One great thing about visiting the dealers’ room at British Fantasy Con (FCon) is that it reminds me how passionate people are who dedicate their time and energy to the small press and how much people still love the printed page.
I’m proud to have had work in TTA Press– I love it because there’s nothing quite like it publishing short genre fiction in the UK. Andy Cox, the editor, has an eclectic eye for work and high production values. Interzone, Black Static and Crime Wave win awards, as do the stories that Andy chooses.
As a horror fan, Black Static has contained some amazing stories that have stayed with me, such as “White Rabbit” by Georgina Bruce (British Fantasy Award Winner in the short story category) , “Shark! Shark!” by Ray Cluley (BFA Winner short story) , “When the Moon Man Knocks” by Cate Gardner (BFA nominated), “Sunshine” by Nina Allan (BFA nominated), “Lullaby” by Steve Rasnic Tem, “Prespective” by Steve. J. Dines, just to name a few. It features work by a plethora of talent like Simon Bestwick, Stephen Bacon, Stephen Hardagon, Laura Mauro, Damien Angelica Walters, Kristi Demeester, Helen Marshall, Andrew Hook, Ralph Robert Moore, Gary McMahon, Stephen Graham Jones…
The 60th issue is now out and contains excellent work by Ray Cluley, Stephen Hargadon and Tim Lees. It also contains the tremendous “Skyshine (or Death by Scotland)” by Carole Johnstone. I become a fangirl after reading her BFA winning story “Signs of the Times”, which was also first published in Black Static. There was a real buzz around “Skyshine” at the conference and I read it when I got home. It’s early to start talking about next year’s awards but I think it would be criminal if this wasn’t nominated. It’s inventive, clever and wry. Oh, and new subscribers can get Issue 60 free by using “B60 FREE” as their Shopper Reference during the checkout.
I read “The Beauty” by Aliya Whiteley, published by Unsung Stories last year. It was a stunning bit of work about men in a post-woman society, that manages to be both body horror and an exploration of gender roles. I wanted to buy everything on the stand at FCon. In fact, I was deeply put out to find Malcom Devlin’s debut collection, “You Will Grow Into Them”, was sold out by the time I got there. It’s already garnering praise – see James Lovegrove’s review in the Financial Times, no less.
Did I also mention their books are also extremely handsome?
Daniele Serra won a British Fantasy Award this year for his artwork. I came home with a copy of “Five Feathered Tales” by Alison Littlewood, which Daniele illustrated. It truly is a thing of beauty and Alison’s stories are delicate and dark. Incidentally, I also bought her new novel “The Crow Garden” after I enjoyed “The Hidden People”.
Black Shuck Books is a relatively new venture from Steve Shaw that launched an anthology at FCon called “The Dark Satanic Mills”. It’s the second in his annual collection showcasing British writers (plus an international one), containing original work by Cate Gardner, Charlotte Bond, Paul Finch, Andrew Freudenberg, Gary Fry, Carole Johnstone, Penny Jones, Gary McMahon, Marie O’Regan, John Llewellyn Probert and Angela Slatter. Steve also launched John Lllewellyn Probert’s collection “Made for the Dark”.
Black Shuck’s catalogue is interesting. I’m thinking of Black Shuck Shadows, micro-collections by Thana Niveau, Paul Kane and Joseph D’Lacey. “A Suggestion of Ghosts: Supernatural Fiction by Women 1826-1897” is curated by the very knowledgeable Johnny Mains, who has scoured periodicals, archives and collections for work that hasn’t been republished since it was first released.
Another launch that I attended was Titan Books’ New Fears, edited by Mark Morris. It’s a stellar line-up with writers like Ramsey Campbell, Nina Allan, Conrad Williams, A.K. Benedict, Alison Littlewood and Stephen Laws, to name a few.
For an alternative Halloween read, I’d suggest Simon Bestwick’s “The Feast of All Souls”, which pulls off the trick of being a haunted house story, a Victorian gothic novel, flirts with quantum physics and is a study of loss. Another recommendation would be Laura Mauro’s novella “Naming the Bones”. I’ve watched her career with interest as she’s a fine writer.
While at FCon I saw James Everington read from his novel “The Quarantined City”, in which the protagonist’s search for an author takes him deep into the man’s short stories. James Everington’s fiction is quiet and unsettling, having drawn very favorable attention from The Guardian reviewer Eric Brown. I have to mention Kit Power at this point too, who has a very different (set of) voices, all of them convincing, and who is the only person at the convention who could carry off a reading with a hammer in his hand. His collection will be out next year.
“The Doll’s Alphabet”
by Camilla Grudova is a truly weird collection, repeating motifs
and ideas. Even the stories that non-plussed me left me pondering their meaning long afterwards. Her dystopic short story “Waxy” was nominated in the short story category of the BFAs this year and was a strong contender. Read The Guardian review
which draws comparison with Angela Carter, Margaret Atwood and David Lynch.
I’m going to sneak in a mainstream author here. I’m a big fan of Sarah Hall. Her new collection “Madame Zero”
is pure genre. It contains “Mrs Fox” which won the BBC National Short Story Award, in which a woman is tranformed by pregnancy into a vixen. Elsewhere she explores a wind drenched world, the liberation of sexual appetites and an era where a change in antenatal priorties mean to chose a woman’s life over that of her unborn child is illegal.
She’s been twice nominated for the Booker prize and this book reveals the poet at her heart in the concise beauty of her writing.
Last but not least is Undertow Publications
, a Canadian venture run by Mike Kelly. It’s fast gained an excellent reputation for its Year’s Best Weird Fiction and Shadows and Tall Trees, as well as its single author collections, being nominated for Shirley Jackson Awards, World Fantasy Awards and British Fantasy Awards.
Mike Kelly is releasing the range in both hardback (below) and paperback.
I think they’re good looking books too, with as much style as substance. Does that mean I’m shallow?