Duel Visions by Misha Burnett & Louise Sorensen

Duel Visions by Misha Burnett & Louise SorensenThis anthology gathers a mix of published and unpublished stories by Burnett and Sorensen, spanning the genres from overt horror to the almost meditative.

  • ‘Black Dog’, Misha Burnett: The new custodian of a cemetery notices several different people taking the same dog for a walk: does the owner merely have lots of friends or is something stranger behind it? While Burnett slowly builds a sense of the weird, the star of the story is its protagonist, a man struggling beneath the dual burden of having his successful life torn apart and being expected to fulfil responsibilities as if it hasn’t. This focus on character rather than twist is likely to keep the tale enjoyable for readers who have worked out the truth before it is revealed.

  • ‘Sinker, Sailor’, Louise Sorensen: When a deep-sea trawler discovers a man in their nets, they are puzzled enough about how he got there; but puzzlement becomes shock when he awakens. Sorensen provides evidence to support the obvious conclusion, then questions it, skilfully leaving the reader searching more for why rather than what.

  • ‘The Silk of Yesterday’s Gown’, Misha Burnett: A swinger attempts to explain both his marriage and the unfeasible ending to his wife’s last threesome. Echoing the tropes of fairy tale without becoming constrained by the puritanical morality of the tradition, Burnett shows the hazards outside the bounds of society without painting alternative lifestyles themselves as flawed or sinful.

  • ‘Ragged Angels’, Louise Sorensen: A crew of paramedics notice pale-skinned figures lurking at the scene of overdoses, the presence seemingly correlated with the user’s death. Sorensen takes the symbols of vampire fiction—the beautiful pale figure and the fading victim—but removes the blood drinking and substitutes victims who are prone to die suddenly anyway, creating a fresh take on the doubt and frustration of someone who thinks they have seen the monster but has no proof.

  • ‘The Summer of Love’, Misha Burnett: In a world where Germany won the Second World War, a guard at a Nevada prison camp discovers how easily one man who thinks they know best can ruin things for everyone. Burnett provides details solely from the perspective of someone for whom things have always been that way; thus—while this is another alternate history based on WW2—the reader is not beaten around the head by any message in the way that some such tales do.

  • ‘The Green Truck’, Louise Sorensen: a family root through a decaying landscape, seeking salvage. Riffing on the idea that powerful events might leave a psychic residue on objects involved in them, Sorensen paints a picture of what might happen if parts from more than one disaster were used to repair the same thing.

  • ‘The Blacklight Ballet’, Misha Burnett: A simple walk-through of an abandoned shopping mall becomes a labyrinthine struggle to survive. While monsters, lunatics, or other deviants infesting an abandoned building is a common horror premise, Burnett’s layering of nuanced description over a firm foundation of practical engineering prevent this from becoming merely another goofy or gory self-pastiche.

  • ‘Selena’, Louise Sorensen: Selena discovers she has been left her Aunt Selena’s entire estate, disinheriting those who live there. But family tension swiftly fades as an ancient force claims she has inherited her aunt’s duty to serve it too. Sorensen mixes the supernatural with the highly mundane, both grounding the horror and enhancing it by contrast.

  • ‘We Pass from View’, Misha Burnett: A brief history of the eponymous film, suggesting why it has never been released and why those who were involved in its filming are reluctant to speak. Burnett skilfully builds a framework out of facts that are, in themselves, capable of mundane explanation, creating a tale of cosmic dread in the spaces between the essay itself.

  • ‘The Statue’, Louise Sorensen: Rumours abound of hidden wealth in the mansion outside town, but those who break in discover only brutal death. Quickly revealing to the reader what is killing intruders, Sorensen focuses on the stress of sharing a household with a supernatural defender of uncertain morals.

Although the publisher has—by their own admission—titled the anthology using a play on words, the two authors’ works are not in conflict or opposition. If anything, the alternating voices enhance each other, avoiding both the sense of satiety that can come from consistent exposure to a single author and the diffusion of interest that can come from a broader anthology.

Overall, I enjoyed this anthology greatly. I recommend it to readers seeking speculative tales that focus more on experiencing the weird than defeating evil or uncovering objective truths.

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