Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Illumined Black - a midnight journey

"This is a slim volume of short stories I wrote in high school, the first and last of which are better than the others. Looking back, I think "IB" has some nice, atmospheric moments and some fairly candid self-commentary... the magazine "Science Fiction Universe" described this tendency as "naively self-indulgent," a criticism I don't particularly object to. If "IB" seems fragmentary it's because it is the product of many months of revision and editing. Some of the stories I liked were dropped in favor of others that may or may not be more "commercially viable." The final story, "Between Worlds" (written my first year in college and more mature than the others), stands up to my own self-criticism. I like to think of my first book as a competent first attempt and a unique glimpse into the workings of the small press in fiction/genre writing. I hope you enjoy it."

- "Reflections on Illumined Black" by Mac Tonnies


"Illumined Black" by Mac Tonnies is a collection of short stories that explore the future from inspired and compellingly skewed perspectives. The stories are strange, stylized and topical, with a prose style that suggests cyberpunk underpinnings as well as "Golden Age" genre tropes. Ultimately, "Illumined Black" is a chilling reflection on inner and outer space. As Bruce Sterling writes on the back cover, "I like it when young guys with attitude tear right into the genre without asking anybody's permission."

"Compared to other sci-fi authors, Mac Tonnies ranks with P.K. Dick, William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, and Bruce Sterling. He is thought-pivotingly original. If you wallow in science fiction like I do, you'll eat this book up.In this short 133-page book, Tonnies' ethereal ideas strikingly contribute to the advance of science fiction.
In the introductory story, "Reflections of a Specimen," Tonnies wow-ed me with a new take on clique leaders. He launches into a seeming takeoff on William Gibson's style yet holds his own by injecting his own provoking vision. The other stories in this book are just as juicy. There's no way you can have a favorite because they're all so invitingly well-developed and original. Absolutely fantastic.
This is a book come before its time."

"How does a man awakened from cryonic sleep react to a genetically-altered species? Can brief, induced nightmares take the place of capital punishment? What does the human brain experience when severed from its body? With growing interest in what life will be like in the future when earth "hangs in the balance," ILLUMINED BLACK & OTHER ADVENTURES by Mac Tonnies reminds us of what can happen if we soon do not alter our ways of thinking about humankind's relationship with Mother Earth. In language beyond his years, Tonnies reveals a startling & imaginative vision of the future, an era on the threshold of the apocalypse with human nature caught in a technological web of its own making. Science-fiction author Rob Chilson says, "Tonnies has a gift for words & a bright, bent vision." Currently a college freshman, Tonnies won several NASA-sponsored essay contests & wrote this brilliant collection of short stories while still in high school. Expect to see many outstanding works from Tonnies in the future. He is an author every science-fiction aficionado & librarian should add to their collection. Available in softcover or as a signed limited edition from the publisher or through Baker & Taylor Distributors."


My own adventure with Mac's 1995 publication, "Illumined Black... and Other Adventures" began around midnight of last night, after re-reading through the amazing stories within. It came to me that posting some excerpts from the book might be an inspired idea, till I read the copyright line on the inside of the title page. Lo and behold, Mac, apparently, didn't own the copyright; the publisher did. Upon googling the publisher, Phantom Press Publishers, this page was all that could be found. According to this information, Phantom Press Publishers never published another book after 1996. So, if you've wondered why there are only 8 copies of the book in circulation - currently priced from $30.44 to $260 - herein lies a clue. As to the fate of "Illumined Black", it's not for me to say. Hopefully, there will be another edition... or, at least, a Kindle edition available.

(BTW, my advice for the cover - B/W, like the image I've posted above...)

But, my journey did not end there, because when I clicked the "1995" box on the publisher's page, I learned that Mac Tonnies has a Wikipedia entry! How cool is that?! As thrilled as Mac might have been, I'm afraid the entry is rather brief... and one of the references is a negative review of his "Martian Apocalypse". But I guess it's better than no entry at all.

I also learned another fun tidbit; Mac had an essay published (1996) in a magazine - 'New Phase" - also by Phantom Press Publishers. The title: Bad Poetry and You: A Survival Guide. Hah! That Mac...

The last leg of my journey found me on the Simon and Schuster Mac Tonnies' page. Oddly, it was there I learned that Mac's "Cryptoterrestrials..." made another Top Paranormal Book of 2010 list! Author and cryptozoologist, Loren Coleman, had this to say.

All in all, it was one helluva midnight journey! :-)

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