Small Beer &c, 2010.

Fri 31 Dec 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | 6 Comments| Posted by: Gavin

In these the last days of 2010 I wanted to post something reflective about the past year and the one to come. But real life kept getting in the way so instead of something bigger, looking out, I thought I’d try a year-end wrap-up since I’ve enjoyed seeing some writers and others doing them and see if it becomes anything more than a list of facts and figures.

Cucumbers are good to biteMostly I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who helped make 2010 our biggest year so far! (Just wait until spring brings all the returns, but I’ll think about that later).

This was a year of experiments (a new ebooksite! radio ads! working with a great publicist, Molly Mikolowski! hardcovers in the age of ebooks!) and some changes.

Kelly and I are still in Boston with our lovely daughter Ursula. Ursula is well. I am very grateful for Massachusetts’s health care plans as her needs are still high. We have weekly (or more frequent) visits to Children’s Hospital and her wonderful pediatrician at Franciscan Hospital for Children. Mass Health means we get a lot of home help from nurses. Over the holidays a lot of the nurses went on holiday so there’s not been so much work (or, sometimes, sleep) around here. But, hey, it’s the holidays! Kelly, Ursula, and I will be here in Boston until late next summer but everything is up in the air and any plans we make are by their very nature tentative. By fall and winter life we be more settled. I looked to see if we had any interesting pics from the year and pretty much all of the pictures ended up being of Ursula, so that says everything.

Another big change was seeing our steadfast editor Jedediah Berry build up a head of steam and take off to explore wider horizons. Oh how we miss him! CTO and Head Brewer Michael J. DeLuca moved to the Boston area—but kept making beer and did the heavy lifting behind Weightless Books. And in the office we had fantastic array of volunteers including Nicholas Miriello, Kristen Evans, Abram Thau, Samantha Guilbert, Su-Yee Lin, Cristi Jacques, Rebecca Isherwood, Matthew Harrison, and Hannah Goldstein. Just seeing that list of names is humbling. Thank you one and all. There would be a lot less of everything without you.

Bookscan says our bestsellers were:

1) Holly Black, The Poison Eaters and Other Stories
2) Ted Chiang, Stories of Your Life and Others
3) Julia Holmes, Meeks
4) Kathe Koja, Under the Poppy
5) A Working Writer’s Daily Planner 2011

Since some of these books just came out, in a month or so this list will be entirely different. And if we checked with our lovely distributor Consortium they’d probably have a different list. And the Weightless bestseller list would be entirely different. Random quantification-R-Us.

Quid Nunc? Quid Nunc! was fun. Simple Economics show we can’t afford to pay you and Michael’s post on spruce beer were extra popular. We managed quite a few posts at the end of the year from Karen Joy Fowler, Vincent McCaffrey, Edward Gauvin, Karen Lord, and Kathe Koja. There are a few more posts in the new year and we’ll have more guest writers in the future. We have a Facebook page. We do not have a Sputtr account, a Trimblit, nor a Flxxa—but only because the last two won’t be invented until next year.

Meet Me in the Moon RoomOther popular pages here included Ray Vukcevich’s lovely, creepy story “Whisper,” which was Dugg (if that’s right?) and mentioned on io9 and more when a somewhat-similar movie came out. The Creative Commons books are still very popular. As are the Submission Guidelines. Pages on Rights and pages for reviewers were added. Ooh. Some of our books made end of year lists, some did not but I enjoyed making our Holiday Book List which simplified gift giving for Small Beer completists.

I went to a few book fairs and conventions but my brain was only ever half there (and sometimes it was inebriated, who’d have thunk it?) and Kelly wasn’t there so they were odd compared to years’ past. I’m planning on going to some this year but major travel (and anything out of state has now been classified as major) is mostly off the table for a bit. Will be Book Expo in May (for my sins). Boskone and Readercon may see all of us, but, again, that’s theoretical until it happens.

We published eight books and the second edition of A Working Writer’s Daily Planner. Geoff Ryman’s collection, Paradise Tales, was meant to be published in November but we couldn’t quite hammer down the details of the contract (which includes reprinting The Child Garden, Was, and The Unconquered Country) until almost that date so it was pushed back to February. I think it will be even later than that. Boo. However, on this, the last day of 2010, Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge has arrived at our distributor so the first book of 2011 will ship out right on time.

We put out a few older LCRWs as ebooks and as well as a couple of books we hadn’t been able to do before including Sean Stewart’s Mockingbird and Perfect Circle and Naomi Mitchison’s Travel Light. Our ebooks are available in the usual places including (depending on how many they’ve accepted through either us or our distro’s program), Google, Apple’s iBookstore, Kobo, Sony, Mobipocket, Amazon, Fictionwise, and, as of this March, Weightless Books, which is run by myself and Michael J. DeLuca with some help at the start from a few volunteers. It’s a site to find interesting indie ebooks and now has titles from Blind Eye Books, Fairy Tale Review Featherproof, Lethe Press, Prime Books (and Lightspeed Magazine), BookCyclone, as well as all our titles. It grows and grows. Weightless means we will always have a place where our ebooks are available and no one can hold them hostage over price controls or any such thing. And, of course, NO DRM! So far, so good.

