Celebrating Small Presses – #SmallPressBigStories
Celebrating Small Presses
This month, following Runalong Womble of Read Along The Shelves’ lead, we at the Fantasy Hive are celebrating small presses. Small Presses are basically anything outside the Big Five – Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Hachette and HarperCollins – and their various imprints.
So what’s so special about small presses? It might help to think of them like the indie record labels, Flying Nun, Postcard, Factory, Rough Trade and so on, who went up against the big major labels during the 70s and 80s. The small presses take the risks that the Big Five don’t. They put out the more diverse, more experimental, more weird stuff that helps literature progress forward even if it doesn’t sell as well as the big names. And like the indie labels, there is a strong DIY ethic – most of the small presses are a handful of passionate individuals putting these books out there because they love them, often seeing little to no financial reward for the incredible work they do. Small presses are frequently at the vanguard of changes in the publishing industry. They have very much taken the lead in releasing books from authors of more diverse backgrounds, whether its queer authors, authors of colour, or authors in other languages being translated into English for the first time. Many of the small presses have a very strong aesthetic, publishing books with a particular feel to them and providing them with striking cover art. Because the small presses are doing it for the love of it, there’s much more of a sense of them as curators, picking up writers and books because they appeal to them, rather than because they think they’ll sell well. So for instance if you like one Unsung Stories book, drawn in by the attractive cover art and the stylish packaging and staying for the incredible writing at the boundaries of genre fiction, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy their other books. And likewise for Galley Beggars Press books, or Small Beer Press, and so on.
Any sense that small presses are somehow niche or obscurantist is being well and truly swept away. The authors that do well on the small presses are frequently the authors who, in a couple of years time, will be making a splash with their Big Five debut. And if you need any further proof of the incredible quality of the work these presses are doing, just look at their award records – books published by small presses are being nominated for highly prestigious awards, from the Arthur C. Clarke Award to the Otherwise Award to the Booker Prize itself. With the Big Five becoming increasingly risk-averse in these economically uncertain times and the midlist shrinking, it frequently falls to small presses to keep talented writers in print, as well as to act as archivists bringing lost classics back into print. Small presses are where it’s happening – the exciting, innovative new work that will change the face of genre fiction in the future. So here is an alphabetical list of some of the incredible small presses who are doing such wonderful and vital work. I’ve tried to name the individuals involved where possible, to highlight the hard and frequently thankless work they do. Because this is a genre fiction site, and I love genre fiction, there’s a bias towards small presses that specialise in genre fiction. But I have tried where possible to highlight many of the incredible small presses who don’t specifically work in the genre fiction world but have nevertheless released some really interesting genre or genre-adjacent books. I’ve tried to be as comprehensive as I can, with my own personal knowledge, but do please give a shout out to anyone I’ve missed in the comments.
