Jacob MacMurray is locking up the design of John Crowley’s The Chemical Wedding one piece at a time. The Kickstarter approacheth!
They call up. They email. They line up and they tell us about Jeff Ford’s forthcoming collection. And, oh, we are in agreement. We are happy. If Jeff Ford is going to write it, we are going to this particular hell in a silver shiny handbasket.
“Jeffrey Ford is a beautifully disorienting writer, a poet in an unclassifiable genre—his own.”
—Joyce Carol Oates
“Jeffrey Ford is a true heir to his teacher, John Gardner—not only in his ability to inhabit an astonishing range of styles and different worlds with jaw-dropping verisimilitude, but also in the great-hearted compassion and depth that he brings to his characters. I have long admired and learned from his work, and I’m grateful to have these beautiful stories to contemplate.”
“Combining legend and suspense, terror and darkly comic social commentary, Jeffrey Ford brings our greatest fears to life in this terrific collection. A Natural History of Hell is jammed with stories I wish I had written.”
“Delightful, terrifying, thoughtful and incredibly well written. Jeffrey Ford’s style is eloquent and accessible, literary and engaging. His stories have an engrossing, almost mythological feel to them, strengthened by well-placed descriptions, impeccable pacing and Ford’s rare talent for delivering a satisfying ending.” — Catherine Grant, Huffington Post
ETA! A starred review from Publishers Weekly! — “seamlessly blends subtle psychological horror with a mix of literary history, folklore, and SF in this collection of 13 short stories, all focused on the struggles, sorrows, and terrors of daily life.”
Cover illustration by Jeffrey Alan Love.
Just got wind of two, wait, three, highly relevant and interesting staff picks at by one great bookseller at Ravenna Third Place Books in Seattle. Two out of three books here may not surprise you, the third one may?
It’s pretty great as a publisher on (near!) the east coast to see our books as staff picks on the west coast. Which reminds me that The Winged Histories is also a staff pick at BookPeople in Austin, yay!
The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar
“You can always trust Small Beer Press to bring you the beautiful and the strange. In The Winged Histories, four women (a solider, a scholar, a poet, and a socialite) relate their experiences of a shattering rebellion and its aftermath. Far from linear, each woman’s narrative plumbs the depths of their individual and cultural memories; and surprisingly the ending — where Samatar ties off a wonderful multitude of threads — was so brilliant, such a dark surprise, it was nearly my favorite part. One of the best things about The Winged Histories (and its stunning prequel, A Stranger in Olondria) is its fierce lyricism and the depths of Samatar’s worldbuilding. Every character is a believable expression not only of individual traits but of the invented historical texts, whole schools of literature, arguments between translators, oral traditions, and the fragments of bestiaries of the literature-sodden world of Olondria. Every page is worth your time.”
The Entropy of Bones by Ayize Jama-Everett
“Ayize Jama-Everett’s Entropy of Bones is a very exciting book! Chabi is unlike most young women — but that’s as far as Jama-Everett takes this trope before thankfully inverting it on its head. Chabi is black-Mongolian, and comes from part of the Bay Area solidly ignored if not harmed by that area’s rapid gentrification. She’s ready to start putting her martial arts training to use by earning money as a bodyguard, providing for herself and her estranged alcoholic mother. But then her mentor disappears, and she realizes that without her knowledge (and certainly her consent) he has transformed her into an unwilling champion in an ages-old supernatural battle. There are taut action sequences and moral conflicts, but Chabi’s tough, wise, and funny character holds every strange, fascinating bit together. Her story is rooted solidly in our own world, from aspiring young DJs to pot-growing cottage industrialists, but the behind-the-curtain world of elemental good and evil Jama-Everett creates feels tantalizingly real.”
And then the third pick is a book on my TBR pile, useful!
