A little more about Peter Dickinson

Fri 18 Dec 2015 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Posted by: Gavin

A great bio.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.


Peter Dickinson, R.I.P.

Thu 17 Dec 2015 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Posted by: Gavin

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.

A collection of Peter Dickinson’s poetry, The Weir, was published in 2009. His last book, In the Palace of the Khans, was published in 2012 and was nominated for the Carnegie Medal.

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.

Where we are in the actual world

Tue 18 Nov 2014 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , , | Posted by: Gavin

A Summer in the Twenties cover Kelly is off to Santa Cruz, California, where she’ll be on a panel on Thursday, November 20 at 4 p.m. with Karen Joy Fowler and Kim Stanley Robinson as part of Living Writers Series (free, open to the  public from 4:00-5:45pm in Humanities Lecture Hall 206.)

Which reminded me of a thought provoking essay Robinson published on Slate recently, “The Actual World: “Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.” Robinson reminded me that people are out there in the world (offline, really? Yes!) climbing, doing show and tell with Thoreauean objects on mountain tops, and getting out into the world. Slate — despite all the stickystickycruft on their site included many great photos which made the essay come alive as well as links (ah, the internet) throughout. The one I clicked and then left open as a tab for a week or so was this “Webtext on the Ktaadn passage from The Maine Woods.” I haven’t read The Maine Woods and am not sure I ever shall but this passage challenged me more to think about humanity and the world more than anything else I’ve read in a while:

I fear not spirits, ghosts, of which I am one, — that my body might, — but I fear bodies, I tremble to meet them.

In other Small Beer book news, Peter Dickinson’s A Summer in the Twenties received a lovely review from the Historical Novels Review. Here’s a sample:

Dickinson shows us both the upper crust, with their carpeted manor houses and petty intrigues, as well as the working poor, who live in noisy, crowded conditions. Intergenerational strife abounds, as children of all classes disappoint their elders by not becoming what they were brought up to be; the exchanges are witty yet full of meaning, illuminating the shift of power away from the old class system toward something new and unproven. Dickinson conveys a lot of excellent historical material in a thoroughly engaging narrative with enough suspense to keep readers entertained on multiple levels.

Fascinating to see that the book is categorized as “Jazz Age” — since it is set in the 1920s. Given the subject of the book, it would be fun to come up with other names for the time, “Age of Labor,” something like that? Also, given that the LA Times just cut all their sick leave and vacation time, I figure it’s about time to enter another age of labor. He said, optimistically.

A Summer of Peter Dickinson

Thu 17 Jul 2014 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Posted by: Gavin

A Summer in the Twenties coverWe’re celebrating the release of our latest Peter Dickinson reprint, A Summer in the Twenties, this week in a couple of ways:

First, we’ve just posted the first three chapters for your reading enjoyment. That should take care of what to read at lunchtime while ignoring twitter. If instant gratification is your thing, you can pick up the DRM-free ebook (epub/mobi/pdf) at Weightless right now.

While you’re on Weightless thinking about all those lovely books, how about adding another Peter Dickinson title to your library? Today only his strange and fascinating novel The Poison Oracle is the Weightless Weekly One Book sale title and is just $1.99. It’s a very different book from A Summer in the Twenties, which is one of the things Kelly and I love about Peter Dickinson.

As Nancy Pearl recently said on NPR about our first Dickinson mystery reprint, Death of a Unicorn:

Death of a Unicorn has nothing to do with unicorns or fantasies. … This is a mystery by Peter Dickinson. (Small Beer Press, a small publishing company in Massachusetts, is reprinting … Peter Dickinson’s books, which is a wonderful, wonderful gift to mystery readers who are yearning for that kind of old-fashioned British mystery where it doesn’t move quickly, you get engrossed in the time period.) …

“The thing about Peter Dickinson is that his books, one from the other, are totally different. … And this is a novel, a mystery, where the mystery doesn’t really happen. The event that is mysterious, the death — if you will — doesn’t really happen until probably two-thirds of the way through the book. And it’s written from the point of view of a young upper-class … woman in England and her relationship with the [financier] of a magazine very much like the New Yorker.

“I think that this is one of those books that I hope will … introduce people to Peter Dickinson and then they’ll go and pick up all the rest of his books. … But I have to stress these are not for people who want fast-moving thrillers. These are not mysteries in the style of American private-eye stories. These are really character studies and studies of society at a particular place in a particular time.”

