Small Press, Big Stories: Luna Press & A.J. Dalton Cover Reveal
Small Press, Big Stories is a monthly column focusing on small and independent presses from around the world. This month’s featured publisher is Luna Press.
Back in March I popped up to the York Pubmeet (find them on Twitter @YorkPubmeet) for AJ Dalton’s talk on his PhD thesis, The Sub-Genres of British Fantasy Literature. Not only is Adam an excellent author in his own right – see his Gollancz trilogy, or the Book Of… series through Grimbold Books for proof of that – he’s also very knowledgeable about the fantasy genre as a whole, and the evening was great fun and very interesting. That PhD thesis has been published by Luna Press, an Edinburgh-based small press who have been specialising in genre-based academic work from some of the big names in modern fantasy. Here’s Francesca Barbini to explain more about what Luna is all about:
Luna Press started out publishing your own work, including the Tijaran Tales series, but you’ve now expanded into academic and non-fiction releases – what made you decide to move in that direction?
I started off as a self-published author, you see. Luna Press was the name I was using back in 2011, when I was starting out. It didn’t exist in the way it does today. Later, my teen SF series, Tijaran Tales, was picked up by a Canadian publisher and Luna became dormant. While I was finishing the series off, I had a chance to reflect on what I wanted to do. Was I more of a publisher, or a writer? Of course, I am both, but you can’t spread yourself too thin. The moment I realised that I wanted to be a publisher, everything fell into place. I officially started Luna Press Publishing and registered the company. I didn’t renew my contract in Canada, as it didn’t make any business sense at that point, and brought “my babies” back home to Luna. As for our publications, I love speculative fiction and, most of all, I love academia. My father just completed his third PhD at the age of 75! So yes, you could say it runs in the family.
Do you think that academic and non-fiction writing is under-represented in the modern genre community? And is it an easier area for small presses to work in than larger imprints? Why do you think that is?
I would say so, but then readership numbers will always tilt the scale towards fiction, rather than non-fiction. I believe that delving deeper into an author’s work through sound research can bring it to life and give it extra dimensions you never considered before. It can also be a mirror for society. Take AJ Dalton’s book, The Sub-genres of British Fantasy Literature for example: it shows the connections between decades of political and societal changes with the creation and transformation of Fantasy sub-genres. A small press will always have more freedom than a traditional publisher when it comes to publishing, but the process of selection is the same. That goes for both fiction and non-fiction.
Traditionally, people find non-fiction more daunting to venture into, perhaps because they are afraid of being criticised for how they think or research, or the inability to structure sound arguments. At Luna, we believe in first-timers, and we encourage writers of non-fiction to take a chance – you never know where it’ll take you.
AJ Dalton’s Subgenres of British Fantasy Literature was part of his PhD work and possibly makes him the most qualified author of metaphysical fantasy ever. Can you tell us how the project came about?
Authors often ask me about important “to-dos” in order to further their careers. One of my first answers is networking. I strongly believe that getting out there and backing your work with your personality and beliefs is crucial. When I met Adam, at Fantasycon 2016, we had just published the Proceedings of the Tolkien conference 2012, The Return of the Ring. He saw the two volumes at our stand and the conversation bent naturally to non-fiction. As he talked to me about his PhD, I was captivated. You can see the result of that!
AJ’s also writing an essay for another of your upcoming collections. I understand this one features Juliet E McKenna and Kim Lakin-Smith too – what can you tell us about that?
Luna Press Publishing opened the first call for papers in 2016. The title was Gender Identity and Sexuality in Current Fantasy and Science Fiction: do we have a problem? We were hoping to encourage not just scholars, but people from other backgrounds – if you love doing research, you need a chance to test yourself, and we believed that the call for papers would provide just that. After the announcement, we began to receive a wide variety of abstracts. Ten of these made the final selection, and you will be able to read these articles in the next few months – we are working to release this during Worldcon 2017. You can find out more about the authors on our website blog. The Luna Call for Papers 2017 is titled, The Evolution of African Fantasy and Science Fiction. You can find out all the details on the Academia Lunare page. I am very excited about this and I look forward to reading the abstracts.
Chapter One – a training programme with a heart. Tell us more.
