About the Author
“Cliff Burns is a literary pioneer, going independent two decades before it became fashionable. For Burns, it was never about the money; it’s always been about artistic integrity and connecting with his audience.”
Robert Runté, Canadian SF critic & academic
“At last Canada has a literary equivalent of David Cronenberg!”
Strange Adventures (U.K.)
“An astonishing feat of fictive shape-changing…an amazement to behold.”
“Burns deserves to be more widely known than he is, though it would be tough to find a Canadian author with a more dedicated fan base. Recommended.”
Ottawa Review of Books
“A powerful and distinctive voice, relentless imagination…”
“These surreal short stories are set in a literary valley where science fiction is on one hillside and the horror genre on the other. “
Quill & Quire
“Burns is an unflinchingly dark fantasist, driving his imagination into disturbing realms where nothing is certain and answers are few.”
Corey Redekop, author of Shelf Monkey and Husk
“Cliff Burns’ books belong on anyone’s five-foot shelf of essential reading, lodged snugly between Borges and Burroughs.”
“If you’re fed up with writers whose stories are all the same, you need to be reading Cliff Burns.”
“Cliff Burns combines the nightmarish paranoia of Clive Barker with the contemporary voice of Richard Matheson.”
“Burns writes like Hitchcock directs, producing gooseflesh without monsters. And that is the scariest writing there is.”
“An exciting and exhilarating collection of short stories. This guy really is an artist with words.”
“In a literary market full of stale themes and stagnant prose, Burns’ fiction is an invigorating blast of Canadian freshness.”
“Highly effective, chilling and thought-provoking…”
* * * * * * *
I’ve been a professional author since 1985.
In 1990, I took a bold step and self-published my first book (Sex & Other Acts of the Imagination) through an imprint my wife and I created. The book sold out in a matter of months, garnering glowing reviews from readers and critics and a cracking blurb from Canadian literary icon Timothy Findley, who wrote:
“This is a book of hot dreams and frozen nightmares. It floats on a plane few writers achieve, where the imagery is raw but the insights are tender. The people in these stories will stay with me for a long time to come.”
Our little publishing venture, which morphed into Black Dog Press, saved my sanity and provided me with an outlet so I could release my stories and novels exactly how I envisioned them. The decision to independently publish my own work came as a result of my growing frustration with mainstream and small press publishers and editors, the insularity, short-sightedness and sheer venality of many (not all) of the people I encountered in the book biz.
Fifteen books and more than three decades later, we’re still going strong. You can read and download a substantial proportion of my body of work here or over at Scribd—that means lengthy excerpts from all of my novels and collections.
I have well over 100 published short stories to my credit and you can also toss in appearances in fifteen major anthologies around the world (including The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror and the 20 All-Time Best Science Fiction Stories), numerous stage and radio plays, reviews and commentaries.
Two of my titles were shortlisted for national independent book awards.
My influences? Hmmm. How about: Philip K. Dick, Jorge Luis Borges, William S. Burroughs, Richard Matheson, Harlan Ellison, David Cronenberg and Terry Gilliam. Depending on who you ask, I’m a surrealist, a fabulist…or you can take the word of Governor-General Award winning author Timothy Findley, who called my work “the literary equivalent of Far Side cartoons”.
I live in Saskatchewan (western Canada) with my wife, artist and educator Sherron Burns.