Ebooks are increasing in popularity and Weightless is one way we’re hoping to still be able to publish books in a few years time but most of our books are sold in bookshops—if 10% of our sales are ebooks and and 10% on Amazon (those estimates are a bit high) we’re talking 80% of our sales taking place in bookshops. We have a deep love of actual bookshops and very much appreciate all those booksellers who took the chance of stocking our books and selling these weird (and we think great) books. Every time you buy a book in a bookshop you support a whole line of businesses from the printer through the distributor to the actual bookseller being able to work in a real bookshop. We’ll have some interesting news about a local bookshop endeavor we’re taking part in in the new year. But in the meantime, thanks for buying our books at actual bookshops.

Our 2010 books started with our second Big Mouth House title, Holly Black’s stunning The Poison Eaters and Other Stories, which was our biggest seller—no surprise with Holly being a #1 NYT list bestseller. Holly’s husband, Theo, did the great interior illustrations. The first story, “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown,” is online at BSCReview and two of the stories are available as podcasts (“Paper Cuts Scissors” and “The Dog Kind“) at PodCastle. Holly’s novel this year, White Cat, is a great twisty start to a series and I highly recommend it. [“Black’s first story collection assures her place as a modern fantasy master…. Sly humor, vivid characters, each word perfectly chosen: These stories deserve reading again and again.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)]

The next book was Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud’s A Life on Paper: Stories, translated by Edward Gauvin. This was Châteaureynaud’s first book in English and it was a treat to see how, slowly but surely, it won readers over. Just this week “The Beautiful Coalwoman” went up at Podcastle and there’s a new essay by Châteaureynaud on Hungarian writer Ferenc Karinthy’s Metropole. A Life on Paper received fabby reviews in the NYTimes, The Believer, BookSlut, and so on, and Edward Gauvin placed stories in all kinds of on-and offline journals. This book was an honor to publish and as Edward works on more of Châteaureynaud’s work we hope to get to bring it to you. [“Beautiful prose featuring ingenuous protagonists and clever, unexpected forays into horror are the hallmarks of these mischievous stories.”—Publishers Weekly]

In June I realised/realized a long-held ambition as we published the US edition of Alasdair Gray’s latest novel Old Men in Love: John Tunnock’s Posthumous Papers. Gray has been receiving all kinds of fantastic praise in the UK with the publication of A Life in Pictures. In terms of work, this was a reprint of the UK edition (with some author corrections and addendums) so, really, how hard could it be? Ha. The book was scheduled for April but came out in June as every line in the book (and all those pieces of art) had to be redone to match Gray’s own vision. It was interesting publishing a book that we didn’t either design ourselves or have a hand in the design but Gray and everyone else we’ve worked with on the book was a delight. Watch out for more news on this book in April when Gray’s A Life on Pictures (a beautiful book from Canongate which I received for Christmas from my mother-in-law, thanks Annie!) comes out over here. [“Funny and profane, but with a shuddering anger to the politics. ”—Jessa Crispin, NPR]

In June we also published a debut novel: Karen Lord’s Redemption in Indigo. This book is such a breath of fresh air and is still delighting readers. Laura Miller just reviewed it this week in Salon, which follows excellent reviews in the NYTimes and two starred trade reviews. Karen came over from Barbados in September for a couple of readings in New York and the Brooklyn Book Festival. She was a tremendous sport and charmed everyone who met her. [“Extends the Caribbean Island storyteller’s art into the 21st century and hopefully, beyond.”—Seattle Times]

July brought a second debut novel (and third debut of the year, counting A Life on Paper), Julia Holmes’s Meeks. This one really hit home and it received show-stopping reviews in The Nation, NYTimes, LA Times, and so on. Was it Ben’s lack of a bachelor’s suit? Was it the Robyn O’Neil art? Was it the French flaps? All of this and more: this was a debut that got under people’s skin. Julia spent a day at BookExpo with her editor, Jed, and I in May and, as with Karen Lord, Julia charmed all who met her. And throughout the publication and the readings (from NYC to Portland, OR) she was gracious and funny. The second printing arrived just in time for The Nation review and out it went again to the world. [“One of the most original and readable novels that’s come my way in a long time.”—The New York Times Book Review | Editor’s Choice]

In August we were supposed to ship the new Working Writer’s Daily Planner but it actually arrived in late September and Consortium started shipping it out in October. There are a couple of things pushing back the publication date (besides us being a bit stretched): we print it here in the USA (got to pay people here to work good jobs otherwise no one will have money to buy books!) but it takes a little while extra to print it in color. The main thing is that it’s hard to get confirmations from the programs in time for inclusion. We’ll see if we can speed the next one up. Although since 90% of sales seem to be in the last two weeks of December and the first two weeks of January, maybe there’s no hurry!