AK Press are an anarchist collective worker-run press based in California and founded by Ramsey Kanaan. They publish a wide range of politically engaged writing on feminism, black history and LGBTQ+. Of particular interest to genre readers are their Black Dawn series, inspired by the great Octavia E. Butler to imagine non-capitalist futures, and including writers like Margaret Killjoy and adrienne maree brown.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: A Country of Ghosts by Margaret Killjoy
Stefan Tobler’s Sheffield-based And Other Stories is a not-for-profit publisher who specialise in inventive contemporary fiction in English and in translation. Although they are not specifically a genre fiction publisher, their penchant for the experimental and the weird has seen them pick up many titles that will be of interest to the adventurous genre reader, from Ann Quin’s surreal experimental novels that push at the boundaries of reality to Rita Indiana’s brilliantly bizarre post-apocalyptic weirdness Tentacle.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Berg by Ann Quin
The brainchild of Jason Sizemore, Apex Publications is the book publishing arm of the Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest, one of the leading speculative fiction publications of the past 15 years. They have put out early work by many of the key modern writers of genre fiction, from Lavie Tidhar to Ren Warrom to Tade Thompson, whose Clarke Award-winning masterpiece Rosewater was published by Apex years before its prestigious release with Orbit. Apex have a love of science fiction and fantasy both at its most pulpy and its most experimental, and their Apex Book of World SF series, edited by Tidhar, has been hugely important in bringing the voices of writers from around the world to the attention of UK and US readers.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Hebrewpunk by Lavie Tidhar
Seattle-based Aqueduct Press were founded by L. Timmel Duchamp and specialise in challenging feminist science fiction. Since their 2004 formation they have put out an impressive range of feminist SF that pushes at the boundaries of what the genre can do, putting out new work by crucial writers such as Eleanor Arnasson, Tanith Lee and Gwyneth Jones, as well as debut works by innovators like Jennifer Marie Brissett and short story collections by Nisi Shawl and Vandana Singh.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett
Black Shuck Books was launched by Steve J Shaw in Kent, and specialises in modern weird fiction. They tend to specialise in anthologies, novellas and collections, highlighting the cutting edge of the form. They have published collections by Dan Coxon, Tracey Fahey and Penny Jones, and novellas by Kit Power, Simon Bestwick and Tim Major. Their Shadows series has included writers such as Aliya Whiteley and Alison Littlewood.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Black Shuck Shadows 22: Fearsome Creatures by Aliya Whiteley
Calque Press was set up by Marian and Jack Womack, and specialises in work about nature and in translation. Their anthology An Invite To Eternity – Tales of Nature Disrupted, co-edited by Marian Womack and Gary Budden, is an ambitious and ground-breaking project that brings together works that use the weird and the fantastic to explore climate change, featuring authors across a range of genres writing both in English and in translation, from Naomi Booth and Malcolm Devlin to Sofía Rhei and Vida Cruz. They have also put out poetry in translation, and though their output is small, it is always intriguing.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: An Invite To Eternity, edited by Marian Womack and Gary Budden
Massachusetts-based Candlemark & Gleam were formed by Kate Sullivan but are now led by Athena Andreadis, and specialise in lyrical and mythical speculative fiction, often with beautiful covers. They have published work by Melissa Scott, A. M. Tuomala and Jo Graham, as well as a number of inventive anthologies.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Finders by Melissa Scott
Chicago Review Press have been putting out interesting stuff since 1973, and have grown into a midsize publisher with multiple imprints, many of which specialise in a wide range of non-fiction and fiction, covering Black experiences and voices, LGBTQ+ voices and women’s fiction. Much of this is outside the realm of the speculative, but they have recently been republishing excellent new translations of the work of Russian science fiction authors Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, bringing these key works of speculative fiction back into print and in superior translations for a new generation of readers.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Hard To Be A God by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
Cipher Press are an independent publisher of queer fiction in the UK, founded by Jenn Thompson and Ellis. They publish a fascinating range of queer voices across a variety of genres, and recently published Alison Rumfitt’s vital trans haunted house novel Tell Me I’m Worthless, which is both a superlative work of horror fiction and a searing indictment of fascism and transphobia in the UK.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Tell Me I’m Worthless by Alison Rumfitt
