Mid-2012 Round-up of New and Defunct Presses

Greetings, everyone. A couple housekeeping notes before I jump in… I’ve added a Twitter account for Twilight Ridge, which you can sign up for in the navigation panel on the right side of this page. I’ve also added a Links section to the right nav, with links to a few like-minded sites that I enjoy. OK, onward…

We’re past due for our quarterly update to the Active Publishers list — so much so that it’s turned into a bi-annual update. And the update isn’t even complete, as I have several more presses I need to investigate — but rather than hold up this update any further, I’m going to publish what I have and then start working on another update.

Since my last update, newly-launched or newly-discovered (by me) publishers have far outstripped the number of publishers who’ve give up the ghost and gone out of business. To quantify: I’ve added fifteen new publishers to the list, while removing only three. Brief descriptions follow…

New or Newly-Discovered Presses

  • Aeon Press Books – Irish publisher of horror, fantasy and SF titles, having recently expanded into book publishing after launching the genre magazine Albedo One in 1998 (with over 40 issues to date). Eight books have been published so far, with e-book versions recently added to the menu. Titles of note include the anthology Box of Delights and Paul Harland’s novel The Hand That Takes.
  • Alchemy Press – Previously and erroneously included on the Defunct Publishers list, Alchemy Press recently re-emerged from a long-dormant period with a signed, limited (to 250 copies) collection of Peter Atkins’ work, entitled Rumors of the Marvellous and co-published with Airgedlámh Productions. A couple of anthologies have also been announced, at least one of which — The Alchemy Press Book of Ancient Wonders — should be of interest to readers of this blog, and Alchemy is publishing ebooks as well as hard-copy titles.
  • Along About Midnight Press – Apparently specializing in producing free PDF versions of classic titles that are out of copyright, AAMP unfortunately has a decidedly half-assed website, with no statement of purpose, no indication of who’s behind the press, and no description of how they intend to make money (calling themselves a Press would indicate an intention to actually sell something…although making free versions of public-domain works available is admirable in its own way). Published authors to date include Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Hope Hodgson, Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, and Robert Louis Stevenson, with plans for more titles from some of the same authors, plus Charles Dickens and H.G. Wells.
  • Brimstone Press – Although I only recently discovered them, BP has actually been in existence as a magazine publisher since 2004 and a book publisher since 2008 (and now offering e-book versions as well), with seven published titles under their belt. Recent publications include the collection The Last Days of Kali Yuga, by Paul Haines, who has unfortunately since succumbed to cancer, and the charity anthology Rage Against the Night, all proceeds of which will go to aid Rocky Wood in his battle against motor neuron disease. The press recently relocated from Australia across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand, making them the only Kiwi publisher on our list.
  • Cycatrix Press – For starters, Cycatrix could use a website of its own, as it’s currently well hidden as part of the website for JaSunni Productions, a multimedia company run by the husband-and-wife team of Jason and Sunni Brock. The Press’ output to date has been focused short-run limited editions by on William F. Nolan and Jason Brock, with a poetry collection by Brock, a chapbook of miscellany by/about Nolan, and two hardcover anthologies edited by Brock and Nolan together. The more recent anthology, The Devil’s Coattails, features an all-star cast including Ramsey Campbell, Gary Braunbeck, John Shirley and many others. Another anthology, A Darker Phantastique, edited by Brock, has been announced.
  • Dark Hall Press – Launched on Halloween, 2011, DHP debuted with the novel Witch by Lorne Patterson, and has so far announced two more books, including a new Ty Schwamberger title. DHP publishes physical and e-book versions simultaneously. Their website indicates that they’re an imprint of New Street Communications LLC, an (otherwise) non-fiction publisher based in Rhode Island.
  • Dark Moon Books – Publishers of Dark Moon Digest magazine (7 issues to date) and Dark Eclipses monthly online magazine, Florida-based DMB has also published twelve trade paperback books to date, including an impressive variety of six anthologies, three collections, two novels, and a writers’ handbook. I have to confess that nearly all of the authors are unknown to me, with the two novels coming from the pens of Rob Mosca and Araminta Star Matthews.
  • Evil Jester Press – Saddled with a klunky and incomplete website featuring an ill-advised (although optional) Flash intro, New York-based EJP has published one book to date, the intriguingly-themed Help! Wanted: Tales of On-the-Job Terror. The antho, which is available in both print and e-book versions, has a nice blurb from Jonathan Maberry, but there is no indication anywhere of who the collected authors are. The press has also announced three forthcoming titles — another antho, a collection by Jeremy C. Shipp, and a novel by Gregory L. Norris — although none have publication dates attached yet.
