by Sandy Auden
As promised last month, this is the second and final part of the looking back/looking forward
articles. This time, two of the busiest men in genre -- PS Publishing's Pete Crowther
and the ubiquitous Steve Jones -- share their recent releases in 2010 and their future
plans for 2011. Hold onto your hats, there's going to be a lot going on...
Occupation: Writer, Editor, Publisher
It was a very busy year in 2010 for the redoubtable Pete Crowther, man in charge at PS Publishing. It started at the World Horror Convention event in Brighton, UK, "we launched five novels at WHC in March," said Crowther, "and then another seven books at the Fantasycon event in September.
"At Fantasycon, we launched Catastrophia, which is an anthology of End of the World stories edited by Allen Ashley; also a new novel from Ramsey Campbell, The Seven Days Of Cain; the debut novel from Gary Fry called The House Of Canted Steps; then there was a new collection of stories set in and mostly written in Hong Kong from Garry Kilworth called Tales From The Fragrant Harbour; there was the new Postscripts anthology (#22/#23) -- although it's not Postscripts anymore we just refer to it as that internally, it's actually The Company He Keeps, titled after the novelette by Lucius Shepard that kicks it off. Postscripts used to be a quarterly magazine of around 55,000 words but we decided that there was money to be saved by producing two a year but keeping the same word count so instead of four at 55,000 there's two at 150,000 so more words, more prose.
"End Times was launched as well, that's the first published novel of Rio Youers -- there was a very short run of it published in the States in 2009 but it was such a short run that it's almost not worth mentioning. Then there was Cinema Futura, an anthology of favourite science fiction films edited by Mark Morris and following on from Mark's successful Cinema Macabre from a few years back which was an anthology of horror movie essays.
"Those were all released at Fantasycon but we also did a lot of other books like Cloud Permutations by Lavie Tidhar; Quartet & Triptych by Matthew Hughes; and The Baby Killers by Jay Lake. We released the limited edition of Stone Wielder, the latest epic from Ian Cameron Esslemont following on from Night Of Knives and Return of the Crimson Guard. That was a big book, over a quarter of a million words, so there's two thick volumes in one slip case. Which means last year we released around forty six books under the PS Publishing banner.
"Then there's our poetry imprint -- we've got five titles out from Stanza Press so far which are The Singer In The Mist & Others, the complete weird tales poetry of Robert E Howard; the complete weird tales poetry of H.P. Lovecraft , Hallowe'en in a Suburb & Others; ditto for Clark Ashton Smith; a collection of poems from Donald Sidney-Fryer which is very gothic; and an anthology of poems called Off The Coastal Path from Jo Fletcher with new poems from Neil Gaiman and others.
"We also started this other imprint called PS Art books, the first volume of which after a long, long gestation was launched in December 2010. Tomorrow Revisited is about Frank Hampson, the creator of Dan Dare and artist for The Eagle and it's a coffee table sized book with full colour throughout."
So what are Pete Crowther's highlights for 2011? "It sounds a bit naff for me to say, I'm sure, but they're all highlights. Of course, I suppose I would say that but it is true and I make no apology for saying it. We approach every book the same way, irrespective of its business (i.e. money-making) potential. But, sure, I guess there are a few things we're just a little bit giddy about...
"One of those is our next raft of poetry books, particularly Helen Patrice's A Woman Of Mars. I was totally blown away when I read it and I sent it along to Ray Bradbury to see what he thought. Ray had this to say: 'Helen Patrice's poems are little love letters not only to the Red Planet but also to the sense of alien wonder that is so often missing from imaginative fiction and poetry. Bravo to her! And Bravo to Stanza Press for providing a platform for her work!' And I guess he should know, right?
"But that's not the only thing we've got brewing for Stanza: Brian Lumley's Ghoul Warning is another, featuring all the original artwork by Dave Carson which appeared in the long-out-of-print first edition. And we've also got poetry collections from Garry Kilworth and Rob Holdstock and Charles de Lint.
"As for PS ArtBooks, the next project on the blocks after our incredibly well-received Tomorrow Revisited, will be the first volume in our full-colour Harvey Horrors Archives, reprinting all the pre-code horror comics put out by Harvey Comics in the early 1950s. Harvey are the American publishers responsible for Casper the Friendly Ghost and Richie Rich the poor little rich boy but they also had a run of horror titles and they are absolutely wonderful -- gory stuff that comes with a special health warning in the form of an introduction by Joe Hill (whose own Locke And Key graphic novel series is stupendous).
"PS-wise, we've got a new Bauchelain and Korbal Broach novella due from Steve Erikson called Excesses Of Youth; then there's Slave Girls Of Gunpowder, the second book in Joe Hill's Gunpowder series; a short story collection from Joe R. Lansdale called Trapped In The Saturday Matinee; a new novella from Steve Baxter -- Gravity Dreams -- which ties into Steve's short story, 'Raft' which, of course, formed the basis of his debut novel of the same name; there's also Wake Up And Dream, a stupendous new novel from Ian R. MacLeod; the debut novel from Lavie Tidhar called Osama, which we're expecting big things from; Home Fires a new novel from Gene Wolfe who, like fine port, just gets better and better with age; and Diversifications, a new collection of short stories from my good friend James Lovegrove -- wonderful stuff.