Our Spoons Came from Woolworths by Barbara Comyns
“This beautiful book, the story of an impoverished, naive young artist in 1930s London, totally took me by surprise. At first the mishaps of newly-married Sophia and her husband Charles are funny and awkward — everything Sophia cooks tastes like soap; they paint all of their furniture sea-green; they live in terror of Charles’ forbidding relatives; and they’re always hard up for money. But through a masterful technique of Comyns, Sophia’s wondering attitude slowly reveals as much about her (and her unconscious attempts to deflect the emotional impact of constant disappointments) as it does those around her, who benefit from exploiting her optimism and self-doubt. Some moments of the book approach psychological horror, and the happy ones (they exist!) come as a great relief.”
Just in case there’s the tiniest chance you missed it, we at Big Mouth House — our imprint for readers of all ages — are once again celebrating Nicole Kornher-Stace’s debut YA novel Archivist Wasp which this weekend was announced as one of a very strong list of finalists for the Norton Award. Archivist hit a few Best of the Year lists, including YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults, Kirkus Reviews, Book Riot, Buzzfeed, and the Locus Recommended Reading list and is well into its second printing. It’s looking like a third printing will be called for soon — woohoo!
If you’re curious, you can start reading here.
We’re very happy that not this Wednesday but the one after that (which would be March 2nd), Mary Rickert will be reading at the excellent Boswell Book Co. in Milwaukee, MN.
This is also a great opportunity to order signed or personalized copies of her new collection You Have Never Been Here — you can see they have 24 copies in stock and with luck by March 3rd, there will be none left!
Congratulations to all the writers whose work was selected for the 2015 Locus Recommended Reading List. It is always an interesting list; fascinating to see what makes the list, what does not. In 2015, not counting reprints and two issues of LCRW, we apparently published:
— two novels by Ayize Jama-Everett, The Liminal War and The Entropy of Bones
— one translation: Angélica Gorodischer’s Prodigies (translated by Sue Burke)
— one young adult novel: Nicole Kornher-Stace’s Archivist Wasp
— one short story collection, Mary Rickert’s You Have Never Been Here
— two paperback reprints: Geoff Ryman’s Was and Greer Gilman’s Cloud & Ashes
— which constitutes a recommended reading list all of our own!
Of those five new titles, we are very happy to say four were selected for the Recommended Reading List:
You Have Never Been Here, Mary Rickert
No matter which books you liked or didn’t, I hope you’ll go and vote at the next election and keep democracy alive! And no matter if you do that or no, remember that the Locus poll is open, everyone can vote in it, and you can write in your own choices: Michael J. DeLuca for Editor!
2015 titles in order of publication:
Love this Puffin Passport (“Perused and pronounced a proper Puffin author”!) from Lizza Aiken’s rich Joan Aiken site. (Click to see it at a decent size there.)
Good news/bad news! I don’t know if you read Locus or Publishers Marketplace but if not I’m happy to pass on the news that Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others plus his as-yet-untitled next book have been picked up by Random House. This might have something to do with the film of the title story which has wrapped filming and is scheduled to come out this summer. The Knopf edition can be preordered at all your fave indie bookstores and here.
I have a little bit of mixed feelings about this as it was pretty fabulous to have Ted’s book as part of our list but mostly I am very happy that Ted’s stories will have this great chance at a very wide readership.
Ben Parzybok returns today to Silicon Valley for the Silicon Valley Reads Program, where all Silicon Valley is reading a couple of water-themed novels: Sherwood Nation and Emmi Itäranta’s Memory of Water. There are tons of events in high schools (not listed) and libraries, listed below:
January 26 – Silicon Valley Reads Kick-off – Heritage Theater – Emmi Itäranta, author of Memory of Water, and Benjamin Parzybok, author of Sherwood Nation, are interviewed on stage by Mercury News columnist Sal Pizarro. Co-sponsored by Commonwealth Club Silicon Valley. [Listen to this on the Commonwealth Club podcast.]