Books (sole author):
Notebooks: 2010 – 2020; Black Dog Press; 2021
Electric Castles: A Book of Urban Legends (stories) Black Dog Press; 2020
The Algebra of Inequality (poetry) Black Dog Press; 2018
Righteous Blood (novellas); Black Dog Press; 2016
Disloyal Son (novel); Black Dog Press; 2015
Sex & Other Acts of the Imagination (reprint); Black Dog Press; 2014
Exceptions & Deceptions (stories) Black Dog Press; 2013
New & Selected Poems (1984-2011) Black Dog Press; 2012
Stromata: Prose Works (1992-2011) Black Dog Press; 2012
The Last Hunt Black Dog Press; 2012
Of the Night Black Dog Press; 2010
So Dark the Night Black Dog Press; 2010
Redbook, Volume I Black Dog Press; poetry; e-book only; 2007
Righteous Blood PS Publishing/England; novellas; 2003
The Reality Machine Black Dog Press; short stories; 1997
Violins in the Void Black Dog Press; poetry; 1996
surviving civilization Black Dog Press; chapbook; 1995
Genuinely Inspired Primitive E.P. Productions/USA; chapbook 1993
That First, Wound-Bearing Layer Greensleeve Editions/Canada; chapbook; 1992
Sex & Other Acts of the Imagination Harman-Burns Publications; short stories; 1990
Don’t Believe the Hype! Fischer Publishing, Germany; June, 2005
20 All Time Best Science Fiction Stories; Goldmann Publishing; Germany; August, 1997
City Dreams; DTV Publishing; Germany; 1998
In Dreams; Victor Gollancz; England; 1992
Das Grosse Horror Lesebuch III; Goldmann Publishing; Germany; 1994
Das Grosse Lesebuch IV; Goldmann Publishing; Germany; 1995
Lesebuch Der Fantasy; Goldmann Publishing; Germany; 1995
Tesseracts III; Porcepic Books; Canada; 1990
Tesseracts IV; Beach Holme Publishing; Canada; 1992
Tesseracts V; Tesseract Books; Canada; 1996
Best of Midnight Graffiti; Warner Books; USA; 1992
Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror (Sixth Annual Collection); St. Martin’s Press; USA; 1993
Short Fiction, Non-Fiction & Poetry:
The Poppy Factory (aka No Man’s Land); appeared on the “Neglected Books ” web site (February, 2022)
“Covenant” (poem) appeared in Snapdragon: Issue 3.2 (June, 2017)
“A Personal Cosmology” (prose poems) appeared in The Oleander Review (May, 2017)
“Writer as Artist: The Value of Making Stuff Up” (essay) appeared on The Mindful Word web site (March, 2017)
“The Writing Life: Eight Pieces of Cautionary Advice for Young Writers” (essay) appeared on The Mindful Word web site (March, 2017)
“The Toxic Cinema of Alain Marchant” (essay); appeared on Hollywood North web site (April, 2016)
“Eyes in the Sky” (novelette); released on Amazon Kindle (November, 2011)
“The First Room” (radio play) aired nationally on CBC Radio’s OutFront program, February 6, 2009
“Matriarchy” (short story) aired on CBC Radio (Saskatchewan) October 27, 2007
“In Dreams, Awake” (short story) aired on CBC Radio (Saskatchewan) October 28-29, 2006
“Surrealist World” (short story) appeared in the Summer, 2005 issue of On Spec
“The Band: Music From Big Pink” (critical essay) included in the anthology Don’t Believe the Hype (Fischer Publishing, Germany; June, 2005)
“In Praise of Men in Rubber Suits” (essay) appeared on the website scifidimensions.com (Spring, 2005)
“Book of Shadows” , a one-hour radio play, aired on 111 public radio stations in the U.S.A. in November, 2004
“Printed Matter” appeared in the Spring, 2004 issue of On Spec
“The Daddy Monster” (story) appeared in the December, 2003 issue of The Nashwaak Review (Canada)
“Status Quo” (poem) appeared in Winter, 2003 issue of The Timber Creek Review (USA)
“The Solace of Fortitude (essay) appeared in the Canadian Writers Journal (Feb. 2003 issue)
“The Break: 10 The Hard Way” (Drama/monologues) produced by Last Exit Theatre (Saskatoon); September, 2003
“Talisman” (poem) appeared in California Quarterly (USA); June, 2002
“Femme Fatale” (short story) appeared in Timber Creek Review (USA) Spring/2002
“Facing Mrs. Abercrombie” (story) aired on CBC Radio (Saskatchewan) May, 2002
“Windigo” (story) appeared in Nashwaak Review (Canada) Fall/2001
“The Break: 10 The Hard Way” (drama/monologues) excerpted on CBC Radio (Canada) Spring/2001
“Harold Stensrud Watches The Olympics” (story) The Dalhousie Review (Canada); Autumn/2000
“The Ones You Love” (story) The Antigonish Review (Canada) Fall, 2000
“Sweethearts” (story) The Nashwaak Review (Canada) Summer/2000
“Daughter” (story) Crimewave 4 (England) Summer, 2000
“Boys” (story) Prairie Fire (Canada) January, 2000
thanks for the kind review, cliff. really appreciate it. s
Hi. I found your website via the remarks on the NY Sun left back in May. You sound like you have impressive accomplishments, but you write “Always scratching at the margins but never quite breaking through. ” I was wondering why your summary of your 20 years is that you haven’t made sufficient achievements. Is it that you can’t make a living at being a writer (if that is the case)? Is it that you aren’t a recognizable name?