"Plus we've got collections from Kit Reed -- What Wolvers Know, remarkable work -- and from Carol Emshwiller, who celebrates her 90th birthday this spring, a double-fronted collection of her war and non-war stories, boasting introductions from Phyllis Eisenstein and Ursula K. Le Guin.
"Then, in the second half of the year, we've got . . . ah, but that would be telling! But let me just say Williams, Lebbon, Morris, Campbell (his new novel and a re-issue of his first collection!), Valente, more from Tidhar, Jones, Jones and more Jones (the true Gorefather of British Horror is Steve Jones) and many more scrumptious goodies, plus three volumes this year of our bumper anthology series formerly known as Postscripts.
"Oh, yes, I almost forgot: we're also moving into e-publishing in February. There'll be more details of this as we move along."
If that wasn't enough already, Crowther is also working on his own fiction, amidst all these titles with, "two collections this year -- Jewels In The Dust from Subterranean Press, and Cold Comforts from Cemetery Dance -- as well as two novels: By Wizard Oak from Earthling and Darkness Falling from Angry Robot."
To help with this amazing workload Crowther, "would like to get PS's output down to between twenty four and thirty titles every year but well, you know, if you come across good stuff then it has to be published. Simple as that. But I'd say that our output -- and that's the collective quality of the stuff we're doing altogether rather than simply the number of things we're doing -- makes me very proud indeed. PS has been and continues to be very well received by the public: long may that continue to be the case."
Name: Stephen Jones
Our second workaholic is Stephen Jones, probably best known for editing the annual Mammoth Book of Best New Horror anthologies, but he's also a man with a finger in many other projects -- from writing scripts to organising conventions.
2010 was busy for Jones with around ten books coming out over the year, and September saw the latest release in his long running series, Best New Horror #21. "I was very pleased with it," said Jones. "Weirdly, it was mostly traditional ghost stories and it's interesting to see how things have changed as a whole new generation of writers have come up through the ranks now. There's not very many of the old names in it -- Brian Lumley and Ramsey Campbell are there, but many other new writers as well. We're definitely seeing a transition period in horror now. Writers who have been working in the small presses for years are finally getting their stuff noticed, and it's very exciting because I came through various generations of writers myself -- starting with the old pulp guys; then Stephen King, Peter Straub and people like Ramsey and Brian, and then after that Kim Newman and Neil Gaiman and all those writers. And now there's another whole generation coming up and that's very cool.
"The older generations are mostly doing novels now, writing less short stories. But for the new writers there's a lot more markets out there now. I don't think the genre's been this healthy since the 80s. I've been saying this for about a year now. It's a really good time to be working in horror. I'm genuinely excited by what I'm reading now.
"I'm already working on Best New Horror #22. So for anybody who has had any horror published in 2011 and who thinks it's genuinely good, it's a totally open market. They can go to my website and they can just send me a hard copy. I try to read as much as I can of what has been published in the horror market in any year."
Also released in 2010 was Jones' Zombie Apocalypse!, "which was a fun project to work on. My editor at Robinson contacted me a couple of years ago and said they wanted to do something that was kind of a meta-fiction zombie anthology, but they didn't know quite what that should be. So I sat down in the pub with them and basically, over beer and sandwiches, laid out out everything I wanted to do with it. Then I went away and outlined the story, broke that down into individual sections, and then contacted those writers I thought would be best to write those episodes.
"For example, I needed a medical story. I knew John L. Probert was a doctor and a writer, so it made sense to go and talk to him. So he's done the piece from the medical point of view. When I needed a scientist I called Paul McAuley because he was a scientist. When I needed someone who knew about the history of London, I went to Christopher Fowler. So I matched the writers to each particular story.
"How the book works is that we don't credit the writers on the stories themselves. It runs like a "mosaic novel," and everything is presented by way of documents and transcripts and e-mails and tweets and bulletin boards and websites. So you have to start the book at the very beginning -- and in fact the opening page is piece of burned 17th century parchment with some writing on it, which becomes very important later on in the book.
"The authors had to follow my basic outline, but we would discuss it, refine it and then they would make it their own within the context of the book. Then I had to go back in at the end and pull it all together. That was really hard work, but it was exciting -- one of the most rewarding things I've ever done as an editor. It's a real concept book, and Robinson has done a fantastic job designing and promoting it."
Another unusual project for Jones in 2011 was the anthology Visitants. "It's basically angel stories -- fallen angels, Heavenly angels, unclassifiable angels. I very much see angels now becoming as popular as vampires, and I think that's going to be one of the next big waves. So this is an anthology of new and reprint stories from Ulysses Press in America. Ramsey Campbell and Robert Shearman have some of the original stories in there that absolutely blew me away. Nasty, horror angel stories, but great stories nonetheless. And there's lovely ones in there by Neil Gaiman and Michael Marshall Smith as well.
