The Nectar of Nightmares: Long may Gidney write!

The Nectar of Nightmares by Craig Laurance GidneyThe Nectar of Nightmares by Craig Laurance Gidney

The Nectar of Nightmares by Craig Laurance Gidney horror book reviewsIt’s horror season for me, the time of year where I usually settle in with a cozy haunted house story, but sometimes branch out into the region of the genuinely horrifying or the truly weird. Craig Laurance Gidney’s short story collection The Nectar of Nightmares, published in 2022, fits that bill. As with most collections, I loved several, and a few were misses for me. This is even more likely to happen with a horror collection than, say, a fantasy collection. Even when I wasn’t the audience for a tale, though, I admired all of these. When it comes to shaping the weird and the uncanny, few are doing it as well as Gidney does.

Nectar of Nightmares has 14 stories that range from body horror, American gothic (or Lovecraftian), weird tales, erotic horror, and a couple that I have to call, out of ignorance, heroic horror. The Table of Contents includes:

“Beneath the Briar Patch” — A retelling of a Black folk tale.

“Myth and Moor” — Historic horror set in Yorkshire, featuring Emily Bronte.

“Fur and Gold” — A retelling of a European fairy tale about a monster and a rose.

“Black-Winged Roses” — Social injustice, and magical justice, in a Black drag club.

“Underglaze” — Psychological horror with a beautiful spin on cursed objects.

“Mirror-Bias” — Erotic horror with a focus on surfaces, reflections, and loneliness

“Eidolon Realty, LLC” — A “hermit crab” tale, told in the form of a slide show for a company that markets haunted real estate.

Craig Laurance Gidney

Craig Laurance Gidney

“(K)naivety” — Set in a vivid, uncanny world, a magical duel goes wrong.

“Sigilance” — In a bleak city, a visitor must submerge himself in despair to find release. Echoes of The King in Yellow here.

“The Magus Club” — As a pilgrim seeks the Magus Club, the setting, a corpse, takes center stage in this one.

“Spyder Threads” — How many ways do we sell our souls for success? This story offers a new one.

“Desiccant” — Urban dread fills this tale of a woman in an apartment complex.

“Sacred She-Devil” — In a city where trans women are being murdered, survivors turn to a surprising protector.

“The Nectar of Nightmares” — A quartet of vignettes, as people face a variety of nightmares, and ultimately meet their source.

As usual, I’m going to focus on the stories I liked the best, but frankly, even given the range of horror here, and my limited taste in the genre, I liked most of these. Here are my favorites:

“Beneath the Briar Patch” and “Black-Winged Roses” were surprise favorites for me. I love how Gidney captured the language of a time and place in each tale. “Black-Winged Roses” unfolded in my head like a movie. I loved Madame Isis, the proprietor of the drag club that is also a haven for those who are different, and the series of confrontations with the poisonous bigot who wants to shut her down are tense and ultimately deeply satisfying.

I love the Brontes and I lean toward conventional stories, so “Myth and Moor” was a natural fit for me and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Emily Bronte is experiencing visions of a little boy who’s been lost on the moors. Following this apparition, she encounters a strange and ancient creature, Black Agnes. I loved the beautiful and eerie description of Agnes’s cave (and Agnes herself). As the story progresses, Emily realizes that, like many monsters, Agnes has some right on her side.

Generally, I am not the audience for erotic horror. (Usually I see the horror, but don’t find it erotic.) Imagine my surprise, then, that “Mirror-Bias” is a standout for me, and a story I’ve returned to. Part of it is the engaging, lonely florist main character, but much of the attraction for me comes from the perfectly delivered, beautifully strange writing as Gidney plays with reflections, technology and surfaces, to a shattering climax (yes, that’s what I said).

“Sigilance,” with its Yellow City, a nod to the blighted city of Carcosa, is also not the type of story I seek out. Bleak despair is not my favorite flavor. Gidney hits it out of the park here, though, and the pulsing, vibrant, joyous dreams our visitor experiences, loaded with color, taste, touch and heat, contrast wildly. There is another place here, one of joy and release, but how to find it? Color me impressed.

Like “Black-Winged Roses,” “Sacred She-Devil” is heroic horror, and I appreciated it for that, and for the setting. “Spyder’s Thread” is memorable, again, for amazing descriptions. Against a serious story, the playful element of the fashion show descriptions, with the surreal outfits, were sublime.

“The Nectar of Nightmares” was an excellent dark fantasy story, where different people over time finally confront a creature from their pasts, but Gidney’s conceit of shaping the story as a wine-tasting, with pitch-perfect “tasting notes” before each vignette make this a standout.

Gidney is writer to watch and a voice to listen for. Long may he write! And I’ll be watching for his next work.

Published in June 2022. Craig Laurance Gidney is a magician. His stories are dazzling and transformative. His illusions shame reality for its fragility. He dares you to take a card—any card—and gives you back your watch, your wallet, your sanity. The stories in The Nectar of Nightmares weave and remix myths, legends, and identities. Ranging from retold folktales to diverse settings like the Harlem Renaissance and the contemporary drag ball scene to phantasmagoric secondary worlds, this is a horror collection for those who have descended so far into the deep, there’s nothing left to fear. There is. Craig Laurance Gidney has been nominated for the Lambda Literary Award on multiple occasions. The Nectar of Nightmares is his latest collection of weird and wondrous stories.

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Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town. You can read her blog at deedsandwords.com, and follow her on Twitter: @mariond_d.

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2 comments

  1. Sandy Ferber /

    Sounds like one helluva collection, Marion! Thanks for the detailed review!

  2. Terry Weyna /

    And here I thought I was done buying books for the day. >Click<

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