A Conversation with Misha Burnett

Monday , 27, February 2017 15 Comments

The Cirsova series of conversations continues with Misha Burnett.

Misha’s story, A Hill of Stars appears in Cirsova #1 and I’m looking forward to the eldritch themed stories from his writing group to be released with the 2017 editions.

I found Misha’s take on New Wave writing interesting, which he describes as focused character psychology with an emphasis of poetic language over scientific accuracy. His  Book of Lost Doors series serves as a great introduction and is available for free on Kindle Unlimited. Despite that a lot of what influenced the Lost Doors series isn’t my cup of tea I enjoyed Catskinner’s Book, and I’m well into the next. My only criticism is that one will encounter a small typo here and there.  Go here for a great interview and discussion of Catskinner’s Book.  Additionally, you can find it featured at the Puppy of the Month Club.

For those that are involved with the Hugo Awards Misha’s A Hill of Stars has been nominated for Best Novelette.

Misha’s web page can be found here


Scott Cole:     Please describe your writing.

Misha Burnett:     I’m kind of the red-headed stepchild of the Pulp Revival movement–I write about it, but the fiction that I write isn’t really Pulp Revival.  “A Hill Of Stars” was an experiment for me.  I wanted to see if I could do a pulp-style adventure story, and I wanted to set in it in a D&D style version of Lovecraft’s prehistory because that struck me as an amusing concept. I did another deliberate pastiche, my story “The First Man In The World” in the All These Shiny Worlds anthology was an attempt to recapture the Campbellian Hard SF of Asimov and Niven.

However, I consider my novels and most of my other short stories New Wave, and on the realistic horror end of the New Wave spectrum.  I like playing with ideas and trying out new things.  My series, The Book Of Lost Doors, is based on the cosmology of William Burrough’s Cut-Up Trilogy.  My main influences are New Wave writers like Philip Dick, Tim Powers, Samuel Delany, George Alec Effinger, Michael Moorcock, and their modern descendants like China Mieville and Clive Barker.

My current project is a novel called Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts, which is a mash-up of Winsor McKay’s Little Nemo In Slumberland comic strip with film noir, and is set in a world taken from 1970’s crime exploitation B-movies. I like putting elements together that don’t ordinarily go together, and seeing if I can get them to work.  I dislike the concept of genre on general principles and go out of my way to work against tropes.  I don’t tend to have a lot of happy endings in my work. I stole the last line of Gingerbread Wolves (the fourth and final volume in The Book Of Lost Doors) from Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Lament”–what I think is the saddest line in American letters, “Life must go on, I forget just why.”


SC:     Please tell me more about Bad Dreams and Broken Hearts. Based on your description I’m thinking an innocent Nemo type character winds up in the wrong part of town and is saved by and has adventures with Priest from Superfly.

MB:     No, Samhain Jackknife is more of a Dean Martin character. He’s a playboy and a jazz musician with a taste for absinthe and other men’s wives. However, he is also the son on the Fellmonger of Messidor, one of the nine Lords of Nightmare and he works secretly for the Lord Mayor (who happens to be a dragon.)


SC:     The Superfly reference is me taking 70’s exploitation and running with it…..in the wrong direction, however, a Dean Martin type who is the son of a Nightmare lord and agent of a dragon is an eclectic mix..

How do you go about transferring Martin’s attributes to Samhain? Did you conduct bibliographical research on Dean or just flow with your current mental model?

MB:     I just sat down and watched some Matt Helm movies.  My visual picture is of Matthew Bellamy of the band Muse, but I wanted Martin’s mannerisms, his cheerful amorality and over-the-top seductive line of patter. I have never thought of myself as particularly attractive, so I wanted to try out a character who is a pretty boy and knows it and is comfortable about using his looks for his own ends.



SC:     Do you feel comfortable in sharing your worst idea when it came to combining seemingly incongruent elements into a story? Also, what story do you consider your best when it came combining disparate elements?

MB:     I don’t know that I could single out one idea as the worst–I have so many bad ideas.  That’s a good thing, though.  I think that one thing that holds back a lot of creativity is being afraid of bad ideas.  I probably start ten projects for every one that survives more than 10,000 words.