Humans didn’t evolve to live in communities of millions. Imagine we were communities of a few thousand. Then everyone would know how you are and you’d be recognized at a writer (although you still might have to earn some money blacksmithing or whatever).
Thank you for you comment on my blog.
I’m impressed by your blog and will spend some time here acquainting myself with your work.
Thank you for the comment on my blog!
Thanks for the comment on my blog. I will defenitely do my best to spread word about good authors and recommend their works to my friends.
Thank you for your comment on my blog. This workshop was useful because I’d NEVER gotten any sort of useful critique of my writing in the past. Unless I need the artificial deadlines, I probably won’t be joining a regular writer’s group because I agree, they’re probably not useful. But this one-shot deal was exactly what I needed it to be.
Thanks for the comment on my blog and for the fantastic book recommendation!
Thanks for the book recommendations over on the blog, Cliff.
I also am curious (as someone above me in the comments was) about your description of yourself as a writer on the margins (paraphrasing here) when you have such an accomplished body of published works. Seems distinctly Canadian in tone.
Wow viewing your blog it looks like you’re a very accomplished writer. I really appreciate you taking the time to read my post and give me some advice. I’m looking forward to reading some of your work.
Thanks for the comment; I’ve enjoyed my first look around – anyone who writes like that about love and family (while acknowledging the spleen column, which I too could do with) is alright by me! I’ll definitely be back for the stories 🙂
Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I have posted a comment back to yours as well. I find your blog very interesting. I am looking forward to perusing it for the next couple of days. From the tidbit I have read you strike me as an individual I won’t get bored with anytime soon. Please visit me again.
Gilding the Lily
Thanks for visiting my blog! Which reminds me, I should go and finish Mona Lisa Overdrive.
Hey dude – I’m a ‘prairie girl’ myself, born in Winterpeg. It seems you don’t reply to anyone who posts here on your ‘about’ page so I guess I’ll try posting something on one of your posts.
Nice to meet you.
I saw you comparing Nicholas Christopher to Paul Auster on another blog and I was glad someone else has them connected in their minds!
The plot of Trip to the stars has all sorts of Austerish flourishes. The benefactor, I forget his name, resembles Effing from Moon Palace in my mind.
I’ve got Veronica on my shelf and am looking forward to reading it.
Thanks for the comment on my blog. I’m enjoying reading yours…love the writing style and the tone, especially the sardonic takes on modern culture. Remaining on the fringes, observing and commenting – hey, it’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it.
Hang in there and good luck on getting “So Dark the Night” published!
Hey, thanks for the comment on my blog (AnimiVirtus collaborates on a short film!), it’s nice to be noticed and appreciated by someone who’s obviously got a bit of a life story behind them. You’ve peaked my interest, in fact, in a few of your works, I’d like to read a few some time. Where in Canada are you, I’m moving up to Vancouver in February, so just out of curiosity. Thanks again.
