12.24.2003

Small Presses

I guess this is a good time as any to mention that next year I (the other Gabe) will begin contributing to SF Site a regular column focusing specifically on small press titles, hopefully reviewing a few at a time. And I hope to include not just titles from the presses listed by Chouinard below (all of which I join in most enthusiastically recommending) but from other small presses that may be less known to genre readers, possibly because they choose to locate themselves outside the boundaries of genre even if they have product that might appeal to readers of the fantastic (particularly those not afraid of a little dip into experimentation).

I’m thinking, for example, of @las (or Atlas) Press from the UK, which for twenty years has been championing what they appropriately refer to as the “anti-canon” of dissenting literature, translating and publishing works by writers associated with Surrealism, Dadaism, the Oulipo and other avant-garde European art movements. My favorite of their books is the classic novel of Gothic weird fiction MALPERTUIS by the Belgian author Jean Ray, which in its account of pagan gods who still live among mortals prefigures the theme of Neil Gaiman’s AMERICAN GODS by several decades. (As an indicator of just how porous genre boundaries can be I’ll note that the only other Jean Ray book I know of that is in print in English is the short story collection MY OWN PRIVATE SPECTRES from Midnight House, the small press belonging to esteemed horror editor John Pelan, whose anthology of Sherlock Holmes / Lovecraft crossover stories was published by Del Rey this past fall).

@las Press proudly note that they only sell online, with the exception of books they place with the retail store bookartbookshop in London. I stopped by there last Friday (Pittfield St., Old St Tube station), on my London bookbuying binge day, and bought a nice selection of their titles, including a short French novel called THE DEVIL’S POPESS whose authorship is disputed but appears to have been possibly written by the Surrealist poet Robert Desnos. It’s a particularly odd mix of erotica, fantasy, science fiction and “yellow peril” pulp.

In the United States the occasional @tlas Press book can be found at an independent bookstore (or even at Borders, where amazingly I managed to pick up their biography of Raymond Roussel once) or they can be ordered through the American small press publisher Exact Change. Exact Change is another small press that should be better known. Their mission is similar to that of Atlas, but their production values are higher and they publish elegantly designed, affordable paperbacks distinguishable by their square shape. They are to be particularly commended for keeping in print Lautreamont’s bizarre protosurrealist horror novel MALDOROR.

And then of course there’s Dedalus Books, who appear to go unnoticed by genre readers despite putting out consistently strong anthologies of European fantastic fiction, including THE DEDALUS BOOK OF AUSTRIAN FANTASY, THE DEDALUS BOOK OF SPANISH FANTASY and the DEDALUS BOOK OF FRENCH HORROR. They also keep in print not only most of the novels of the awesome fantasist Gustav Meyrink (THE GOLEM, THE ANGEL OF THE WEST WINDOW) but also Alfred Kubin’s THE OTHER SIDE and Stefan Grabinski’s THE DARK DOMAIN (selected by China Mieville for his list of top ten weird fiction titles).


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