When I realized at some point in early 2020 that it was not going to be a good year for me as an author, I decided to take a different route to achievement. I decided to edit an anthology. First I’ll post the links (It’s available everywhere in eBook, Hardcover and Paperback and in Audio from Audible, iTunes and Amazon) The very cool cover was painted by an old friend of mine, Steve Smith, who also created some of the artwork that adorns my arms and back. This book includes authors I admire : Kathe Koja, Nadia Bulkin, Elizabeth Massie, Cassandra Khaw, Nick Mamatas and Brian A. Hopkins (who wen told “go long” on the wordcount turned in a short novel…) The eBook is on sale for a short period at only $2.99 due to a new release promotion through Bookbub. If you pick up the Kindle edition at that price, you get a big discount on the audio because the book is “Whispersync” ready. (That means if you listen to it on a Kindle, or a device that does eBooks AND audio, you can stop the audio and pick up reading at the same place in the eBook. Pretty cool. Our audio is narrated by Gigi Shane, Joshua Saxon, Seylan Baxter, Claire Suzanne Elizabeth Cooney, Edward Gist & Laurie Catherine Winkel. “Wilson (A Midnight Dreary) brings together six strong speculative shorts that impress with imaginative concepts and powerful writing…” Publisher’s Weekly.
This was my shot at 2020 (Middle-finger-salute) and was a lot of fun because it’s been years since I edited anything. I have copy-edited and proofed, of course, being a publisher, but the days of The Tome – my small press magazine, are decades behind us.
Voices in the Darkness
A Foreword by David Niall Wilson
It has been a long time since I set out to edit something like this. When I first started writing, I launched a small press that did well for about thirteen issues. I’m certain that I learned more from editing, publishing, and interacting with the many authors, poets, and artists that graced the pages of The Tome than I could thank them for. Editing, though, is hard. Finding what you want, reading things that you don’t, picking through the words and sentences and images, not just to enjoy them, but to try and polish them. It’s an art form very different from the writing itself. I thought I was done with it. And to a point, I guess, I was.
Voices in the Darkness was not an open anthology. I thought long and hard about creating this project. Like a lot of others, my own creative output has been sort of stuck in the mud of 2020, but I wanted to create something memorable. I wanted something to hold and be proud of. I did not give this book a theme, I just told the authors involved that I wanted to publish something special, and that I wanted them to be part of it. I wanted it to be a middle finger flipped up at 2020. I also wanted a book that would make people think, something to entertain and confuse and touch readers.
I decided on six stories before I asked anyone. The invitation I wrote invited authors to go long on the word count to be sure we reached a good length for a book. Just like everything else in this crazy year, we reached that goal in strange and unexpected ways. Once I had my structure, I had to choose the creative minds to bring it to life.
The first four came easily. I know what I love to read, fiction that, while usually based in one genre or another, is hard to define. Stories that are often considered to literary for a mostly dark fantasy project. I had just finished listening to the amazing audiobook of Kathe Koja’s novel, Skin, one that I consider a big influence on my own writing. I put her on my short list. There are several stories by Elizabeth Massie that will never leave me, the most powerful (to my mind) being “Smoothpicks,” which appeared in Deathrealm magazine long ago. That was number two. Over the years, I’ve written a lot of collaborations. Some of the best of those were written with one of my oldest friends, Brian Hopkins. Among the stories we wrote were “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” and “La Belle Dame, Sans Regret”. I approached Brian, who has not been writing for years, and asked him to do a story. Little did I know he would launch into an epic historical fantasy, more than forty-eight thousand words… and I knew it was perfect when he titled that story “La Belle Époque”. It’s really a short novel, published here for the first time.
Nick Mamatas is an author I know for stories that wash over the genre walls like smoke. My first (and still favorite) of his novels was Move Under Ground, a perfect mesh of Lovecraft and Jack Kerouac. I was very pleased when he agreed to be part of this, and very pleased at his homage to the original “Mack the Knife.”
At this point I still had two slots and was out of ideas. The problem was not that I did not know enough perfect authors, I know so many I could fill volumes… maybe a series? But the more I thought about the year, and what was going on in the news, and in the world, the more I realized that I wanted this book to be diverse. I wanted stories that would be unexpected to me. I reached out to award-winning anthologist Ellen Datlow, and she gave me a short list of possibilities. On that list I found Nadia Bulkin and read her collection She Said Destroy: Stories and was mesmerized. Nadia became the fifth author. The final slot went to a lady who is best-known for being an award-winning game writer, but whose fiction keeps popping up in best-of anthologies and on awards lists. That author is Cassandra Khaw, and her story “I’d Rather Wear Black” was a perfect addition to the book.
There was no theme, but one developed. Several of these stories are historical in nature. Brian, Beth, and Nick will be taking you on journeys into the past. The other stories, those in between, are shorter, but powerful in an entirely different way. Kathe, Nadia, and Cassandra went more surreal. The stories are shorter, darker. Kathe’s story, as so many of hers do, is going to be a different story for nearly everyone who reads it. Cassandra’s is going to make people remember past relationships, and think about others… Nadia experiments with telling a true crime story through fiction and will possibly make you reconsider your thoughts on life, and death. Beth’s story revisits a theme that I know to be her biggest fear. Long ago she wrote a book review for me, for The Tome, of Harvest Home, by Thomas Tryon. In that review, she said her biggest fear was one person gaining total control over another. “Baggie” hits this from many angles and will likely give you bad dreams. I love this book.
The final piece is the cover by West Coast artist Steve Smith. I’ve known Steve most of my adult life. He’s also a tattoo artist of amazing ability, and several of his works walk through life with me daily. He painted the book’s cover, has been reading the stories as they come in… it make think of books, an stories—a voice—lost at sea, washed where the waters will take them. If you are reading this, they have been delivered to you. The tiny red object floating in the wake is a gate. Turn the pages and see where it takes you.