IMG_1053“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

Writers are closely watching the heroic and skillful labours of Cliff Burns as he carves out a place for his books in the frigid Canadian publishing landscape.”

John Miedema, author of Slow Reading

* * * * * * *

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. That 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.

Disloyal Son (April, 2015 release date)  My latest book is a novel, Disloyal Son, a tale of family secrets, organized crime and murder. Check out my Bookstore for ordering info & pricing.

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, including a re-issue of the aforementioned Sex & Other Acts of the Imagination (November, 2014). In 2013, I published another collection of tales, Exceptions & Deceptions, and the year previous two companion volumes, New & Selected Poems and Stromata: Prose Works.  There’s also my western novel, The Last Hunt and two more full-length efforts,  So Dark the Night and Of the NightSo Dark the Night and Of the Night are initial volumes of what is developing into my “Ilium cycle”,  a series of occult thriller/supernatural mysteries set in a fictitious North American city.  They’re scary, funny, sexy reads, lots of spooky scenes and paranormal goings-on.  Zip over to the Bookstore page for more information (purchase price, shipping rates, etc.).

Other, older titles: The Reality Machine (1997) and Righteous Blood (PS Publishing; 2003). The latter was composed of two novellas on the nature of evil, both of which have been optioned for adaptation into motion pictures. So far neither has panned out. But you never know…

I’ve released several other chapbooks and experimental works. You’ll even find some of my original music, recorded readings and short films on my Films & Music page. Oh, and I’ve produced two other volumes of poetry, Violins in the Void (1996) and Redbook, Volume I (2007).

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.

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.

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 8.36.11 AM


Other titles:

Sex & Other Acts of the Imagination (1990)

“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.”

Timothy Findley (author of Not Wanted on the Voyage & The Wars)

“At last Canada has found a literary equivalent to David Cronenberg!”

Strange Adventures (U.K.)

“Cliff Burns combines the nightmarish paranoia of Clive Barker with the contemporary voice of Richard Matheson.”

J.F. Gonzalez, Iniquities (USA)

“Burns writes like Hitchcock directs, producing gooseflesh without monsters. And that is the scariest writing there is.”

Factsheet Five (USA)

“A powerful and distinctive voice…unsettling…relentless imagination.”

The Edmonton Journal (Canada)



Genuinely Inspired Primitive (1993)

“Outrageous…weird…incomparable and brilliant.”

Mark Ziesing


The Reality Machine (1997)

“Burns’s writing is sparse, minimalist, but his words are as sharp as knives, dissecting our universe with astonishing precision.  The Reality Machine, as sharp and memorable as a paper cut, is a real find.  These stories have teeth, and they bite.  You will not leave unmarked.”

Corey Redekop, author of Shelf Monkey

“Cliff Burns’ books belong on anyone’s five-foot shelf of essential reading, lodged snugly between Borges and Burroughs.”

Stefan Dziemianowicz

“Highly effective, chilling and thought-provoking…”

yourflesh Magazine (USA)

“Burns offers such raw imagery, such precise wording and such odd, intriguing settings that these stories are engrossing.”

Quill & Quire (Canada)

“If you’re fed up with writers whose stories are all the same, you need to be reading Cliff Burns.”

Tangent (USA)

“Every story threatens to bust out of itself: I’m not talking about trick endings and poignant twists…but the capacity of language to compress events into an implosive confluence that shatters our hold on the real. That’s what Burns is after…”

Broken Pencil (Canada)

“In a literary market full of stale themes and stagnant prose, Burns’ fiction is an invigorating blast of Canadian freshness.”

Necrofile (USA)


Righteous Blood (2003)

(PS Publishing/U.K.)

“An astonishing feat of fictive shape-changing…an amazement to behold…Cliff Burns plays his hand well and the whole book’s a surprise well worth the reading.”

Edward Bryant, Locus (USA)

Righteous Blood…has two quirky novellas…the author expertly manipulates the reader’s sympathy within a very murky ethical system…”

-Ellen Datlow, Introduction to Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror (#17)

“On the strength of these stories I’ll be keeping a close eye out for this author, who has just been added to the small list of ‘must read’.”

Andy Fairclough (U.K.)

“Cliff Burns has been disturbing readers for around twenty years, crafting dark explorations into the hearts and motivations of characters who, through the clarity of the author’s prose and unique, imaginative aplomb, speak to readers’ fears and fascinations with the dark possibilities of the world around us and the conflicting worlds within…provocative work in an age of lackluster fluff.”

William P. Simmons (U.K)

“In ‘Kept’ the unexpected and unpredictable elements make this one of the best stories I’ve read this year. Unconventional and exciting, Righteous Blood gets a big, fat thumbs up!”

John Berlyne (U.K.)

“Two very quirky and strange tales, peopled with characters that are startlingly imagined…memorable, original, energetic…a startlingly bold and inventive work.”