That last paragraph really applies to A Summer in the Twenties. It’s definitely not a traditional murder mystery, but it has something of the thriller to it. I’ve been re-reading some Dorothy Sayers recently (in part because I know I haven’t read them all so I have to go back and re-read everything just in case, see?) and it isn’t too hard to imagine Lord Peter Wimsey passing through this novel — although I’ll leave that to better fanfic writers than me! The novel is really about choices and consequences and long after you’ve put it down you’ll be thinking about which choices led where and who might be happy. Might!

Summer in the Twenties Giveaway!

Tue 24 Jun 2014 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Posted by: Gavin

Hey, did you see the lovely Nancy Pearl note on NPR  that we are “reprinting … Peter Dickinson’s books, which is a wonderful, wonderful gift to mystery readers”! If you’d like to check out our latest reprint — coming next month — our distro, Consortium, has arranged for another giveaway on Goodreads. This time we have 10 copies of Peter’s A Summer in the Twenties. The glorious thing about Peter’s books is that they’re all different from one another:

Book Giveaway For A Summer in the Twenties

A Summer in the Twenties by Peter DickinsonA Summer in the Twenties
by Peter Dickinson
Release date: July 15, 2014

Wildcat or bright young thing?
A young man has to choose who to love, who to leave in the 1926 General Strike in Britain.

A Summer in the Twenties shows the body politic balanced at a precarious moment of tension.”
New York Times Book Review

Enter to win

Giveaway dates: Jun 23 – Jul 07, 2014
10 copies available, 150+ people requesting
Countries available: US and CA

Reading like its 1971

Wed 16 Apr 2014 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Posted by: Gavin

Emma Tupper’s Diary cover - click to view full sizeI turned one in 1971 and while I like to think I was enjoying some pretty great books (who can tell, they’ve all been eaten by me, my siblings, and time) I know of one good book that came out that year that I didn’t read: Peter Dickinson’s Emma Tupper’s Diary.

I don’t think I even read this book growing up*, which is a shame, as from the age of 9 or 10 on up it would have been a scarily good fit: I lived in the West Coast of Scotland among beautiful hills and lochs and would have eaten up a novel about an odd family (cough) whose cousin comes to visit from Botswana (we had cousins come from South Africa . . .). The only parts that are missing are

  1. the family business — teaching vs. their McAndrew’s Infallible Liniment
  2. the family minisubmarine — my family’s lack, that is, as far as I know . . .
  3. my father (sadly) did not go off abroad leaving us nominally looked after by a beautiful kleptomaniacal governess while we gallivanted about, pulled the wool over the eyes of the BBC, etc. (Also, my mother, unlike in many books for kids, is still alive. And still a great reader!)
  4. and, lastly, despite our searching, no proof of any monsters in any of the local lochs.

I am still sometimes confused by Lee S Rosen Etsy that time only seems to move in one way. I certainly feel different ages a lot of the time (although happily not 1-year-old) but I don’t seem to be able to go back in time and hand me this book. Shame! But at least since we reprinted it, it has been finding new readers:

Gayle Surette at SFRevu writes: “a great adventure story with characters that seem very real and as relatable today as there were then. It’s got a great location, adventure, great by-play and witty conversations, as well as an ecological and humanitarian conundrum with real implications for the future of the area and its denizens.”

and the Midwest Book Review notes that it is “Updated with a new cover and illustrations, this remains a great, now classic, summer read.”

Kathleen Jennings provided us with that new great cover of Emma writing her diary with a certain something in the background and we also got to use her sketches throughout the book.

Emma Tupper’s Diary is full of prickly people who rub each other the wrong way. Oh how I do wish I’d read it when I was a kid! But at least Kelly had it when I met her and eventually I got to read it and at some point we realized it would be a whole lot of fun to re-release this book back into the world. It’s a book that’s paced differently from many books for kids (aka readers of all ages!) and as noted by the Midwest Book Review, it also hearkens back to summer holidays when kids (of a certain class and in certain places) got bored and sometimes ran around and did stuff. In that way it is mildly, mildly reminiscent of another classic children’s book that will whisk you away on a summer’s day: Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons, which, happily, the fine folk at Godine always have in print.

More suggestions of mucking around in summer books welcome. Especially as we woke up to snow and a reminder from Mother Nature that she’s the one who decides when spring comes, ok? Ok!