To give you one example, I started a project called After Gojira which was to be a romance set in a city which was cleaning up after an attack by a giant monster.  My idea was to start where the monster movie ends, with the immense corpse surrounded by miles of shattered cityscape and the brave workers who have to try to get the city workable again.  I wanted to use the narrowly averted apocalypse as the backdrop for a regular, “vanilla”-style romance–a man and a woman meeting on the job and falling in love.  I couldn’t ever get the mix right, though, between the existence of the fantastic and its effect on the characters and their quotidian day to day life and blossoming feelings for each other.  So I moved on to something else.

My personal favorite bad idea made good is the character of Exquisite in The Book Of Lost Doors. I introduce him in the second book, Cannibal Hearts, primarily as comic relief. The idea came from binge-watching Hellraiser movies on Netflix.  Clive Barker’s Cenobites are pretty obviously taken from the S&M subculture taken to its final extremes.  That’s a subculture I know well, so I thought to myself, “What kind of person would really take BDSM so far as to transcend life and death, if such a thing were possible?”

As it happens, the people that I have known who have gotten seriously into BDSM as a lifestyle have also been really geeky. So I had this mental image of Barker’s Pinhead character in a Star Wars T-shirt saying, “Hey, you guys want to come over and play Risk?”

As the series progressed, however, I found myself taking Exquisite and the other Necroidim more seriously, and growing sympathetic to their devotion to their bizarre lifestyle. Ex turned out to be one of my favorite characters, in fact, and there is a scene in The Worms Of Heaven (that actually begins at a game of Risk) where Ex gives an eulogy for his lover Sublime that is probably the most powerful sequence I’ve ever written.


SC:     Other than Exquisite does the S&M subculture influence or appear in other stories? How is it introduced?

MB:     Does it influence me?  Yes, in two ways that I can think of.  First is that I have a lot of atypical relationships in my fiction, homosexual, polyamorous, power exchange.  They say “write what you know” and that’s what I know.  

I have a viewpoint on alternative relationships that’s less a minority and more of a sliver–basically I don’t know anyone else who looks at them the same way that I do. The capsule version is that human beings are designed to operate a certain way–one man, one woman, for life, to raise children.  Every culture that has ever existed has acknowledged that as the way in which humans naturally form family groupings, just like wolves form packs and whales form pods. However, human beings aren’t wolves or whales, and we have the choice to act in ways that are contrary to nature.

The love that two men have for each other in a homosexual relationship is no less strong or important as the love of a married couple, but it is an unnatural love. Writing about such relationships without understanding the stresses that an unnatural love places on people is what robs a lot of modern homosexual fiction of the power that the underground queer fiction of the 1960s and 1970s had. The Well Of Loneliness, for example, has its most poignant moments when the main character ruminates on what she is missing in choosing homosexuality.  You don’t find that in modern queer fiction–instead all of the feelings of strangeness are externalized.  It’s those blasted homophobes’ fault!

The word “perversion” has fallen out of favor as a serious descriptive term, but it’s simply the honest way to describe when the natural desire to create and nurture a family is made into something else. Writing about perversions requires one to acknowledge that it is perversion, but also to acknowledge that it grew out from a healthy root and isn’t a thing that is entirely wicked, it is a thing that has been stunted and prevented from reaching its proper growth. Modern liberal writers refuse to do the first, and most modern conservative writers don’t understand how to do the second.

Second, I have a firm belief that organizations tend to follow certain patterns regardless of the content of the organization.  You’ll find the same cliques and infighting and different types of people in an S&M club, a Hebrew bible study group, a historical reenactment society, an Argentine Tango class. (All groups that I have been part of.) In every group you’ll find purists and populists, those who focus on buying all the stuff, those who focus on pushing one particular subset, folks who are there for the politics and folks who are there for the service work.  So I’ve never hesitated to write about organizations that I don’t have any experience with (or that don’t exist in the real world) because people tend to be the same no matter what they set out to do.


SC:      I like your categorization of purists and populists. Are there other archetypes of personalities you have identified in organizations?  I guess it’s due to my line of work but I’m always more fixated on the Pareto Principle.

