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Small Press, Big Stories: 2017 In Review

2017 by Brigitte Tohm

While the world goes to hell in a handcart, it’s still been a heck of a year in fantasy fiction. And small and independent presses have definitely had their fair share of the highlights!

Grimbold Books won Best Independent Press at the British Fantasy Awards, of course, and though their output this year has been quieter than in 2016, there are still several releases worth shouting about:

The Book of Dragons by A. J. Dalton
Empty Skies and Sunlight by Kate Coe
Children of the Shaman by Jessica Rydill
Blood Bank by Zoe Markham

Grimbold Books

Leicester’s Fox Spirit Books released another in their flagship series of Monsters books this month, as we mentioned in the last #SmallPressBigStories article. Apart from Pacific Monsters however, their other great releases this year included:

Respectable Horror edited by Kate Laity (as loved by Starburst magazine)
The Hobgoblin’s Herald by A. R. Aston
Skytown by K. C. Shaw

Fox Spirit Books

Up in the dark wilds of Scotland, Guardbridge Books produced Tales of the Sunrise Lands, an anthology of Japanese fantasy, and Karen L. Abrahamson’s novella Death By Effigy, a tale of mystery, magic and marionettes set in 19th Century Burma. Guardbridge Books are building a reputation for world-spanning fantasy, definitely dark horses of the small press scene.

Guardbridge Books

Also from Scotland, Luna Press Publishing brought one of their most impressive collections to date in the Academia Lunare imprint – Gender Identity and Sexuality in Current Fantasy and Science Fiction. It’s a small volume with a big impact, and was drawing crowds all weekend at the dealers’ tables at FantasyCon in Peterborough.

Luna Press Publishing

Staying with non-fiction for a moment, one book that will probably have glided underneath the radar is The Body Horror Book from Oscillate Wildly Press. Including contributions from Kaaron Warren and Pete Sutton amongst others, this book is meant to get under your skin…

Oscillate Wildly Press

Unsung Stories also dealt with the spaces between horror and fantasy – their 2017 catalogue included Pseudotooth by Verity Holloway, You Will Grow Into Them, a collection of unsettling short stories by Malcolm Devlin, and the Kickstarter-funded anthology 2084, featuring such heavyweights as Dave Hutchinson, Cassandra Khaw, Christopher Priest, and Lavie Tidhar.

Unsung Stories

We haven’t covered Mother’s Milk Books in the main column yet, but we’ve been told that their annual collection of fairy tales for adults is another unjustly overlooked series. The third collection of The Forgotten and The Fantastical came out this year, along with Nondula, the sequel to Ana Salote’s YA debut Oy Yew.

Mother’s Milk Books

PS Publishing are still one of the jewels in the crown of small press publishing – one of this year’s highlights must be Stephen Volk’s novella The Little Gift, along with the deluxe edition of Ian Cameron Esslemont’s Assail.

PS Publishing

Over on the dark side of the table, Black Shuck Books, home of the Great British Horror anthologies, released Dark Satanic Mills, a collection of excellent Brit-themed urban and suburban horror. Telos Publishing also delved into the lists of horror with a collection of Freda Warrington’s short stories, Nights of Blood Wine, Terror Tales of Cornwall edited by Paul Finch, and Small Ghosts by Paul Lewis.

Black Shuck Books and Telos Publishing

We aim to leave you laughing, so the last stop on the tour has to be Pigeon Park Press, where Heide Goody and Iain Grant offered up Disenchanted and Oddjobs 2.

Pigeon Park Press

Despite the austerity, the uncertainty, and – much of the time – a great lack of visibility, there’s a hell of a lot of great work in the small presses, as this round-up of 2017’s very best demonstrates.

Next time, we’ll look at what’s in store for the coming year!

Title image by Brigitte Tohm.


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