Last month, I attended the World Fantasy Convention in Washington D.C. (my first trip to the city) and had a marvelous time. I attended readings by over a dozen writers, sat in on terrific panels, and reconnected with close friends I haven’t seen in far too long.
But I probably spent the most time in the Dealers Room, where publishers and collectors laid out their wares on closely packed tables. We talk about a lot of new books here at Black Gate, and I’m proud of our coverage of the industry, but let me tell you — there’s nothing like wandering past stacks of newly-published fantasy titles from dozens of publishers to make you realize how woefully you’ve underrepresented the cavalcade of new books that have arrived in just the last few months.
I vowed that when I returned to our rooftop headquarters here in Chicago, I’d showcase those publishers that most impressed me — and not just with a book or two, but by trying to show you what it was like to stand in front of their tables in that room, with the full range of their current books on display. I’ve done that once already, with Valancourt Books; today I’d like to focus on one of the most innovative small press publishers in the field, the brilliant ChiZine Publications.
There was a lot of discussion of ChiZine at the con. Their books came up frequently in panels and in the hallways as fans talked about the exceptional titles of the year, and the most anticipated books of fall and winter.
I’d never heard of Robert Shearman before attending WFC, but I sure heard a lot about him while I was there. His name came up over and over again during panels as people discussed the best short fiction and fantasy of the year. They Do the Same Things Different There: The Best Weird Fantasy of Robert Shearman (above left) was published by ChiZine on September 16, 2014, scarcely a month before the convention, and it was already been put forth as one of the finest collections of the year by multiple critics.
Robert Shearman visits worlds that are unsettling and strange. Sometimes they are just like ours — except landlocked countries may disappear overnight, marriages to camels are the norm, and the dead turn into musical instruments. Sometimes they are quite alien — where children carve their own tongues from trees, and magic shows are performed to amuse the troops in the war between demons and angels. There is horror, and dreams fulfilled and squandered, of true love. They do the same things different there.
Robert Shearman is the author of four previous collections, including Tiny Deaths (2008), Everyone’s Just So So Special (2012) and Remember Why You Fear Me (2012). He’s won the World Fantasy Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, and three British Fantasy Awards. He also a writer for Doctor Who, and has been nominated for the Hugo for his work on the show.
I’d never heard of Shadows and Tall Trees either, but it was another title that came up again and again. Shadows & Tall Trees is a dark fantasy journal from Toronto-based Undertow Publications, an imprint of ChiZine. In 2010 and 2013 it was a finalist for the British Fantasy Award. Contributors have included Robert Shearman, Steve Rasnic Tem, Alison Moore, Nina Allan, and many others.
The sixth volume, Shadows & Tall Trees 2014, was edited by Michael Kelly and published in trade paperback by Undertow on June 3, 2014.
Although it wasn’t released by the con, I heard a lot about Gemma Files’s upcoming collection We Will All Go Down Together (above center). A collection of linked stories that explore the haunted town of Overdeere, Ontario, founded centuries earlier by an alliance of witches, changelings, and sorcerers, We Will All Go Down Together appealed to me the moment I heard about it.
Every family has its monsters… and some are nothing but. In the woods outside Overdeere, Ontario, there are trees that speak, a village that doesn’t appear on any map, and a hill that opens wide, entrapping unwary travellers. Music drifts up from deep underground, while dreams — and nightmares — take on solid shape, flitting through the darkness. It’s a place most people usually know better than to go, at least locally — until tonight, when five bloodlines mired in ancient strife will finally converge once more.
Devize, Glouwer, Rusk, Druir, Roke — these are the clans who make up the notorious Five-Family Coven. Four hundred years ago, this alliance of witches, changelings, and sorcerers sought to ruin and recreate the Earth in their own image, thwarted only by treachery that sent half of them to be burned alive. Driven apart by rage and hatred, their descendants have continued to feud, intermarry, and breed with each other throughout the centuries, their mutual dislike becoming ever more destructively intimate.
But now, from downtown Toronto to the wilds beyond, where reality’s walls grow thin, dark forces are drawing the Coven’s last heirs to a final confrontation. Psychics, ex-possessees, defrocked changeling priests, shamans for hire, body-stealing witches, and monster-slaying nuns — the bastard children of a thousand evil angels — all are haunted by a ghost beyond any one person’s power to exorcize unless they agree to stand together once more — at least long enough to wreak vengeance upon themselves!
Gemma Files has won both the International Horror Guild Award and the Black Quill Award; she’s also been nominated for the Lambda, Stoker and Shirley Jackson Awards. She’s the author of the weird western A Book of Tongues, which Patty Templeton lists as one of the 10 Acclaimed Historical Fantasy Novels You Need to Read.
We Will All Go Down Together was published on Nov 25, 2014.
We blurbed Laird Barron’s acclaimed new Year’s Best anthology, Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Volume One (above right), back in March, and John R. Fultz provided the complete table of contents for us in April. It was published on October 7, 2014, just in time for the convention. The book is a welcome addition to the Year’s Best volumes currently covering science fiction and fantasy.
