First off, apologies for the lack of any new reviews from me lately. I started a new job in late March and have been busy drinking from the proverbial firehose. As fate would have it, the period leading up to mid-June is the busiest time of the year for the group I work in, so I’ll continue in slightly-overwhelmed mode for a couple more weeks, but have a ton of stuff queued up for review and will start catching up asap, starting with a two-fer review of a pair of titles by Ian Rogers.
In the meantime… it’s been more than six months since our last roundup of new publishers, so let’s take stock of who’s newly entered the fray (or recently been discovered):
Biting Dog Publications – A past publisher of titles by Nancy Collins, Neil Gaiman, and Jack Ketchum, Biting Dog had been moved from the Active Publisher list to the dormant and defunct section, but recently re-emerged with more than 30 ebooks. Authors include Collins (eight titles), Neal Barrett, Jr. (seven titles), Sara Brooke (four titles), and John Paul Allen (three titles). Several of their “titles” are just short stories, but they also have some book-length works as well. There’s no editorial presence whatsoever on the website — no indication of why BDP went dormant for quite a while, why they’re suddenly back, or whether they intend to publish any more print books.
Dybbuk Press – Another press that is getting promoted, at least temporarily, from the dormant section back to the Active Publisher list, although it’s not clear whether Dybbuk is really back to stay. The last post on their website, from August 2012, indicates that they’re almost done reading for an anthology entitled King David and the Spider From Mars. The lack of any further updates in nine months doesn’t seem promising. To date, Dybbuk has published eight titles, in both trade paperback and ebook format, in their nine-year history, with the most recent titles being an anthology and a collection by Michael Hemmingson. I’ll give Dybbuk the benefit of the doubt for the moment, but their stay on the Active Publisher list may be very short-lived.
Horrific Tales Publishing – A UK-based publisher that has released two books to date, the werewolf novels High Moor and High Moor 2 by Graeme Reynolds, with each available in trade paperback and ebook format. As far as I can so far tell, HTP is not a self-publishing enterprise, but if I do find that to be the case, then I’ll remove them from the list. Edit: in late-breaking news, I just confirmed that HTP is, in fact, Reynolds’ own site, so I won’t be adding the press to the list of legitimate publishers (unless/until they publish work by other authors). I will, however, go ahead and leave in this description so that it’s apparent why they’ve been excluded.
Horror Zine Books – This press is an offshoot of horror website thehorrorzine.com (which has been around since 2009, but unfortunately looks like a GeoCities site circa 1996), and the brainchild of author/editor Jeanni Rector. HZB has produced A Feast of Frights, an anthology edited by Rector, as well as her novel Accused, a predisposition towards the publisher’s own work that is often not a good sign (at least not if you’re seeking, like me, to track true independent publishers, and not self-publishing enterprises). However, Rector’s website and anthology efforts have garnered praise, and contributions, from some fairly big names in the genre, including Ramsey Campbell, Simon Clark, Joe Lansdale, and Tom Piccirilli. I think the two titles mentioned above are the only ones HZB has published, but I’ll be damned if I can tell for sure: the website’s organization is an abomination; for example, clicking on the Books link in the navigation bar leads not to a page on the books HZB has published, as one might expect, but rather to a page of book reviews. Two earlier Rector-edited anthologies promoted on the site, What Fears Become and Shadow Masters, were produced by a different publisher (Imajin Books).
Mezzotints – An Italian publisher that primarily produces genre work in the Italian language (with roughly 8 titles to date), they recently published an English-language-version ebook of Samuel Marolla’s Black Tea and Other Tales. The thin collection gathers three previously published (in Italian) tales and is edited Benjamin Kane Ethridge, with an introduction by Gene O’Neill. It remains to be seen whether Mezzotints will produce further English works or if this was a one-off curiosity.