Get Emma Tupper’s Diary here and the ebook here.

* I’m not one of those people who can remember every book they’re read. I know (barely**) what I’m reading now and the last two books I read. But, before that? Erm. And what was I reading in 1980? Um. All I can say is lots and lots. Anything, everything. I was often the kid who got to pick the books from the mobile library for the school library refresh. You know, one of those. Inject your own tales of biblioscarcity and scavenging here!

** I was asked this morning and could not remember the title. Um.


Thu 20 Feb 2014 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Posted by: Gavin

Emma Tupper’s Diary cover - click to view full sizeWe’re going to add some books to the world — and this website — soon.

And I’m not just talking our new edition of Emma Tupper’s Diary by Peter Dickinson which will be going out into the world next Tuesday. Emma forever!

Is that enough to answer the question, Ready?


We’re going to announce something else fun, too.

A movie? Nope.

All my open tabs which got lost when Chrome crashed? No. (Saad.)

A tumblr. Well . . .

An indie ebooksite? Come on, stop pandering!

Something fun? I hope so!

2013 in SBP books

Wed 18 Dec 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , , , , , , , | Posted by: Gavin

Sometimes I miss Badreads, the community reading site that AFAIK closed down earlier this year. I haven’t yet really migrated to LibraryThing (there’s that part ownership thing) or any of the others. I certainly liked seeing what other people were reading and keeping up with what I was reading.

Now, who knows what I read? I barely do. Although I really enjoyed the most recent issue of Pen AmericaNot just because they reprinted two stories from Three Messages and a Warning either. The whole thing was great, from the forum on teaching writing (Dorothy Allison, Paul La Farge . . . and Elissa Schappel’s heartbreaking piece) to the poetry by Ron Padgett (“Advice to Young Writers”) and two graphic narratives (comics!) by the fab David B. and Jean-Pierre Filiu (translated by none other than Edward Gauvin!) and Brian Evenson and Zak Sally. Anyway, you want a good magazine? Go read it.

I joined Pen a couple of years ago (teenage me: so proud!) and now Kelly’s a member, too. Are you a writer or editor? Do you care about intellectual freedom? If you can swing it, sign up here!

Ok, so, Small Beer: What have we been up to this fine year almost done and gone?

2 issues of LCRW! A record! Well, for recent years. We are planning 2 more for 2014. Phew!

A banner year for Weightless, yay!

And the New York Times just gave a great review to one of our final books of the year, Howard Waldrop’s new collection. I always think our books are so good that they all should be on NPR, in the WaPo, the LA, NY, St. Petersburg, Seattle, and London Times, etc., etc., so sometimes I surprised when they aren’t. I know: different strokes for different folks and all that, although really I think since all our books are so good they should overcome any reader prejudices. (“Short stories! Pah!”) The real reason they’re not reviewed anywhere? All the papers and magazines find it hard to justify reviewing half a dozen or more books from the same publisher. Right? Right!

BTW: if you would like to order Small Beer books (we have many signed copies!) to arrive in time for the holidays, please select Priority Mail. We are shipping until 5 pm on Thursday December 19th this year.

Here’s a picture of all the books we published this year and below, a little bit more about each book.

2013 books


Chuntering on!


Greer Gilman

What, another chapbook? That’s two in two years! The last one we did was in 2004 (Theodora Goss) and the next one should be 2014. Woo! This one is a dark, dense and intense serial killer story with Ben Jonson, detective and avenging angel.

“A jewel of a novella.”—Strange Horizons

Nathan Ballingrud » interview

The darkest book I expect we will ever publish! Bleak? Check. Monsters? Check? Fabulous, fabulous writing? Check!

“Matched to his original ideas and refreshing re­furbishments of genre set pieces, Ballingrud’s writ­ing makes North American Lake Monsters one of the best collections of short fiction for the year.

“The beauty of the work as a whole is that it offers no clear and easy answers; any generalization that might be supported by some stories is contradicted by others. It makes for an intellectually stimulating collection that pulls the reader in unexpected directions. The pieces don’t always come to a satisfactory resolution, but it is clear that this is a conscious choice. The lack of denouement, the uncertainty, is part of the fabric of the individual stories and of the collection as a whole. It is suggestive of a particular kind of world: one that is dark, weird, and just beyond our ability to impose order and understanding. These are not happy endings. They are sad and unsettling, but always beautifully written with skillful and insightful prose. It is a remarkable collection.”

