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Fiction anthology Illuminati At My Door offers 12 tales of secret societies
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
Ever since humankind began to extend its ambitions beyond eating and procreating, it’s been seeking explanations for tragedy, calamity, or misfortune. Why did a flood wipe out the village? Why were the tribal elders trampled in that mammoth stampede? Why do bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people?
Earlier generations found the answer in things like fate, or divine intervention, or karma. But in our sophisticated modern age, we’ve realized the truth lies in a much simpler explanation…
Everything is being orchestrated by a secret cabal intent on implementing some shady, nefarious agenda.
Don’t believe me? Still think things happen because of chance or coincidence, and that even the most shocking and calamitous events usually have a rational — if messy — explanation? Then you’re either ignorant… or part of the plan.
For a writer of weird tales and speculative fiction, the field of secret societies is fertile ground. The new anthology Illuminati At My Door collects 12 works of speculative fiction revolving around secret societies and folklore. Fort Wayne-based writer and publisher DL Russell (FWR first talked to him back in 2007) served as curator and editor of the anthology, which he publishes for his own company Black Books Publishing.
Russell came up with the theme a couple years ago. “There are so many rumors and stories out there about secret societies — Illuminati, the Bilderberg Group, the Council on Foreign Relations, the New World Order,” he says. “And it seems to cross racial lines, too. African-Americans seem to pass (the stories) around if they’re entertainment related. Stories about rappers being in the Illuminati; that’s how they got so famous. Or athletes.”
Russell mentions stories about people in entertainment who had to sacrifice someone close to them in order to gain success — sort of the modern day equivalent of Robert Johnson selling his soul at the crossroads.
But really, Russell says, these stories are everywhere and about everything (Russell’s own favorite involves the founding of the Federal Reserve and the sinking of the Titanic, but it’s a bit involved to get into here). “All those stories are out there, so it was easy getting ideas for the book,” Russell says.
What was difficult — and why it took Illuminati At My Door nearly two years to complete — was finding stories that fit Russell’s guidelines. He wasn’t interested in the supernatural or paranormal stuff, like the sacrifice stories. He also didn’t want any “last honest man” stories. Those are the ones where a Fox Mulder figure sees the truth, then spends his time looking over his shoulder at shadowy figures pursuing him, all while trying to make people understand. We’ve read, heard, or seen enough of those. The characters that populate the 12 stories in Illuminati… are mostly regular people who get a glimpse behind the curtain. “Some of the characters don’t believe it, but they’re approached: ‘do this thing for us, and we’ll take care of you’,” says Russell. “And with human nature, you’d have some people who would take that offer, people who wouldn’t think of hurting anybody, but when it’s all right there…”
He continues: “I wanted the stories to be ‘realistic,’ to have that ‘you can’t prove it, but it could happen’ feeling.”
As a writer, Russell’s own work is typically in the horror or supernatural genres, but he also incorporates elements of humor into his stories. Russell didn’t contribute a story to Illuminati… but a few of the pieces share his sensibility. “Some music producers, you can hear their influence, and I think it’s the same in publishing and editing,” he says. “You gravitate to things you feel comfortable with. Sometimes, you wish you wrote it.”
Black Books isn’t Russell’s first foray into publishing — years ago, he co-founded Strange, Weird & Wonderful magazine, publishing “weird tales” by new (and new-ish) authors. But the 12 stories in Illuminati At My Door represent a significant leap forward. “This is the best group of work I’ve put out as a publisher and editor,” he says. “Every story in here is top notch. I’m really proud to publish and work with all these authors.”
Illuminati At My Door is the third book from Black Books Publishing. Russell doesn’t release any of his own work under the company; it’s for new writers looking for an outlet. “There just aren’t many markets for good writers, and the way I see it, there can never be enough.”
For more on Illuminati At My Door and Black Books Publishing, visit blackbookspublishing.com