February 16 – Santa Clara University, Learning Commons, St. Clare Room – 4pm – interviewed by SCU faculty member John Farnsworth, followed by audience Q&A and book signing.
February 17 – West Valley College, Campus Center, The Baltic Room – 12:30pm
February 17 – Milpitas Library – 7pm
February 18 – Los Altos Library – 7pm
February 19 – Berryessa Branch Library – 1pm
February 20 – Evergreen Branch Library – 1pm
February 20 – Santa Teresa Branch Library – 3pm
March 7 – The Tech Museum – 6 – 7:30pm: “Could it happen here?” Panel: Discussing “Could It Happen Here” with author Parzybok are panelists:
• Dr. Brian Green, Assistant Director, Campus Ethics, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics and Assistant Director of Engineering, Santa Clara University
• Jim Fiedler, Chief Operating Officer, Water Utility, Santa Clara Valley Water District
• Additional panelists to be announced
Moderated by Barbara Marshman, Editorial Page Editor, Mercury News.
March 8 – Santa Clara County Office of Education – 10 – 11:30 – “Chance of Rain: The impact of climate change in our lives” followed by a signing until 11:30 a.m. Books will be available for purchase.
March 8 – West Valley Branch Library – 4pm
March 8 – Morgan Hill Library – 7pm
March 9 – Pearl Avenue Branch Library – 5:30pm
March 10 – Evergreen Valley College, Montgomery Hall – 2pm
March 10 – Tully Community Branch Library – 5:30pm
March 19 – Willow Glen Branch Library – 2pm
March 20 – Cupertino Community Hall – 1-3pm at Cupertino Community Hall. Closing Event of Silicon Valley Reads 2016! – Authors Emmi Itäranta and Benjamin Parzybok discuss their books and the Silicon Valley Reads experience with Nancy Howe, Santa Clara County Librarian and co-chair of Silicon Valley Reads. Co-sponsored by the Cupertino Library Foundation.
When I went to the Clarion Writers’ Workshop in East Lansing, Michigan, in the year 2000, Maureen F. McHugh was one of the anchor teachers. She and Greg Frost shook things up on the very first morning by politely and intelligently disagreeing with one another and they showed me — more than a hundred arguing reviewers, workshops, and bar discussions ever had — that stories will always be read differently.
I’ve since had the pleasure and honor of publishing two collections of Maureen’s own stories — which I have always thought compare well to the effect of a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster: “like having your brain smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped around a gold brick.”
Three ideas intersect at the heart of Maureen’s work: family, class, and technology. Family — biological, legal, chosen, or some other combination —has always been one of Maureen’s main preoccupations. I don’t know if I have read a darker story than the title story of Maureen’s second collection, After the Apocalypse where she examines the mother-daughter bond and the individual’s will to survive. Many readers felt that it made Cormac McCarthy’s The Road seem cheerful.
Maureen is fascinated by how technologies changes our lives and relationships. Her story “Oversite,” published in Asimov’s in 2004 with it’s parental chip trackers and hackers is a cogent and painful analysis of a family dealing with new technology.
Maureen’s obsessions all come together in stories such as “Honeymoon,” where a young woman cancels her honeymoon—and her wedding—when she finds her now-ex has gambled away their money. This woman, Kayla, dumps her useless ex but finds it hard to strike out on her own so she signs up to participate in medical studies, ignoring the possible side effects until they can’t be ignored any longer.
Maureen’s depictions of the normality of everyday life—people picking up second and third jobs or trying to monetize hobbies—is harrowing in places. Yet it is this unflinching gaze, this refusal to add explosions or go for the easy point but instead paint pictures of our everyday world, sometimes kicked a day or two in the future, are her strength.
In recent years Maureen has been writing alternate reality games and screenplays for rides.tv and other websites. But I am happy to see that she is still writing short stories and one of these years, maybe she’ll surprise us all with a new novel.