As the name says, Chapter One is a training programme. Working with the local Edinburgh community, we train people of all ages to learn IT skills through desktop publishing software. They create PDF and e-Pub files for authors who are self-published and don’t want to, or have no time to, learn this technical side of publishing. The author pays £50 to have a manuscript converted into both PDF and e-Pub file, ready for upload. The learners, who are followed step-by-step by a Chapter One team member, earn experience and money every time they complete a project. For privacy reasons, a manuscript never leaves our office, nor is it emailed to the trainees. We’re very excited about this opportunity, so if you know of any self-published authors who need this service, let them know about Chapter One. It will help to empower self-publishing authors and to enrich the workforce.
What’s next for you and Luna Press this year? Will we be able to find you at any conventions?
Every year we run the Beyond Realities contest. It’s for short stories or flash fiction. This year is the latter, BR-Flit, and it always closes on the 30th of April. We also have several publications on their way this year, to add to Adam’s The Sub-genres of British Fantasy Literature, which came out in February. There’s a bilingual anthology, Steampunk Writers from Around The World; a Steampunk novel, One Cog Turning by Anthony Laken; the call for papers I mentioned above; Aragorn – JRR Tolkien’s Undervalued Hero by Angela P Nicholas; the final book in my SF teen series, Tijaran Tales, The Girl From The Sky, and The Forever Man by Allen Stroud.
Most of these will be out by Worldcon 2017 in Helsinki, though Allen Stroud’s book will be launched at Fantasycon 2017 in Peterborough. We’ve just returned from Eastercon 2017 in Birmingham, and we will be at Edge-Lit 2017 in Derby and Oxonmoot 2017 in Oxford.
It’s a whirlwind. One day I’ll wake up in Oz without knowing how I got there.
The slightly daft question: The Fantasy Fantasy Anthology – you’ve got free rein to create the perfect fantasy anthology, with eleven open slots, just like fantasy football… so, which eleven authors, past or present, are on your team?
One man team for me: Stephen King. I’ll clone him first.
AJ DALTON, ‘THE BOOK OF DRAGONS’
And now back to Mr Dalton for a Fantasy-Faction exclusive cover reveal for his latest themed collection of short stories from Grimbold Books. The Book of Dragons, due for release later this year, follows the same format as The Book of Orm and The Book of Angels, with guest contributors this time around featuring Joanne Hall, Michael Victor Bowman, and CN Lesley. The artwork is by Charlotte Pang, with layouts by Ken Dawson.
He saw dragons everywhere, and that was why they’d put him in a secure unit. They told him there was no such thing as dragons. But he’d seen unprovoked attacks on the street, violence break out in an apparently quiet bar, rage overtake people on crowded pavements, and supposed peace-keepers use shocking degrees of force. In such moments, the beasts revealed themselves.
They could be glimpsed louring from beneath ridged brows, snarling in the corner of your eye and leering between your rapid and confused blinks. You had to be quick, mind, and know what to look for. But once you knew about them, it was somehow harder for them to convince you that you’d imagined what you’d seen, that you’d been mistaken, or that it had all been some trick of the light. Once you knew about them and properly believed in them, it seemed they had less power over you, less ability to blind you to them and less general impossibility.
What really worried him, though, was whether they suspected he saw them. And if they began to suspect, what might they then do to him?
FAIRY TALE HAPPY ENDINGS!
Last, but not least, news from Pigeon Park Press – Disenchanted, by Heide Goody and Iain Grant, which has been available in paperback for the last couple of months, finally gets the full Kindle treatment on 5th May. This time the writing team that brought you Clovenhoof and the Trump of Doom have turned their attention to classic fairy tales, and happy endings will never be the same again…
Ella Hannaford has a small business to run, an overworked father to look after and a future stepmother who wants a perfect wedding. Can she avoid a girly night out with her clueless stepsister? Can she side-step lovesick suitors at every turn? Not if it’s up to that team of foul-mouthed dwarfs who want to forcibly drag her into her happily ever after. Gingerbread cottages, dodgy European gangsters, gun-toting grannies, wisecracking wolves, stubborn fairy godmothers, ogres, beanstalks and flying carpets abound in a tale about what happens when you refuse to accept your Happy Ending.
Watch out for more news on The Book of Dragons’ release date – and release dates for other upcoming small press titles – here in this column!