‘Nightmare’ diversifies the horror genre

“Nightmare” is an online magazine beloved by the horror community. From Southern Gothic to dark fantasy, every spooky sub-genre is represented if you comb through the archive. A new issue is published every month, and this February welcomed the 125th into the world in all its gory glory.

“Nightmare” publishes new features online almost every Wednesday. Photo courtesy of nightmare-magazine.com

The editorial by Editor-in-Chief Wendy N. Wagner held an important announcement. Starting with this issue, “Nightmare” will include content warnings on all published stories and poems.

“Even the most hardcore horror lover can still have topics they need to protect themselves from. If we’re going to help all kinds of readers find their horror groove, then we need to do a better job making sure our readers feel welcomed and safe!” Wagner wrote.

Though some horror junkies may view content warnings as spoilers, I support the decision. Consuming horror media should be enjoyable, not potentially triggering. I can wholeheartedly say that reading the content warnings before each piece did not lessen its emotional impact.

The three featured short stories were beyond shiver-worthy, and I am grateful “Nightmare” included interviews with each author about what went on during the writing process. All of them had unique strengths, but “Who The Final Girl Becomes” by Dominique Dickey was undoubtedly my favorite.

This story starts at the end — within the first third of the story, the main character survives a massacre of slasher-movie proportions and spends the rest of the time trying not to be defined by it.

“I’ve always been interested in stories that begin after the epilogue—stories that acknowledge that life goes on, past the big moment of narrative catharsis,” Dickey stated in their Author Spotlight.

I believe Dickey’s intentions were executed perfectly. “Who The Final Girl Becomes” is a powerful story about grief and identity. The story contrasts the terror of hiding in a closet from a masked axe-wielding maniac with the dread of knowing your loved ones might never agree with the decisions that make you happy. I did not expect the protagonist’s arc to include the self-empowerment that comes with exploring one’s gender, but to call it a pleasant surprise is an understatement.

When At Last He Was Empty” by Rob E. Boley is this issue’s lone poem and an emetophobe’s worst nightmare. The physical and intangible building blocks of a single man are expelled one at a time in lurid detail. Boley’s style is visceral, raw and — dare I say it — wet. In other words, it’s a good time as long as you have Dramamine on hand.

“The H Word” is the magazine’s monthly introspective column on the horror genre. February presents “A Jaded Eye on Good Girls Gone Bad in Asian Cinema” by Rena Mason. She critiques “the Asian ‘revenge wraith’ trope” that turns women into “mere vessels for terror.”

Mason summarizes the historical misogyny that perpetuates this trend and encourages “Asian women and nonbinary horror authors, filmmakers, and artists [to] work hard to put to rest these stereotypes or give them the peace they truly need.”

Her argument is concise yet brimming with pertinent examples. A nonfiction piece may seem strange in a horror magazine, but Mason’s work is a reminder of the importance of being critical of tropes that repeatedly portray a demographic as either victims or monsters.

As horror fans, it is in our best interest to push for new and more inclusive perspectives. I believe the diversity found in “Nightmare” is its greatest strength, and I adore its motto, “Horror is for everyone!” When the March issue comes out, I’ll jump to check it out.


5/5 Stars



Featured image courtesy of kinwart, Wikipedia