MB:     Well, I could enumerate different types, but I think that most members of an interest group can be categorized into those who use the interest as an excuse to socialize and those who put up with socializing in order to indulge their interest. In the first group you tend to have your group organizers and workers, but you also tend to have those who are there to have fun and let someone else do the work.  The second group tends to be more fragmented, since what exactly it is about the interest that draws a person will vary from person to person.

The first group will argue about who has the responsibility to update the email list for meetings, the second group will have knock-down screaming fights about whether or not an Arrakeen druid could choose sandworm as an animal form and if so, what level it would be.

SC:     You mentioned historical reenactment.  What period(s) of history influence you most?

MB:     My ex-wife was a Buckskinner, and I was the Significant Other Who Doesn’t Care About The Interest But Shows Up Anyway archetype in that group. My interest in history is mostly about the history of technology.  I find that fascinating, particularly the odd little byways of technology that seemed like a good idea at the time but are now lost.  Like videodisc players–great concept, but they were released before they were mature and lost out to video tape.  Now, of course, we’re back to disks.

There is so much that is designed a particular way today because it’s backwards compatible to technology that no longer exists.  In ten years people will have no idea why 12 volt charging outlets in cars are so big because they won’t know that cars used to have integral cigarette lighters.  I do a fair amount of electrical work on my job, and there is a lot of the National Electrical Code that seems completely arbitrary unless you know the history.


SC:     I’ll date myself but was recently car shopping, noticed the 12 volt outlet  and asked the salesman where the lighter unit was. The salesman broke the news that the lighter was not available and just served as an outlet for accessories*.

In any of your stories do you explore those odd little byways of technology?  I’m a third of the way through Catskinner and future technology (or maybe better to say unknown to most humans technology) is in the plot line but not sure the sub-topic of bypassed tech will play a role.

*For those that are fascinated by auto electrical systems, follow this link  which includes links to the technical standards.

MB:     I have a background in building maintenance, and I use that extensively in my work.  I’ve always been fascinated by abandoned places and how they can co-exist with occupied spaces in an urban environment. People learn to just “un-see” empty storefronts.  The idea that anything could be lurking behind the plywood covered windows and sun-faded For Lease signs is something that I have tried to suggest in my work. (Most directly in The Worms Of Heaven, but it’s a theme in the whole series.)

Most people have no idea how extensive the infrastructure is that an industrial civilization depends on, or how fragile.  In the United States most of the time the water comes out of the tap and power comes out of the wall, and people take that for granted without understanding the constant work behind the scenes to keep it that way. The majority of the technology that we depend on was laid down in the middle of the last century. In the event of a catastrophic systems failure in a major US city I doubt that this country would have the resources to recreate it–we would probably have to simply abandoned the entire city, or most of it.  We’re already seeing some of that in big cities like Chicago and Detroit.  

The advances of technology in one relatively minor area–data processing equipment–have blinded us to the overall picture.  There is a myth that we are the most technologically savvy generation in history, and that’s simply not true.  So much has been lost that we’re not even aware has been lost.  I have seen buildings that require extensive remodeling, or have even been condemned and destroyed, because an electrical or plumbing system has failed and there is nobody left alive who knows how to fix it.


SC:     Would that be a case of those electrical and plumbing systems using “bypassed technology” and it has been replaced by superior technology (I hope)?  Either the examples you just gave are by-passed systems or, more ominously a sign that is similar to the decline of Roman Britain (eventually the aqueducts and drainage systems fell into disrepair as no one knew how to maintain them).


MB:     Changes in technology come about when a new way of doing things offers some advantage over the older way of doing things. (No company is going to retool their manufacturing process to make lower quality goods at a higher cost.)  So, yes, the new techniques are superior in some ways to the old ones.  

However, what is advantageous is determined by more than the mechanical efficiency of the device or process involved.  Politics always influences technological innovation.  The martial art style of Kung Fu was developed as a means allowing a disarmed population to defend itself by using using the objects they were permitted to own (“Oh, no, Sir, we have no weapons–these are merely harmless farming implements!”).

Since the middle of the last century the parasitic overhead on labor costs has been rising dramatically.  Consequently, a technique that can be used by a semi-skilled worker has an economic advantage over one that requires a long apprenticeship to learn. This doesn’t mean that the new way of doing things is objectively better than the old way–just that, given the economic realities of our times, it allows a company to make more money.

