Category Archives: Prime Books

Another Year’s Best Anthology

Horton years best 2016The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016
Rich Horton, ed.
Trade Paper $19.95
ebook $6.99

This is the, what, fourth? year’s best science fiction and/or fantasy anthology I’ve looked at this year.  Fifth if you include the Datlow best horror anthology.  I’ve still got a couple more to go if I finish this project.  (The others were the Clarke, Strahan, and Afshararian volumes.)

I’m starting to see the drawbacks of trying to read all the year’s best anthologies.  The further I go in this project, the more duplicates show up.  The result is that, for this year’s selections at least, there are fewer new stories I like with each of these anthologies I read. Continue reading

Travelling Through Northwest Passages

TimeNorthwest Passages
Barbara Roden
Prime Books
hardcover $24.95 (out of stock)
ebook $6.99 Kindle Nook Weightless

I’ve chosen to officially kickoff my Halloween related posts with Northwest Passages by Barbara Roden.  Barbara is one half of the team behind Ash-Tree Press, the other half being her husband Christopher.  (You could say I unofficially started with Maplecroft or possibly Bleeding Shadows.)

I chose this particular volume because it’s been a while since I read any ghost or spook stories in the classical vein.  If you’re familiar with Ash-Tree Press, you know they’re the foremost publisher of ghost stories in the world.  So you would expect an author like Roden to know her stuff.  You’d be right, too. Continue reading

Two Items of Halloween Interest

I’m buried under a mountain of grading, so there won’t be any post on Robert E. Howard’s horror stories tonight.  Tomorrow doesn’t look too promising, but I’ll see what I can do.

HalloweenMagicMysMacabre-500I did, however, want to make you aware of a couple of items of seasonal interest.  First, I’m reading Paula Guran’s Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre  from Prime Books.  The review is for Amazing Stories (TM) and will go live on Monday.  It’s the sixth installment of a series I’m been running over there I’m calling Six Weeks of Scares.  I’ll be sure and post the link here when the review goes live.  I’m about halfway through the book at the moment, it’s quite good.

ShiversVIIThe other item is one from Cemetery Dance.  It’s the latest installment in the Shivers anthology series edited by Richard Chizmar.  I received a copy of the ARC through Cemetery Dance’s ARC club earlier this year.  I’ve read a few of the stories, and the ones so far are top notch.  There are a couple of rare stories in this one.  One is “Weeds” by Stephen King, which hasn’t been reprinted since 1979.  The other is a story by Clive Barker that was originally published in the New York Times on October 30, 1992.  I haven’t read those yet.  I’d hoped to have this collection finished by Halloween, but I probably won’t make it.  I will review it early in November if things go as planned.  They rarely do, but I can dream.

2012 in Retrospect: Publishing

Rather than doing a single post about what I thought of the past year, I’m going to break things up into some smaller posts.  There will be on short fiction and one on titles I especially enjoyed.  But I thought I would start with publishers.

Last year, I wrote about the publishers I thought you should be reading this year.  That list hasn’t changed much.  The day before I posted that list, I gave reasons why I wasn’t going to be reading much from the main imprints.  Those reasons haven’t changed much, either.  If anything, they’re more valid than ever.

What I’m going to attempt to do here, in this present post, is to assess some of the things I said in those two posts.

First, I said I wouldn’t be buying many titles from the major publishers.  What constitutes a major publisher is probably going to vary among individuals.  That’s fine; it will give us something to talk about.  So many publishers are trying to grab as many rights as they can from authors and paying them so little once you take a close look at the numbers, that I have trouble with supporting such a system, just as a matter of conscience.  Add to that the fact that most of the major publishers are pricing their ebooks way too high, and in some cases as much or more than the paper editions, and I really don’t see the point.

Second, I said I would be reading more indie published authors.  I have.  The mistake I made was listing the authors whose work I intended to read.  The reason that was a mistake is that I haven’t gotten to everyone on the list yet.  Since I’m going to be focusing on small and indie presses in my column over at Amazing Stories (TM), those authors will be moving to near the top of the list.

Here’s the thing that might suprise some people.  I haven’t really missed reading books published by the majors.  I’ve still read a few here and there, and have a couple in my TBR stack.  But for the most part, I’ve enjoyed the small press and indie published works I’ve read.  I’m very selective about what I pick up these days simply due to time considerations.  Most of these works have been as good as what the Big 6 5 However-many-are-left-after-the-mergers are publishing.

