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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Nightmare #55, April 2017

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Nightmare #55, April 2017

"Red Hood" by Eric Schaller

"Figs, Detached" by Jenn Grunigen

Reviewed by Jason McGregor

Somewhat to my surprise, I've been enjoying some of Nightmare's previous issues recently. I was particularly intrigued by Jessica Amanda Salmonson's "The Garbage Doll." Nate Southard's "Things Crumble, Things Break" and Kathleen Kayembe's "You Will Always Have Family: A Triptych" also did some interesting things. (I also found the March/April issue of Black Static—another dark fantasy/horror zine—to be interesting and to have an excellent story.) Going with the flow, I volunteered to review this month's Nightmare. Alas (and just my luck), it turned out to be without interest.

"Red Hood" by Eric Schaller

It is unlikely a synopsis of yet another retelling of (Little) Red (Riding) Hood would serve much purpose so, briefly, a girl must journey from her mother's house to her sick grandmother's house but encounters a "wolf" on the way, prior to a climactic scene in the grandmother's house.

This version emphasizes the "hood," turning it into an entire suit of skin which is smeared with blood because the suit, itself, is not enough of a disguise. It, like several other versions, initially emphasizes the sexual/rape aspects of the tale, with the "wolf" being made a "stranger" with "kindly eyes," and, ultimately, emphasizes the female empowerment angle. It also does the postmodern thing of conflating medieval archaisms and modern anachronisms. However, given its apparently modern, urban setting and concerns, it's the entire medieval basis that is the anachronism. People seem to have an inexplicably inexhaustible appetite for these things, so some may find this rewarding but, given the millions of other versions, I found no reason for this to add to the pile.

"Figs, Detached" by Jenn Grunigen

Underneath these 2300 words, which read like someone ate the OED and vomited up some of the more abstruse ones, lies a story which, apart from its gender-bending and grotesque imagery, seems to be a pretty conventional "relationship" story. If this sounds like an unjust and harsh description, I'd only quote the story itself. One subsection:

Fig jam. Figwort. Fig newtons. Figment. Figure. Figuring. Figures. Figurist. It figures. Figure you out.

Obsolete: feague (liven up, whip).

German fegen (thrash).

Faire la figue, dar la higa.”

A prior description:

When I combed vomit from his hair I was with him. At first. His sick was dark, clung, sticky flakes among the strands. He sat in the tub, I leaned my thighs against its curled rim; he was vulnerable and haggard in the washed-out dawn light. I wanted to fist my hands in his hair, I wanted him, but I knew how gentle I had to be, start at the ends; how brass his locks, how tired his eyes. His sockets shadowbent.

 
Tapioca pudding and black cherry cordial made a fine vomit. I worked it willingly from his hair....”

More of Jason McGregor's reviews can be found on his Featured Futures blog.