Today, in America, there is a need for technology that can be installed, operated, and maintained by workers with minimal training. What’s more, laws that were intended to protect workers have had the unintended consequence of making it difficult and dangerous for companies to reward skilled workers and let go of those who are less skilled.  This has given rise to a design philosophy that is focused on making things easier, but not necessarily better. Hanging drywall takes less time to master than plastering–but a plaster & lathe wall will hold up to an impact that will punch a hole through drywall. Replacing breakers in a modern breaker box is very easy–but you have to replace breakers more often.  Glueing PVC is a lot faster than sweating copper pipe–but copper pipe lasts longer.

This isn’t to say that all innovation in construction over the past half century has resulted in shoddier structures–I am a huge fan of metal wall studs as opposed to 2x4s, and whoever invented Shark Bite fittings needs to be canonized–but there is a clear economic incentive to develop new techniques that are faster and easier to use.



SC:     I’m sure many of the blog readers would be interested in your Book of Lost Doors series. Please give a quick overview of William Burroughs Cut Up Trilogy and how your series relates.

MB:     William Burroughs is hard to read, and deliberately so.  His most famous quotation is “Language is a virus from outer space” and he saw himself as fighting against a system that enslaved people by controlling their actions through controlling language. Consequently he committed war crimes against language, which he considered the enemy of free thought.

Fortunately for my readers, I’ve made no attempt to mimic his style of including long passages of mechanically created gibberish in his prose. Instead I tried to work from the concept that alien minds have been and are influencing human behavior to their own incomprehensible ends.

In my series there are Outsiders, which we know next to nothing about since they deliberately conceal their nature and lie to those people that they are in mental contact with.  They claim to be aliens, demons, angels, ghosts–whatever the human is most inclined to believe in. I don’t ever come out and say unequivocally what the Outsiders are.

The fact that we don’t know is a big part of the stories, in fact. What we do know is that they feed on order and leave chaos in their wake.  They are metaphysical parasites, essentially, intelligences that have survived the heat death of their own universes at the price of increasing the entropy on other regions of space.

I take a lot of Burroughs’ exotic imagery as well, the idea that mental contact with the Outsiders leads to physical changes in the humans.  I have several types of altered humans, some based on Burroughs but also inspired by other New Wave and horror sources.


SC:     It seems Burroughs didn’t want the direction of his thoughts to be constrained by language (or infected by the word virus) but did he agitate for a different means of communication or was he a rebel with no end game in mind?  Maybe he thought that only by bursting free of the constraints could the answer be found.

MB:     I believe that Burroughs was a primal utopian–a very common viewpoint of the New Wave, and one that I think is a serious intellectual failing. The idea is that humans are ontologically perfect but that we are kept from our perfection by outside influences “society”, “the man”, “the military-industrial complex”, what-have-you. If the pernicious influences are destroyed then our natural perfection will assert itself.  It’s the same philosophy that founded and then destroyed the Oneida Community, for example.


SC:     You mentioned you don’t inflict Burroughs’ style on your readers but does his cut out techniques influence your prose or do you “follow the channels” as Burroughs said, using different methods?

MB:     I tend towards surrealism as my primary epistemological weapon. I feel that the medium has to be prosaic, even pedestrian, in order to deliver a fantastic message.  If I describe a man, I can use flowery language and quirky grammar, but if I describe a man with wings I have to use language that is concrete and down to Earth. I take the photorealistic surrealism of Rene Magritte as my guide, as well as William Blake’s observation that a spirit should be portrayed as being more real than solid objects.  I want to make people believe in impossible things, so I describe them as if they were not only possible, but ordinary.


SC:     I’d like to go back to an earlier answer and your mention of queer fiction. You compared the powerful stories of the 60’s and 70’s versus the modern stories which you find lacking, as they tend to externalize the strong emotions. I’m guessing modern authors are riding the great victimization tsunami that has flooded modern culture. I don’t like it but it’s definitely been politically and financially successful for many.