Hmm. This has run longer than I expected. In fall we published three big books: first a reprint of Ted Chiang’s debut collection from 2002, Stories of Your Life and Others. Just the title story alone makes this one of my favorite books and it was a treat to bring it back into print with the cover Ted commissioned. It sold like hot cakes and is heading back to the printer next week. [“Shining, haunting, mind-blowing tales.”—Junot Díaz (author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao)]

The second superb collection for fall was Karen Joy Fowler’s What I Didn’t See and Other Stories. We’ve been hoping to publish this book for years and years and to see these dozen stories collected with Small Beer Press on the spine was a total delight. The first story in the book, “The Pelican Bar,” won both the World Fantasy and Shirley Jackson Awards and there are two Nebula Award winners in there, too. But: awards, schmawards: just read the first and last story and then go do something good in the world. What a book. [Read a story: “Standing Room Only” · “Always” · and a short interview in the LA Times.]

The last book of the year was Kathe Koja’s baroque and sexy Under the Poppy. Kathe is in the process of turning this into an immersive stage show for the Black Box Theatre at the Detroit Opera House (and maybe beyond) and readers will instantly understand why. This is a book that gets under your skin and demands that you pay attention to all kinds of detail. A piece of fun indeed. [“An atmospheric tale for those who like their historical fiction on the dark and lurid side.”—Library Journal]

We did our regulation two issues of LCRW and launched electronic subscriptions. Chocolate subscribers are still outnumbering electronic, but how long will that last? I was very proud to publish Haihong Zhao’s first story in English. There are generally a few debut authors every year in LCRW, and I truly love—although I am always behind on my reading—that we get submissions from writers all over the world whom I’ve never heard of. I’m getting pushed toward electronic submissions even though I am even more behind on emailed manuscripts. Hmm. I have many favorite writers and many writer friends but I’d give the zine up tomorrow if those people were the only ones sending us stories. Thanks for your faith in our tiny zine. We appreciate it.

We bought a bunch of books for 2011 and beyond. The strangest might be John Crowley’s The Chemical Wedding. Start saving your pennies for the limited edition. Some of the books we announced, some: not yet. Some you could guess: another Working Writer’s Daily Planner, the Ryman reprint series (it will be nice to have 3 of his books in print at Readercon), and some you might not: a hard science fiction debut novel; a collection from a writer we love love love, darker than her previous work but heartbreaking, too; Unleaving as a solo paperback; the next Big Mouth House titles: first Lydia Millet’s new series begins with The Fires Beneath the Sea and late in the year Delia Sherman’s Freedom Maze; there are a couple more reprints, not too many; and an anthology of Mexican science fiction and fantasy that many people have been working for the last year or more that is just so excellent that we can’t wait to get all the contracts dotted and signed and start getting it to readers.

And, there’s Hal Duncan’s chapbook, “An A-Z of the Fantastic City,” illustrated throughout by Eric Schaller, which will come out in limited, signed, numbered hardcover edition as well as a trade paperback edition. That is a corker, full of subtle humor, sexy asides, and alphabetical fun. We’ll put a preorder page up for that early next month.

Outside of Small Beer Kelly and I have been working on our YA anthology, Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories for Candlewick. There are new stories from Kelly, M.T. Anderson, Holly Black, Libba Bray, Ysabeau Wilce and nine others! Comes out in fall. Has a great cover and the interior is beautiful. We’ll have a website going up for that in early spring. Or, 1861, whatever comes first.

So that’s what 2010 and 2011 in our books (and zines) looked and looks like. And again: thank you.

In 2011 we will be celebrating 10 years of publishing books and we know we are immensely lucky (and only sometimes desperately in debt) to be able to do this. In some ways 2010 will be hard to beat: Alasdair Gray, Holly Black, a couple of fantastic debut novels, Greer Gilman’s Cloud & Ashes won the Tiptree Award, publishing a Karen Joy Fowler collection.

But 2010 was also occasionally a tough row to hoe—given a time machine it would not be high on my list to revisit (although Ursula being discharged from hospital after 13 months was one of the best days of my life, so there is that)—so fingers crossed 2011 will be easier. Maybe easier isn’t the right word. Maybe I’m hoping to be grow more used to the cycle of challenge, learning, and acceptance.