So I think my decision to read indie published works has been a good one, and I’ll keep doing it.

Now, as for publishers.  I’m not going to numerically rank them.  I’m going to stick to the same list, but I’ll add a couple of publishers to it.  These are what I would call midsized publishers, in that they get national or international distribution and have major authors in their stables, but they haven’t been around for decades like some publishers have.

First, I included Prime Books as a runner-up because at the time I hadn’t finished any of their titles.  While I still dip into their anthologies without reading them all the way through, I maintain that Prime is one of the best publishers around.  I’ve got collections by Elizabeth Bear and Richard Parks to read, as well as many anthologies.

Orbit Books didn’t make the list last year because I hadn’t read any of their titles.  That hasn’t changed much, but there are some titles I very much want to read, starting with the latest Joe Abercrombie.  That alone puts Orbit on the list.  The fact that they also publish John R. Fultz and Michael J. Sullivan, two other writers I’m looking forward to reading doesn’t hurt, either.

Next is Solaris and its companion imprint, Abaddon.  This is Eric Brown’s publisher, and Brown is one of the best science fiction authors working today.  He writes good space opera, and I love space opera.

Nightshade published some interesting books this year, most of which I still haven’t gotten around to reading yet, including titles Misere, Southern Gods, The Scourge of the Betrayer, and The Pillars of Hercules, plust the more recent Siren Depths and The Tainted City.  Part of the reason I haven’t read these yet is time, but also because Nightshade no longer seems to be responding to requests for review copies.  I try (and occasionally succeed) to post a review around the time the book comes out, and since I ended up buying these titles, the books had in some cases been out a while.  The most significant thing Nightshade did this year, though, was to start the online publication, Eclipse Online, a continuation of their successful anthology series.  I’ll talk about that more in the forthcoming short fiction post. 

I probably read more books by Angry Robot this year than any other publisher, in part because of how their Robot Army program worked and in part because I really like their line.  This is one publisher I’ll keep reading and reviewing, although I probably won’t read quite as many title from them this year simply due to time considerations.  I had three titles I was planning to review when we ended up moving.  In all the commotion, I never read them.  I’m going to try to work them into the queue soon.

Pyr was top of my list last year, and this was another good year for them.  Pyr seems to be shifting its focus a bit, publishing more science fiction and YA titles than fantasy in recent months, but that’s not a bad thing necessarily.  I certainly don’t hold it against them.  They are in business to make money, after all, and markets do change.  I’ve got more titles from Pyr than any other publisher in the queue at the moment, mostly science fiction from Brenda J. Cooper, Mike Resnick, Allen Steele, and Mark Hodder.

These are all publishers who publish mass market and trade, and thus within the budgets of most readers.  Among the more expensive collectible and limited edition publishers, Haffner Press stands out as my favorite, primarily because Haffner publishes some of my favorite authors.  Cemetery Dance and Subterranean are the other two publishers I’ve bought a lot from this year.

These are the publishers I’ve read this year because these guys, from what I can tell, are not only publishing some of the best fantasy, science fiction, and horror, but they also have some of the best business practices around.  With limited time and monetary resources, I want to get the best value I can and support the players (publishers and authors) I respect.  These publishers and many of the indie authors I’ve read have more than provided that. 

So as far as publishers go, these are the one I will stick with in 2013.

A Couple of Halloween Themed Anthologies

Paula Guran, ed.
Prime Books
trade paper, 480 p., $14.95
ebook, $6.99 Kindle, Nook

This one came out last year, and I’ve only read a few of the stories in it.  Nor do I plan to read all of them, at least not this year.  I’ll take my time with this one and spread it out over several years.  In other words, this is more of an FYI post than a full-on review.  However, I’ve been impressed enough by the contents so far to feel I should bring this one to your attention.

First of all, this is a reprint anthology, and there is one difference between the print and electronic editions.  That’s the inclusion of Ray Bradbury’s “The Halloween Game”, which isn’t in the electronic edition.  Now if you recall, I have a very high regard for Bradbury, but I wish he hadn’t been so stubborn about electronic rights. “The Halloween Game” is a story that deserves to be in this book.

Even without Bradbury’s contribution, the table of contents is impressive.  The stories I’ve read include “Night Out” by Tina Rath and “On a Dark October” by Joe Lansdale.  Both are worth the read.  I”ll dip into this one again, at least to reread “Hornets” by Al Sarrantonio, which takes place in his fictional town of Orangefield.  I’ve just started reading one of the Orangefield novels, and it makes reference to the events in “Hornets”.

