And good riddance to it. But before I get to that, here’s a quick rundown of the publishers I thought had the best overall lines in 2014. Rather than do multiple posts across all the blogs, I’ll list everything here.
I received more review copies than I was able to read this year. I would like to thank everyone, large publisher or individual, who sent me something to review. I apologize if I didn’t get to it. Personal factors also cut into my reading more than I would prefer. Still, I managed to read quite a bit from a number of different publishers. What follows is a list of who had some of the best overall material in 2014 with a brief commentary. These are trade publishers, not indie publishers. In most cases, I’ll not discuss individual titles. Nor will I do a best books list. I wasn’t able to read as many titles as I wanted, and as a result there are some glaring omissions in what I did read.
Angry Robot: Angry Robot and its sister imprints suffered the fate of many small publishers this year, with Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A folding early in the year and Angry Robot being sold later in the year. The sale resulted in all new titles being postponed until early next year. Current titles are still available. Here’s hoping things will pick up for them in 2015, as they’ve published some of my favorite titles and authors over the years. They certainly haven’t been afraid to try new things. And many of their authors are from countries other than the US, which gives their line a different tone than most others.
Cemetery Dance: As a publisher of horror and dark suspense, Cemetery Dance is one of the best and longest-running in the business. More for the hard-core fan and serious collector than the casual reader, they still have a number of inexpensive titles in their catalog. Plus many of their more recent books are available in electronic format. In addition to a fine line of books, Cemetery Dance also publishes one of the premier magazines in the field, called (what else?) Cemetery Dance.
Hard Case Crime: Specializing in noir and hardboiled fiction very much in the vein of the Fawcett Gold Medal line, Hard Case is one of the most consistent publishers around. They publish both new work and reprints. There have been some posts at a number of places over the last few years discussing the similarities between sword and sorcery and noir. If you like S&S but haven’t read much noir or hardboiled crime fiction, you’re missing out. For a good list of noir/hardboiled titles and authors to try, start here.
Night Shade: Nightshade was sold in 2013. This past year saw them begin to publish new titles again. Some were trade paper editions of titles that had been previously brought out in hardcover while others were new books. Here’s hoping they continue to come back from the brink.
Pyr/Seventh Street: I’m including both imprints in one entry because a number of people at Prometheus (the parent company) work with both imprints. Both Pyr (science fiction and fantasy) and Seventh Street (mystery/crime) published a number of great titles this year. More than I was able to keep up with, although I tried. I’m going to review some of the past year’s titles over the next few months as I play catch-up. Long time Pyr editor Lou Anders left this year to pursue a freelance writing career, and we wish him all the best. It will be interesting to see how the imprint changes with his absence.
Ragnarok: This is the youngest publisher on the list, but one of the most ambitious. Ragnarok titles tend to be dark and more horror than fantasy, at least the ones I’ve read. They are definitely a publisher to watch.
Solaris: I’ve been really impressed with Solaris over the last couple of years. Not only are they in my opinion the premier publisher of anthologies in the field, they’ve published a number of novels that have pushed the boundaries of the fantasy and science fiction genres while staying true to the core principles of those genres. This was another publisher who put out more titles than I was able to read this year.
Subterranean: What once was a small press has become, while still technically classified as a small press, one of the powerhouse genre publishers in the field. The number of titles this publisher puts out is pretty impressive for its size. Their selection is heavily weighted to single author collections, but they have a number of original novels available that are exclusive to them. Like Cemetery Dance, their offerings aren’t always cheap. But also like Cemetery Dance, they are developing a large catalog of ebooks. Subterranean was one of the first publishers to experiment with the online magazine format, with a focus on novella length stories. Sadly, that aspect of Subterranean came to an end this year.
WMG Publishing: WMG is in the process of bringing both the backlist and new works by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith into print. While I greatly enjoy both of those writers, what has earned WMG a spot on my list of best publishers is their anthology magazine Fiction River, which is available in both electronic and print formats. This is one of the most fresh and innovative short fiction venues out there. Each volume has a theme and contains stories by established pros and relative newcomers. The thing I like is that while some volumes have very strict genre themes, most mix genres in some very interesting ways, combining fantasy, science fiction, mystery, romance, and historical, often in the same story.
You’ll notice that there aren’t any major imprints on this year’s list. That’s not because the big publishers didn’t publish interesting work. They did. It’s just that their lines as a whole didn’t stand out to me. When I walk into my local bookstore, I see a lot to books that look alike. And much of it doesn’t appeal to me. The interesting titles tended to come from individual authors rather than a particular publisher.
On the personal side, while I wouldn’t consider 2014 to be a particularly good year, I’ve had years that were far, far worse. A number of friends passed on or lost loved ones, which is always hard. It seemed this year contained more than its share of deaths.
January saw my wife have major shoulder surgery. That plus my son getting braces, major car repairs, minor house repairs, and a few other unexpected expenses meant that I had to cut back on conventions this year, something that will probably continue through next year as I try to regain some of the financial margin we lost.
My son entered 7th grade. Sixth is middle school here, but 6th graders don’t get to participate in the extracurricular activities that the 7th and 8th graders do. What this meant was that I spent a lot more time taking him to events because there were so many more things he was required to attend. As a 7th graders he can take diving as his PE class. He’d been doing club diving for the last two years. He’s still doing that, but he also starts his day at the pool now. What that translates into is that I have to get him to school in time to catch a bus at 7:35 to take him (and kids from other campuses) to the aquatic center. End result, I have to get up while it’s still dark to cook breakfast and make sure he’s ready, resulting in less sleep for me. Between diving, band, and robotics, he and I stayed busy during the fall semester.
I’ve been the undergraduate teaching lab director (officially) for a couple of years now. This fall was the smoothest semester so far, in part because we had a really good group of TAs who took their teaching responsibilities seriously. Enrollment is up in our intro courses, so I had a steady stream of students in my office or emailing me about issues associated with the lab. I taught my regular course load and regular courses this year without any overloads like in 2013, which was nice. However, for my sins, my name is in the pool that the Office of Student Conduct draws on when they need to seat a committee for a disciplinary hearing. I can’t talk about specifics, but most of the committees I’ve been on haven’t dealt with cheating but with much more serious and disturbing behavior. On the whole though, this past year has been the most relaxed and enjoyable I’ve had in academia in years. Maybe this next year I can get back to doing some real research.
I’ll discuss discuss blogging and writing in the goals for 2015 post that will go up in the next day or so.