Ever skirting the edges of the towers of fantasy giants, Michael R. Fletcher has quietly amassed an arsenal. Little known outside of a smaller circle inside the already small circle of grimdark, the Canadian author has, for years now, worked steadily to bring his twisted visions to his twisted audience. Fueled by hubris and black metal, Fletcher’s works repulse or delight—often both—depending on the reader, taking you deep inside of worlds built on a level of imagination that borders (at the very least) on pure insanity.
Though his literary ministrations have yet to topple the giants of the genre, his persistence is impossible to ignore. He and a not so quiet cabal of like-minded authors (which includes the likes Dyrk Ashton and Anna Smith Spark) have been twisting the rules and traditions of sci-fi and fantasy to their own dark ends. Filled with violence, reprehensible characters, twisted schemes, and horrific rules, Fletcher has never shied away from ignoring the boundaries of taste.
He might be one of the most interesting writers of fantasy working today.
His four published novels—Ghosts of Tomorrow, Beyond Redemption, The Mirror’s Truth, and Swarm & Steel (the latter three taking place in the same dark world, where magic is fueled by a person’s insanity)—are exercises in flat out batshittery, moving along at the breakneck pace of the most cacophonous of thrash metal and feeling just as evil. One feels the sick delight of Fletcher’s glee as you’re thrust into worlds where children are kidnapped and turned into computers, the sane are looked on with scorn, and death is the only path to glory.
His latest release, A COLLECTION OF OBSESSIONS, is a dark reflection of Fletcher’s most twisted designs. Culling from works both previously published and never before seen, it is a roadmap to how a quiet, Dungeons & Dragons obsessed Canadian sound engineer became a madman of genre insanity. While it remains unlikely that Fletcher will topple the status quo any time soon, the volume certainly proves that he could…if he really wanted to.
To read Fletcher is to understand the maxim “write for yourself.” As an author, he clearly tries to be the change he wants to see in the world, writing stories that appeal to him and him alone. If you’re along for the ride, great. If not, stay out of his way.
While the collection itself is occasionally uneven—several of the stories included are from his days as a struggling author, before he really found his voice or hit his stride—each story provides another piece to the Fletcher puzzle, allowing us deeper access to the maddened mind that produced the twisted delights of his novels.
Like his novels, the stories found within A COLLECTION OF OBSESSIONS range from Dickian tech noir to the grimmest and darkest of grimdark fantasy. In them we find the return of characters from his Manifest Delusions series as well as a peek at his latest world found in the hopefully-soon-to-be-published The Obsidian Path. They are works where the heroes are more evil than the villains, where success often spells doom, and where sane and insane have switched places.
Oh, and violence. My god, the violence. Fletcher writes like one who has internalized years of black metal imagery and twisted them into a sickening symphony of tortured delights, relishing in the opportunity to share his disturbed creations on an unsuspecting reader. Along the way, we see hints of his past as a game master for RPGs. If his works are any indication, he’s the kind of DM who engages in the art of trying to kill his players, each week throwing them new twists more disturbing than the last.
Each of the tales collected here includes a brief preamble from Fletcher explaining either where it first appeared or why it hasn’t appeared anywhere. Many of these stories were written by a young author who hadn’t yet learned his craft and are, as a result, not great. However, what’s interesting about them is how we can start to see how Fletcher developed who he is as a writer. Even the worst stories in this collection give us an insight into how one becomes a good writer even when their first writings kind of suck.
Those who aren’t yet on the Fletcher Train might not want to get in at this stop (personally, I recommend Beyond Redemption as a first outing). A COLLECTION OF OBSESSIONS works best as a companion to the larger Fletcher oeuvre and doesn’t necessarily provide the best introduction. For those in the know, however, the same disgusting enchantment you found in his other works is found here and is more deserving of its place on your bookshelf.
Still, even if this is your first experience with Fletcher’s brand of sickening literary exploits, you’re almost certain to find something that will catch your attention enough to make you look for his other works. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, though. The wretched excess of Fletcher’s dark delights is hard to look away from, and you might find you were better off not knowing just how foul one mind could be.