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2015 Stories 275 - 282

Finally getting around to posting my thoughts on the stories in Nightmare Magazine's "Queers Destroy Horror!" special issue. The issue was guest-edited by Wendy Wagner.

275. GOLDEN HAIR, RED LIPS by Matthew Bright.  It's not really a spoiler to say that the main character is an immortal Dorian Grey, living in modern San Francisco at the start and height of the AIDS epidemic. His loves sicken and die, and a strange blond man stalks him with intimations that one of them is the cause of the plague. Bright's first person narration is very intimate and yet Dorian still seems removed from the action -- an interesting style to tell the story in, and an incredibly effective one for me, as it mirrors my own small-town, closeted connection to the epidemic (I wasn't directly touched by it, or didn't realize I was, until well into the 90s). Bright's choice to repeat certain phrases adds a chill to the narrative, reminding us that we are doomed to repeat our mistakes if we don't learn from them, but it adds a wistful longing as well.

276. ALIEN JANE by Kelly Eskridge.  In an open (voluntary) hospital mental health ward, Rita meets Jane. Rita has anger management and self-control problems, while Jane can feel no physical pain. Through Jane, Rita comes to understand herself a bit better. The horror here is more subtle, working on the reader throughout in very small ways. There are a couple of gory moments, but the gore is not the point of the story even though it does propel the plot and reveal some character.

277. THE LORD OF CORROSION by Lee Thomas.  I think I've yet to read a Lee Thomas story that didn't disturb me, and this is no exception. Main character Josh is a widowed gay single father whose life starts to unravel when adopted daughter Sophia starts acting out under the command of what sounds like an imaginary friend. Thomas starts the story with intimate, warm-but-pained memories of family history before gradually ramping up the horror from imaginary/background to very real/forefront.

278. RATS LIVE ON NO EVIL STAR by Caitlin R. Kiernan.  Acadmic Jessie occasionally visits elderly neighbor Olan, who appears to be a conspiracy theorist. Up to a point, it is questionable whether Olan's theories, and the things he says he's seen in his life, are real or in his imagination. Kiernan's slow pacing allows the story to develop and build without jumping directly to an obvious conclusion.

279. DISPATCHES FROM A HOLE IN THE WORLD by Sunny Moraine.  Unnamed narrator decides to do a doctoral thesis on "The Suicide Year," when thousands of people ages 10 to 25 killed themselves on social media -- an epidemic with no discernable root cause. It's a disturbing story on multiple levels: the concept, the narrator's voice, the things the narrator is leaving unsaid. The depression revisiting that horrible year brings on is palpable to the reader.

280. BAYOU DE LA MERE by Poppy Z. Brite.  Ricky and G-Man, restaurant owners/chefs from New Orleans, vacation in a small bayou town. Encountering the old Catholic church's unusual statue of a seated-but-childless Virgin Mary dredges up childhood memories and puts a pall on their vacation. Brite's story explores why so many gay break from the Catholic Church but remain Christians saddled with lingering Catholic guilt that manifests at surprising moments; the story also touches on the nature of Catholic iconography.

281. HUNGRY DAUGHTERS OF STARVING MOTHERS by Alyssa Wong.  Jenny serial-dates and has a particular kind of hunger that needs to be sated: she eats the horrible, evil thoughts of bad people. She inherited this from her mother, who choses to deal with her gift by hiding herself away from the world in a way Jenny just can't. That's just the set-up. Wong's prose is tight and compelling. Jenny's first person narration keeps the tension high and the reader's stomach as unsettled as the main character's.

282. LET'S SEE WHAT HAPPENS by Chuck Palahniuk.  Young Heather's burgeoning interest in religion thanks to a flyer handed out at school drives her parents to take her to a snake-charming, speak-in-tongues revivalist church, where their attempts to mock the Charismatic reveals their own flaws. Palanhniuk's style is dense and fast and bounces between POVs; it's a tough ride but worth the effort.

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