Collection Curator is not a standard designation. I was essentially the acquisition editor for this project. But what I sought to acquire for Borda Books was not a specific manuscript or story, but the author herself, M.M. De Voe. I knew she had written fiction for over twenty years, in a variety of genres. Inquiries were made; interest was bruited about. The air filled with chatter. However, the initial collection she submitted got turned aside. Not so much rejected as to provoke genuflecting, followed by, “We are not worthy.” It was well-written literary fiction that absolutely deserved to be published. By normal, sane publishers.
What I wanted was De Voe’s most intense writing. The fearless stuff, the “I’m not sure my family should read this” type of fiction. We could call it speculative or genre fiction, but it’s really psychological fiction. The characters all have some bizarre things going on in their minds. What is real and what is unreal? Who are the reliable narrators and who are inglorious charlatans?
After some delicate “We love you, but...” communications, De Voe sent in a collection of the odd, the dark, the challenging. Stories that ranged from 2005 to the present (though one may originate from the late ‘90s). Many had been published by the smarter literary journals and anthologies of our time. At that point, my curating job became easy. A matter of fiddling with the story order to achieve some hard-to-define sense of balance, of subtracting a couple of tales and requesting one or two more be added. This process went rapidly and seemed generally mirthful.
My editorial belief is that if you must do substantial story editing or ask an author for major rewrites of their work, you have failed in both your acquisition and curatorial duties. You picked the wrong person. Luckily, I didn’t. So, having done minimal requisite fixes, I can sit back and present A Flash of Darkness, a story collection that contains multitudes. De Voe juggles literary fiction with fables, science fiction with horror, pagan satire with the fantastical. But what shines through is intelligence and daring. The ability to write from the point of view of a variety of narrators—some worthy, even heroic, others flawed to the extreme.
Dive in to the haunted atmosphere of “Shutter,” as we linger on the outskirts of horror past or horror-to-be. “Tastemakers” satirizes a modern obsession with life as performance art. “The Mayor of Flashback” is pure literary fiction that intertwines memories of 9/11 in Manhattan, Russian escapades, and the sometimes elastic bonds of marriage. “Empty” takes us into a corporate Twilight Zone, while “Cake” is a frightening peek into a domestic world, where keeping an eye on the children may not necessarily be for their safety. Toward the end, “A Rose” delivers a knockout punch of shifting fables and narrators that shows in a single story what this author’s imagination can accomplish.
Did anyone get a trifle vexed when their suggested collection title, First I Killed Your Houseplants wasn’t used? Ask me in twenty years when I recover. M.M. De Voe did a fantastic job creating these stories and Angela Borda continues her winning streak at editing and design. I basically rode along in the motorcycle’s sidecar and said, “Keep going. This is fun!”
Author of My Secret Place and Santa Fe Psychosis
“M. M. De Voe’s collection, A Flash of Darkness, showcases deviously decadent morsels à la Black Mirror. Despair, longing, and regret linger in these unnerving, provocative stories.”
—Amy Grech, horror author with stories in Even in the Grave, Roi Fainéant Press & Tales from the Canyons of the Damned
"Witty dialogue and sharp prose... Wickedly fun and deeply cutting... These stories dance across the page, inviting us into worlds that are slightly off-kilter but familiar and as creepy as a funhouse mirror."
-- Tommy Dean, author of Hollows
"Milda De Voe gives you femme Kafka in A Flash of Darkness — but American style: 'with nosies and lights that simulate the beautiful side of violence.' The stories cruise the scene with a chess-playing vicious granny and a Svetlana lounging against a furry elk, 'calling to mind every vodka ad young American Jim had ever taped to a dorm room ceiling,' One swain can't hold his date's hand ; though she has left it on the table: a treat between beers.' De Voe's especially brilliant on family life, and ends the book with a quirky story about a husband and what else? Horror."
—Terese Svoboda, author of Dog on Fire
M. M. De Voe is an internationally published fictionista who once danced for the Pope and later ran away with a group of jugglers. Her writing has won over twenty awards. Columbia University Writing Fellow, MFA under Michael Cunningham and Matthew Sharpe. She also cowrote a dance musical called R/Evolution with composer William Moulton produced Off-Broadway at Tisch School of the Arts. Founder of the literary nonprofit Pen Parentis, a process described in her memoir/productivity guidebook for writers who are parents, Book & Baby (first place in the 2021 NextGen Indie Awards in the writing and publishing category). Inaugural member of the Lithuanian Writers of the Diaspora Forum. She lives in Manhattan.
Stories in A Flash of Darkness
Still Life with Summer Cherries
The Mayor of Flashback
The Scissors of Hope and Despair
Mom of the Year
Wild Witch Treats
Money in the Bank
From the Leaf Lore
Virgin Flight 244, Chicago to Heathrow