New Press Roundup for Q4 2012

It’s been almost four months since our last round-up of new publishers, so it’s time for another status check on what’s new in the horror small press. Here are 14 new (or newly discovered by me) publishers that I’ve added to the list:

Burial Day Books — Run by the apparent husband-and-wife team of Gerardo and Cina Pelayo, BDB publishes in both trade paperback and e-book editions. They have two titles to their credit so far: the anthology Gothic Blue Book, which is a collection of short stories and poems that “resurrect the spirit of … Gothic Blue Books, [which] were short fictions popular in the 18th and 19th century”; and the anthology Loteria, a collection of 54 “macabre Latin fairy tales,” one for each of the cards in the Mexican board game of the same name.

Cold Fusion Media — Started out by publishing five issues of the (now defunct) PDF-only magazine Arkham Tales, and has since moved into book publishing (both trade paperbacks and e-books). CFM has so far only published titles written or edited by publisher Nathan Shumate, making their place on this list precarious.  The anthology Arcane, which includes stories by Gemma Files and… a whole bunch of other folks, is sufficient to get the press included, at least for now.  Their other two titles are a novella and non-fiction book, both by Shumate.

Crowded Quarantine Publications — A UK-based publisher with an annoying, badly-designed and nearly content-free website, CQP is another press that is far too focused on books written or edited by the publisher — Adam Millard, in this case.  Despite an earlier announcement that CQP is “currently seeking 8 full-length novels for publication in 2012,” it appears that all seven of their titles are either authored or edited by Millard.  Publishing in both trade paperback and e-book formats, their most recent title is the anthology Grindhouse, featuring stories by Wayne Rogers and 17 others.

Cruentus Libri Press — Another UK publisher, this one with a bare-bones WordPress-based website, CLP bill themselves as “purveyors of unspeakable horror.”  Three anthologies have been released so far, all edited by Kevin Bufton: 100 Horrors, gathering 100 flash-fiction stories of 100 words each; A Fistful of Horrors, a collection of western/horror hybrid stories (interesting choice for a non-US publisher); and Lucha Gore, which focuses on tales with a wrestling theme.

Crystal Lake Publishing — The first South African publisher on our list, CLP specializes in anthologies and single-author collections, and considers itself primarily an e-book publisher, although it offers trade paperback editions as well.   A collection by Joe Mynhardt has been released, and For the Night is Dark, an anthology featuring Gary McMahon, Stephen Bacon, and Scott Nicholson, among others has been announced for 2013 publication.

Dancing Tuatara Press — An imprint of Ramble House Press, DTP titles are selected by John Pelan, who has focused his editorial efforts here since his Midnight House press folded.  The focus is on resurrecting forgotten and overlooked tales from the horror and weird menace pulps.  Available in both trade pb and hardcover editions, 37 titles have been published to date (with 10 of those categorized as detective, SF, or fantasy titles).  Hugh Cave’s House of the Restless Dead is a recent title of interest, and Mark Hansom is a house favorite, with five titles published.  Look for a review of H.B. Gregory’s Dark Sanctuary upcoming here on Twilight Ridge.

Egaeus Press — Unlike many publishers I cover, UK-based Egaeus has a clear statement of purpose: “It is our intention to publish morbid, decadent and baroque fiction in limited edition hardcover volumes of a quality of ornateness rarely seen in modern books.”  Based on what I can discern from photos and specifications, their first two titles certainly live up to those goals.  Reggie Oliver’s 250-copy collection, Shadow Plays, is already out of print while Stephen J. Clark’s intriguing-sounding novel In Delirium’s Circle was published in an 300-copy edition and is still available.

EvilEye Books — Features an interesting website design with different format options for viewing, but in a rather ridiculous turn, the most important page on the site — “Our Books” — is empty save for a “Coming Shortly…” message.  Forced to go investigating through their blog posts and their Amazon listings, I found approximately six titles, some available only as e-books but a couple also in print editions.  Notable titles include John Urbancik’s DarkWalker, the first volume in an ongoing supernatural noir series, and the anthology The Burning Maiden, which features Sarah Langan, Joe Lansdale, and Tim Lebbon, among others.

Gallows Press — Another trade paperback and e-book publisher, Gallows Press features a few current or former Delirium Book authors among their ten-book line-up, including Brian Knight, Kurt Newton, and Jeff Strand.  Mark Allen Gunnell’s novel Sequel appears to be the most recent title. It’s unclear what Gallows’ relationship with Sideshow Press is, but they list one of Sideshow’s titles among their own catalog of titles.

Genius Book Publishing — A cross-genre (horror, crime, SF, thrillers) with five horror titles among the seven titles they’ve published to date.  Notable titles include Gene O’Neill’s collection In Dark Corners, and two zombie novels in The Hungry series, co-written by Harry Shannon and GBP owner Steven W. Booth.  Titles are available in both trade pb and e-book editions.

Hieroglyphic Press — Seemingly somewhat inspired by Romanian publisher Ex Occidente Press, HP’s focus is defined thusly: “We are a small imprint primarily dedicated to publishing works of an eclectic and rarefied nature: to use a quote from elsewhere we wish for spiritual art – Decadence, Esoterica and Symbolism.”  The four short-run hardcovers published to date feature a decidedly European slant, including: a translation of Polish master of the macabre Stefan Grabinski’s 1919 collection, On the Hill of Roses; and Requiems & Nightmares, the first collection of short fiction by Italian Guido Gozzano, another early 20th-century writer.