Then again for every crap day there were still huge surprises and great joys from the writers, books, readers, reviewers, booksellers, and everyone involved in these exciting days of this great, roiling literary industrial complex. I’m already looking forward to the first death-of-publishing article of 2011.

Hope you are well and spending the turn of the year with those you love and: happy new year!

What I See, part 6, by Karen Joy Fowler

Fri 24 Dec 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Author

What I See, part 6, by Karen Joy Fowler

It’s the day before Christmas and time and quiet are in short supply. So just a quick post here, to keep my hand in. On yesterday’s walk, the tide was higher than I’d ever seen it and the waves still stormy. The bottom step at the dog beach was completely underwater, but Mojito and I went down anyway, just for the excitement of standing so close, looking down on those crashing waves. One of us found it exciting anyway. One of us was quite unnerved.

It was as if we’d stepped into the beautiful Erica Harris cover on my own most recent book. There is something magical about a staircase ascending out of the water like that. The ocean was the right color. The pelicans obliged. No submarine, no gorilla, and we felt their absence, but we were on the back cover only.

Farther along the walk, the sunlight struck a stop sign behind me, lighting it up in a large ball of dazzle. This isn’t an image from my own work, but there is a moment in The Once and Future King when God arrives in the dazzle on Sir Bors’ shield, which stops his brother Lionel from killing him. It was just Exactly like that.

Yesterday’s walk was a literary one.

° ° °

A shout-out here to the man who juggles while he jogs.  I have never seen him miss a step or drop a ball and even if I had I would still think he was awesome.

To the person who picks up breakfast every day at Taco Bell, eats it in the car while watching the sunrise, and then drops the bags, napkins, and leftover condiments out the car window and drives away, I also have a message. Lump of coal coming your way tomorrow, buster. No one likes you.

Previous posts:

What I See
What I See, part 2
Interrupting our regular schedule . . .
What I See, part 3
What I See, part 4
What I See, part 5

Christmas is coming

Wed 22 Dec 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal. | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

and Small Beer Press is going into semi-hibernation mode—although, as io9 readers already know, our modish and smart ebooksite, Weightless, is going full steam ahead. (I don’t think Weightless is steam-powered but how Michael makes it do the things it does is beyond me.)

Email may or may not be answered, depending on the amount of eggnog consumed and the amount of chaos on the home front and some other things may be done but mostly we just wish you and your families happy holidays!

Mr. Green of the Eastern News by Vincent McCaffrey

Mon 20 Dec 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | 2 Comments| Posted by: Author

Mr. Green of the Eastern News by Vincent McCaffrey

When I ran away from home as a kid, it was seldom with any intention of being gone from my mother’s cooking for very long. It was not out of anger that I left, in any case, but frustration. I was a dilettante to the world of ‘runaways.’ A few hours seemed to be sufficient remedy. And by far, the place to which I most often escaped was New York City. About twenty miles, and not much more than twenty minutes by train. Often twice a month. It took that long to save enough lunch money to buy a ticket for the New Haven line.

Read more

What I See, part 5, by Karen Joy Fowler

Thu 16 Dec 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Author

What I See, part 5, by Karen Joy Fowler

We have had a week of rain and stormy seas. The waves have been coming in huge sets, as if someone picked up the globe and shook it. Yesterday Mojito and I turned left instead of right and went to watch the surfers. There were about ten of them, performing feats of breathtaking balance and athleticism, with a sea lion in the water behind them, neither watching nor swimming, but bobbing quietly out past the breakers.

The ocean changes color when the sky changes color—green and gray and brown and red and blue, only so filled with or empty of light that they aren’t really green and gray and brown and red and blue after all. I like the fact that most of the colors I see I have no name for.

My father was a bit of an amateur naturalist. When I was a girl he seemed to know the names for everything. And more—he knew why the tides were sometimes high and sometimes low, how photosynthesis worked, the role top predators played in the food chain, how birds navigated their great migrations, why the sky was blue, etc. etc. He saw the wild world the way a scientist sees it.

This same wild world used to be a source of great comfort to me in times of need. I thought it was eternal, that my place in it (and therefore my troubles) was small and inconsequential. Now I walk along the ocean and I know that I’m looking at a system in peril. This, as much as my age and my growing sense of a finite amount of time left here, is why I’m trying to pay attention. I’m saying good-bye and I’m not sure which of us is leaving faster.

We live in a social order created by and for rich men. Nothing matters in it but money. Many on the right, and no few on the left, are, whenever it’s convenient, exorcised over the financial debt we’re passing on to our grandchildren. So unfair! Such a burden! Something must be done (by someone else)! Poisoned skies, waters, and food, mass extinctions, rising seas, and global droughts; these are things our grandchildren are just going to have to tough out.

While I was in the UK for Thanksgiving, the House Republicans disbanded the committee tasked with battling global climate change, saying it was a waste of money.