David Nickle is someone we’ve discussed before, with his debut collection Monstrous Affections. I bought his horror novel The ‘Geisters at the ChiZine table after reading the back cover blurb:
When Ann LeSage was a little girl, she had an invisible friend – a poltergeist, that spoke to her with flying knives and howling winds. She called it the Insect. And with a little professional help, she contained it. And the nightmare was over, at least for a time. But the nightmare never truly ended. As Ann grew from girl into young woman, the Insect grew with her. It became more than terrifying. It became a thing of murder. Now, as she embarks on a new life married to Michael Voors, a successful young lawyer, Ann believes that she finally has the Insect under control. But there are others vying to take that control away from her. They may not know exactly what they’re dealing with, but they know they want it. They are the ‘Geisters. And in pursuing their own perverse dream, they risk spawning the most terrible nightmare of all.
The ‘Geisters was published in paperback on June 25, 2013.
David Nickle’s second short story collection, Knife Fight and Other Struggles (below left) was published by ChiZine on November 25, 2014.
A young man at loose ends finds he cannot look away from his new lover’s alien gaze. A young woman out of time seeks her old lover in the cold spaces between the stars. The fleeing worshippers of an ancient and jealous deity seek solace in an unsuspecting New World congregation. In a suburban nursery, a demon with a grudge and a lonely exorcist face off for what could be the last time. And when a big city mayor who delineates his mandate by the slash of a blade faces an unexpected challenger, it turns into a struggle that threatens to consume everything. In Knife Fight and Other Struggles, David Nickle follows his award-winning debut collection Monstrous Affections with a new set of dark tales that span space, time, and genre.
Nickle is also the author of Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism (2011) and Rasputin’s Bastards (2012), both published by ChiZine.
One of the readings I attended at the con was by Jeffrey Ford, who read an excerpt from his nightmare-like short story “Mount Chary Galore.” Cruelly, he didn’t finish the story, which left me scrambling to find a copy.
Fortunately, the anthology it was contained in — Fearful Symmetries (above center) — was available at the ChiZine booth, and I grabbed a copy. It includes a stellar line-up of contributors, including Gemma Files, Nathan Ballingrud, Bruce McAllister, Pat Cadigan, Helen Marshall, Terry Dowling, Stephen Graham Jones, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Robert Shearman, Michael Marshall Smith, Laird Barron, John Langan, Garth Nix, and many others. Here’s a brief excerpt from Ellen Datlow’s introduction:
Fearful Symmetries was funded by Kickstarter… non-theme anthologies have always been a hard sell, and it’s even more difficult it today’s publishing climate… I approached Brett Alexander Savory and Sandra Kasturi, owners of the Canadian ChiZine Publications, to partner with me on the project. I thought they’d be a good match for what I had in mind because I enjoy what they publish and I love their production values and commitment to good-looking books. They also have excellent distribution, which means their books are available in most bookstores…
I solicited some of the writers I’ve worked with in the past and also a few whose work I’ve admired but never published before. And in a break from my usual working method, Brett, Sandra, and I decided to hold a month-long open reading period. We promised to keep at least a couple of slots open for unsolicited stories submitted during that period. We received 1,080 submissions. There were several readers, including Sandra and a prominent Australian publisher/editor. Of those 1080 submissions, 119 were passed on to me. I ended up buying four…
So what can you look forward to in Fearful Symmetries? There are monsters — human and non-human. There are children -those who victimize, and those who are victims. There are supernatural horrors, psychological terrors, nourish dark fantasies, and downright weird fictions. Come on in, and make yourself a cozy little nook in the dark, and enjoy.
Fearful Symmetries was published in trade paperback on June 17, 2014. See more details, including the complete table of contents, at the ChiZine website.
As I mentioned earlier this week, I heard multiple rave review of Helen Marshall’s second collection, Gifts for the One Who Comes After, from panelists, authors, and fellow attendees at the con. I changed my schedule at the last minute to attend her reading, where I was thoroughly impressed. After the reading, I made another trek to the ChiZine table (again!), where Sandra happily sold me a copy.
Gifts for the One Who Comes After was published in trade paperback on September 16, 2014.
P. T. Jones is the pseudonym for Stephen Graham Jones and Paul Tremblay; their first collaboration is Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly (above right), published through ChiZine’s new ChiTeen imprint on November 25, 2014. Here’s the book description.
Things Mary doesn’t want to fall into: the river, high school, her mother’s life.
Things Mary does kind of want to fall into: love, the sky.
This is the story of a girl who sees a boy float away one fine day. This is the story of the girl who reaches up for that boy with her hand and with her heart. This is the story of a girl who takes on the army to save a town, who goes toe-to-toe with a mad scientist, who has to fight a plague to save her family. This is the story of a girl who would give anything to get to babysit her baby brother one more time. If she could just find him.
It’s all up in the air for now, though, and falling fast. . . .
Fun, breathlessly exciting, and full of heart, Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly is an unforgettable ride.