Susan Stinson » Rick Kleffel interviews Susan Stinson (mp3 link).

Flying out the door in our town (Broadside Books alone has sold 140+ copies!) and now all over the country. Jonathan Edwards, we hardly knew ye. Until Susan brought you and your family and your town back to life.

“Ultimately, ‘Spider in a Tree’ is a lesson in what not to expect. Stinson eludes the clichés usually associated with religious extremism to peel away the humans underneath. We speak of a loving God, who asks us to embark upon a deadly war. We most easily see the sins in others that we are ourselves guilty of. Every ambition to perfect ourselves has a very human cost. As we reach for what we decide is the divine, we reveal our most fragile human frailties. Words cannot capture us; but we in all our human hubris, are quite inclined to capture words.”
The Agony Column

Sofia Samatar

We still have a few hardcovers of this left, unlike most other places. Some reviewers have really got this book including Jane Franklin in Rain Taxi who just gave it a huge excellent review. Yes, it’s a fantasy novel. Yes, it’s fantastic. Sofia sure can write.

“Sofia Samatar’s debut fantasy A Stranger in Olondria is gloriously vivid and rich.”
—Adam Roberts, The Guardian, Best Science Fiction Books of 2013

“For its lyricism, its focus on language, and its concern with place, it belongs on the shelf with the works of Hope Mirrlees, Lord Dunsany, and M. John Harrison — but for its emotional range, it sits next to books by Ursula K. Le Guin or Joanna Russ.”—Jane Franklin, Rain Taxi

Angélica Gorodischer. Translated by Amalia Gladhart.

Our second Gorodischer—and we have high hopes of a third and maybe even a fourth! This one is a discursive, smart, self aware science fiction. Don’t miss!

“Perhaps the strangest thing about these tales is how easily one forgets the mechanics of their telling. Medrano’s audiences are at first reluctant to be taken in by yet another digressive, implausible monologue about sales and seductions in space. But soon enough, they are urging the teller to get on with it and reveal what happens next. The discerning reader will doubtless agree.”
Review of Contemporary Fiction

Howard Waldrop

We keep getting letters from Waldrop fans who are so pleased he has a new book out: and that after 40 years he’s in the New York Times! Spread the joy!

“What’s most rewarding in Mr. Waldrop’s best work is how he both shocks and entertains the reader. He likes to take the familiar — old films, fairy tales, Gilbert & Sullivan operettas — then give it an out-of-left-field twist. At least half the 10 tales in his new collection are prime eccentric Waldrop . . .  as he mashes genres, kinks and knots timelines, alchemizing history into alternate history. In “The Wolf-man of Alcatraz,” the B prison movie rubs fur with the Wolf-man; “Kindermarchen” takes the tale of Hansel and Gretel and transforms it into a haunting fable of the Holocaust; and “The King of Where-I-Go” is a moving riff on time travel, the polio epidemic and sibling love.
“Among the most successful stories is “The Horse of a Different Color (That You Rode In On),” an improbable confluence of vaudeville (two of the main characters perform in a horse suit) and the Arthurian Grail legend that manages to name-check Señor Wences, Thomas Pynchon, “King Kong” and more as Mr. Waldrop tells of the Ham Nag — “the best goddamned horse-suit act there ever was.” It’s certainly the best horse-suit-act story I’ve ever read.”
New York Times

Alan DeNiro

Alan’s second collection marries absurdity to with politics and heart. Every writer is unique. Alan? Alan is like a superhero made up of the best parts of half a dozen of our favorite writers. Read these two excerpts to see why: “Tyrannia”, Walking Stick Fires [excerpt].

“Most of Tyrannia‘s rambunctious, immensely entertaining stories — seven of them science fiction — blend bizarre speculations with intermittent humor. When there isn’t humor, there’s weirdness — often extreme weirdness, funny in its own right. Fair warning: what I’m about to describe might not always make sense. That’s in the nature of this highly unconventional collection.”
—Will George, Bookslut

Peter Dickinson

We added Reading Group Questions to the former and the latter includes an author interview carried out by none other than Sara Paretsky. These two sort of mysteries are filled with bon mots, memorable characters, and the strangeness of the 1950s, 1970s, and 1980s. There is nothing as haunting as the last line of The Poison Oracle.