We’re celebrating moving to our new webhost, Dreamhost, with a special that will run all month:
Buy any ebook on our lovely DRM-free indie ebookstore WeightlessBooks.com between 12 a.m. February 1 and 11:59 p.m. February 29(!) 2016 and receive a free 4-issue LCRW subscription (worth $9.95!). If you’re already a subscriber, you will receive a 4-issue subscription extension. And if you buy an LCRW subscription, this will basically double it, but this offer applies to any ebook bought from this store this month.
(If you’d rather not receive this bonus, please email us, thank you.) The bonus LCRW subscription will be added to your Library in the first week of March.
Why? We had an awful experience at the end of the year when our previous webhost dropped all our sites for a whole week. When we asked about back ups, they said the back ups were in the same place as the actual site . . . and could not be reached. Which means they were nonfunctioning backups. Not impressive.
So now we have signed with Dreamhost who promise 99.9% or higher(!) levels of uptime and it is time to celebrate and thank all the readers who choose Weightless!
Here are some Small Beer bestsellers as a place to start:
- Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet Subscription(!)
- After the Apocalypse, Maureen F. McHugh
- A Stranger in Olondria, Sofia Samatar
- Redemption in Indigo, Karen Lord
- Travel Light, Naomi Mitchison
- North American Lake Monsters: Stories, Nathan Ballingrud
- At the Mouth of the River of Bees, Kij Johnson
- Solitaire: a novel, Kelley Eskridge
- What I Didn’t See and Other Stories, Karen Joy Fowler
- Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, Kate Wilhelm
Final typesetting after a second round of proofing. Jacob McMurray has designed a beautiful book, including using a suitably fabulous illustration by Theo Fadel for the cover. We should have the Kickstarter going in a couple of months and then a 400th anniversary trade paperback(!) edition available this autumn. Details will be here and here.
No, we don’t have Joan Aikens to give out, but we are giving away 5 advance copies of The People in the Castle: Selected Strange Stories on Goodreads!
Hope you will consider backing this if you can!
So next month we’ll try and take it back to where it all began: the zine, in print!
I’ll post the table of contents soonish. The cover is by none other than Kathleen Jennings. There are excellent stories. There will not be blood. There will be poetry. There will not be political posturing. Wait, there may be. We may misspell the acronym: LCWR, CLWR, MEHH, WHUT, LWRW, WWLCD? (She’d marry another younger man, start a fannncy lit mag, join a hospital ship, get a tattoo, have some fun.)
Being the internet age, I’ve learned as much about Mary Rickert from her Facebook feed as I have from the biography on her website.
These are the facts I am confident are true: Mary Rickert dislikes the Distraction Culture of smartphones and loves flowers, she is open to new adventures and has spent many hours hiking the Sequoia National Park, she is generous and gracious and deeply appreciative of her friends.
As this is also the Fragmentary Age, I also “know” some facts that are likely some percentage of wrong: she is a serious practitioner of yoga, she spent years working and reworking her critically-acclaimed first novel, she has a dog.
Finally, there are the facts I gleaned from her writing itself. No external proof is required; her stories are the proof. Mary Rickert sees the darkness inside all of us and still cares. She loves children, real children, the kind who are selfish and volatile and loving and oh-so vulnerable. She understands that people often fail to be their best selves. Mary Rickert doesn’t flinch. That’s what makes her fiction so powerful. But beneath the disquiet and darkness, or intertwined with it, her stories contain an intense belief in the redemptive power of human caring. Her stories are immersive and beautiful and full small human kindnesses.
The story I chose for this podcast, “Cold Fires,” is about pirates, and strawberries, and enchantments, including the enchantment of love. It is also about what happens when people love too much and what happens when they fail to love enough.
Mary Rickert earned a MFA from Vermont College of Fine Art. Her novel, The Memory Garden, won the Locus award for best first novel and won rave reviews from such places as io9, NPR, and Publishers Weekly. Her stories have won or been nominated for the World Fantasy Award, the Nebula, the Crawford Award, and the International Horror Guild Award.