  • Grindhouse Press – Following in the bizarro publishing footsteps of Eraserhead Press and LegumeMan Books, among others, GP features a catchy name, employs a simple WordPress-based website, and has published eleven titles so far (mostly novels, with a few collections) so far. They debuted in April 2010 and authors published include bizarro luminaries Anderson Prunty (four titles), Gina Ranalli, and Nathaniel Lambert. They recently expanded from publishing only trade paperbacks to encompass ebooks as well.
  • Haunted Computer Books – An e-book-only publishing venture run by noted author Scott Nicholson, the press’ online presence is unfortunately a bit of a mess. The blog-based website hauntedcomputerbooks.blogspot.com/ appears to be the primary site, with links to “get the books” from Nicholson’s author site hauntedcomputer.com, but the latter site appears to only have additional links to Amazon etc., not any means to purchase the books on the Haunted Computer site. In addition, HCB appears to be about as close as one can get to pure self-publishing, without quite qualifying, as nine of the eleven titles produced are by Nicholson — plus a tenth under the pseudonym L.C. Glazebrook, leaving only a solitary novel by John O’Dowd as the exception. Suffice to say that HCB’s spot on our list is tenuous.
  • JournalStone Publishing – Announced as a cross-genre publisher (horror, science fiction, and fantasy) for both the adult and young adult markets, JSP has so far published thirteen titles, with eight of those (all horror) aimed at the adult market. Authors include JG Faherty, Jeffery Wilson, and Brett J. Talley — whose novel That Which Should Not Be, has garnered some acclaim and should eventually get reviewed on this site — as well as a self-published novel from JSP publisher Christopher C. Payne. Several more books have been announced, including titles by Benjamin Kane Ethridge, Joseph Nassise, and a second novel by Talley, which has already received some very positive advance reviews. JSP’s site is cluttered and difficult to navigate, but it appears that all current titles are available in three states — hardcover, trade paperback, and e-book.
  • Redrumhorror (and Abattoir Press) – Self-described as a “new imprint with a passion for horror both old and new,” their published and announced author line-up bear witness to that approach, with long-time horror scribes such as Guy N. Smith, John Glasby, and Gary Brandner standing cheek-to-jowl with newer writers like Joe McKinney, Benjamin Kane Ethridge and Jeremy C. Shipp. Books produced so far include McKinney’s debut collection The Red Empire, Ethridge’s novel Bottled Abyss, and a new edition of Brandner’s Hellborn, which was originally published in 1981. All of Redrum’s covers are by artist Joshua Hansen, some of whose work is quite impressive, but not consistently so across all their books. Publishing in both trade paperback and e-book editions, Redrum is dedicated to its line of horror titles, whereas sub-imprint Abattoir Press is open to a wider array of work, including mystery, crime and science fiction as well as horror. A quiet horror novel by Ronald Malfi and two books by publisher Ed Kurtz have so far appeared from Abattoir.
  • Science Fiction Trails – Publishers of an annual science fiction magazine, with seven issues to date, SFT’s two books are, strangely enough, both western/horror anthologies (at least three issues of the magazine also feature western/horror style cover art, so…go figure). Low Noon features Don D’Ammassa, Joel Jenkins, and a host of others, while Six-Guns Straight From Hell gathers tales by Jenkins, John Howard, and a bunch of other writers that, to be frank, I’ve never heard of (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Employing a bare-bones website and no handy links that would allow one to, well, actually *buy* their publications, SFT appears to be a decidedly part-time endeavor.
  • Shadow Publishing – The brainchild of David Sutton, a longtime stalwart on the British horror scene, SP had sporadically published a handful of titles in the past (including a chapbook version of an article on British small-press horror that he originally wrote for my Scream Factory magazine) but has recently stepped up the pace, with two titles published in the last few months and several more announced for the future. Books published recently were a reprint of The Satyr’s Head anthology (edited by Sutton and originally published in 1975) and a complete collection of the late Richard Davis’ short fiction, The Female of the Species (which I’ll be reviewing soon here on the Ridge). Forthcoming titles include collections by James Wade and Eddy C. Bertin, two overlooked writers who produced some notable stories in the ‘60s and ‘70s (and beyond), and a collection by contemporary writer Johnny Mains.
  • Short, Scary Tales Publications – Like Shadow Publishing, SSTP is a UK-based publisher that sporadically published a few titles and whom I had (wrongly) considered defunct. Founded by Paul Fry, SSTP’s first book was the anthology Cold Storage, which appeared in 2000, and they later went on to publish five issues of the magazine Peep Show. Their last title, the anthology Cold Flesh had appeared in 2005 (co-published with Hellbound Books)… until recently, when SSTP emerged from cold storage with the announcement of the forthcoming novel Don’t Stand So Close by Eric Red, the screenwriter of The Hitcher and Near Dark. SSTP plans trade paperback and ebook versions of their titles, as well as the occasional hardcover.