Hey, thanks a lot! That’s actually not the one I’m making into a movie at the moment, but it could be cool. The only problem is getting the visuals just right, or having a bunch of voice over to make it equal the story. I’ll post the other story though, the one that’s being edited into the movie now, soon. But thanks a lot for that comment!
Thanks for your comments and droping by my blog. I have enjoyed browsing through your site. You have a great style and tone to your writing.
Your accomplishemnt are impressive.
Thanx for your kind comment on my Animators Diary post.. You can see some of my short animations on my blog page by clicking on the animation topic link. Hope you enjoy .
Wow, I am going to have to check out a few of those books! 😉 Thanks for commenting on my quotes blog! May I link you to my poetry blog?
I think I’ve heard the name Cliff Burns. It’s such a poetic name, i think you may be the poet’s inspiration. The type of name you think you’ve heard, ven whn you haven’t.
I haven’t read any of your work, but now I think I’d like to.
thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving the comment. I sure hope that the movie based on your work will be worth it. I think if i were so lucky to be a professional writer one day, I’d give my work over for the money, but deep down, I’d know it was a mistake. Film and literature used to work in tandem, like in the days of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe”, now? well, like i said…pure shame.
Thanks for leaving the note with my self portrait – Goya’s paintings were born from the turbulence of 19th Century Europe. My sensibilities are similar to his, but I wasn’t thinking of him (although perhaps subconsciously) when I crafted the image. Coincidence?
I was intrigued when I visited your blog, and did some research on your title: The Reality Machine. I’m going to read it. You’re an inspiration, to say the least, and I’d be honored to have the op to chat with you to see what’s going on in THAT mind!
More than 100 stories! Prolific. I’m working on my first Speculative Fiction manuscript – hoping to pitch it next year. A lot of social and tech commentary, and a recent infusion of politics I think was the flesh I needed to tell the story I have floating around in my brain. What a time ripe with political and social anxiety.
I am the fruit that wishes to be plucked before it gets too sweet.
I really enjoy your blog! Since I’m living the dream of a secretary working from 8:00-4:55, I’ll have to read more later. But so far, so interesting!
a real author visiting my blog!!
thanks a lot for your comment and your suggestions.. and I see we like the same kind of literature!
I have to find some of your books!
I am extremely interested now..
I wish you luck for your present and future!!
Cliff, thank you for the comment on WeirdGuy blog. After looking at your blog it looks like we have some similar interests. I’d appreciate a link on your blogroll.
Thanks for your comments on my blog.
Thanks for your comment on my blog, Cliff. It is inspiring to me to read your confidence in your writing. F Scott Fitzgerald, and you probably know this, died thinking Great Gatsby was considered a failure. He died never knowing he’d written what we all now consider a classic. It is truly frustrating to be a writer at times, n’est ce pas?
Cliff, thanks so much for your great comment on my blog, which has led me to yours! I shall certainly be checking out your work, as I am a long-time admirer of Gilliam’s, not to mention Cronenberg and Clive Barker, and their names seem to crop up around here, so to my mind, you’re in good company! I’m a reasonably successful musician, as you say, “scratching round the edges”, and, like many I’m sure, an aspiring writer. I’ve got about about four novel ideas in various states of disarray ( to my shame) and I’ve started putting some short stories on my own blog. One day, I’ll finish one of the novels..let’s hope its not posthumously!
Thanks for the comment. I absolutely 100% agree with everything you said. I hated Haunted as well. There’s always hope that Palahniuk could make Snuff an excellent read. He has me hooked as a fan, so I’ll read everything he releases.
Great site. I’m looking forward to checking out some of your work as well. ttys
You seem to be a bit of a serial commenter.
I guess I’ll group myself into the section of people that thank you deeply.
Your comment was not only amusing, but slightly inspiring. I think I’m going to try it again.
P.S. How does it feel to have published your writings?
I saw a comment you had left on another’s blog. [book whore/bibliophile comment…] It sparked my intrest and led me here. Looks familiar – nice to meet you.