According to a NYTimes/CBSNews poll, the tea party, those media-crowned activists du jour, do not see climate change as a credible problem.

John Shimkus, who will probably chair the House energy committee come 2011 is not worried, because God told Noah He wouldn’t destroy the earth again.

All of which made Bill Maher say in an interview last week that people outside the US must be laughing at us ridiculous yokels. But I talked to a number of people in London (some of them Tories). There is no other world to go live in while this one is trashed. No one I talked to was laughing.

Previous posts:

What I See
What I See, part 2
Interrupting our regular schedule . . .
What I See, part 3
What I See, part 4

Bibliomania by Vincent McCaffrey

Wed 15 Dec 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Author

Bibliomania by Vincent McCaffrey

Consider the size: a mere seven inches tall (less if it was from Dell or Popular Library), four and a quarter inches wide, and half an inch thick. A hundred thousand choice words, more or less, in a soft covered package you could shove in the pocket of your jeans.

I was consuming two or three of these a week in 1963. It was an addiction. I was a poor student, but I could pass almost any test (except math and foreign languages) just on the residual knowledge I was picking up along the way.

And it was more than fiction that possessed me. I read the Bruce Catton historical works on the Civil War, Alan Moorhead’sWhite Nile and Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki, Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage, the poems of Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg and Walt Whitman, and biography by the basket-load. Read more

Under the Poppy (and more) on the radio

Tue 14 Dec 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , | 3 Comments| Posted by: Gavin

We’re trying something new this holiday season: radio ads! If you live in (or listen to radio from) Detroit, Boston, (WNYC never returned our calls . . .), Minneapolis, and maybe a few more places you might hear something along the lines of

“WDET is supported by Small Beer Press…presenting Under the Poppy…from a brothel at the center of Victorian wartime intrigue to the high society of 1870’s Brussels…a novel of love triangles, tricksters, and reluctant spies. Available at small beer press dot com and fine bookstores”

We looked at lots of shows (and we’re always open to suggestions . . . ) and have enjoyed working with the people at the stations—I think the people at WGBH were big fans of the Under the Poppy video. Some of our fave shows such as “This American Life” are out of our reach (for now!) but we’re doing campaigns that range from 7 – 14 days with spots in the morning and afternoon.

It’s interesting to look at radio demographics and compare them to the mythic readership profile of our books. Our readers range from 10 – 90 years old and seem to be of all genders and races. So when we’re asked who we’re looking for, it seems a hard question to answer.

Anyway, we figured that now, with two big books out and piled high in the stores, (and a hot reprint which will soon need reprinting!), is the time to try this. Heck, we listen to the radio a fair bit. Will be curious if we (or anyone we know) will hear the ads.

NEA Writers’ Corner by Edward Gauvin

Tue 14 Dec 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Author

NEA Writers’ Corner by Edward Gauvin (translator of Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud’s A Life on Paper: Stories)

For a few months now, the NEA Writers’ Corner has been featuring excerpts from the translation projects of this year’s fellows, along with author bios and statements. For anyone who’s been intrigued by the description and snippets of the author I’m working on, Belgian fabulist Bernard Quiriny, or who caught his stories in Subtropics and World Literature Today earlier this year, I thought I’d chime in with some updates.

In September, Le Seuil came out with Quiriny’s first novel, Les Assoiffés [The Thirsty Ones], which was well-reviewed and longlisted for several major prizes. It is an alternate history set in a 1970s Belgium that never existed: a closed matriarchal dictatorship, the result of a feminist revolution. Read more

Crossroads by Karen Lord

Tue 14 Dec 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | 2 Comments| Posted by: Author

Crossroads by Karen Lord

I’m not fond of the word exotic. I find it mindbending when people use it to describe things that are familiar to me. Snow, long nights in winter, oak trees and strawberries—those are the things I find exotic. Mangoes, mahogany and sunny days are normal. Having said that, let me assure you that any traveller, in space or mind, needs to be able to have more than one ‘home’ setting. I do, in fact, have a mode for which strawberry tarts and real ale are the norm, and another which is fine with black coffee and honey crullers. Read more

Kathe on the radio

Tue 14 Dec 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin in Wednesday morning at 11:30 Detroit time to hear Kathe Koja on the Craig Fahle show on WDET. And you can download MP3s of the shows, too, if you miss it!

Playing Favorites by Kathe Koja

Mon 13 Dec 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | 1 Comment| Posted by: Author

Playing Favorites by Kathe Koja

Some of the keenest pleasures in fiction come from meeting the characters who seem to be moving sideways between the world constructed for them on the page by the writer and the more lasting, more ephemeral world of the readers’ continued imagination. And so many times—for me, anyway—these are the mercurial ones, the tricksters, the hotheads, the ones who seem to maintain their balance by keeping others off-balance all the time, grounded like the stars in their own heaven of being; they’re the ones for whom the mask is a natural habitat, and they wear it so very well.