"It's been interesting working in a theme that I've not worked in before. It seems a kind of an odd thing for Stephen Jones to do, but when you see the book you'll say, 'Oh yeah, that's why Jones is involved in that.' There's some really creepy angel stories in there . . .
"For 2011, again with Ulysses Press, I'm doing a book called Haunts. It's an anthology idea for ghost stories that I don't think has done before. It's invitation only because I only have a certain number of slots, but I've been contacting writers and they're loving it. They're sending me new stuff or reprints and getting really excited about it. That one will be coming out around September.
"I guess my Big Book for early this year is Conan's Brethren -- the second volume of Robert E. Howard stories from Gollancz. It was actually done a few years ago, but held up in ludicrous litigation by an American company who claim to own the copyright to Howard's work -- even though his work is now in the public domain in the UK. The book features some of my favourite Howard Sword & Sorcery stories -- you may have read Conan, but here's some of the other stuff he's done: Soloman Kane, Bran Mak Morn, Kull etc. As usual, the book has some wonderful illustrations by Les Edwards and, as with our previous Howard and H.P. Lovecraft Black Book volumes, it's great value for money.
"The second volume of H.P. Lovecraft stories is also out from Gollancz in 2011. Having done a first volume called the Necronomicon, we've now done this second volume entitled Eldritch Tales which basically covers everything else by Lovecraft. Again it's going to be leather-bound, with art by Les and a big historical Afterword, plus some interesting obscurities.
"Something that I've tracked down, because it kind of got lost, is that Lovecraft was published in the UK in the Evening Standard newspaper in the 30s. With Johnny Mains' help, I have found the actual issue, and the page with the original artwork from 1936 is in the book so readers can finally see what it looked like. People were going home in London in 1936 reading H.P. Lovecraft stories! That's a real piece of British horror history.
"Then PS Publishing have got whole slew of books coming up...
"Because everybody loved the two big books of Basil Copper stories I did last year, Darkness Mist and Shadow, we're now going to collect all his Solar Pons detective fiction. There are some mysteries and ghostly stuff in there, and we're going to do those in a big fat companion book, along with unpublished material and other stuff. So hopefully the crime and Sherlock Holmesian people will like it as well as the horror people. Les Edwards is doing the covers and we're using the same artists inside as the other Basil Copper collections. But again because we're working from a lot of original manuscripts it will take time to put those together.
"And we're doing more with Basil. Back in the early 80s, he had a Gothic novel called The Curse of the Fleers published. However, it came out in a butchered version -- the publisher literally chopped a third of the book out and made changes all the way through. When I was going through Basil's papers a couple of years ago, I found the original manuscript for this book and it's a complete version.
"PS Publishing have agreed to publish the original manuscript in 2012, which I'm in the process of editing now. I'll also do an Introduction for it. It's a hand-typed crabon copy, hand-corrected and it's going to be a nightmare to put together and reconstruct the original novel, but we're going to do that and finally bring out the complete version of the book.
"I've also got Scream Quietly coming from PS, which is a collection of the best short stories of Charles L. Grant. I've been reading all of Charlie's short fiction over the past few years and deciding which are the most representative chronologically. It's now four or five years since he died, and the time is right for a tribute volume. Stephen King's done the Introduction, and we have commentary by some of his close friends and colleagues, who have done little essays. It will also include photos of Charlie through the years as well. I think it's going to be a lovely book. That should be coming out later this year or early next.
"Then even further in the future for PS, Pete Crowther and I are collaborating. We work together so much and we've always wanted to do a book together. So we're doing a Weird Tales anthology. Weird Tales originally ran from 1923 to 1954 and what's cool about this project is that not only are we doing our favourite stories from the series as a PS hardcover, but a number of the authors in the book are still alive and they've done special signed sheets for the special edition.
"The artwork on the cover is by Jon Arfstrom who was an original Weird Tales cover artist. We tracked him down. How great is it to be working with a guy who painted covers for Weird Tales in the 50s. He's a lovely guy, and he does beautiful surreal paintings now, and he's signed a special sheet as well. So we're trying to forge this link with the past with this book and say, 'Look, these were great stories'."
Jones has a few other titles coming out this year too, including a huge collection of all Karl Edward Wagner's supernatural stories from Centipede Press, but on the whole he's slightly cut down from last year's workload. "I guess I have around six books out this year, plus some contributions to other people's works. I know that sounds like a lot, but after the madness that was 2010 some people will probably think that I've retired!"
Sandy Auden is currently working as an enthusiastic interviewer/reviewer for SFX magazine; a tireless news hound for Starburst magazine; and a diligent interviewer/reviewer for Interzone magazine and SF Site. She spends her spare time lying down with a cold flannel on her forehead. For background information, visit www.sandyauden.co.uk.
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