Thanks so much for dropping by my journal. Your kind words (and warnings) are much appreciated. Oh, and I’m totally going to add your books to my “to read” list. (Disclaimer: I work at a Barnes and Noble, so my stack of “to read” is pretty large.) All best, Jenn
Thanks for the inspiring comment you made a little while back about my blog on “what is done cannot be undone” and if past deeds make you for who you are. Thanks again, silvia
You have a wicked blog! I’m going to be spending a lot of time here.
P.S. Thanks for your feedback on Straub.
Cheers for the comment on my review of Air.
I am definately finding myself reading more of this genre; although i’m going through a ‘classics’ phase at the moment – 1984, Sherlock Holmes and the like.
I totally agree with you on audioplays. It is a beautiful medium for telling all kinds of stories. From light entertainment to art. It places itself between movies and books taking elements from both worlds. Movies did not render books obsolete and in my opinion they never did render audioplays obsolete. Audioplays stay their own ground. Thank you for droping by and leaving a note.
Thank you so much for stopping by and not only reading my rambling, but taking the time to leave a thoughtful comment.
James Curtis Smith
Thank you for your comment on my blog. I appreciate it. I am enjoying reading yours.
If you’re Gary Larson, then here’s the cartoon representation of fanboys:
cliff, do you remember the publisher leucrota press? do you think they would be a good company to submit to? also how widely available are there books? like say a book store.
I stumbled here after reading your reply to C.H. Scarlett’s “It’s a Jungle out there (http://chscarlett.wordpress.com/2009/09/19/its-a-jungle-out-there/) your response filled me with smiles. I’m not a published writer, to be honest I haven’t been writing for that long. However, I found who I really was the day I completed my first story. I needed to tell more. Thanks so much for the encouragement you gave C.H. Scarlett, it helped me too.
The writing life is never easy and offers few tangible rewards. It is, as the great Robert Penn Warren says “the pain I can’t live without”. That said, I can’t imagine life without the printed word, the opportunity to express the deepest, darkest aspects of myself. Good luck to you and keep the faith…
Cliff: Would love to interview you about self-publishing, etc. Can you contact me?
Kate Taylor, Globe and Mail
Good day Sir!
I seem to recall that you are a one of those lonely outcast freaks here in the frozen North. I mean a Bruins fan of course… However, through some sick twist of fate (no doubt a sign of the end times), we happen to be cheering for the same team this year. Except I just want them the make the glory round and then crash and burn, like Icarus only faster and harder.
Get in touch.
Bruin fans are lonely, disturbed creatures, who pine for the return of another savior sporting a number 4 on His jersey. Not gonna happen, sadly, and I still have the Canucks and Flyers in the final, the Bruins watching from the sidelines (as they do every year since 1971). Great to hear from you, fellow traveler…
This week (at Inkspeare) is all about Awesome WordPress bloggers and today I featured your blog 🙂 http://inkspeare.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/day-4-awesome-wordpress-bloggers/
I’m honored. This odd little blog is meant to, hopefully, give folks an idea of what being a full-time, independent writer is like, the (few) joys and (many) annoyances and frustrations that are part of our daily routine.
Glad my place has found favor in your eyes; keep working and speaking out on behalf of the printed word…
just discovered your wordpress
Happy New Year from David in Maine USA
looking to get in touch with cliff….peace…todd komarnicki
Hey, Todd–for personal communication/email, what have you, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cliff Burns wrote short stories that have stayed in my mind for the past thirty years. Yes, at 19 years he was able to make your jaw drop with vivid shorts. Thank you, Cliff.
Indeed, Gord, I recall you–we worked in the best restaurant in town, a crazed atmosphere filled with funny, smart, creative people.
Thanks for reaching out again, after all these years. Cripes, man, my oldest kid graduated from high school this past summer…
This all looks so exciting! I’m looking forward to following.
This blog welcomes smart readers, literate writers and fearless explorers of the id.
Enjoy your visit…