Manchester-based Comma Press were founded by Ra Page and are a not-for-profit publisher specialising in short fiction. They have published across a variety of genres, including science fiction and horror. They recently published M. John Harrison’s new short story collection You Should Come With Me Now, as well as the career-long retrospective Settling The World, both of which are essential for fans of New Wave SF. Earlier this year they republished Nigel Kneale’s Tomato Cain, bringing a key work of British weird fiction back into print for the first time in decades. They publish a range of anthologies, highlighting talent from different locales. They also run a range of courses for aspiring writers across all genres, playing a key role in nurturing and encouraging new talent.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Settling The World by M. John Harrison
Led by Nathan Connolly, Liverpool’s Dead Ink Books have gone from strength to strength since their 2015 launch as a physical press. Specialising in intelligent literary fiction, Dead Ink have published an incredible array of genre-defying books, from the literary folk horror of Lucie McKnight Hardy’s Water Will Refuse Them to Naomi Booth’s apocalyptic climate change and pregnancy novella Sealed to Missouri Williams’ unclassifiable and mind-bending The Doloriad. Their striking covers grab attention from any bookshelf, and they recently opened their own physical bookshop on Liverpool’s Smithdown Road. The Dead Ink logo on the side of a book has quickly become a mark of quality and experimental literature at its finest.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Sealed by Naomi Booth
Erewhon Books are a New York-based publisher who specialise in high quality novels of science fiction and fantasy. Led by Sarah Guan and Cassandra Farrin, they have only been going since 2020 but have amassed an exciting and diverse roster of some of the most exciting up-and-coming names in the genre. They published highly-praised short story writer Cassandra Khaw’s debut novel The All-Consuming World, and in November will be publishing Kay Chronister’s debut novel Desert Creatures. 2023 sees them scheduled to expand their already impressive list with exciting authors such as Tlotlo Tsamasse.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: The All-Consuming World by Cassandra Khaw
London-based Fitzcarraldo Editions was founded by Jacques Testard and specialises in literary fiction and long-form essays. They have published Camilla Grudova’s horror and fantasy inflected short story collection The Doll’s Alphabet, which should appeal to fans of Angela Carter, and in 2023 will be publishing Dorothy Tse’s twisted fairy tale Owlish.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: The Doll’s Alphabet by Camilla Grudova
Norwich-based Galley Beggar Press specialise in innovative fiction and narrative non-fiction, and have won prestigious literary prizes. They have published Alex Pheby’s Mordew and its sequel Malarkoi, which to my mind are the most inventive and gloriously written fantasy books of recent years, channelling both Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast and M. John Harrison’s Viriconium but with its own distinctive flavour.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Mordew by Alex Pheby
Handheld Press is the brainchild of literary historian Kate Macdonald, who started in 2017. Over a short period of time they have established a name for themselves as a consistently exciting publisher across a range of genres, publishing everything from biographies to new fiction. The Handheld Classics series is an absolutely crucial archival service, bringing back into print lost classics like Rose Macauley’s dystopian What Not and Sylvia Townsend Warner’s superlative Kingdoms of Elfin, and its innovative anthology series Women’s Weird, edited by Melissa Edmundson, has brought to light the incredible contributions that women have made to weird fiction throughout its history, serving to redress the historical imbalance in favour of the same handful of male authors. On top of that, their Handheld Modern line published Nicola Griffith’s So Lucky, a pioneering work of queer disability fiction. Handheld Press’s books are always meticulously notated, feature informative introductions rich in historical context, and feature striking and beautiful cover art.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Women’s Weird volume 1, edited by Melissa Edmundson
Honford Star is a Stockport-based publisher specialising in East Asian literature. They have brought a number of exciting and vital East Asian works of speculative fiction and horror into print in English for the first time, from Bae Myung-hoon’s satirical dystopian Tower to Bora Chung’s grisly and unsettling short story collection Cursed Bunny, which in a wonderful surprise was shortlisted for the International Booker Prize. Honford Star’s books are also absolutely beautiful, with Jisu Choi’s gorgeous cover for Tower being a particular favourite of mine.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung
Influx Press was founded in London by Gary Budden and Kit Caless in 2012, and since then they have become a key part of the UK’s indie publishing scene, putting out a range of daringly experimental fiction. They have put out Gareth E. Rees’s bizarre psychogeography works like The Stone Tide and Rob True’s psychedelic noir crime masterpiece In The Shadow Of The Phosphorous Dawn. They have also reissued Joel Lane’s novels and short story collections, bringing one of the key voices in weird fiction back into print for a new generation of readers.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: From Blue To Black by Joel Lane
Jacaranda Books are an award-winning small press founded in 2011 by Valerie Brandes, who specifically set out to tackle the lack of diversity in British publishing. As such they have brought a wealth of material by BAME authors into print. These range from nonfiction works about afrobeat to books on British Black history to some wonderfully inventive works of speculative fiction and fantasy, such as Irenosen Okoje’s collection of surreal short stories Speak Gigantular to Nikhil Singh’s debut novel Taty Went West.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Speak Gigantular by Irenosen Okoje
Led by Denise Rose Hansen and Tom Conaghan, Lolli Editions is a European publisher based in London who specialise in experimental fiction in translation. They have published works of bizarre speculative fiction from across the world, including The Employees: A Workplace Novel of the 22nd Century by Olga Ravn and After The Sun by Jonas Eika. Challenging and strange, they are always worth paying attention to.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: The Employees by Olga Ravn
Edinburgh-based Luna Press was founded by Francesca T. Barbini in 2015, and has become a key voice in science fiction and fantasy. They have published short story collections by exciting authors from around the world including Wole Talabi, Nick Wood and Marian Womack. They have published lyrical literary fantasy by Lorraine Wilson and Cat Hellisen, as well as Nikhil Singh’s afrofurist cyberpunk masterpiece Club Ded and Francesco Verso’s Italian dystopian Bloodbusters, translated into English. Their anthologies have brought short fiction from around the world into English translation. On top of all this they have a thriving academic line publishing innovative scholarly work exploring science fiction and fantasy from Tolkien to African SFF.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Club Ded by Nikhil Singh
Meerkat Press is a US genre-fiction publisher run by Tricia and Margaret Reeks. They have published exciting and innovative books by Kathe Koja, Kaaron Warren, Eugene Bacon, and The Fantasy Hive’s own G. D. Penman. They have also brought Kathe Koja’s iconic horror debut The Cipher back into print.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Dark Factory by Kathe Koja
New York independent publisher Melville House Books was formed in 2001 by Valerie Merians and Dennis Johnson, and publishes a range of interesting fiction, non-fiction and poetry books. Their Neversink Library line, which champions forgotten or overlooked works of fiction from around the world, published new English translations of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s Definitely Maybe and The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Definitely Maybe by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
New Ruins Press is a new collaborative project from Dead Ink and Influx Press. The involvement of two of UK indie publishing’s heavy hitters should be enough to get anyone excited, and their brief is to publish works that sit in the uncomfortable boundaries between genres. They have only released two books so far, but both Absorbed by Kylie Whitehead and Jawbone by Mónica Ojeda are incredible works of beautifully written and truly disturbing horror that stretch the limits of what fiction can achieve.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Absorbed by Kylie Whitehead
NewCon Press has been a crucial part of genre fiction publishing since its formation in 2006 by Ian Whates. NewCon published Nina Allan’s debut novel The Race, which would be enough to earn them a spot in the hall of fame in my eyes. But they’ve also published short fiction by Adam Roberts, Lisa Tuttle and Gwyneth Jones, as well as Liz Williams’s wonderful Comet Weather novels. Their anthologies, including the long-running Best of British Science Fiction series, are a key way of keeping track of new and upcoming voices in speculative fiction, and they have published novellas by Paul Di Filippo, Jaine Fenn and Hal Duncan.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: The Race by Nina Allan
NYRB is the publishing arm of The New York Review of Books magazine, founded in 1999 by Edwin Frank. They provide a truly crucial service bringing lost classics back into print for modern readers, frequently lesser known titles and works in translation. Their books are easily recognisable due to the standardised type face and text box, plus the compelling cover art. They are primarily a literary imprint, but they have brought many important science fiction titles back into print, including David R. Bunch’s Moderan stories and collections by Robert Sheckley and Anna Kavan, as well as Russian speculative fiction by Vladimir Sorokin.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Moderan by David R. Bunch