October Dreams
Richard Chizmar and Robert Morrish, ed.
trade paper, 656 p., oop, various prices second hand

This one came out ten years ago (I think there was an earlier limited edition), and it’s been almost that long since I read it.  It contains a mix of memoir, reprint, and what at the time was new.  I don’t remember all of the stories well enough to try to do a full review, but this is one anthology I intend to revisit, something that doesn’t happen with much of what I read.  I probably won’t get to it this year since the library is still in a state of disarray since the move, but I recommend this book if you come across a copy or want to order it online.   It’s got some great stories in it.  Like Halloween, this is another anthology that’s perfect for dipping into on a evening when there’s a nip in the air and you’re not sure if the sound you hear is a branch scraping against the window in the wind or something else.

Four Publishers You Should be Reading in 2012

Yep, that’s right.  I said “publishers”, not “authors”.  The reason for this wording is these are the publishers I think are publishing the most innovative, original, and/or best written stuff in the fantasy and science fiction fields, with a dash of horror thrown in for spice.

I’m limiting my list to four (plus a runner-up) because these are the publishers whose books I’ve most enjoyed this year.  If you’ve read my post from yesterday, you can probably guess which ones won’t be on there.  I’m deliberately not including small presses that publish pricey limited editions, even if they also publish trade editions.  I’m limiting the list to imprints you can find in a local bookstore.  Also, there’s at least one publisher not on the list because I simply didn’t get around to reading any of their books this year, and that’s Orbit. I’ve enjoyed things they’ve published in the past, and have several books in the TBR stack from them.  What I’ve read of Orbit’s line I’ve generally enjoyed, and I expect that to be the case with what I have on hand.

One thing to note about all the publishers on the list.  Roughly a decade, to use round figures, is about as long as any of these publishers have been around, although one or two have existed slightly longer than that.  Some are much younger.  All of them are lean, efficient, and not afraid to take chances with what they publish.  And their books don’t look like all their other books.

Here’s the way I’m structuring this list.  I’ll list the publishers in reverse order, starting with the runner-up (along with an explanation of why that publisher isn’t number 5), with a few recommendations from their line along with a list of some of what I’ll be reading from them in the coming months.  I’ll confine myself to three, at most four, recommendations and TBRs, even though in most cases the actual number is greater.  Links will be to the books’ webpages, not any reviews I’ve posted; there’ll be a comprehensive list of reviews at the end of the post.  For series, I’ll only list the first volume.  A book’s being included in the TBR listing is not a guarantee I’ll review it here or at Futures Past and Present.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Runner-up:  Prime Books.  The reason I’m calling Prime the runner-up is somewhat awkward.  You see, I haven’t actually finished any of their books, at least none that I’ve bought in the last few years.  Not that I’ve disliked any of the books, but that they’ve all been anthologies, and I have a really bad habit of dipping into an anthology  between novels, reading a selection of stories, then putting the anthology down for an extended period of time before coming back to it.  So I’ve got a number of anthologies sitting around unfinished.  (I really need to break that habit.)   Prime does publish novels, and I have some in the TBR list (which I promise I will finish).  Their ebooks are reasonably priced, with most in the $4.95 range, and unlike many higher priced ebooks from larger publishers, the TOCs are interactive.  Highlights of what I have read portions of include Rich Horton’s annual Best Science Fiction and Fantasy series, which I’m waay behind on, and Paula Guran’s annual Best Dark Fantasy and Horror series, which I’m not as far behind on.  Many of the their recent anthologies have been themed reprint anthologies.
Recommendations:  It’s hard to recommend something you haven’t finished, but you could hardly go wrong with any of the Year’s Best, either the science fiction and fantasy or the dark fantasy and horror
TBR:  When the Great Days Come by Gardner Dozois, Heart of Iron by Ekaterina Sedia, Mechanique by Genevieve Valentine

Number 4:  Abaddon/Solaris These are two imprints of the same company, with the former having a dark focus and the latter a less grim tone.  Either way, you can’t go wrong.  There’s enough solid science fiction, fantasy, and horror in a wide variety of subgenres here to keep anyone busy.  The company is British, so many of the author’s names might not be familiar to American readers.  Don’t let that stop you; British authors have a slightly different perspective on things, which I find quite refreshing at times.  Check their website, and I’m sure you’ll find several things appealing. 
Recommendations:  Hawkwood’s Voyage (in the omnibus Hawkwood and the Kings) by Paul Kearney, Engineering Infinity edited by Johnathan Strahan, and Viking Dead by Toby Venables
TBR:  Engineman by Eric Brown, The Ten Thousand by Paul Kearney, The Recollection by Gareth L. Powell, Solaris Rising edited by Ian Whates

