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

Nightmare #65, February 2018

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Nightmare #65, February 2018

"Six Hangings in the Land of Unkillable Women" by Theodore McCombs

"Seven Steps to Beauty for a Girl Named Avarice" by Emily B. Cataneo

Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf

Both stories in the latest issue of this on-line horror magazine can be read as feminist allegories.

"Six Hangings in the Land of Unkillable Women" by Theodore McCombs takes place in the year 1899. This is a world where women cannot be killed by men, although they can die of natural causes, by suicide, or at the hands of other women. Whenever a man tries to kill a woman, she undergoes a supernatural transformation that preserves her life. The plot begins when a woman is sentenced to be hanged for murdering her child. Since a male executioner cannot kill her, a woman must disguise herself as a man to perform this unpleasant duty. This historical fantasy is interesting and well-written, but its open-ended resolution is not fully satisfying.

"Seven Steps to Beauty for a Girl Named Avarice" by Emily B. Cataneo involves an ugly woman who makes a deal with a witch in order to become beautiful and win the love of a nobleman. She discovers that there is much more to this process than she suspects. This examination of the way in which a woman is expected to alter her appearance for a man reads like a dark fairy tale. The author often addresses the reader directly, weakening the suspension of disbelief.


Victoria Silverwolf wonders if a third story in this issue would have started with the word "Eight."