I’m reading a great deal of theatrical stuff these days, novels and plays and scripts, as I continue to work on bringing Under the Poppy to the stage (and things are going very well in that venture, thank you to everyone who’s asked; more details on the actual booked dates when I can share them!), and the ones who lure me in and keep me happy are the ones like Gaveston in “Edward II”; Mercutio in—well, you know where Mercutio hails from; “Twelfth Night”‘s Feste; Prior Walter in “Angels in America”; wordplay as swordplay, a kind of high cunning of the heart; Prior is the hero of the two joined plays in which he appears, but the others no, or not defined as such, but they’re the ones we remember, and the ones we miss when, like Mercutio and Gaveston, they pass from the playing space before the show ends; they pretty much take the party with them when they go.

The character of Istvan in Under the Poppy seems to emanate from that same tribe and anteroom: I saw him as that kind of man, even as a boy, sprung fully-formed onto the road he savors, his trajectory his own, his face a handsome, mobile, mocking mask, behind which all sorts of pains, passions, grudges and joys bloom and roil … I have no favorite among the Under the Poppy characters; like our mothers always told us, they love us all the same, and if I really don’t love all of the people in the book (several of them are amazingly hard to take, even on their best behavior), I do try to understand each one and feel for them all; otherwise I’d run the risk of making out of authorial calculation (i.e., dead cardboard) what should be real live fictional bones and flesh. But I do admit to being pleased that Istvan’s is the last voice we hear—in a very characteristic mode!—as the story comes to an end, and I hope other readers will feel the same.


The Fragments of Desire
That Corset

A week of upcoming fun

Mon 13 Dec 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Holly Black’s giving away copies of The Poison Eaters every day this week.

Aaaaand, we have lovely new posts coming from these fine folks:

Karen Lord:

The word exotic is merely a way to measure the distance from home to the unknown, and it is my opinion that such a word has no place in the lexicon of the speculative fiction writer

Vincent McCaffrey:

I paid special attention to ‘trashy’ novels.

Kathe Koja:

Some of the keenest pleasures in fiction come from meeting the characters who seem to be moving sideways between the world constructed for them on the page by the writer and the more lasting, more ephemeral world of the readers’ continued imagination.

and Karen Joy Fowler:

This same wild world used to be a source of great comfort to me in times of need. I thought it was eternal, that my place in it (and therefore my troubles) was small and inconsequential. Now I walk along the ocean and I know that I’m looking at a system in peril.

and, at least for this week we have craaaazy sale prices! Git your prezzies here!

What I See part 4 by Karen Joy Fowler

Mon 13 Dec 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Author

What I See, part 4, by Karen Joy Fowler

Brief observations from this morning as I resumed my coastal walk:

Red-winged blackbirds thick on a small patch of pampas grass. I wonder why birds, which after all combine the best parts of dinosaurs and of fairies, tend to have such utilitarian names.

Fewer sightings of feral cats in the park. The weather is cold and rainy, presumably they are all gone to ground and piled in a heap somewhere. Fewer sightings of people, too—same presumptions.

Along my route, between the water and the multi-million dollar homes, is a bench the perfect height for various stretchings. I stop walking and exercise there. This used to concern Mojito and I’d have to do my down-face dogs down-face over an actual dog. Now she sits quietly to the side and contemplates the sea. I suspect that the owners of these houses, when they bought their ocean view, did not imagine me and my sun salutations. Value added!

The dog beach was entirely covered with water. I had to take MJ down both flights of stairs to the water’s edge before she’d believe me. She suffered through the rest of her walk. I noticed today that more people say hello to MJ as we pass than say hello to me. No matter how sulky she is.

Previous posts:

What I See
What I See, part 2
Interrupting our regular schedule . . .
What I See, part 3

Some of the news of the day

Fri 10 Dec 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Today’s the annual 93.7 Mike FM Request for Help to benefit Franciscan Hospital for Children! Donate here and listen here.

Go read now: Gwenda Bond interviews Ted Chiang! This is part of the WBBT—get the whole schedule (and clear your afternoon!) here on Chasing Ray.

Onnesha Roychoudhuri’s article on‘s impact on the publishing industry is the cover story for this month’s Boston Review magazine—and is now up on Alternet. (When Amazon start being nice, we’ll be nice to them, too.)

And Amazon just opened up BookScan access (which means they can see their actual sales numbers on a weekly basis) to any authors who are willing to sign up with them. This is going to ensadden many people! Will be fascinating to see what people do with it though, more fascinating than playing video games with elo boost services.

