12.23.2003

exposing the independents

Ladies and gentlemen -- this is not your fathers' speculative fiction.

There's a lot happening in what some people dismiss as "sci-fi" or even "that Harry Potter stuff". Problem is, a lot of people can't see what's happening, because it's taking place under the radar of the average reader.

Beyond the big releases, there's an enormous quantity of interesting, good work being produced. Part of our goal here is to focus on that less-visible work, in an effort to bring it to the fore.

In broadest terms, there are several independent presses that are producing necessary, vital speculative fiction. These publishers deserve more than our kudos: they deserve your money.

Nightshade Books, for example, is the offspring of the passionate partnering of Jason Williams and Jeremy Lassen. There is no way to peg a particular "Nightshade" style, other than describing it as "the good shit". Williams and Lassen are clearly readers first, and they publish as a reader would. Their books are all physically attractive, high quality editions, boasting names from Lord Dunsany to Tim Lebbon; from M John Harrison to Kage Baker. Quality is a hallmark of Nightshade Books, especially if you like good stories.

Nightshade Books has also recently begun publishing the Ministry of Whimsy. Led by Jeff VanderMeer and Forrest Aguirre, the Ministry is another benchmark for quality. From their production of Stepan Chapman's The Troika to the World Fantasy Award-winning Leviathan series of anthologies, the Ministry of Whimsy publishes only necessary books. No padding the line, no compromises in quality - only exemplary Ministry of Whimsy creations.

Peter Crowther has been around forever, and that dedication and wisdom shows in every release from PS Publishing.

Primarily producing limited edition novellas, with the occasional collection (or even novel) sprinkled in, PS Publishing boasts one of the highest-quality lines in the history of speculative fiction. PS Publishing reminds me of the Ace Science Fiction Specials, save for the fact that PS has a roster that includes mostly "Big Name" authors like Michael Moorcock, Ramsey Campbell and Stephen Baxter, as well as phenomenally talented up-and-comers.

prime books is an interesting publisher. Of all the publishers around, prime is wouthout doubt the most stylish. I absolutely love their design sensibility, and their catalog is excellent. From Simon Logan's creepy mechanized short story collection i-o to KJ Bishop's fantastic The Etched City, prime continues to produce excellent, thought-provoking books.

Quirkiest is the ultra-hip Four Walls Eight Windows. They continue to produce a wide swath of work that knows no boundaries. From obscure cult texts to bleeding edge spec fic from people like Richard Calder and Cory Doctorow, Four Walls Eight Windows proves that an idiosyncratic line can still be not only successful, but ultimately quite accessible.

There are a host of other independent publishers out there, producing everything from zines to chapbooks to full specialty lines. Over the course of this blog, it will be my pleasure to introduce you to all of them.

And if YOU'RE one of the people producing work that's outside of the mainstream, I urge you to send me an email to gabe_chouinard@yahoo.com. We can't share the love if we can't find you.

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