MB:     Less than you might imagine.  The thing about virtue signaling fiction is that you don’t have to buy the book to get the benefit from it–it’s enough to just talk about it. Library sales and review copies don’t pay the rent, which is why so many “best-selling” novelists are tenured faculty at a university that pays them to write.

As far as financially successful homosexual fiction, it’s mostly gay male erotica written by and for straight women.


SC:     Kind of like how many straight men are fascinated by lesbianism?

MB:     Exactly, although I think that it’s at the same time less widely acknowledged and more mainstream, if that makes any sense.  There’s more of a fiction that gay male romance is groundbreaking storytelling, or something.  But, seriously, does anyone think that women are watching Torchwood or Penny Dreadful for the plots?


SC:     Based on your fan’s feedback how would you define your current audience? I would ask if you write for a particular audience but believe you write for yourself and a large fan base and extra sales would be welcome but not necessary?

MB:     My audience seems to be people who enjoy fantastic elements in stories but don’t identify as SF/F readers.  One of my favorite reviews of Catskinner’s Book says, in part, that it’s not like “ordinary science fiction” because it has interesting characters.  Demographically, my biggest fans tend to be middle-aged women, which really surprised me. I’m more likely to pick up thriller or true crime readers as fans than science fiction readers.


SC:     Maybe your books can be a gateway for those fans that reflexively recoil from their preconceptions of SF/F.

MB:     I think so.  There has been a lot of talk in the Puppy circles about the pushback against traditional publishing injecting message fiction into SF, and I think that’s true.  I’ve had people complain that my covers don’t look like traditional SF covers, and, honestly, I think that works in my favor.  There is large segment of the population that would like SF, but have been turned off by what gets sold as SF today.


SC:     How did you come across Cirsova magazine?

MB:     From the Cirsova blog on WordPress.  I don’t recall how I found it but Alex made a comment on some blog that I was already following and I checked it out and added him to my feed.  I’ve been reading his blog for some time and I liked his take on SF and Fantasy, so when he asked for “Sword & Planet” fiction I thought I’d give it a shot. The rest, as they say, is history.


SC:     Cirsova is out of Little Rock, Arkansas and in this excellent interview you mention your membership in the Ozark Hellbenders (I’d link to them but the link given in the interview is broken). Is there a writing scene down there that folks should know about?

MB:     There is definitely something eldritch about the Ozarks. I think it may be the feeling of great age and wildness of the landscape–what Lovecraft saw in rural New England.  Certain skylines seem to be haunted by spirits older than humanity and they lead a man down strange and oft-times dark paths of introspection.

Or maybe it’s just that there’s nothing to do there except watch old horror movies and drink.  Tough to say.


SC:     How is the Eldritch Earth Geophysical Society coming along? Besides the upcoming Cirsova magazines are you all involved with any other projects?

MB:     I don’t think that the Google+ plus group will be doing anything else. It’s my hope that the setting will appeal to other writers and inspire them to build on the ideas. That’s all I wanted to do with it, suggest that there is an alternative to the vaguely medieval Europe setting for heroic fantasy. I would love to see “Eldritch Fantasy” showing up as a sub-genre, but it’s not my world, it’s a mashup of (E R) Burroughs and Lovecraft. Neither of those writers need me to promote them.


SC:     Actually, that makes it more interesting, that is, create a group to accomplish a specific goal or project and then move on. The interesting aspect of it is the experience gained by each individual contributor and how they will apply it to future projects.

MB:     The other side of not being afraid of bad ideas is knowing when to let go of good ideas.  Too many creative projects are doomed from the onset because something that was good is reused over and over until it’s worn out. For example, most of Hollywood’s output for the past decade…


SC:     I’m at the point in your Cirsova Issue 1 contribution, A Hill of Stars, where the protagonist learns he’s on a shoggoth’s menu and on the Kickstarter page it seems that the Eldritch Earth Geophysical Society has top billing. Are you able to give us some teasers from the upcoming stories?