Founded in London in 1951 by Peter Owen, Peter Owen Publishers were Anna Kavan’s publisher from 1957. They published her masterpiece Ice, and have kept the bulk of her work in print since then. This alone would qualify them for a place on this list in my eyes. But Peter Owen Publishers also publish a range of interesting authors, from Anais Nin to Yukio Mishima. Not all of what they publish would qualify as speculative, but much of it is experimental and strange, and includes a number of works in translation that any fan of the stranger side of speculative fiction should read, such as the surrealist fiction of Ithell Colquhoun or Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s satirical take on Japanese folklore Kappa.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Ice by Anna Kavan
PM Press was founded by Ramsey Kanaan of AK Press in 2007, and as a result shares his political concerns, focusing on Marxist and anarchist literature. Amongst genre enthusiasts they are best known for their Outspoken Authors series, edited by SF mainstay Terry Bisson, which publishes author’s most provocative and politically challenging short stories, frequently accompanied by interviews and essays, in small handsome volumes. The series has published work by such giants of the field as Ursula Le Guin and Samuel Delany, as well as exciting newer voices like Vandana Singh and Nisi Shawl.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Talk Like A Man by Nisi Shawl
Norfolk-based Salt Publishing, founded by John Kinsella, Clive Newman and Chris Hamilton-Emery in 1999, is a highly respected literary and poetry publisher. In terms of genre fiction, they publish Alison Moore, who writes fiction that inhabits the boundaries of the strange, the gothic and the unsettling.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: The Pre-War House and Other Stories by Alison Moore
Small Beer Press was founded by Gavin Grant and SFF author Kelly Link in Massachusetts in 2000, and quickly established itself as one of the leading publishers of literary SFF. The Small Beer Press logo on the side of a book is a good indication of high literary quality, and honestly I just wish it was easier to buy their books in the UK. They have published work by John Crowley, Zen Cho, Ellen Kushner and Maureen F. McHugh, as well as Sofia Samatar’s masterful fantasy debut A Stranger In Olondria. They also publish archival titles, and work in translation, such as Angélica Gorodischer’s Kalpa Imperial.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: A Stranger In Olondria by Sofia Samatar
New York based Soho Press was founded in 1986 by Juris Jurjevics and Laura Hruska and is currently headed by Bronwen Hruska. They specialise in literary and crime fiction, but have published some incredible and innovative speculative fiction and fantasy as well, including Chana Porter’s novella of the utopian Weird The Seep. Their YA imprint Soho Teen published Michelle Ruiz Keil’s Summer in the City of Roses, a fairy tale-esque novel that was recently nominated for the first ever Ursula K Le Guin Award.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: The Seep by Chana Porter
Swan River Press were founded by Brian J. Showers in Dublin in 2003, and are Ireland’s only small press dedicated to publishing the Fantastic. They are particularly interested in celebrating Ireland’s contribution to the Weird, both in the past and the present. They have published work by Brian Catling and Joyce Carol Oates, as well as bringing key works of the Weird like William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland and J. S. Le Fanu’s short stories back into print.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Green Tea by J. S. Le Fanu
Tachyon Publications was founded in San Francisco in 1995 by Jacob Weisman, and has amassed an impressive roster, releasing books by big names such as Charles de Lint, Bruce Sterling and Peter S. Beagle, as well as newer up and coming authors like Naseem Jamnia, whose excellent The Bruising of Qiwla came out earlier this year, and key works by Lavie Tidhar including his masterful Central Station story cycle, and Nalo Hopkinson’s superlative short story collection Falling In Love With Hominids. Tachyon’s titles cross the boundaries of genres within SF, Fantasy and Horror, but are almost always excellent.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Central Station by Lavie Tidhar
Yorkshire-based Tartarus Press was formed by R. B. Russell and Rosalie Parker in 1990, and has become a mainstay of horror and the Weird. They have brought a wide range of classic authors of Weird fiction back into print, providing me with my entry point to the likes of Arthur Machen and Robert Aickman. On top of that, they have published a range of crucial new voices, including Andrew Michael Hurley, whose iconic folk horror debut The Loney was published by Tartarus Press before it became a hit, and Angela Slatter.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley
Founded by Deborah Smith in 2015, Tilted Axis Press are a UK not-for-profit publisher who specialise in contemporary Asian literature. Although primarily literary, and having been nominated and awarded prestigious literary awards, they publish fiction across a wide range of genres, much of it with a fantastical tint, such as Yan Ge’s Strange Beasts of China and Han Yujoo’s The Impossible Fairytale. Their books are immediately recognisable due to their strikingly beautiful cover designs.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Strange Beasts of China by Yang Ge