Episode 21: In which Julie C. Day reads Mary Rickert’s “Cold Fires” from her collection You Have Never Been Here.
Subscribe to the Small Beer podcast using iTunes or the service of your choice:
How is this book doing? The second printing is flying out so we’d better start working on the next printing (such happy words). But how will we fit all this on the cover??
Kirkus Reviews: Best Teen Books of 2015
Book Riot: Best of 2015
Buzzfeed: 32 Best Fantasy Novels of 2015
ABC Best Books for Young Readers Catalog
Flavorwire: The 10 Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Novels of 2015 So Far
LA Times Summer Reading
Locus Recommended Reading
Those lovely people who turned all their swords into ploughs interviewed Kelly and me. Read all about it here.
We’ve just spent a week or more with no website. It was surreal! Anyway, hello 2016!
From Gavin J. Grant and Kelly Link of Small Beer Press: “We are immensely sorry to hear of Peter Dickinson’s death. Publishing his collection Earth and Air: Tales of Elemental Creatures was an honor and we considered ourselves very lucky to have been able to bring four more of his titles back into print in recent years. Working with Peter, who had published so many good books, won so many awards, worked with so many publishers, was nerve wracking at first but he was so calm, dry, and funny that he soon put us at ease. He will be much missed.”
From Peter Dickinson’s family: “We are devastated to have lost him, but very, very grateful to have known him. He gave us so much, in his love for us and his stories which inspired us. He has left us with many memories and we will treasure them all.”
From The Guardian: “He was admired for the originality and range of his stories and the variety of settings he explored in them.”
From The Telegraph: “Dickinson’s stories combined riveting plots with a deep historical awareness and insight. Philip Pullman observed that they carried “a charge of excitement, and a restless exploration of large ideas, which I find unfailingly thrilling. . . . Dickinson had an unusual gift for putting himself into the shoes of his youthful protagonists — imagining how it feels to be a missionary’s son, orphaned in the Boxer Rebellion and lost in the mountains of Tibet (Tulku, 1979); describing what it would be like to be a 13-year-old girl in an over-populated future dystopia, whose memory has been transplanted to the brain of a chimp (Eva, 1989); portraying the life of a child guerrilla in a fictional African country (AK, 1990) or a Byzantine slave boy, fleeing rampaging Huns in the company of a tame bear (The Dancing Bear, 1972). “It is not part of fiction’s job to tell the reader what to think,” he explained. “But it can be fiction’s job to show the reader how it feels, because that can only be done through the imagination.”
From The New York Times: “Mr. Dickinson’s appetite for arcane knowledge and his taste for unusual situations, often those from the past, made him a highly unpredictable genre writer. . . . Although well plotted, Mr. Dickinson’s mysteries appealed to readers looking for something besides ingenious clockwork mechanisms. As often as not, his puzzles offered an excuse to explore deeper human and scientific issues.”
From Publishers Weekly: “His eldest daughter Philippa, the former managing director of Random House Children’s Publishers U.K., shared this remembrance: “There are so many images I have of my father, but perhaps the one which shines brightest at this moment is of him at the wheel of the family car, driving us all somewhere — to visit relatives, perhaps. In the days before radios in cars, the amazing stories he would tell us all the way there, and all the way back, was our ‘in-car entertainment.’ It was an extremely effective way of keeping four lively children amused during a long journey,” she said. “Some of these stories eventually became the beginnings of books which were published. Others never made it. I vividly recall a hilarious space adventure with giant spiders that had us all, including Dad, in fits of laughter — luckily there were fewer cars on the roads in those days. It was brilliant — and he did eventually get it down on paper but somehow it never quite worked as well . . . If it wasn’t a story, it might be an epic poem that he had learned by heart as a child. He also read to us every night at bedtime and continued to do so until we were into our early teens.” ”
Peter’s family has suggested that rather than sending flowers, donations in Peter’s memory may be sent to his nominated charities: Save The Children; The Alzheimer’s Society; Medecins Sans Frontieres.
