn’t fair, isn’t caring. The way that death comes for everyone. Except that this one person has evaded death for a long, long time, and built this house. The hows and whys are a bit hazy here, too, because if Death is a physical person then it sort of demands how death can exist in two places at once, but that aside I like the slow build of the story, the way that things seem rather human at first and then grow less and less so. They way that we as readers get to see the arrogance with which Death operates, and the brutality which Death condones. It’s a story of revenge in many ways and as such it’s a somewhat conflicting read—Death’s adversary really doesn’t seem any more noble than Death does, so to me it’s something of a story with no one really to root for. Just a series of people trapped in a moment. Literally and figuratively unable to get past this point of death because they don’t to face what comes next. Which, it turns out, applies to Death as well, who is terrified at the thought of being trapped, of being stuck. It’s a weird story and a dark one, plodding forward with a goal in mind only to find the carpet yanked out from under its feet.

“Don’t Pack Hope” by Emma Osborne (1881 words)

No Spoilers: A person prepares to make a break for the relative safety of the countryside after a zombie outbreak has left Melbourne firmly held by the horde. The story is told in second person and features a voice that is on the verge of a great many things, trying to stay in control, trying to stay focused on what needs to happen next. The piece delves into what makes you someone in some ways prepared for this apocalypse, vulnerable and so always looking for places to hide, always aware of the dangers around you. It’s a tense, almost claustrophobic story, about having to decide what to bring with on the trip to try and escape, to try and reach a sanctuary you don’t even know exists. It’s about the dangers of hope, but also the inevitability of it, about the things we tell ourselves to keep going, and how much they mean.
Keywords: Zombies, Trans MC, Survival, Hope, Travel
Review: This is a heart wrenching piece, finding the main character (you) in a situation where you have to pick what to pack. Having to balance the very practical needs (testosterone, food, first aid) with those things that are more for comfort. And, really, the story is about fear and about taking the steps necessary to go out and do something that is risky, that is frightening. And yet the main character has already been prepared for something like this, has already come out and then gone forward with treatment and surgery. Which, for all that those things tend to be affirming and good, are no less difficult for it. Those things still require running a gamut of professionals and tests and waiting periods and hate and bigotry—they require having a hope that things will get better, even when things feel like they’re hopeless, like life is an exercise in walking through a hostile landscape where death or worse is constantly possible. And I just love how the story sets that up, the character finding strength in the letter that you wrote yourself when you were younger, urging you onward. The story focuses on how hope is dangerous, and how you often can’t afford it, but how it gets you going and keeps you going all the same. That even when you fear, you keep going. And it is just a wonderfully beautiful story that you should go out and read immediately. IMMEDIATELY! It’s an amazing read!


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