Nancy Baker is a Toronto author whose previous works include The Night Inside (1994), Blood and Chrysanthemums (1995), and A Terrible Beauty (1997). Her first new novel in over a fifteen years, Cold Hillside (below left), is a dark tale of the Fey.
With Them, There Are no Happy Endings
In the remote city of Lushan, they know that the Fey are not fireside tales but a dangerous reality.
Generations ago, the last remnants of a dying empire bargained with the Faerie Queen for a place of safety in the mountains and each year the ruler of Lushan must travel to the high plateau to pay the city’s tribute. When an unexpected misfortune means that the traditional price is not met, the Queen demands the services of Teresine, once a refugee slave and now advisor to the Sidiana. Teresine must navigate the treacherous politics of the Faerie Court, where the Queen’s will determines reality and mortals are merely pawns in an eternal struggle for power.
Years later, another young woman faces an unexpected decision that forces her to discover the truth of what happened to Teresine in the Faerie Court, a truth that could threaten everything she loves.
Cold Hillside was published on December 16, 2014.
ChiZine’s catalog includes a number of very intriguing upcoming titles, and I thought I’d highlight a few of those as well. First on the list is Infinitum: Time Travel Noir (above middle), by GMB Chomichuk, a 120-page graphic novel featuring Special Investigator Nine of The Paradox Bureau, a temporal agency that prevents crimes before they happen.
“With enough time, you can fix anything.”
The Infinitum are a future society of people and aliens displaced to our past. Special Investigator Nine works in The Paradox Bureau, an agency that polices the temporal diaspora and prevents crimes before they happen. Nine is sent on assignment to the 1940s (to the very place and time he was originally recruited) and must avoid altering his own past while investigating a seemingly unpreventable murder. Nine uncoils a temporal conspiracy at the heart of a militant separatist movement. Why would an organization dedicated to preventing murder before it happens cover up a series of grisly killings? Nine, a time agent who is able to return from his own future to offer himself advice or armed back-up, must now rely on his memory of the past rather than help from the future to solve a series of murders that can’t be prevented. Through the flash of rayguns and the half-light and the fog of a future-tainted 1940s, Nine pursues a killer while he avoids fouling the investigations of his own multiple selves. To save his future and solve the crime, Nine risks changing the one moment that gave his life purpose. Nine must decide if love is a force of nature or a force of habit. The one event he can’t live without must be altered to save the people he cares for, making himself his own worst adversary.
Infinitum: Time Travel Noir will be published on May 19, 2015.
Sometimes the monsters are bloodsucking fiends with fleshy wings. Sometimes they’re shambling dead things that won’t rest, or simply creatures red in tooth and claw. But often they’re worse than any of these. They’re the things that make us howl in the darkness, hoping no one hears. These are the monsters we make ourselves, and they can find us anywhere…
Probably Monsters will be published in paperback on March 3, 2015
Finally, we have The Acolyte (above right) by Nick Cutter, the author of 2014’s breakout horror novel The Troop, which Stephen King called “Old-school horror at its best. Not for the faint-hearted…”, and the upcoming The Deep (Jan 13, 2015). The Acolyte is a dark fantasy of religion and heresy set in a very different America…
Jonah Murtag is an Acolyte on the New Bethlehem police force. His job: eradicate all heretical religious faiths, their practitioners, and artefacts. Murtag’s got problems — one of his partners is a zealot, and he’s in love with the other one. Trouble at work, trouble at home. Murtag realizes that you can rob a citizenry of almost anything, but you can’t take away its faith. When a string of bombings paralyzes the city, religious fanatics are initially suspected, but startling clues point to a far more ominous perpetrator. If Murtag doesn’t get things sorted out, the Divine Council will dispatch The Quints, aka: Heaven’s Own Bagmen. The clock is ticking towards doomsday for the Chosen of New Bethlehem. And Jonah Murtag’s got another problem. The biggest and most worrisome… Jonah isn’t a believer anymore.
Nick Cutter is the pseudonym for ChiZine author Craig Davidson, author of Cataract City, Sarah Court, and Rust & Bone. The Acolyte will be published on April 21, 2015.
Our recent coverage of ChiZine has included:
Gifts for the One Who Comes After by Helen Marshall
Haxan by Kenneth Mark Hoover
Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Volume One, edited by Laird Barron
The Inner City by Karen Heuler
ChiZine Publications Launches ChiTeen Young Adult Imprint
ChiZine Publications’ eBooks Now Available on iTunes Store
A Salute to ChiZine Publications
I’ve showcased six publishers who displayed their products at the World Fantasy Convention and Worldcon so far:
Twenty Years of Smart Science Fiction and Fantasy: The Tachyon Publications Catalog
Bringing Neglected Classics Back Into Print: The Horror Catalog of Valancourt Books
The Best Pulp Horror and Weird Tales: The Fantasy Catalog of Hippocampus Press
Embrace the Odd: The Fantasy Catalog of ChiZine Publications
The Recent Best: The Fantasy Catalog of Prime Books
The Wonders of Fairwood Press
ChiZine is one of the most dynamic and innovative publishers of fantasy and the weird out there today, and they deserve your support. See their complete catalog and order copies directly at their website.