Claude Lalumiere, Locus On-Line (USA)


So Dark the Night [2010]

So Dark the Night is inherently enjoyable, a fast-paced and occasionally grisly funhouse ride…Cliff Burns has a lot of twisted fun playing the collage of influences against each other, and he tells a mean tale.”

Corey Redekop, author of Shelf Monkey

Rating 5/5  “(A)n accessible and fun read…it all adds up to one book I can heartily recommend. It’s a great read and I hope I will one day hold a paper edition in my hands, because this one deserves it.”

Entropy Pump (Germany)

“So Dark the Night is a raunchy occult thriller, written with an elegance and humour I couldn’t resist.”

John Miedema, Slow Reading


Of the Night (2010)

“I’ve followed Cliff Burns’ career for 25 years, and there isn’t a finer horror writer in this country.”

Robert Runté, Canadian critic and academic


The Last Hunt (2012)

A old style western set in Montana in 1884. 

Frank Seaver is an aging gunfighter on the run. Once he makes it to Livingston, Montana, he is persuaded to join a party stalking a ferocious mountain lion terrorizing the Yellowstone region. A thrilling yarn sure to charm fans of the genre and readers looking for an exciting and authentic tale of the “wild” West.

Available through your favorite bookseller, on-line venue or, if you’re looking for a personally signed copy, have a look here.

Also available as an e-book/Kindle.

Join the hunt!


September, 2012:
Stromata (Prose Works) and New & Selected Poems

 Amazon 5-Star review:

“Scientific concepts thread the work alongside the fossils of the past, the overall concept being that no matter how much mankind has invented, our species is still frightened of the dark.”

Pseudo-Intellectual Reviews

Two “Best of…” compilations of my poetry and short prose, drawn from the past thirty years. Prescient, disturbing, insightful; Rorschach tests for morbid, curious minds.

* New & Selected Poems: 1984-2011 shortlisted for 2013 ReLit Independent Press Award



Exceptions & Deceptions (stories): my most recent collection of tales, a diverse roster that covers virtually every genre. Featuring some of my very best short fiction, including “Daughter” and the previously unpublished novella, “Second Sight”.

Shortlisted for a 2014 ReLit Independent Press Award



Sex & Other Acts of the Imagination (stories):  The legend is back. A reprint of my first independently published offering, published back in 1990. A collection of macabre tales that became a kind of mini-cult classic and copies from that original printing carry a stiff price tag (on those rare occasions you can find one). This edition features a new cover, introduction and story notes.

“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.”

-Timothy Findley, award-winning author of The Wars  and Not Wanted on the Voyage



Disloyal Son (mystery/crime novel): a novel of family secrets, deception, betrayal and murder. Based around actual events and details from my childhood, a compelling hybrid of truth and invention that will keep you guessing until the last page. Boasting yet another beautiful cover, designed by the inimitable Chris Kent.




Books (sole author):

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

Recent publications:

“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 (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


  1. Catherine C-H


    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).

  2. Dustin

    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.

  3. rbpravin

    hey cliff,
    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.

  4. lothie

    Dear Cliff,

    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.


  5. 0521kt

    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.

  6. stak

    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.

  7. caren80

    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 :)

  8. Gilding

    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

  9. azahar

    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.

  10. Nathan Hobby

    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.

  11. Ariel

    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!

  12. Blake

    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.

  13. Blake

    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!

  14. Debbie

    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.

  15. janstephens

    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 .


  16. rushel

    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.

  17. Christopher


    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.

  18. Laura

    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!

  19. aikidude

    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!!

  20. ebrown

    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.


  21. journeybooks

    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?
    Best Wishes,

  22. kevmoore

    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!

  23. grabbie


    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

  24. taylour

    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.
    Thank you.

    P.S. How does it feel to have published your writings?

  25. adlawrence

    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.

  26. evenscry

    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

  27. silvia92

    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

  28. Pingback: Ominous reading! « Dreaming of… Asia
  29. Samuel Walker

    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.

  30. andrev3

    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.

  31. justjamesblog


    Thank you so much for stopping by and not only reading my rambling, but taking the time to leave a thoughtful comment.

    Take care!

    James Curtis Smith

  32. wishingstar97

    Thank you for your comment on my blog. I appreciate it. I am enjoying reading yours.
    Good luck!

  33. Aaron

    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.

  34. Cliff Burns

    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…

  35. Kate Taylor

    Cliff: Would love to interview you about self-publishing, etc. Can you contact me?
    Kate Taylor, Globe and Mail

  36. Keith Shannon

    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.

  37. Cliff Burns

    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…

  38. Cliff Burns

    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…

  39. Pingback: “Cattletruck” by Cliff Burns « How many short stories can you read in one year? Can you read a story a day for one year?
  40. Gordon Milledge

    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.

  41. Cliff Burns

    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…

  42. Pingback: Fifty Shades: Russ Linton / Cliff Burns / Nick Shamhart | Jess C Scott :: Singapore Politics, Etc.

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