There’s a short interview and a piece on Erica Harris (who did the cover for Karen Joy Fowler’s new book) in the new issue of Bomb (as well as a slideshow):

By way of international travel, service, and hoarding, Erica Harris uses collage to translate a universal language.

Good piece on UK publisher Dedalus—we have some of their books on the shelf. Used to love going through their catalog when we were editing the Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror. Their experience certainly rings a bell:

“These are not sensible commercial decisions but they are culturally the correct decisions.”

Don’t expect to be in NYC until next May but when I go I’m taking the Zinester’s Guide to New York City—”Bars! Pizza! Historic buildings! Veggie options! Open mics! Craft supplies!”

Paperboy by Vincent McCaffrey

Fri 10 Dec 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Author

Paperboy by Vincent McCaffrey

I was not a very good paperboy. I had a strong arm, but my fold was not always up to the rigors of the aerial journey. Too often I chased the opened and separating sheets of the Mamaroneck Daily Times over one yard and another after a faulty fold broke and the wind caught the contents.

I had a regular route only once and then lost it when I had to leave with my family on a trip and couldn’t find a substitute. A good paperboy is always faithful. My math was frequently faulty. If I had eighty-nine customers, I would have the payments for eighty-six. The papers were ready to go at four, but I was more usually not ready to start until five. And then I dawdled. There were so many things to see and ponder. After all, the universe was expanding they said and I saw proof it there before my eyes. What should have taken an hour and a half at most, took me two. Read more

Black Sheep of a Diamond Merchant Family by Edward Gauvin

Thu 9 Dec 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | 3 Comments| Posted by: Author

Black Sheep of a Diamond Merchant Family by Edward Gauvin (translator of Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud’s A Life on Paper: Stories)

Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud is fond of urging students in his writing workshops to “abandon the haunted castle and consider the haunted bus stop.” Meant as a rejection, in favor of something more contemporary, of all that is outdated and clichéd in the fantastic as a genre, the image speaks to Châteaureynaud’s ironic, affectionate take on the plight of modern man. The puny bus stop, where a lone, lost traveler shelters from the storm, at once ridicules the grand, foreboding castle—grown portentous and self-important—yet by being quite aware of its reduced stature, the bus stop also manages a certain pathos. Read more

Anyone know Katie Buonocre?

Wed 8 Dec 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal. | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Katie, are you there? Send us an email if you’re there!

Want a signed Holly Black book?

Wed 8 Dec 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Holly Black is coming into our office this afternoon to sign copies of The Poison Eaters. Order now to get your personalized copy shipped out today!

Fictional Geography by Karen Lord

Tue 7 Dec 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | 8 Comments| Posted by: Author

Fictional Geography by Karen Lord

When I hear that term worldbuilding, I can’t help but think of Tolkien the academic. He provided the template for fantasy worldbuilding: maps, languages, eras-worth of politics and history, genealogies, unique flora and fauna, and peoples with all manner of costumes and customs. Science fiction has its academics too—Asimov, Benford, et al—tweaking stories out of real or slightly adapted quirks of physics, astronomy, chemistry and biology. Speculative fiction is the geek paradise—the place to be as a reader if non-fiction thrills you as much as fiction, if you need but the slightest excuse to research dead languages, distant cultures, far-off planets, whispers of future technology, and legends ancient and urban.

(Nothing nearby, nothing too well-known and contemporary, please. It’s interesting enough when a mystery is set in modern-day Paris, but what really catches the attention is the ‘what-if’ of an alternate Paris with its underground passageways and catacombs populated by the not-quite-human; or New Paris on Earth’s second successful extrasolar colony, with the megasized, grav-boosted replica of the Eiffel Tower.) Read more

Bon voyage!

Mon 6 Dec 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal. | 1 Comment| Posted by: Gavin

I’m very sad to say that, at least for the foreseeable future, last Wednesday was Jedediah Berry‘s last day in the office at Small Beer Press.

Jed has been involved with the press since 2004 when he was in the MFA program at UMass Amherst. A couple of years later we hired him and in the last couple of years he has both acquired a couple of books for the press (and therefore becoming an Acquiring Editor) and also gone freelance in preparation for leaving.

He will of course remain editorially involved with the press for as long as he wants but he has some wonderful opportunities lined up that will soon take him away from the Happy Valley—we’re so sad . . . but also very happy for him!

Jed has been a real anchor for the press—especially so in the last two years. Without him I don’t know that the press would have survived our move to Boston. We will miss him more than we can say. Thanks for everything, Jed.

And, bon voyage!

What I See, part 3, by Karen Joy Fowler

Mon 6 Dec 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Author

What I See, part 3, by Karen Joy Fowler

Just I suspected, the world without Chalmers Johnson is a much colder place. I’m now home from two weeks in icy London where it snowed on our final day—big soft flakes that made me remember my childhood winters in Indiana, how silently the snow would come and how complete the transformation would be. I had a bit of adventure on my way out of town, slipping over the sidewalks in my laughably inappropriate California shoes, but then a reasonably easy ride to Heathrow, speeding along through underground tunnels. Public transportation! I miss it already.