“Dickinson’s crime novels are simply like no other; sophisticated, erudite, unexpected, intricate, English and deeply, wonderfully peculiar.”
—Christopher Fowler, author of The Memory of Blood

Nook Daily Find

Mon 7 Oct 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , | Posted by: Gavin

Peter Dickinson’s Death of a Unicorn is the Nook Daily Find and is $2.99 today only at bn.com.

It has jumped up the charts throughout the day and now it is sitting pretty at #30 besides two of Nora Roberts’s books. Long may Lady MM rise!

ETA: #7!

It’s a Top Ten bestseller!

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Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 2.24.29 PM

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Death of a Unicorn ebook sale

Mon 23 Sep 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , | Posted by: Gavin

Death of a Unicorn cover - click to view full sizeTo celebrate the publication of our latest Peter Dickinson title (The Poison Oracle), we are putting the ebook of Death of a Unicorn on super sale this week: it’s 70% off, was $9.95, now only $2.99!

Get it here:

— Weightless
— Kobo
— Barnes & Noble

You can get it at all the usual places (we have sent the new price out to all the sites we can, some of them are slower to process the price change than others) and as always we recommend Weightless and your local bookshop (through Kobo) first.


The Poison Oracle: conversation online for publication day

Tue 10 Sep 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Posted by: Gavin

To celebrate the publication of our latest Peter Dickinson mystery reprint, The Poison Oracle, we worked with the fine folks at Crimespree Magazine to put the whole conversation between two absolute legends of the mystery field online: Sara Paretsky and Peter Dickinson.

Originally published in 1982, The Poison Oracle is a strange and haunting novel, somewhat of its time, yet still fascinating (and, yes, haunting), and we are very happy to be able to put it in front of new readers. It is the second adult mystery novel of Peter’s that we have published—look out for an upcoming ebook sale on the also-excellent-but-very-different-first title, Death of a Unicorn—and we are planning on at least one more. 

We were incredibly happy that the the fabulous Sara Paretsky agreed to chat to Peter about the book and that conversation is included in our new paperback and ebook editions.

Here’s the start of the conversation, or you can jump here and read the whole thing.

When Gavin Grant asked if I would do a conversation with Peter Dickinson for The Poison Oracle, I jumped at the chance. Dickinson is one of the premier writers of the Twentieth Century. His language is meticulous, his narratives carefully thought out, his characters vivid and credible. I should have looked before I leapt: it’s one thing to be an admiring reader, another to conduct a conversation. Besides, the act or art of writing feels like a delicate watch, something like the handmade one with all the little moving parts that tennis great Rafael Nadal wore and lost. If you start tinkering with the mechanism, you destroy the watch.

Sara Paretsky: I first read The Poison Oracle when it was published in 1982. The novel is so rich with themes and nuances—language, clashes of cultures, how do we communicate across cultures? across species? What makes a moral person, what goads a person who thinks himself a coward to act?—that I’ve always put it on my own private best-ten list.

Peter Dickinson: That’s nice, but actually I don’t often think about that sort of thing when I’m writing. My focus is mainly on stuff like getting a character from one room into another. In a sense the plot—the story— is there to allow the big questions to happen up without actual ratiocination. Once there they have to be accommodated. Otherwise you start thinking of yourself as a Great Writer, which is death.

SP: The Poison Oracle is a book about many things, but language and communication lie at its heart….

Read on

Coming next week

Thu 5 Sep 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Posted by: Gavin

To celebrate publication day of our latest Peter Dickinson reprint: next week Crimespree Magazine will publish a conversation about The Poison Oracle between two fabulous novelists: Sara Paretsky and Peter Dickinson.


Audio book news

Tue 23 Jul 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , , , | Posted by: Gavin

We sent out the following note this morning. More below:

EASTHAMPTON, MA, July 23, 2013 — Small Beer Press is delighted to announce that audio rights to seven new and forthcoming titles have been acquired by Audible.com.

The first release will be award winning North Carolina writer Nathan Ballingrud’s debut collection, North American Lake Monsters: Stories. Also forthcoming within the next year are:

Gavin J. Grant, Publisher of Small Beer Press stated, “We love the books we publish and getting audio editions out there is becoming more important day by day. We’ve worked with many of the best audio publishers and are happy to add Audible to the mix.”