Omnium Gatherum and Odium Media – Omnium, Odium… oh my! OK, where was I? Omnium Gatherum has actually been around since 2011 and is focused on, in the publisher’s own words, “providing unique dark fantasy fiction in print, ebook and audio formats. Dark fantasy fiction, as we define it, combines the best of fantasy and horror to comment on history, science, society or the human condition.” Of their 18 titles, the most notable are probably two titles, Knock Knock and Delphine Dodd, by the highly regarded S.P. Miskowski. Odium Medium, meanwhile, is the publisher’s horror imprint. They state that the imprint publishes “horror fiction with young adult protagonists and bring(s) classic horror tales back into print.” The YA focus of their original titles is interesting, if seemingly a bit inconsistent with their reprint philosophy. Titles to date include reprints of Michael Laimo’s Dead Souls and Rick Hautala’s The Wildman, as well as an original novel by Dean Harrison. Strangely, there seems to be no links from the Omnium Gatherum site to the Odium Media site. Equally strangely, the idea of actually selling books seems somewhat foreign to the Omnium site — there is no e-commerce aspect to the site, and links to Amazon are somewhat hidden (only available by clicking on book covers). It’s worth noting that the two website have some some intro graphics that are cool if you’re working with plenty of bandwidth, but annoying if you’re not. Finally, The founder of the twin imprints, Kate Jonez, is also a writer, with a debut novel due this summer from Evil Jester Press.
Postscripts to Darkness – I’m going to with this as the name of this publisher, even though the actual publisher listed on their titles is “Ex Hubris Imprints.” But the latter doesn’t have a website (or any web presence) while the former does have a site… and as far as I can tell, the two are one and the same. Regardless, PSTD (their website tagline rather cutely says “Pssst…Dear Darkness…Are you there?”) is a Canadian publisher of three anthologies, entitled Postscripts to Darkness volumes 1, 2, and 3. Publisher Sean Moreland was apparently inspired by a locally-funded visit to Canada by Glen Hirshberg and Peter Atkins’ long-running annual Rolling Darkness Revue, and he formed PSTD as a result. Their volumes are short (at least one running less than 100 pages), composed of short-short stories and some non-fiction, available in hard-copy format (either trade paperback or chapbook — I’m not sure of the binding) and are planned to appear twice yearly. There’s no indication that they’re looking to publish anything beyond this anthology series.
Shock Totem Publications – Many publishers in the horror genre first get their feet wet printing a magazine before graduating to books, and Shock Totem Publications is a perfect example of this. Shock Totem magazine debuted in 2009, with six issues having appeared so far, and fiction by the likes of Cate Gardner, Jack Ketchum, and John Skipp. The move to books came in 2012 with a limited-edition reprint of James Newman’s novel, The Wicked, which featured a nicely done, retro-style cover with faux creases and bumps. A collection by Mercedes M. Yardley has followed, with the limited edition including a separate chapbook. Shock Totem’s regular editions are available in both trade paperback and ebook formats.
Something Wicked Books – Similar to Shock Totem above, Something Wicked began its life as a print magazine in 2006, publishing both horror and science fiction, before converting to an online magazine in 2011, with 19 total issues published to date. SWB is unique on our list, being the only South African publisher, meaning that many of the authors they’ve published in the magazine and in their two, annual, trade-paperback Something Wicked anthologies are unfamiliar names to U.S. readers (even though SWB points out that they buy from authors all over the globe). A few of the bigger names include Abigail Godsell, Nick Wood, Lauren Beukes, and Cate Gardner (mentioned above as a Shock Totem author as well). As with Postscripts to Darkness, the actual publisher listed sports a different name but doesn’t really represent the publications in question (Something Wicked’s publisher, Inkless Media, does have a website, but it contains no direct information on the books published), and so the Something Wicked magazine site is what I’ve linked here.
Valancourt Books – This is a truly borderline inclusion, as I’ve excluded many publishers from the list for the reason that the majority of their titles are non-horror, and Valancourt Books certainly meets that description. I can’t bring myself to exclude them, however, given the roster of horror names that they do publish: John Blackburn, Basil Copper, Gerald Kersh, and Michael McDowell, to name a few. Valancourt has been around since 2005, when they were formed with the idea of using “modern technology to restore widespread access to rare, neglected, and out-of-print literature.” Their titles are published in trade paperback form, and they have several book lines, with the most notable being 20th Century Classics, Gothic Classics, and “Valancourt Classics.”
As may be apparent from the descriptions above, it’s starting to feel like we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to finding new publishers. Not surprising (nor necessarily a bad thing), given that there’s the rather astounding total of 185 publishers on the active horror publisher list. When I started compiling this list a few years ago, even though I considered myself something of an authority on the small press at the time, I had no inkling the list would grow to include so many publishers.
Is the large number of publishers a sign that the economy is better than believed, at least when it comes to genre book buyers and b00k collectors? Or is it a case of too many people who don’t know what they’re doing throwing their hat in the publishing ring and producing works that perhaps shouldn’t see the light of day?