I did not on this trip see foxes in the streets nor parakeets in the commons, two highlights from my last visit. In the absence of real wildlife, my husband and I went to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit at the Natural History Museum. It was awesomely fabulous. Hugh liked the underwater photographs best, but I was all about the birds. Not that I don’t like fish. But flying is the super-power on my Christmas list this year.

I was forced by circumstances off the internet for about a week, which was bracing and medicinal. Still I spent much of the trip reading Bill Bryson’s book Notes from a Small Island. This means that I spent much of my time too engrossed in reading about vacationing in Britain to notice that I was actually there, doing that. Which is exactly the thing I meant to work on in this blog—the actually being places part.

But the people I met in restaurants and subways were not so colorful as the ones Bryson was meeting, and I missed his witty company whenever I was forced to do without. John Crowley, on a trip to read at UC Santa Cruz, mentioned this exact thing to me—the syndrome of being more moved and engaged by the representation of the thing than by the thing itself.

As conditions go, this one sounds pretty harmless. And then I read recently, (somewhere on the internet so it must be true) that people prefer the reality of reality tv to actual reality, which I think must be partly a preference for plot, for a clear narrative. And also explains why so many prefer Fox news to actual news. Look what I just did—from harmless to poisonous in one quick paragraph.

I hear that it’s still snowing in London. I hear the winter wonderland enchantment is already wearing thin.

Previous posts:

What I See
What I See, pt 2
Interrupting our regular schedule . . .

This week: more Karen Joy Fowler. And? More!

Mon 6 Dec 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal. | 1 Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Slepyng Hound to WakeI have a sad (but not tragic) post to write that I should just get done. Who wants to be sad though? Oh well.

In the meantime, we have all kinds of loveliness coming in from those authorly authors:

Karen Joy Fowler tells us what’s on her Christmas list and how she adds value to beach front properties.

That popular translator, Edward Gauvin, is back starting off with a quote from Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud who he says

urges students in his writing workshops to “abandon the haunted castle and consider the haunted bus stop.”

Karen Lord says:

Speculative fiction is the geek paradise–the place to be as a reader if non-fiction thrills you as much as fiction, if you need but the slightest excuse to research dead languages, distant cultures, far-off planets, whispers of future technology, and legends ancient and urban.

Vincent McCaffrey confesses

I was not a very good paperboy. I had a strong arm, but my fold was not always up to the rigors of the aerial journey.

And here’s where you can get a freebie advance copy of the second Hound novel.

More as the week goes on.

Happy St. Nicholas’s Day!

Free the (second) Hound

Mon 6 Dec 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | 8 Comments| Posted by: Gavin

Slepyng Hound to Wake Boston bookhound Henry Sullivan is back and we think The Second Hound, aka Hound2, or, A Slepyng Hound to Wake, is even better than the first one.

And, the first five people in the US/Canada who promise to review Hound2 in their blogs/on their TV shows/etc. and post something interesting (as despotically judged by us!) about books/bookshops/book hounds or books scouts/etc., in the comments will get a free free free gratis copy sent to them asap.

2011 looks good from here

Sun 5 Dec 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , , , , | 1 Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Lydia Millet, FiresSpread the word! We have added a bunch (A BUNCH!) of new books to the site. These are the books we’ve been secretly working on this year—well, the ones we’re telling you about. We’ve got contracts going on a few more by authors familiar and not so much and they all share one thing: they are Awesome.

In what way Awesome? Don’t you just want them all now? Yes!

How about Lydia Millet‘s first kid’s book?—and it’s the first of a series! It’s set on Cape Cod where nothing  is quite what it seems. Not to be a spoiler, but it has a killer last line. And, we are so proud to be publishing a new Joan Aiken collection! (We have an excellent competition coming with this.) Joan’s stories are unique, they’re so amusing, so unexpected. She’s a little along the lines of Roald Dahl, I suppose. Oh, what an odd and excellent book. And, the cover is by one of our faves, Shelley Jackson.

We’re going to be doing another Planner and this one has fabby art by Kathleen Jennings. Email us if there’s something you’d like to see in it—or if you have something to pitch for it.

Also: more Geoff Ryman: The Child Garden is even weirder than you remember. Biopunk London, polar bears, viruses, and more. Wowee. New cover coming on that, too.

Good news for fans of Boston bookhound Henry Sullivan, The Second Hound, aka Hound2, or, A Slepyng Hound to Wake, is even better than the first!

Annnnnnnnd, there’s a chapbook from your friend and mine, Hal Duncan!

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