Beyond the Front Tables

Greetings and salutations lovely readers!

First, I want to announce I will be shifting this column to quarterly versus monthly. It will be a longer column with more presses highlighted and will allow me more time with school/writing/work/life balance to make sure I don’t neglect one too much. That just means each post will pack more bang for your reading buck!

Without further ado, here we go…

Small Press: Big Mouth House an imprint of Small Beer Press

I can’t recall when or how I stumbled across Small Beer Press but I have been obsessed for some time and slowly collecting nearly every single title they’ve ever published. A recent interview with Ploughshares described Small Beer Press and its books as:

“defy[ing] genre while also celebrating it; their titles are wondrous and fantastical, blurring the line between the speculative and the concrete in ways that are sometimes dark, sometimes delightful, and altogether original.”

Small Beer Press focuses on quality over quantity. They would rather publish a few highly honed and developed titles each year than a slew of rushed out drivel. Which is why I will be a devoted lifetime reader.

Title I read and loved: Archivist Wasp by Nicole Korner-Stace

Format: Physical book I purchased direct from publisher

Length: 256 pages

Description (from the book’s website): “Wasp’s job is simple. Hunt ghosts. And every year she has to fight to remain Archivist. Desperate and alone, she strikes a bargain with the ghost of a supersoldier. She will go with him on his underworld hunt for the long-lost ghost of his partner and in exchange she will find out more about his pre-apocalyptic world than any Archivist before her. And there is much to know. After all, Archivists are marked from birth to do the holy work of a goddess. They’re chosen. They’re special. Or so they’ve been told for four hundred years.”

Why I loved it: Archivist Wasp is a book that sticks with you. It is a YA novel with a protagonist you will find yourself rooting for time and again. She buckles down and fights for a life and change. I loved the way Korner-Stace weaves mythology into the narrative and how people have adapted to their post-apocalyptic society.

Title I am looking forward to next: You Have Never Been Here by Mary Rickert

Format: Physical book I purchased direct from publisher

Length: 320 pages

Description (from the book’s website): “Open this book to any page and find yourself enspelled by these lush, alchemical stories. Faced with the uncanny and the impossible, Rickert’s protagonists are as painfully, shockingly, complexly human as the readers who will encounter them. Mothers, daughters, witches, artists, strangers, winged babies, and others grapple with deception, loss, and moments of extraordinary joy.”

Why I’m looking forward to it: I love short story collections in general but when it is an author who I haven’t encountered, I find them a particularly delicious entry point into their writing. This collection has been getting amazing reviews and I’ve been purchasing her other works in anticipation of digging through her backlist.

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Small Press: Subterranean Press

I discovered Subterranean Press via a podcast years ago and have been slowly collecting titles ever since.

Subterranean Press is widely considered to be among the finest specialty publishers in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres, and has published Stephen King, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Harlan Ellison, Joe Hill, and Peter Straub.

Each book is holding art in your hands. A luscious testament to print lasting the ages and each book is a treat to have on my shelves.

Title I read and loved: The End of the Sentence by Maria Dahvana Headley & Kat Howard

Format: Physical book I purchased direct from publisher

Length: 176 pages

Description (from the book’s website): “It begins with a letter from a prisoner…

As he attempts to rebuild his life in rural Oregon after a tragic accident, Malcolm Mays finds himself corresponding with Dusha Chuchonnyhoof, a mysterious entity who claims to be the owner of Malcolm’s house, jailed unjustly for 117 years. The prisoner demands that Malcolm perform a gory, bewildering task for him.”

Why I loved it: This book was a delicious blend of horror, mythology, and fantasy. It also includes epistolary elements, something I love in my fiction. Despite its short length, it packs a powerful punch making each word count and not wasting time dragging the narrative down with unnecessary exposition. Headley and Howard managed to create a work that is a flawless weave of both their styles making me want to seek out all they have written as individuals.

Title I am looking forward to next: The Best of Nancy Kress by Nancy Kress

Format: Physical book I purchased direct from publisher

Length: 560 pages

Description (from the book’s website): “Nancy Kress, winner of multiple awards for her science fiction and fantasy, ranges through space and time in this stunning collection.”

Why I am looking forward to it: I have been hearing so many wonderful things about Kress in every length of fiction. I thought this dedicated collection would be a wonderful entry point before moving onto some of her novellas, etc.

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Small Press: Valancourt Books

I came across Valancourt Books thanks to Twitter of all places. They describe themselves as: “an independent small press specializing in the rediscovery of rare, neglected, and out-of-print fiction. Despite the valiant efforts of a few small presses and the availability of new technology that can make books available to readers all over the world, far too many great books remain out-of-print and inaccessible; we founded Valancourt Books in 2005 to restore many of these works to new generations of readers.”

They focus on Gothic, horror, supernatural fiction, gay interest, and neglected authors and works. I adore what they are doing and publishing and have been slowly buying up their catalog and discovering so many wonderful books.

Title I read and loved: The Elementals by Michael McDowell

Format: Physical book I purchased direct from publisher

Length: 218 pages

Description (from the book’s website): “After a bizarre and disturbing incident at the funeral of matriarch Marian Savage, the McCray and Savage families look forward to a restful and relaxing summer at Beldame, on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, where three Victorian houses loom over the shimmering beach. Two of the houses are habitable, while the third is slowly and mysteriously being buried beneath an enormous dune of blindingly white sand. But though long uninhabited, the third house is not empty. Inside, something deadly lies in wait. Something that has terrified Dauphin Savage and Luker McCray since they were boys and which still haunts their nightmares. Something horrific that may be responsible for several terrible and unexplained deaths years earlier — and is now ready to kill again . . .”

Why I loved it: I read this book in one sitting! It was incredibly engrossing and one of the better haunted house stories I’ve come across and couldn’t put it down. I really loved the depth to the characters that drew me into what they were experiencing on each page. I am thrilled Valancourt is bringing such titles back into the world.

Title I am looking forward to next: Harriet by Elizabeth Jenkins

Format: Physical book I purchased direct from publisher

Length: 193 pages

Description (from the book’s website): Harriet Ogilvy is a young woman with a small fortune and a mental disability, making her the ideal target for the handsome and scheming Lewis Oman. After winning Harriet’s love, Lewis, with the help of his brother and mistress, sets in motion a plan of unspeakable cruelty and evil to get his hands on her money. With consummate artistry, Elizabeth Jenkins transforms the bare facts of this case from the annals of Victorian England’s Old Bailey into an absolutely spine-chilling exploration of the depths of human depravity.

Why I’m looking forward to it: This is a story based on an actual case from 1877. Published originally in 1934, winning the Prix Femina Vie Heureuse, Harriet is a true-crime based novel that sounds incredibly intriguing. I am also keen to read neglected female authors and support efforts to bring them back!

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I hope you have as much as I did browsing the catalogs of the above small/indie presses above! Until next quarter, happy reading!