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

Nightmare #68, May 2018

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Special Double Review

by

Victoria Silverwolf & Gyanavani

 

Nightmare #68, May 2018

"Bride Before You" by Stephanie Malia Morris

"Ally" by Nalo Hopkinson

Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf

Two stories in which terrifying situations lead to unexpected reconciliations appear in the latest issue of this on-line horror magazine.

The narrator of "Bride Before You" by Stephanie Malia Morris is the spider-like twin sister of a handsome young man. She soon tells the reader that she killed and ate the two women her brother wanted to marry, so there is little suspense in the gruesome scenes that follow. When her mother confronts her, the story becomes more surprising, and even moving.

In "Ally" by Nalo Hopkinson, a man mourning for his dead spouse relates two supernatural encounters in his life. A ghost possessed both his abusive foster mother and his dying spouse. These hauntings eventually prove to be more reassuring than frightening. The man's struggle to accept the changes in these two people is an obvious allegory for his attempt to accept the change in the person listening to his story, a transgendered individual.

Both authors write very well, but their tales have simple plots.


Victoria Silverwolf thought of Richard Matheson's classic chiller "Born of Man and Woman" while reading the first story in this issue.

***

Nightmare #68, May 2018

"Bride Before You" by Stephanie Malia Morris

"Ally" by Nalo Hopkinson

Reviewed by Gyanavani

The May issue of Nightmare has two original, exciting, stylish stories. Both of these deal with the outcasts and rejects of society. “Bride Before You” is a period tale; “Ally” belongs to the here and now. “Bride Before You” creates a fine atmosphere of fear, whereas “Ally” presents horror in a realistic setting.

Bride Before You” by Stephanie Malia Morris

This tale is set in the American South. It shows us the horror lurking behind the beautiful face and the monster hidden in the forgotten attics of the impeccable home of the Clay clan.

Cornelius Clay, the scion of a rich black family, has beauty, brains, and money. He should have had no trouble finding a proper mate. But he is the target of a monster. And this monster refuses to remain hidden. The family tries everything to get rid of the monster—from a refusal to admit its existence to using black magic—but to no avail.

I liked the story. Even though it is a horror tale, it’s period setting lends it an air of romance. Stephanie Malia Morris’s unfaltering southern dialect and her menacing lyricism beat the torpid heat of drowsy summer afternoons.

Of course there are problems; the story’s unique point of view becomes its downfall. The monster is no longer an unknown entity. We actually begin to sympathize with it, feel its pain. and so it ceases being a monster due to this humanizing effect.

In the beginning the writer takes the image of conception and giving birth and twists it into a dark and tangled horror. But the end, which describes a painful metamorphosis, actually suggests something hopeful coming out of all the pain. I have always felt that the true horror in stories that celebrate the macabre is an author’s choice not to offer hope in the situations they create. The opposite takes place here, for the writer destroys the eerie world she successfully creates when she suggests something new and possibly hopeful is dragged out of the fleshy core of the monster.

Lastly, if something hopeful has risen then the curse that taints Cornelius Clay’s life no longer exists. And if something more horrific has emerged then we need a stronger sign.

Ally” by Nalo Hopkinson

This story is set in a nameless American city. It is a conversation between two childhood friends who have lost touch with each other over the years. It deals with death and loss, violence and control, and change and acceptance.

I loved how this story points out that the gay lifestyle, though frowned on by heterogeneous society at large, is still more mainstream than someone who opts to change his sex. The protagonist was born Jack but chooses to become Sally. I can’t say more because I do not want to spoil the surprise. But the surprise, at first chilling, turns out to be very satisfying. The title, so bare, gains weight.

This story is a real gem. It is understated and deceptively plain. It maneuvers you into thinking that Pete is the main character. It took me a couple of readings to understand the trap that Nalo Hopkinson had built for the unwary reader.

Ally” is a tremendously satisfying read.


Gyanavani fell in love with science fiction and fantasy in the US, a country whose citizen she is by choice. She now lives in super humid Chennai, India., the city and country of her birth, with her husband, daughter and dog.