Dead Presses

As mentioned above, there are only a few to report:

  • Generation Next – They stumbled right out of the gate, with a website that never completely got off the ground. Their lease on their domain has expired, and it’s now apparently owned by a site-squatter in Thailand.
  • Panic Press (and House of Horror Press) – Announced they were shutting down in August 2011, citing health issues and poor money management.
  • Sonar4 Publications – A publisher of several anthologies in the past, S4P announced they’ll be shutting down as of August 2012, citing personal reasons and the economy. Given that their anthology submission guidelines were some of the poorest-written I’ve ever seen, this one is probably no great loss.

Still To Be Investigated…

The following presses are candidates to be added to the list of active presses, pending investigation. Once I’ve had a chance to determine how viable they are and how relevant (to the horror genre) their output is, I’ll publish another update.

  • Alter Ego Books
  • Alter Press
  • Blacksails Press
  • Burial Day Books
  • Cruentus Libri Press
  • Egaeus Press
  • EvilEye Books
  • Genius Publishing
  • Graveside Books
  • Ravenous Shadows
  • Triskaideka Books
  • Twelfth Planet Press
  • War of the Words Press
  • Wild Wolf Publishing

Peter Bell’s Strange Epiphanies — A Serendipitous Discovery

From relatively modest beginnings in 2003, Brian Showers’  Swan River Press has gradually grown from small chapbooks to full-blown hardcover books. Recent titles of interest (most of which are sold out) include Rosalie Parker’s The Old Knowledge, Lucy Boston’s Curfew & Other Eerie Tales, R.B. Russell’s Ghosts, and the Peter Bell collection that we’ll be considering here in this post.

Like Swan River’s previous hardcovers, Strange Epiphanies is a beautifully-produced book, offered at a very reasonable price (€30.00 including shipping).

There are some consistent themes to be found across all seven stories (two of which are published here for the first time) included in this collection. For starters, virtually all of Bell’s protagonists are middle-aged, lonely (often widowed or otherwise left on their own) and melancholic — four of the stories feature solo female protagonists, and three utilize solo males. Furthermore, virtually all are on holidays or journeys — they are restless, wandering, and searching for something, usually something they’ve lost, whether they realize it or not. The sense of gloominess is impressively omnipresent, sometimes crossing over into dread in the stories’ darker moments.

Because it’s so apt, I feel compelled to quote a posting from a fellow member of the All Hallows mailing list, who said: “I might add that Bell is the absolute master of Weltschmerz…for depressive melancholics such as myself, this book is an extra special treat.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

As an example, the following passage perfectly captures the undercurrent of dark shadows and the general sense of melancholy that infuses virtually all of Bell’s tollings:

“The incident had enveloped him in a mist of grim foreboding; of precisely what, he could not put a name to, but it was no less menacing for being vague. One thing for sure, it had sabotaged any vestige of hope that this trip to the wild north country might resurrect him from the deep depression of the soul that had of late become his daily consort.”

