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D.L. Russell opens up The Big Book of Strange, Weird & Wonderful
Writer/editor branches out into publishing
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
Starting in the summer of 2008, Fort Wayne-based horror writer David Russell published Strange Weird and Wonderful, a short-story magazine featuring horror, science-fiction, and dark fantasy that he co-founded with another writer, Sharon Black.
Strange, Weird and Wonderful was available on-line as a free pdf download, but though the means of getting your hands on the magazine may have utilized the latest technology, the flavor of many of the stories and illustrations inside harkened back to an earlier era — Weird Tales, Galaxy magazine, classic Twilight Zone and others.
Russell, who publishes his work under the name D.L. Russell, is an enormous fan of the work from that era, though many of those publications were long gone by the time he started writing and submitting his own stories. He co-founded Strange Weird and Wonderful magazine in part to offer writers of horror, sci-fi and dark fantasy the kind of forum he had a difficult time finding before his own stories started getting published. “With the magazine, I felt that there was a lot of talent out there, just not enough markets to showcase that talent,” Russell says. “We’re kind of a niche market; we publish more of your Weird Tales type fiction, Twilight Zone type fiction. But our stuff leaned in that direction — longer pieces by writers who would have a problem getting into some of the major publications.”
Now, Russell and Black are changing the emphasis of Strange Weird and Wonderful towards e-publishing, offering book-length works in electronic format (just for Kindle so far) and as print-on-demand. Their first release is an anthology — The Big Book of Strange, Weird, and Wonderful, volume 1 just came out at the beginning of April, and features 18 stories culled from the magazine’s three-and-a-half-year run.
Russell got one of his first big breaks as a writer about six years ago when Eternal Press, an Australia-based e-publisher specializing in genre fiction, took a liking to his stories and included a couple in an anthology, and also put out Russell’s novella, Maxwell: The Last Vampire. Back in 2009, independent publisher Wildcat Books put out Russell’s first short story collection Hell Is An Awfully Big City in print (we covered him in FWR #138).
Much of Russell’s work puts an emphasis on mood and setting — something that appears normal or average proves to be the opposite — with a sly sense of humor in there, too. While the stories in The Big Book of Strange, Weird, and Wonderful come from writers all over the country, many of them reflect, in small ways, Russell’s sensibilities. “I’m always looking for something different, a fresh take on something,” he says. “There are plenty of my own stories that I’ve written, where I’ve thought ‘we’ve read this before,’ and I just stop and put it away for a while.”
One of Russell’s favorites in the anthology also happens to be the only story by a Fort Wayne writer — “Twilight of the Crap Shooting Gods on Beadwell Avenue” by Michael Patterson (writing under the name M. Francis Patterson), who edits Frost when he’s not playing music (or writing fiction). “Mike doesn’t push his fiction very much, but he’s really, really good,” Russell says. “He showed me this and I was like ‘why haven’t you showed this stuff to more people? What’s wrong with you?’ It’s a great story, very weird.”
Russell is, of course, reluctant to name favorites in the anthology, but he does offer up just a few stories that he remembers reading for the first time and being really excited about, like “The Radiator Burped” by Abra Staffin-Wiebe and “Wicked Wire” by Joel Arnold. Among the sci-fi stories are “Eating Bugs” by Mary Patterson Thornberg, about a translator who travels to a distant planet to parlay with the natives, and has to get used to their dietary habits, and Terry W. Ervin’s “Accelerated Justice,” a Twilight Zone-ish tale where, in place of prison, those convicted of a crime are given a shot that ages them a certain number of years.
Russell says a second volume of The Big Book of Strange Weird and Wonderful will come out in December. “We’re still searching for that first novel to publish,” he says. “We’ve got a few I’m looking at right now, and there’s a short story collection I’m looking at right now, but nothing yet.”
Russell is also beginning to solicit stories for a theme-centered anthology: stories told from the perspective of an inanimate object. It’s the kind of slightly skewered idea that Russell likes; one of his own stories, “That Ain’t No Chicken,” was told from the perspective of a hen. “The ‘inanimate object’ idea was an assignment I had for a writing class I took a long time ago,” Russell laughs. “I loved the idea, and it always stuck with me. I don’t want dolls and ventriloquist dummies, because that stuff has been done to death. I want it to be some ordinary thing where at first you might not think ‘you know, that thing’s got a story to tell…’.”
Reading submissions from other writers has reinforced many of the “rules” Russell has always tried to adhere to in his own fiction. “The flow of a story is important to me,” he says. “With this genre, let’s face it, we’re part of pop culture. We’re not ‘literary.’ We need to entertain our readers. Every word needs to make them want to read the next word, so even if you have back story or information filler, it still has to be interesting. These days, people have a tablet with 500 books on it. It’s almost like you have a remote control on it, like your TV. Every writer has to be able to hold the readers.”
And last but not least — read the submission guidelines before you send anything in to any publication. “I’m as guilty of it as anyone. I’ve sent stuff off without reading it through. But publications have requirements. Why get your story sent back just because you didn’t format it correctly?”
Find out more a starngeweirdandwonderful.com