Audible, Inc., is the leading provider of premium digital spoken audio information and entertainment on the Internet, offering customers a new way to enhance and enrich their lives every day. Audible is also the preeminent provider of spoken-word audio products for Apple’s iTunes® Store.

Small Beer Press is a Massachusetts based independent publisher headed by the husband and wife team of Gavin J. Grant and award winning author Kelly Link. Small Beer publishes a dozen or so select titles per year and also runs the DRM-free ebooksite, http://weightlessbooks.com. For more information, visit our website at https://www.smallbeerpress.com.


This should be good news for authors and audio fans everywhere. Previously we’ve worked with

And we were very happy when Brilliance did the audiobook of Steampunk! and Recorded Books did Kelly’s collection Pretty Monsters.

Audiobooks are a growing part of the book business and we want our books read—or listened to—so I expect we will be selling more titles to Audible in the future but we will also shop them around to make sure we do well by our authors and readers.

And if none of this is fast enough for you and you want to listen to a good story right now, then I recommend our podcast which you can listen to here or subscribe to using iTunes or the service of your choice:

 rss feed

Celebrating Death of a Unicorn

Wed 22 May 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , | Posted by: Gavin

As noted yesterday, this month published a new edition Peter Dickinson’s excellent sort-of-mystery Death of a Unicorn.

Death of a Unicorn is one of those English novels which at some point you realize is all about inheritance. Lady Margaret, who goes by Mabs, is older than her twin sister Penny by twenty minutes. Those twenty minutes mean that Mabs who will inherit their stately home, Cheadle, which as someone says, “Looks kind of like it was waiting to eat someone.” Cheadle looms in the background behind every family squabble and argument:

When Bartrand Millett built Cheadle in 1712 he effectively bankrupted all his heirs, in perpetuity. Looking through the account books I can see the same scrimping going on generation after generation. My mother and I are only the last two in a long line of cheeseparers. 

Death of a Unicorn starts off with Mabs bored at a party, “hiding from Mark Babington and trying to get squiffy.” She is surprised to received help from someone she does not know and that first meeting leads to all sorts of interesting complications between Mabs, her mother and her sister.

We’re following Death of a Unicorn with another Peter Dickinson mystery, The Poison Oracle, this summer. Book Groups take note: There’s a Reading Group Guide in Death of a Unicorn which we hope you will take advantage of and for The Poison Oracle we have an interview with Peter Dickinson carried out by none other than New York Times bestselling author of the V. I. Warshawski novels, Sara Paretsky!

Updates: Dickinson, Le Guin, Hand, more

Mon 17 Dec 2012 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , , , | Posted by: Gavin

This weekend the Wall Street Journal picked Peter Dickinson’s new collection of short stories, Earth and Air, as one of the 10 best books of fiction of 2012:

“Much modern fantasy draws upon myth and folklore, but not many authors can enter wholly into the surprising and novel logic of myth. In this brilliant collection of stories, Peter Dickinson recasts Beowulf and Orpheus, investigates tales of earth-spirits, explains the footwear of Mercury and accounts for the survival of Athena’s owls in Christian Byzantium. These beautiful stories, our reviewer believed, ‘deserve to become classics of the genre.'”

Look! Peter has a shiny new website with tons of extra stuff. (Including another new book!) There are gems everywhere, including this from the news section: “Most Tuesdays I bike up into the town to have tea with a 92-year-old friend.  Week before last we laughed ourselves into hiccups talking about funerals.  Did us both a power of good.” Ha!

You can listen to Ursula K. Le Guin on BBC’s The World. It’s all about language. I know you’ll love it.

Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe chat with Maureen F. McHugh about writing, games, online and TV things, writing for TV and other media, the Chinese economy, writing collaboratively, and more on the Coode Street Podcast.

Coming tomorrow, we have Julie Day’s final Small Beer podcast of 2012, an extra special edition featuring Lydia Millet reading the first chapter of The Shimmers in the Night.

Elizabeth Hand’s Errantry gets a lovely review in her sort-of-local paper, the Maine Sunday Telegram“No writer has cornered the market on darkly beautiful, unsettling stories. But it’s a niche that Elizabeth Hand inhabits with uncanny ease.”

I haven’t seen the new Hobbit movie but I loved these Tove Jansson illustrations for the Swedish edition that someone on Twitter (thank you, Tweetee!) posted.