TTA are mainly known for publishing key genre fiction magazines Interzone, Black Static and Crimewave, which are key discovery grounds for new and exciting voices in science fiction, horror and crime respectively. But they also have a line of novellas, which has published key work by Nina Allan, Georgina Bruce and Malcolm Devlin.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Honeybones by Georgina Bruce
Canadian press Undertow Publications was formed in 2009 and is run by Michael Kelly. They have established themselves as a leading publisher of the Weird. Their anthology series Year’s Best Weird Fiction act as essential summaries of developments in the genre, as does their magazine Weird Horror. They have also published short story collections by some of the most exciting names in the genre, including Priya Sharma, Laura Mauro and Georgina Bruce, as well as M. Ricker’s excellent novel The Shipbuilder of Bellfairie. With Cassandra Khaw’s debut short fiction collection Breakable Things due soon, Undertow go from strength to strength and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: All The Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma
Founded by C.P. Heiser and Olivia Taylor Smith in 2013, LA’s Unnamed Press publish literary fiction with a focus on speculative fiction and fantasy by women, people of colour and other underrepresented voices. They have published work by Saad Z Hossain and Deji Olukotun, and the forthcoming Saturnalia by Stephanie Feldman, a deliriously strange climate change novel, is a great example of the kind of vital new voices they bring into print.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Saturnalia by Stephanie Feldman
Found in 2014 by George Sandison and aided and abetted by editor Dan Coxon since 2017, London-based Unsung Stories are quite simply one of the most exciting publishers in the world right now. Their remit is to explore the more literary, adventurous side of speculative fiction and fantasy, something they have pursued with aplomb. Quite simply, Unsung are yet to put out a dud – every one of their books is worth reading, and the best of them have been among the best speculative fiction released that year. They have published key authors in the field including Aliya Whiteley, Oliver Langmead, Verity Holloway and Malcolm Devlin, and their innovative anthologies 2084, This Dreaming Isle and Out Of The Darkness have not only been consistently brilliant, they have captured specific key moments in the evolution of genre fiction. Their cover art is uniformly beautiful, and everything they do is clearly done with love and care, including the live events they ran to support new and upcoming authors both within and outside of their own roster. Frankly we are lucky to have them, go buy and read all their books now.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley (but all of them really – hey, it’s my list, I can break the rules when I like)
Virginia-based Valancourt Books was formed in 2005 by James Jenkins and Ryan Cagle, and specialise in neglected and out of print fiction, particularly LGBTQ+ titles and gothic horror. They have brought back into print many unjustly forgotten gothic novels from the 18th century but also bring underrated speculative fiction and fantasy into print for the US market, as well as publishing works of horror in translation. Recently their Paperbacks From Hell line, made in consultation with Grady Hendrix and Will Errickson, brings the lurid paperbacks from the 80s horror boom back into print with lovingly restored covers.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: A Nest of Nightmares by Lisa Tuttle
Founded in 1970, left-wing press Verso is mainly known for its nonfiction and academic work, but they launched a fiction imprint in 2019, run by editor Cian McCourt. They published Terminal Boredom, an essential collection of overlooked Japanese SF author Izumi Suzuki’s stories in English, and have published such bizarre and genre-defying work as Jenny Hval’s Paradise Rot and Girls Against God.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Terminal Boredom by Izumi Suzuki
Massachusetts-based Wakefield Press was formed by Marc Lowenthal and Judy Feldmann in 2009, and specialises in bringing obscure avant-garde writers who wrote in other languages into print in English. They publish a wide range of fascinating and challenging texts, from the work of overlooked Belgian Weird fiction author Jean Ray to German expressionist poet Bess Breenck Kalischer. Challenging, strange and always fascinating, Wakefield Press represent a neglected aspect of the Weird and experimental fiction, and I am always excited to see what they will bring to light next.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: The Great Nocturnal by Jean Ray
What are medium presses? It’s a term I just made up to describe publishers that might not qualify as independent small presses, but are still somewhat separate from the Big Five, and in terms of behaviour and output have more in common with their small press peers, so also deserve to be celebrated in this post. It’s possible that some of the presses I mentioned above may fit more comfortably in this category, but go easy on me, I’m making this up as I go along.