MB:     I’m very happy with the stories that came out of that group. They are very different.  My own contribution, “In The Gloaming O My Darling” is probably the darkest of them–I was trying for an old EC Horror Comic feel, and I think I nailed it.  But the others are more straight adventure.  People took the setting and made it their own, which is what I was hoping for.  Brian Lowe’s “War Of The Ruby” is a kind of supernatural heist story, and I love those. Schuyler Hernstrom’s “The First American” is pure pulp, mixing savagery and high tech in a way that you seldom see from modern SF. Jay Barnson’s “The Queen Of Shadows” uses parts of Lovecraft’s mythos in ways that I never have considered, and has a solid feeling of creepy decadent empire that reminds me of Moorcock’s Melnibone. Louise Sorenson’s “Darla Of Deodanth” has a very fresh feel because she’s new to the mythos and looking at it with a different perspective.

And that’s very exciting.  I didn’t want people writing Lovecraft pastiches, and even less people writing Burnett pastiches (perish the thought!) I wanted people to find some neglected real estate and move in.  


SC:     Do you play wargames or role play such as D&D?   If not, any favorite computer / console games?

MB:     I used to.  I played D&D back when it was three little books in a white box. I was always on the gonzo “Arduin Grimoire” side of gaming.  I used Metamorphosis Alpha mutation charts on orcs and played in a Car Wars campaign that was based on The Terminator, with Mad Max style road warriors facing off against sentient tanks. I was big into Champions for a while, too, before it got swallowed up by GURPS.

I have a PS2 and get it out from time to time.  I like Gauntlet: Dark Legacy and Ratchet & Clank.


SC:     I’m betting that your interest in the Adruin Grimoire supplements and William Burroughs is somehow related to your personality or world view, that is, not being constrained?

MB:     There’s a similar feel, yes, a conviction that the best art begins where good taste and decorum end.


SC:     The top five books of all time?

MB:     Tim Powers, Declare

Robert Heinlein, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress

Samuel Delany, Einstein Intersection

G K Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Philip Dick: A Scanner Darkly

Now, I hate questions like that, so I just sat down and wrote down the first five books that came to mind as being major influences on me.  Ask me again in a week and I might come up with five entirely different ones.


SC:     Agree, it was a lame question, but still good to see what popped into your head at this time.  Via Jeffro ran across Jim Fear’s podcasts  and in Episode 21 he had a rant about the Amazon TV adaption of Man in the High Castle. Have you watched it and if so, do you think it doesn’t do justice to Philip Dick’s work?

MB:     I saw the first episode, and I liked the pretty costumes and CGI skylines, but it didn’t really grab me.  Honestly, MITHC isn’t one of my favorite Dick novels.  I felt that he was trying too hard to write a serious science fiction book.


SC:    Jim Fear strongly recommends A Scanner Darkly and with your recommendation it’s going on the reading list. What aspects of Philip Dick’s ideas and prose do you particularly enjoy?

MB:     A Scanner Darkly is a book that will depress you.  It’s very bleak, and it’s painfully honest about the destructive power of drugs and drug culture.  Dick has a listing of friends that he had lost to drugs as an afterword, in fact. The film version is very good–I consider it the only film made from a Dick story that does the source material justice.

Philip Dick understood and could write coherently about the subjective experience of mental illness in a way that very few authors have managed. That’s a really hard thing to do, and one that I attempted with the James/Catskinner dynamic in my own fiction. If I had to pick one novel as the definitive Dick work I’d go with VALIS.  It captures the terrifying uncertainty of not being able to trust one’s own mental processes.  

As an aside, I’d also suggest Samuel Delany’s Dhalgren, Hannah Green’s I Never Promised You A Rose Garden, George Alec Effinger’s The Wolves Of Memory, and Hunter Thompson’s Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas as books that manage that trick.


SC:     As I was preparing this post for publication I came across Jeffro’s latest  in which he mentions New Wave. Would you like to give us more of your perspective on New Wave in light of Jeffro’s post?


MB:     I tend to characterize fiction by its philosophical basis, and so I think of what is usually called “Hard SF” as “Materialistic Fantasy”. That is to say the acceptable tropes in Hard SF–faster than light travel, self-aware machines, handheld laser weapons, human cloning, and so on–are no more plausible or less fantastic than wizards and dragons.  It is a fantasy of a particular metaphysic, the clockwork universe of determinists.  The Campbellian ideal of Science Fiction had an Atheistic metaphysic–the heavens displayed on the covers of Astounding Science Fiction were devoid of any God and only the cold stars looked down.  It had magic aplenty, but its magic had to be of a certain type and clothed in a skin of brushed aluminum and flashing lights.