Ellen Datlow has a Kickstarter! Also, Red Emma’s in Baltimore is moving. Check out that timeline and help out? Also, there’s an Indiegogo for a student film version of Kelly’s story “Survivor’s Ball.”

Short story lovers may have noticed that we are the sponsor of the current issue of One Story. We love One Story — and their new project, One Teen Story (which, you know, would make a great present for teens . . . !) — and for the last couple of years we have been very happy to be one of their sponsors. Here’s editor Hannah Tinti’s post about the story:

Issue #172: Goodbye, Bear

December 7th, 2012 3:44pm by Hannah Tinti

The first thing that drew me to E.B. Lyndon’s “Goodbye, Bear” was the voice.  It felt fresh and modern and full of energy, and I loved the wit, intelligence and humor, as well as the fast-paced dialogues that battered back and forth like a game of tennis on speed.

The Diary of a Young Monster Hunter

Thu 8 Nov 2012 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Posted by: Gavin

Cover Image: Emma Tupper's DiaryNext year we are reprinting Peter Dickinson’s novel Eva Tupper’s Diary. Guess who did the cover? Kathleen Jennings, yay! Publishing being what it is, we’re telling the sales reps about the book now so that they can take it to the booksellers and then when you wander into your local bookshop next May, boom! there it is. Emma arrives in Scotland to spend the summer with her cousins, the McAndrews. The McAndrews have the typical kid’s book family: a late mother, a distant father, and an assortment of cousins four years apart from 14 onup.

There’s also a mini-submarine and perhaps more. Here’s an excerpt from early on in the book:

“Creature?” said Emma. “Do you mean a monster?”

Andy laughed.

“Oh yes, we’ve got one of those,” he said. “It’s made of rafts of weed which get carried up from the bottom by gases from decaying stuff underneath them. They make black hummocks, quite long sometimes, so that you see several things in line that might be the humps of a sea-serpent, and then the gas gets out and they sink again. That’s what all the monsters really are—Loch Ness and Loch Morar as well as ours. How long since anybody saw its head, Mary? Mouth, eyes, teeth?”

“Och, you’ll not see them and live,” said Mary placidly. “But there was poachers came up from Glasgow when you were in your cradle, Master Andy—an ignorant class of men, as everybody knows there’s no fish worth poaching in our loch. But they brought two boats by night, and nets, and by morning both boats were overturned and three of the men vanished. Those were the last poachers I heard of coming this way.”

“And the first,” said Roddy, “if everyone knows there’s no fish worth poaching. Hey!”

Mary had walked round behind his chair while he was talking, and now biffed him hard on the ear with her open palm; then she nodded to Emma and walked out smiling. Roddy rubbed his ear and went on eating his toast.

“Even if there’s only a story about a monster. . .” said Emma. “I mean there’s only a story about Loch Ness.”

“That one’s had two hundred years to spread,” said Andy.

“But things happen so much faster now,” said Emma. “I mean if only you could get your story on television . . .”

“Cousin Emma,” said Andy, lordly and handsome, “you have only just reached civilisation after a formative childhood in the desert. Understandably you are besotted by the television set. But you will later learn that it cannot do everything—in particular it cannot make one stretch of water which might have a monster in it look more interesting than another stretch of water which might not.”

“He’s the expert,” said Roddy. “His girl’s in the Glasgow studios.”



Coming this week: book, podcast, freebies, &c

Mon 22 Oct 2012 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , , | Posted by: Gavin

Monday: Publication day for our latest Big Mouth House title: Peter Dickinson’s new collection, Earth and Air: Tales of Elemental Creatures. It’s now available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook editions. The first story “Troll Blood” is also available in F&SF’s September/October issue. Here’s a short interview on F&SF about the story.

There are two strong reviews (from Faren Miller and Rich Horton) in the latest issue of Locus and Tom Shippey gave it a marvelous review in the Wall Street Journal:

“Mining folklore for ideas is routine in modern fantasy, but not many can add the surprising twists and novel logic that Peter Dickinson does. These are beautiful stories, deft, satisfying, unexpected. They deserve to become classics of the genre.”


