Science fiction and fantasy                                            



Spotlight on Eibonvale Press

7th December 2011





   

Musings and rants

Mastodon For SFF Fans
Where to go in the Fediverse to find the best speculative fiction and literary discussions.

Nine Political Books That Change The Conversation
Following news that Simon and Schuster plan to publish an inflammatory commentator, here are nine political books that deserve more attention.

Penguin Random House Withdraws Union Recognition
Penguin Random House have decided not to recognise Unite and the NUJ as a result of staff negotiations, leaving the publisher with a stain on its reputation as an employer.

Authors Support Stop Funding Hate
Some authors have had enough of divisive and xenophobic elements in the British press, and are willing to make an ethical stand.

Women In SFF: Indie Edition
A list of indie and self-published women writing in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other speculative fiction genres.

Amazon Finally Makes KU Appealing For Novelists
The new per-page payout for the Kindle Unlimited subscription service makes it a much better deal for authors of longer novels.

Thoughts On The Sieghart Report On Libraries
The Sieghart report on libraries missed its mark by miles. Yet the real cause of the decline of the UK library network is depressingly obvious.

A Shout-Out For The Good Guys
When nastiness dominates online conversations about books it is time to appreciate the well-behaved authors.

Critique Circle: Shaping Fabulous Stories
The appeal of a certain writing critique website. Or, why I have neglected this blog.

Where Shall I Point This Pitchfork?
Some thoughts on Jonathan Ross, Loncon, and the twitchfork mob.

Reading Is Not A Race
Why I will be abandoning annual reading challenges in 2014.

What Book Discovery Is Missing
The current state of book discovery is narrowing our reading choices and squeezing out midlist writers. How can it be fixed?

An Explosion Of Discovery Tools
New book discovery engines are popping up all over the web. But which ones will come out on top?

Blog Tours From Both Sides
Blog tours are the lastest marketing fad. But what are the pros and cons of this kind of publicity?

It's Not Your Story Any More
When a book is published, authors lose control over how the story should be read. They should let go the reins and enjoy the ride.

Same Old, Same Old
Are current methods of book discovery pushing us further away from original literature?

Female Protagonists In Genre Fiction
A list of recommended SFF books for adults which feature a female as the main character.

Is This The End Of Sweeping Vistas?
Do recent trends in fantasy art styles and the constraints of online book discovery mark the decline of landscape cover art?

A Rising Tide Floats All Boats
Authors: stop thinking of other writers as your rivals. They're not the enemy.

Reviews Are Useless Without Context
With so many review blogs, quick ways of understanding their authors are more important than ever.

Blind Swimmer  

Bloody War  

Feather  

Automatic Safe Dog  

  The Silver Wind

  Sylvow

  Unpleasant Tales

Eibonvale Press is either a best kept secret of genre publishing or, depending on your taste for the gruesome, best kept secret. It styles itself a publisher of "horror, magic realism, slipstream and the surreal". Its books are often positioned on the edges of easily-defined genres, and at the opposite of mainstream genre publishing.

One good way to get an overview of the press is to read Blind Swimmer. This is a showcase anthology featuring all of the writers they have published since its origins around the winter of 2005 up until 2010. Three defining features emerge: the stories are frequently highbrow, weird, and occasionally intensely violent. Sometimes they're all three at once.

When it comes to making readers think, it's hard to pick out any single book from their catalogue that illustrates this better than the others, because none of Eibonvale's authors are writing to a formula. Breaking the rules of what a story should be seems to be the rule. So in Feather David Rix plays with the idea of looking for meanings in stories, whilst in The Silver Wind Nina Allen keeps changing the details of her story until the five linked short stories she presents become much more than the sum of their parts. And then there's Sylvow, Douglas Thompson's ambiguous tale of environmental rebellion and relationship breakdown. This is writing that doesn't shy away from being challenging and different, and the authors aren't talking down to their readers.

Oddities

A lot of Eibonvale's output is unusual, but one of their most flat-out strange novels has to be Jet McDonald's Automatic Safe Dog. It's hard to explain how strange it is, you've just got to read it. It's a satire about corporate greed and cruelty featuring pets that have been turned into living furniture, pipework that seems to be trying to communicate, and insane board meetings. This is an extremely freaky novel until you get to the end, when all the madness fits together and makes a strange sort of sense. It's not the most readily accessible style, but this emphasis on strange stories is far more interesting and intelligent than the usual tired horror tropes.

Risk taking

Brendan Connell's Unpleasant Tales is also very weird, but it's disturbingly shocking to boot. Human musical instruments vie with cannibal dinner party hosts, putrimaniacs and mad, cruel doctors to horrify readers the most in this short story collection. It's extreme, and this is the sort of book that would have been banned a century ago. It illustrates Eibonvale's willingness to take risks by publishing books that are very niche in their appeal, and to do so without pandering to commercial considerations. Highbrow, violent and weird is hardly a recipe for commercial success after all, but it's at the fringes of what the reading public expect that you can often find the most exciting new literature.

Sometimes this approach pays off spectacularly well, such as with Terry Grimwood's Bloody War. This brutal vision of a modern Britain in the grip of an all-out war that's come terrifyingly close to home is, at this point, my favourite book published so far in 2011. It's grim and horrific, but its gritty realism is part of what makes this book essential reading.

The look

The covers are mostly the work of David Rix, and they share a grungy, down-to-earth aesthetic. These aren't glossy, airbrushed fantasies, and the covers reflect the way the stories within are often grounded in a warts-and-all view of human nature. Happy endings aren't guaranteed and in spite of the fantasy leanings, nothing is ever as simple as a fairytale.

If you think this grown-up interpretation of genre fiction might be for you, check out http://www.eibonvalepress.co.uk/ for more information.



© Ros Jackson