The New Wave was a reaction against deterministic fantasy. However, not all refutations of Atheism are affirmations of the Judeo-Christian Western ethos that formed the background of the Pulp aesthetic. Philip Dick’s Gnosticism, the Absurdism of Kurt Vonnegut, Michael Moorcock’s Evolutionary Paganism, and Robert Heinlein’s Inner Light Deism were all anti-Atheist, but also anti-Christian.

On the other hand, Tim Powers (and for those not familiar with his work, go read everything he wrote, right now.  I’ll wait) is unashamedly Catholic (in fact, the Catholic character of David in Philip Dick’s VALIS is based on Powers) and his faith is an important part of the New Wave elements in his writing.  Harlan Ellison, despite his protestations to the contrary, brought to his work a uniquely Jewish sensibility of guilt and redemption as the pillars of the universe. Jo Clayton was, for a time, a nun, and her work is suffused with a deep understanding of moral law.

So I would say that the movement of New Wave away from materialism is only positive when one considers which direction, precisely, one is moving in.  To quote C S Lewis in Paralandra, “There’s nothing specially fine about simply being a spirit. The Devil is a spirit.”


SC:     Is there a tentative release date for Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts?

MB:     Not at the moment.  My writing schedule is irregular, both from having a full time day job and from having health problems that sometimes prevent me from writing at all.  But if the past is any indication, I’ll probably be wrapping it up in late summer of this year.


SC:     Do you have any other ongoing projects you’d like to mention?  

MB:     Right now I’m caught up in this novel.  I am considering putting together a collection of my short fiction–I have enough that I think I can do a whole volume, about half previously published and half unpublished works, which I think is fair.  I wouldn’t want to put out a book that was nothing but stories people can get someplace else.

There is also an ongoing project that I feel passionately about and that is encouraging other authors. I try to do it through my blog and through other online communities. It’s something that I take every bit as seriously as my own writing.  The world needs new voices.

Art is not something that only some lucky few get to do and everyone else has to stand back and watch.  Making art is part of what makes us human.  It’s a need as deep as food and water. Living without art won’t physically kill you, but it will kill your soul, make you dried up and waiting to die long before you stop breathing. I speak to people who are drawn to writing fiction because I am a writer of fiction–that’s what I know, that’s where I can help.  

But everybody needs something.  We need it desperately.  Listen to that voice in your heart and do what it says–write, draw, paint, dance, sing, play the kazoo, whatever.  Make art, not because anyone else wants it, but because you need to make it, like a blade of grass needs to reach for the sky.  It’s what we do.  It’s what we are.

Friend, go up higher.


SC:     Misha, this has been an enjoyable conversation. I hope we can chat again after Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts is released.

MB:     Me, too.  

  • Alex says:

    Great interview!

  • deuce says:

    “There is definitely something eldritch about the Ozarks. I think it may be the feeling of great age and wildness of the landscape–what Lovecraft saw in rural New England. Certain skylines seem to be haunted by spirits older than humanity and they lead a man down strange and oft-times dark paths of introspection.”

    One of HPL’s revision tales — “Medusa’s Coil” — was set on the edge of the Ozarks. Robert E. Howard’s only trip beyond the Mason-Dixon line was to southwest Missouri. That region looks more like how he described Cimmeria than anywhere in Texas.

    I live on the extreme western edge of the Ozarks myself.

  • The All These Shiny Worlds anthology is currently free on Kindle for anyone who wants to read MB’s story in it.

  • deuce says:

    “I tend to characterize fiction by its philosophical basis, and so I think of what is usually called “Hard SF” as “Materialistic Fantasy”. That is to say the acceptable tropes in Hard SF–faster than light travel, self-aware machines, handheld laser weapons, human cloning, and so on–are no more plausible or less fantastic than wizards and dragons. It is a fantasy of a particular metaphysic, the clockwork universe of determinists. ”

    Excellent quote.

  • Thank your site! information your share is useful to me!

  • Please give us your valuable comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *