Photo by US Fish and Wildlife Service via Flickr
Nightfire is thrilled to announce the acquisition of Wendy N. Wagner’s The Creek Girl, a tense cli-fi cosmic horror novel set in a rural Oregon forest that seems to consume any who enter, publishing in 2025.
Deep within the wild Clackamas National Forest, the shadows of looming trees and long-abandoned mines have sheltered hikers and harbored serial killers. Hidden in the forest are ghost towns with deteriorating buildings overrun by glowing fungi and phosphorescent spores that even local experts can’t identify. Not to mention the missing persons posters multiplying around town, many of hikers who never returned.
Burgeoning author Erin Harper arrives in Faraday on a mission. She’s determined to find out what happened to her brother, one of the many who disappeared in the forest, and to write a book about what she discovers. When another person is reported missing, it’s Erin who discovers her body. But the girl vanishes again – and her fingerprints show up at a murder scene soon after.
Is there a serial killer stalking Faraday, and using the forest as their hunting grounds? What are those strange glowing spores? What really happened to Erin’s brother? She must find answers quickly, before anyone else goes missing. But Erin might be next…
Here’s what Wendy N. Wagner has to say:
“As an avid hiker and trail runner, I love getting out into the forested foothills of Mt. Hood to explore and enjoy nature. But as someone who grew up in Oregon in the 1980s—a time when the Pacific Northwest was probably more famous for the serial killers prowling its rainy little towns than for its scenic vistas—I can’t help but recognize the dark side of the beautiful places I’m so drawn to. It’s almost impossible for me not to think about the ways the landscape could easily be used against a person.
I really got inspired to write this novel on a trip driving up the Clackamas River in early 2020. The river shone turquoise between rugged basalt banks, and the national forest crowded right up to the edges of the road. The towns along the river catered to the outdoor crowd while still showing scars from decades of economic struggles. The region’s blend of natural beauty and human suffering demanded to have its story told. I plunged into research about the history of the area, but just as I was starting the novel, some of the worst fires in Oregon history broke out in the region. Even my house, thirty miles from the heart of the disaster, was put on emergency evacuation warning.
I could not work on the story for more than a year—not until I began to see pictures of new growth along the banks of the Clackamas—and the experience pushed the story into a new direction. The forests of the American West are in real trouble because of climate change, and it just isn’t possible to write about the trees without acknowledging it. This is a scary novel, but the real horror is what we have done to our planet.”
From Kelly Lonesome, executive editor at Tor Nightfire:
“I’ve long admired Wendy’s work in the horror and sff space through Nightmare Magazine, and I jumped at the chance to bring her into the Nightfire coven!
I love a really strong setting in horror, and the Clackamas National Forest absolutely delivers those eerie Twin Peaks vibes – a small town, creepy woods, and unexplainable events. Wendy’s knack for body horror is deliciously disgusting, and the way the central mystery unravels kept me glued to the page! I think our Nightfire fans of T. Kingfisher, Cassandra Khaw, and Lucy Snyder are going to love the wonderfully wicked world Wendy’s created with The Creek Girl!
Just be warned: you’ll never be able to look at a forest the same way again….”
WENDY N. WAGNER is a Hugo award-winning editor of short fiction, serving as the managing/senior editor at LIGHTSPEED and the editor-in-chief of NIGHTMARE MAGAZINE. She is author of The Secret Skin (one of The Washington Post’s best SF/F/H books of 2021), The Deer Kings, and Locus bestseller An Oath of Dogs, and two novels for the Pathfinder role-playing game. She has published more than fifty short stories, which have appeared in markets like Beneath Ceaseless Skies and PseudoPod, and YEAR’S BEST HARDCORE HORROR 7.
THE CREEK GIRL will hit shelves in 2025!