Duel Visions – New Anthology of Horror and Weird from Misha Burnett and Louise Sorensen (Feb 14th)

front cover only jpgCirsova Publishing is thrilled to announce Duel Visions, an all-new anthology of horror and macabre by Misha Burnett and Louise Sorensen.

Duel Visions marks Cirsova Publishing’s second departure from its flagship publication, Cirsova Magazine, and its first ever traditional format book release.

A literary venture in the spirit of the classic horror showcases, such as Tales that Witness Madness and Tales from the Crypt, this new volume collects ten tales that approach terror from all angles, supernatural to science fiction, monstrous to mundane, encompassing the occult to the simply odd.

Misha Burnett has been regularly published in Cirsova Magazine and is known for The Book Of Lost Doors series of novels as well as the Eldritch Earth shared setting.

Louise Sorensen is also a veteran of Cirsova Magazine and has been published in several issues of Just a Minor Malfunction…

Duel Visions will be out in Paperback and eBook online and at retailers February 14, 2019!

Additional outlets and formats will be listed soon!

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Short Reviews – The Final Close, J.P. Dixon

The Final Close appeared in the June 1977 issue of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and was totally not made up by me.

The Final Close is the 3rd ‘Scary Injun’ story in the June 1977 issue. Nina was of the “monsters might be indistinguishable from indigenous people/indigenous people might be monsters” variety; The Horse Lord was of the “indigenous people know more about the scary stuff you should stay away from” variety; The Final Close is of the “indigenous people are gonna get ya, whitey, cuz they’re indigenous” variety. Racist? Sure, why not? But it’s like the short fiction version of a dime-store Indian; The Final Close captures a nuanced bit of Americana that can’t just be written off by saying it plays to stereotypes.

One of those door-to-door men that most folks only remember from old Looney Tunes -the kind who’d brag about selling refrigerators to Eskimos- and his young protege are making their way across the country selling folks headstones. If that doesn’t gob-smack you with foreshadowing of impending doom, I don’t know what would.

The ‘hero’ of the story is the young sales apprentice who thinks he’s on the verge of making it rich. He thinks he’s fancy stuff in his suit and tie, so doesn’t realize what a rube he is. Hitting on the counter girl at the burger & fries joint elicits a response of smiling contempt. Watch out for Old Pretty Mouth. The duo makes their way into Chickasaw City to find that the town’s name is only half-accurate. An angry lady and her neighbors end up chasing the “goddamn tourists” with a rifle and various implements straight into the maw of Old Pretty Mouth, a giant bass/serpent/crocogator/monster/something, and probably have a big larff about it after.

The Final Close, while not executed with quite the mastery of craft possessed by Bloch or playing with the depths of fear that The Horse Lord did, is a serviceable piece of disposable horror worthy of inclusion in a Creepshow-like showcase. The first one, not the second one. Like Nina, there’s the aspect of white fear at play, but more of the sort that makes you snicker as the unwitting dopes fall straight into whatever indigenous-peoples-related-doom awaits them.

One of the most striking aspects of the Final Close is the close attention to detail; if you only focus on the silly story of white guys chased by ‘injuns’ then ate by monster, you’ll miss the impressive amount of descriptive work put into making everything seem real and true to life. I’d not only believe that Dixon had driven through Chickasaw City, I’d believe that he ate at that burger & fries joint and had the counter girl snark at him. The last punch is with Old Pretty Mouth itself; after all of the details and descriptions, all we get of OPM is the kid’s dying thought that “Old Pretty Mouth looked just the way the kid had imagined him all along, and there was no escape.”

The best I can say about The Final Close is that this is how The Death of Bunny Munro should have ended.

Short Reviews – My Boat, Joanna Russ

My Boat was published in the January 1976 issue of Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  I know I haven’t finished all of the stuff from June 1977 yet, but this was fresh in my mind and I wanted it to follow my previous review of The Horse Lord.  I do plan on finishing reviews of June 1977 issue this week.

While Lisa Tuttle’s The Horse Lord captures everything that is right and good and wonderful about Lovecraftian Weird Horror, Joanna Russ’s My Boat embodies everything I can’t stand about ::fingerquotes:: “Lovecraftian Weird Horror”.

My Boat turns a fictionalized account of the Central High Integration* into a magical negro story with a bunch of Lovecraft titles and places name dropped to show some Lovecraft cred. The story is told in one of those annoying first person one-sided conversation perspectives, with the narrator recounting his tale in between pitches to his agent for a new series.

The narrator, in that “tell me I ain’t crazy!” voice recalls those days at Central High where he and a buddy (obsessed with HP Lovecraft, natch) befriended one of the young black girls who was part of the integration. The girl’s mother is an ultra conservative and restrictive christian while her father was killed in front of her by angry white men; shy and quiet, and seems always afraid, though she is an absolutely brilliant and natural actor, and *gasp* has extensive knowledge about the history of the east Mediterranean, including “correct” pronunciations! Despite her quirks the girl becomes close with the narrator and his nerdy friend.

One day, she invites them out to the lake to go on her boat which she has christened “My Boat”. What follows is a flight of fancy as the boat progressively becomes more fancy, as does the magic black girl, who turns into a resplendent princess. A lot of Lovecraftian locations get name-dropped (Celephais, Kadath, etc.), and they’re going to set sail and visit the Queen of Sheba (properly pronounced “Saba”, our magic black girl reminds us). Oh, we’re going to places wonderful and terrible just like out of the pulp rags your friend reads! Off to Atlantis! The narrator gets a sudden case of the scared-white-boys, hesitates for a moment when a “redneck” cop shows up and is all ‘whachudoin, boy?”, and turns around to find the boat is gone!

The narrator tells us how he is unable to convince the black girl’s mother that his friend didn’t abduct and rape her daughter, and is messed up about the whole thing. Twenty years later, he runs into his old friend again, who hasn’t aged a day. ‘Oh, I’m just on my way to my house, I have to pick up the Necronomicon before I get back.’ But it’s not the Necronomicon, but the Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath! Moogahboogahlovecraftwasright! And the friend disappears, and the house disappears and the neighborhood disappears and the freeway goes through where it all ways now, and was it real or not or is he crazy?

When I talk about terrible Lovecraft fan-wankery being the reason why I don’t read a lot of modern weird fiction and am wary of any writers who cite Lovecraft as an influence, this is the kind of story I’m talking about. If you actually like this kind of thing, you’d probably like this. Me? I hate it.

Lovecraft was immensely influenced by Lord Dunsany, particularly his dark quasi-arabian mythology established in Gods of Pegana. But I can guarandamntee you that we wouldn’t even be talking about Lovecraft today if he’d written The Doom that Came to Yun-Ilara, The Call of Trogool, or The Dream Quest of Unknown Aradec. Come up with your own damn dream worlds and stop name dropping Ulthar, Celephais, and Kadath. Or if you’re going to name drop Lovecraft stuff, be subtle about it. Use a sniper rifle, not a gatling gun. Best Lovecraft drop in a book ever? Foucault’s Pendulum has six hundred pages of historical, philosophical, and theological conspiracy theories being bandied about both in jest and in all seriousness, but when the Rosicrucian obsessed occultists, free masons, new agers and Thelemites kidnap one of the characters, right before the climactic bloodbath, someone shouts “Ia, Cthulhu!” Perfect cherry on top for a story about people who are obsessed with occultism and can no longer tell the difference between occult history and fiction.

Less is more, none is best, My Boat is full of leaks.

*The National Guard are not present, no state is mentioned, and it is 5 black students instead of 9, but as it does take place in the south in the 1950s, “Central High” and “Integration” are a dog-whistle to any Arkansan.