And when Bell’s characters finally arrive at their destination, it should come as no surprise that it is neither peace nor fulfilment that greets them:

“She had felt uneasy ever since her arrival… the dwelling was unquiet, possessed… the things she had heard, sensed, imagined, glimpsed on the edge of sight… the feeling of being watched… the strange thoughts, the harrowing despair…”

Highlight stories include “An American Writer’s Cottage,” wherein the lone visitor to a remote Hebrides Island grows gradually more intrigued about the eponymous dwelling and the works of the writer who once resided there…but ultimately what she learns is nothing that she wants to know. The aptly-titled “Nostalgia, Death, and Melancholy” follows the footsteps of Sinclair, who has returned to a remote island he hasn’t visited since his youth, in order to attend his Aunt’s funeral and see to her estate. While going through her things, he finds an old, dimly-remembered photograph, which prompts him, in a fit of nostalgia, to visit a nearly-forgotten cove, where he discovers that even though it might be possible to go home again, sometimes you absolutely shouldn’t.

In “The Light of the World,” a forlorn widower, unable to move on from his wife’s death, visits a small village in the Cumberland mountains in search of some peace and quiet, but instead repeatedly encounters an unusual, unsettling older couple, whose appearance turns out to be the harbinger of an undesirable outcome. In “Inheritance,” Isobel’s visit to a friend in the German countryside prompts memories of her dead sister and a strange doll, and the tangled web that ensues is filled with both mystery and revelation.

Not every tale here is a resounding success — for example, “Resurrection,” cut from Wicker Man cloth, is a tad too predictable — but for the most part Bell delivers the goods on a highly consistent basis.

Strange Epiphanies is a truly dark and dreary collection, but I mean that in only the best way. For fans of quiet, subtly supernatural fiction, it doesn’t get much better than this. Although still in print as of this writing, Strange Epiphanies is limited to 350 copies and Swan River titles tend to sell out quickly, so if this collection is of interest — which it should be to the majority of readers of this blog — I’d suggest you move quickly to obtain a copy.

Aquatic Views — Alison Littlewood’s Eyes of Water

Spectral Press issues short-run chapbooks on a quarterly schedule, and their latest offering comes courtesy of Alison Littlewood, whose debut novel A Cold Season garnered quite a bit of attention when it appeared earlier this year. Her chapbook, entitled Eyes of Water, is likewise worthy of acclaim — but it’s already sold out from the publisher, so you’ll have to check with a specialty dealer or explore the secondary market if you hope to snag a copy.

Like Michael McBride’s creepy novella “Xibalba” from his collection Quiet, Keeps to Himself (reviewed here), Littlewood’s story is situated on the Yucatan peninsula and features cenotés — deep natural pits or sinkholes that expose the groundwater below — and vast underwater cave systems.

Protagonist Alex receives a tearful call from Kath, the sister of his friend Rick, a diver extraordinaire and general thrill-seeker who has apparently pushed his luck too far and is lying dead in a Mexican morgue. Alex arrives and finds Rick’s body impossibly to identify, due to extreme facial injuries, which the authorities say were caused by strong tides pulling him against the cave walls… but the rest of his body is strangely unblemished. When Alex thinks he sees Rick one night, just beyond the reaches of the campfire light, things start to get really interesting.

Alex is unable to resist the temptation to explore the caves where Rick died, although once he’s entered their depths, he has some second thoughts, to say the least, reflecting on the many people who died there in order to fulfill Mayan superstitions:

“For a moment I thought of sacrifices thrown into the cave, the way they must have watched that same circle of light until they could no longer tread water and sank into the dark. This time, when I caught my breath, it came with a gasp. No. Soon I could swim back to the chair and they would lift me out. I would feel the sun on my face.”

As with McBride’s story, the caves prove to be a suitably creepy setting, especially when Alex re-enters the caves on his own and goes far deeper into the system, leading to an unexpected confrontation and to more thoughts about sacrifices:

“I thought about how we offered ourselves, wondered if, after all, it was some need we had, to throw ourselves before some idea or thing. Maybe, sooner or later, all of us had something or someone waiting to collect. If so, maybe it wasn’t so bad; better than being trapped in the endless dark, unable to go forward, unable to go back.”

Through it all, Littlewood does an excellent job of developing both atmosphere and characters, making Eyes of Water a fast and highly-engaging read. Track down a copy if you can.