From the website of Peter Dickinson, 16 December 1927 – 16 December 2015:
It is with very great sadness that the death is announced of author and poet Peter Dickinson O.B.E. Peter died in Winchester on 16 December 2015 (his 88th birthday) after a brief illness. His family was by his side.
Peter Malcolm de Brissac Dickinson was born in Africa, but raised and educated in England. From 1952 to 1969 he was on the editorial staff of Punch, and then earned his living writing fiction of various kinds for adults and children. He wrote almost sixty books and has been published in 53 languages around the world.
Amongst many other awards, Peter Dickinson has been nine times short-listed for the prestigious Carnegie medal for children’s literature and was the first author to win it twice: Tulku (1979) and City of Gold (1980).
Peter Dickinson was also the first author to win the Crime Writers’ Association Golden Dagger for two consecutive novels: Skin Deep (The Glass-sided Ant’s Nest) (1968), and A Pride of Heroes (The Old English Peepshow) (1969).
His books have been nominated for and won many awards, including: The Boston-Globe Horn Book Award; The Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize; The Whitbread Children’s Fiction Prize; The Michael L. Printz Award.
Peter Dickinson was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1999. He has also served as chairman of the Society of Authors. He was awarded an OBE for services to literature in 2009.
Peter is survived by his four children from his first marriage, six grand-children and his second wife, author Robin McKinley.
Peter’s family has suggested that rather than sending flowers, donations in Peter’s memory may be sent to his nominated charities: Save The Children; The Alzheimer’s Society; Medecins Sans Frontieres.
Take a minute to admire that cover design. Notice how, through the magic of perspective, this woman seems to fly right at you with a pair of hands serving as wings. (The photo by Emma Powell is called ‘Angel.’) It’s the kind of off-putting, and yet beautiful, reaction one can get from reading Rickert’s fiction, short stories designed to scrape the skin from within.
It is weirdly warm in Western Massachusetts, many degrees above the norm, no snow on the ground — no real snow yet at all in fact, just as few of the lightest flurries one day and then nothing since — and people have been walking around without jackets. It is very strange, I hope it’s not the new norm. It seems odd to wish for cold weather but here in the northern hemisphere in mid December it’s what we’ve known for many years and unseasonal changes are getting more common.
So here’s a story from You Have Never Been Here about cold to remind me (weather-wise, at least!) what is to come.
“Cold Fires” by Mary Rickert:
It was so cold that daggered ice hung from the eaves with dangerous points that broke off and speared the snow in the afternoon sun, only to be formed again the next morning. Snowmobile shops and ski rental stores, filled with brightly polished snowmobiles and helmets and skis and poles and wool knitted caps and mittens with stars stitched on them and down jackets and bright-colored boots, stood frozen at the point of expectation when that first great snow fell on Christmas night and everyone thought that all that was needed for a good winter season was a good winter snow, until the cold reality set in and the employees munched popcorn or played cards in the back room because it was so cold that no one even wanted to go shopping, much less ride a snowmobile. Cars didn’t start but heaved and ticked and remained solidly immobile, stalagmites of ice holding them firm. Motorists called Triple A and Triple A’s phone lines became so congested that calls were routed to a trucking company in Pennsylvania, where a woman with a very stressed voice answered the calls with the curt suggestion that the caller hang up and dial again.
It was so cold dogs barked to go outside, and immediately barked to come back in, and then barked to go back out again; frustrated dog owners leashed their pets and stood shivering in the snow as shivering dogs lifted icy paws, walking in a kind of Irish dance, spinning in that dog circle thing, trying to find the perfect spot to relieve themselves while dancing high paws to keep from freezing to the ground.
It was so cold birds fell from the sky like tossed rocks, frozen except for their tiny eyes, which focused on the sun as if trying to understand its betrayal. read on