Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Indie Short Fiction: The Blacklight Ballet by Misha Burnett

Duel Visions by [Burnett, Misha, Sorensen, Louise]

Noir was never about private eyes, not how we see them as cool-headed chivalrous solo cops; it was never about eerily quiet cityscapes, or leggy dames coming through your door. It was about being dark. Being a private investigator sucks. It's dangerous, boring, doesn't pay well, and especially in noir primetime is something you do when you can't do anything else - but the noir protag also can't avoid his conscience, his personal honor, the only bright spot they have, and it's flared up for the sake of accentuating the shadows. Modern writers attempt a similar effect through maudlin worldbuilding in what they call "grimdark."

Misha Burnett understands this. "The Blacklight Ballet" is definitely noir, even if it's dressed up in plausible deniability supernaturalism, but there are no trenchcoats or fedoras or snappy Mid-Atlantic accents. Pete Ferris doesn't wait in an office for adventures to come to him, he drives around America taking photos of abandoned buildings his employers might want to buy, because being a noir protag is depressing. He used to be a soldier, now he wanders around the rot where America used to be.

The setting is an abandoned mall, a place awe-inspiring in scale, disgusting in poverty, a place that used to represent the prosperity of middle America but now gapes like a sore. Ferris is used to this, prepared for it, he's a big dude that can handle himself but knows how to talk squatters down, but he's not ready for what's inside because no one could be. Noir is bigger than you.

There is a cult, which may or may not worship a real demon. There is a dame, or really a damsel, who needs rescued but doesn't believe she can be. There is danger in the dark, from the lunatics that assault him and from how he feels when he assaults them back. I was gripped. The writing is forceful and clear, a disaster report, a plain story about a plain man. It was worth telling.


You can find "The Blacklight Ballet" in the Duel Visions anthology, three bucks on Kindle or free with Unlimited or for a little more you can get it on paper.

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