About a year ago I started toying with the idea of publishing a book of short fiction. More than that, I wanted to publish a book of New Wave short fiction. I didn’t want to just do Collected Stories Of Misha Burnett, I wanted a collection that would be a tribute to the kind of stories that captivated me as a young reader.
Authors like Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Clive Barker, George Alec Effinger crafted pocket fantasies, little reality excursions that could be read in minutes but stayed with you for a lifetime. And I believe the short story is the ideal medium for Weird Fiction precisely because the format makes you pare down an idea to its essentials. It’s an icepick jab, a short sharp shock that hits you and then vanishes away again into the night.
The problem was that I just didn’t have enough stories that I thought were that good. I was torn—on the one hand, I wanted enough stories to fill a book, but on the other hand I didn’t want to include anything that didn’t have that kind of left-handed sucker punch that characterizes the best of New Wave.
I had half a book, and I didn’t want to wait until I had enough stories for the other half.
That’s when a solution presented itself. I could get someone else to write the other half!
I thought of Louise Sorensen immediately. A while back I started putting together a project of 21st Century Pulp stories, and while it ended up not being published I got to read a number of authors take on the concept. Louise’s contribution was a chilling little gem called “Ragged Angels”. It had the sublime creepiness that I was looking for.
So I wrote Louise and I explained what I was trying to do and asked if she’d be willing to work with me on a collection, and did she have any more like that one?
It turned out she did.
And then something magical happened.
We decided that each of us would contribute five stories and as the collection came together it was like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups—two great tastes that taste great together.
Louise’s voice is very different than mine, but she works the same fertile soil of the uncanny. Her work has a dreamlike, lyrical quality while I tend to write about fantastic things in a prosaic, matter of fact style. The collection of stories took on a quality that I don’t believe either of us could have obtained on our own because of that contrast in voices.
Which is why when Louise suggested the title Duel Visions I agreed.
About this time I realized that actually getting this work to print was too big a job for me. I didn’t want this book to go up on Amazon and sink without a ripple, and I’m no publisher. My marketing and promotion skills are—well, they’re not. I couldn’t sell ice water in Hell.
I have a pretty good relationship with P. “Alex” Alexander of Cirsova Publishing. I’ve sold him a couple of stories and I am a firm believer in his magazine. So I reached out and said, “I’ve got this really weird thing I’m doing with Louise Sorensen (who has also had stories in Cirsova) and I need a publisher—would you be willing to take a look at it?”
And so Duel Visions gained its third voice. Because Alex is a heck of a publisher, and he worked very hard on making the project what it is. He caught the idea right away and helped us iron out the rough spots in the stories themselves as well as doing all of the nuts and bolts that go into making a manuscript into a book—a thousand little details that readers don’t consciously notice but nonetheless go into making the experience of reading a joy.
It’s been a long strange trip, but we’re nearly there.
On Valentine’s Day, 2019, Cirsova Publishing will release a book called Duel Visions. We’ve all worked to make this the best it can be, and I honestly believe that it is something special. It’s a risky book in a lot of ways—it’s neither a single author anthology nor a collection from a bunch of different authors, it’s a collection of two authors. Who does that?
It’s all over the place in terms of genre. Alex is promoting it as Horror, but it’s not slavering monsters and gore, it’s the subtler and more unsettling horror of being in a world where the floors aren’t level and nothing is quite safe or sane. There is Science Fiction, time travel, alternate history, genetic engineering, things like that. There is Urban Fantasy, with sidhe and old gods come back to the modern world. There’s a story (I won’t tell you which one) where nothing fantastic or supernatural is happening at all.
I think it all comes together, though, to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts. I have read through the entire manuscript literally dozens of times in the process of putting the project together, and the stories still get me. I still get sucked into that looking glass world and forget that I’m supposed to be proofreading.
I think this book is a game changer. I think it’s going to make people sit up and take notice.