When explaining my fiction to prospective readers, I often punctuate my pitch with “I write the weird stuff.”

Of course, some stories are stranger than others.

Given the popularity of fantasy fiction these days, my sword-and-sorcery novels are practically mainstream, though I try to take chances and inject surprises. Even my YA portal fantasy champions my own peculiar twists, as evidenced by characters named Sir Larpsalot, Elvish Presley, and Tom Foolery.

Without a doubt the weirdest category to which I contribute is dreampunk. I confess I didn’t even know the word existed until after I published The Soul Sleep Cycle, only later learning that my sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal mashup fit perfectly in this burgeoning genre. The closest category I had been able to come up with before that was “slipstream”—and nearly nobody knew what that was either!

“Dreampunk” is not only a more accurate, but also a more atmospheric term. Borrowing the suffix and spirit of better-known genres like cyberpunk and steampunk, dreampunk is a subgenre of speculative fiction that focuses on dreamlike states and their interaction with conventional reality.

Moreover, dreampunk challenges our definition of what is real in the first place.

Cliff Jones Jr., an author, editor, and friend of mine, can tell you much more about it and provide examples of dreampunk in books, television, and film. I highly recommend you check out cliffjonesjr.com/dreampunk if you like to read “the weird stuff”; you might have just found your new favorite genre.

Image courtesy of Cliff Jones Jr.

In 2020, I had the honor of contributing to a dreampunk collection that Cliff curated for Fractured Mirror Publishing. Mirrormaze: A Dreampunk Anthology features 29 wonderfully weird stories, including “Drifters,” a tale I wrote to introduce the world to my aforementioned dreampunk trilogy.

Imagine my delight when I was invited to submit another work of dreampunk fiction for a second book.


For Fractured Mirror Publishing’s new dreampunk anthology, I contributed a short story you won’t find anywhere else.

“Darlings” isn’t canonically connected to The Soul Sleep Cycle or any other pieces of my published fiction. The quasi-autobiographical narrative is, however, tied to copious preexisting characters, concepts, and story starters. Think of it as an ode to unrealized potential—or maybe what happens when an idea violently sinks its claws into you and refuses to relent.

Here’s a taste of the story:

The elevator door closed, then disappeared completely.

Urgency gnawed at the man, but the sudden fog teasing his thoughts stole his momentum. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath, inhaling notes of growth and rot, and tried to remember. He was late for something—work maybe, or picking up the kids, though he couldn’t decide if he had one or two or three, let alone their ages. And where had he parked, anyway?

No, he had ridden the bus to campus and taken the elevator to an upper-level history class he hadn’t attended all semester and a final exam destined to eat him alive. With a groan, he opened his eyes and hurried onward. However, the frantic determination that had propelled him through an obstacle course of delays soured to a new flavor of anxiety when he scanned his surroundings.

How had he gotten outdoors?

His swift strides slowed to an uncertain stroll as he squinted at a steamy swamp in the distance. He wiped the sweat from his brow, surprised to find bangs where a balding forehead had been a moment before. No plants disturbed the waters, which resembled a thick violet soup. But movement caught his attention and held it captive.

Unnatural shapes rose from the sludge and separated themselves from the undulating shadows. A few looked vaguely humanoid, though the creatures’ heads varied from a rounded dome to a sharp crescent to an equilateral triangle balancing impossibly on a point. Among the sluggish creatures in the primordial marsh writhed a collection of bodies comprising symmetrical zigzags—foreign but familiar.

It was impossible to tell whether the things were drawing closer or sliding away.

“Darlings” is but one of 27 mind-bending excursions that comprise Somniscope: A Dreampunk Convergence, currently available in paperback and, soon, as an ebook at Amazon.com. If you’re ready to dive into the deep end, here’s your chance.