Angry Robot was formed in Nottingham in 2008 by Marc Gascoigne, who was hired by HarperCollins UK to create an experimental line to compliment their current Voyager SFF line. While it may have been started in part by a Big Five initiative, Angry Robot were given remarkable creative control, and remained very much Gascoigne’s baby until their purchase by London-based Watkins Media. However, the old Angry Robot spirit still thrives, despite relocation and personnel changes. Dedicated to publishing, in their own words, “SF, F and WTF?!?”, during the Gascoigne years AR published some of the most brilliant and original speculative fiction and fantasy, from Matthew De Abaitua’s incredible If Then to Lauren Beukes’ post-cyberpunk Zoo City, as well as publishing new novels by Jeff Noon. Since the Watkins takeover, AR have maintained their spirit of gonzo off-the-wall experimentation, publishing delightfully strange work by Chris Panatier, Ciel Pierrot’s wonderful lesbian space pirate debut, and Caroline Hardaker’s highly praised Composite Creatures. They remain a vital and exciting voice in speculative fiction, playing very much by their own rules.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: If Then by Matthew De Abaitua
Solaris has an unusual history, being founded by BL Publishing in 2007, a division of Games Workshop, and purchased by Rebellion Developments, a UK gaming development company, who have since branched out into Rebellion Publishing, which incorporates their comics and graphic novels division plus Solaris, cult publishing imprint Abaddon, and YA and Fantasy titles. However they still publish a great range of interesting and exciting science fiction, including Aliya Whiteley’s Clarke Award-nominated Skyward Inn, as well as work by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Mary Robinette Kowal, Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Nick Mammatas. They also publish interesting and exciting anthologies, like Sinopticon, which celebrates Chinese science fiction. Recent titles like Fiona Barnett’s folk horror debut The Dark Between The Trees show that their adventurous, independent streak is still going strong.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley
Titan Books are another unusual case, being the publishing arm of the Titan Entertainment Group, which owns Forbidden Planet London and Titan Merchandise. Started in 1981 by Nick Landau, Mike Lake and Mike Luckman, Titan publishes making of books for TV shows and movies and tie-in fiction, as well as comics and graphic novels. They also publish some of the most exciting speculative fiction in recent years, particularly since George Sandison of Unsung Stories has joined as Managing Editor. They have published Nina Allan’s The Race and The Rift, T. R. Napper’s excellent modern cyberpunk novel 36 Streets, and Unsung alumni Oliver Langmead’s Birds of Paradise and Glitterati, as well as short story collections by Charlie Jane Anders, Aliya Whiteley and Nina Allan.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: The Rift by Nina Allan
Unbound are also unusual in that they are a crowdfunded publishing company formed by Justin Pollard and John Mitchinson, both involved in TV show QI, and Dan Kieran in 2010. They publish a wide range of stuff, but have put out some great and unusual SF and fantasy novels. Of particular note is Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake, a post-apocalyptic novel set in the Norman invasion of 1066.
Jonathan’s Recommendation: The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth
Thank you for joining me on this whistle-stop tour of indie publishing. Hopefully this will help the curious find exciting new books to read and small presses to support, whilst serving as my appreciation of all the incredible work small presses do. Once again apologies for anyone I’ve missed off. Here’s to many more years of small press excellence in genre fiction!