Ravenous Shadows — An imprint of Ravenous Romance, edited by horror luminary John Skipp, specializing in novellas and short novels.  RS seems to be approaching things somewhat backwards — as far as I can tell, they don’t have a dedicated website yet, or even any mention on the parent Ravenous Romance site, but they have a Facebook page and a Twitter account.  Ravenous Romance bills itself as a an ebook-only publisher, but there are paperback editions of the RS titles available through Amazon’s print on demand program.  The press debuted with a quartet of titles early in 2012, highlighted by Eric Shapiro’s The Devoted and Adam Cesare’s Tribesmen.  With a stated goal to publish 30-40 titles a year, they’ll seemingly be prolific.  An announced title of note is Unwanted, by Creeping Hemlock publisher RJ Sevin.

This Is Horror — A new venture from a UK-based horror website (of the same name — www.thisishorror.co.uk), which features columns, reviews, fiction, and more.  TIH’s publishing arm is exclusively focused on chapbooks, in a similar vein to Nightjar Press and Spectral Press (although the latter has now branched out beyond chapbooks).  The first round of This Is Horror titles includes some impressive names: Simon Bestwick & Gary McMahon; David Moody; Conrad Williams; and Joseph D’Lacey.

Triskaideka Books — Truly international in flavor, having launched in 2011 in New Zealand and now located in Japan, Triskaideka (which translates to the number 13) started out publishing in book trade pb and e-book editions, but has now switched to digital only.  Their website is disconcertingly out of date and features several broken links but it appears that they have published eight titles so far, with highlights being David Mathew’s  O My Days and Carson Buckingham’s Home.

In the “borderline” category, Eraserhead Press added another bizarro imprint, Lazy Fascist.  Some of their titles may be of interest to readers of this blog.

As for removing publishers from the list…Cargo Cult Press and Dark Silo Press are the only publishers I’m aware of that seem to have definitively shut down recently (their website domains having expired).  There are several others, however, who have been quiet for so long that they appear to be moribund.  For example, Darkhouse Publishing, Golden Gryphon, and Midnight Library all appear to have turned out the lights, at least for now.

Thelma and Louise are Hot, Sexy and Dead in Glen Hirshberg’s Motherless Child

Does the world really need another vampire novel?  Or, to quote the cover copy from Glen Hirshberg‘s new novel, Motherless Child, “”Another vampire novel? Really?”  Well, my initial thought was, “no, probably not.” But if there were any authors out there who  could change my mind, it’s likely that Hirshberg — frequent occupant of Year’s Best compilations and a long-time favorite of mine — would be near the top of the list.

Motherless Child, Earthling Publications’ Halloween title for 2012, is indeed a fresh take, mixing road novel with buddy story (and female buddies, at that) and adding a healthy dollop of good old-fashioned horror.

Natalie and Sophie are small-town, low-income, twenty-something single moms who mostly manage to maintain smiles as they roll with the punches.  One night at a club, they encounter the Whistler, whose much-rumored underground performances had previously seemed purely mythical. Once the Whistler has the club’s patrons under his sway, his true vampiric nature comes out to play.  And even hough he has been trolling humans for a very long time, the Whistler falls for Natalie like a starstruck teenager, quickly becoming intent on making her his personal possession.

“God, but he loved her already.  Would show her the wonders of the nightworld as they fled forever down its face, leaving their ghostprints for the water of the world to swallow. Leaving no trace but melody.”

After the Whistler has started the gradual process of converting Natalie and Sophie to the vampire life, Natalie realizes that the hunger pangs they’re feeling, and the dark nature of what they’re becoming, will force them to leave their babies behind for good, for the children’s own safety.  It’s an awareness  that brings with it infinite sadness, as expressed in one of the novel’s many well-crafted passages:

What was she crying about? So many things: the trailer; her son’s bassinet wedged between the fold-down table and the sink; her mother the lawn gnome; these people moored in this nowhere place on the outskirts of this 200-year-old void of a city like lost boats at a buoy in the middle of the ocean; that sawing in her ears; her best and oldest friend’s face, so bright, so familiar, hovering over her son, smiling and aggravating and beautiful as ever. She let the tears come, put a hand to her heart.”

When Sophie and Natalie hit the road, it’s hard not to think of Thelma and Louise — but it’s to the author’s credit that no sooner did I draw the parallel in my head than he pointed out and made light of the similarities himself.

The Whistler’s plan to make Natalie his undead mate (or, as he calls her, “his Destiny”) necessitates driving a wedge between her and Sophie, a manipulation that he expects will bring him satisfaction, but ultimately disappoints, as related in the following, another of Hirshberg’s finer exercises in phrasing:

“What stunned him most of all…was the lack of pleasure he felt, as his Destiny twitched on her feet and her mouth opened and real loneliness, the kind people dread and dream of all their sorry, scrabbling lives, rushed into her for the first time.”

The two friends’ attempts to leave their old life, and the Whistler, behind are foiled when their children are threatened, pulling them back into conflict with the Whistler, as well as  a former cohort of his.  The resulting finale is carefully-orchestrated yet unquestionably moving.  This is largely a story about a mother’s love — but quite likely not the particular mother that you were expecting.

For the most part, Hirshberg hews to traditional vampire mythology, although there are a few exceptions, most notably a scene of Sophie serenely skinnydipping with obsequious alligators that is both unique and creepy.  Minor quibbles?  Only a couple. The Whistler’s obsession with Sophie is never really explained in any satisfactory way.  And the book almost feels too brief, wrapping up too quickly, a rare complaint in these days of doorstop-sized treekillers, but a feeling that’s nonetheless hard to shake.

As implied, Motherless Child is a brisk novel, clocking in at just 236 pages, and moving at a crackling pace.  From its striking cover art to its somber last page, it’s a vampire novel that deserves your attention.  Really.