  1. A new podcast from a lovely triumverate, Julie Day, Michael J. DeLuca, and Benjamin Parzybok—which I am listening to right now, awesome! Michael reads Benjamin Parzybok’s story “The Coder” from Lady Churchhill’s Rosebud Wristlet No. 21. Come back tomorrow (or subscribe now) and you too can get your coding joy on, too.
  2. The Humble Bundle ends. 77,000 people have partaken of the first ebook Humble Bundle so far. I think it’s a pretty incredible thing: pay what you want for a baker’s dozen of DRM-free ebooks. It’s been hugely popular, especially internationally, and I can’t wait to see 1) how it ends and 2) what the next one will be!


  1. We send out 15 free copies of Elizabeth Hand’s Errantry to the Goodreads giveaway winners.
  2. Kij Johnson reads at 7 p.m. at the Big Tent at The Raven in Lawrence, Kansas.

Will there be more news and more goings on? Probably. Unless the debates fill us with such lethargy that we become slugs and end our days in a bowl of beer. Which, you know, is going to happen one way or the other.

In the mails recently

Tue 25 Sep 2012 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , , , , | Posted by: Gavin

Here are pics of a few things that have arrived at the office recently:

  1. Galleys of A Stranger in Olondria — booksellers, meet Sofia and get your copy at the Heartland Fall Forum.
  2. Daniel A. Rabuzzi’s The Indigo Pheasant (read his guest post here).
  3. J. Boyett’s novel Brothel, which arrived with a nice note.
  4. Bike cards from the fabulous artists at Cricket Press in Lexington, Kentucky
  5. Galleys of the two volume Selected Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin.
  6. The first issue of One Teen Story: “The Deadline” by Gayle Forman (subscribe!)
  7. A stack! Made up of . . .
    1. Donny Smith’s new translation of Wenceslao Maldonado’s If Cutting Off the Gorgon’s Head.
    2. A galley of the Subterranean Press edition of Kelly’s Stranger Things Happen with the lovely cover and interior illos by Kathleen Jennings.
    3. The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 23, edited by Stephen Jones, which includes Joan Aiken’s story “Hair”
    4. Fantasy & Science Fiction‘s September/October issue featuring Peter Dickinson’s “Troll Blood” as well as stories by Andy Duncan and Richard Butner.
    5. Finished and actual copies of Kij Johnson’s At the Mouth of the River of Bees.


Finished and actual copies of Lydia Millet’s new middle grade novel, The Shimmers in the Night, whose publication day is TODAY!

Peter Dickinson’s new book: Free!

Tue 18 Sep 2012 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Posted by: Gavin

Ch Ch Ch Check it out! 15 copies. Yes, it is US only for postage reasons, sorry. We will do a LibraryThing give away of ebooks which will be international. Good luck!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Earth and Air by Peter Dickinson

Earth and Air

by Peter Dickinson

Giveaway ends September 21, 2012.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win


Peter Dickinson in F&SF; Robert Reddick @ the library

Wed 12 Sep 2012 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Posted by: Gavin

How cool is this? Peter Dickinson’s story “Troll Blood” is the above the headline story in F&SF this month. As Gordon points out in the story intro, Peter was last in F&SF in 1955! “Troll Blood” is one of six stories in Peter’s new collection Earth and Air, forthcoming from Big Mouth House. It’s at the printer as I type so it won’t be too long until you can get your hands on it.

Next Saturday, Sept. 15, at 10:30 am one of our fave local authors Robert Redick (have you read The Red Wolf Conspiracy? It’s fab!) is doing a panel this weekend at the Florence library: Writing Fantasy: Reflections on Craft. More info on the Straw Dogs Writers Guild page.

Go read this interview with the one and only Kathleen Jennings by Rowena Cory Daniells. There’s also a giveaway you should enter: “A little ink drawing of a famous quote with a word replaced by “duck” (artist retains right of veto/negotiation on quote, because I don’t have time to draw 14 ducks again – you don’t realise how many ducks that is until you have to draw them, but it is a lot of ducks).”

Top Shelf Comix is having a huge sale.

And that’s it for the open tabs. Ok, there was this crazy NYT story (which I read because I was reading a follow-up story about a restaurant whose owner, Lucy, I worked with nearly 20 years ago(!) in a restaurant in California). The tech story is about a business owner whose CTO apparently tried to start a competing company while still working at the first place, then when he was fired, he tried to take down the company through all the software backdoors he’d built into the system, and when the police, etc., tried to track him down they found he was living off the grid: no taxes filed, no credit cards, etc. Wow.