Number 3:   Angry Robot  This is another British publisher, and the youngest imprint on the list.  Yet in the short time they’ve been around, Angry Robot has embarked on an aggressive program of publishing some of the most ambitious genre-bending books on the market.  Their authors come from all over the English speaking world, and some of their most acclaimed titles are by authors from places other than the US or Great Britain.  They’re beginning to get nominations for the some of the major awards in the field, including the Hugo and the Ditmar, and winning the Arthur C. Clarke and World Fantasy.  This is an imprint to watch.  They’re having an ebook sale  for the month of January, so now’s your chance to check them out and see what all the commotion is about. 
Recommendations:  Winter Song by Colin Harvey, Roil by Trent Jamieson, The Crown of the Blood by Gav Thorpe
TBR:  The World House by Guy Adams, Book of Secrets by Chris Roberson, Walking the Tree by Kaaron Warren

Number Two:  Night Shade  This is the publisher on my list that’s been around the longest, but in my opinion they’re only getting better.  I didn’t read a great many of their books this year, and the science fiction I read wasn’t exactly to my taste although I understand the appeal of those particular titles.  But the fantasy was some of the best I’ve read in years.  The characters were all well-drawn, complex individuals, most of whom you could cheer for, including some of the villains, or perhaps I should say antagonists since most weren’t entirely evil.  The plots were involved and often twisty, with plenty of action and suspense.  Nightshade seems to be focusing on developing new authors at the moment, although one of my favorite authors, who hadn’t been able to get a publishing contract the last few years has signed with them and they’re continuing to reprint much of Glen Cook’s backlist, for which they are to be lauded.  All but one of their titles that I read were the first volumes in new series, which is a good thing.  I’m excited about what they’ve got coming up this year and will be reading more of their books than I did this past year.
Recommendations:  The Winds of Khalakovo by Bradley P. Beaulieu, The Whitefire Crossing by Courtney Schafer, The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells
TBR:  Miserere by Teresa Frohock, Southern Gods by John Horner Jacobs, The Serpent Sea by Martha Wells (which I’m reading right now, look for the review in a couple of days)

Number One:  Pyr  If you read books from only one publisher in 2012, this is the one you should read.  This is by far the most impressive and innovative line in all SFF publishing, although the others on this list are giving them increasing competition. If you’ve read many of their books, you understand why editor Lou Anders won the Hugo for Best Editor – Long Form last year.  I’ve not read a single book published by Pyr that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed, something I can’t say about any other publisher.  That’s not to say everything they publish is compatible with my taste.  They have a few items in their lineup that I can tell are not my thing.  And that’s okay; in fact, that’s how it should be.  A good publisher will a wide enough selection of product that most readers can find something they like, not cater to a narrow audience.  While they tend to focus on series (only makes economic sense), Pyr also publishes stand alone novels and a few anthologies.  Their focus has shifted since their inception from science fiction to fantasy, and they’re publishing some of the most exciting fantasy around, especially if you like the heroic variety, which I do.
Recommendations:  The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie, Twelve by Jasper Kent, Wolfsangel by M. D. Lachlan, Shadow’s Son by Jon Sprunk
TBR:  Blackdog by K. V. Johansen, Ghosts of Manhattan by George Mann, City of Ruins by Kristine Kathryn Rusch,  Shadow’s Lure by Jon Sprunk

These are the publishers I think are the best in the field right now, and the ones I’ll be reading the most in 2012.  That’s not to say I won’t be reading other publishers.  I will, just like I listed the indie published authors I’ll be reading in the coming months in a previous post.  As I said there, please be patient.  That’s a lot of books to read and will require time to complete, and I have other books in the TBR listing from some of these publishers that I didn’t list.  I’m sure some of you have your own ideas of which publishers are the ones to be reading, and I’m sure they aren’t the same as mine.  That’s okay.  Feel free to post a comment letting me know which ones they are.  As much good stuff is out there, I’m bound to have overlooked something.

For those who have too much time on their hands might be interested, here are links to the reviews I’ve posted of books by these publishers, arranged by publisher.

Abaddon/Solaris:  Hawkwood’s Voyage and The Heretic Kings by Paul Kearney, Engineering Infinity by Jonathan Strahan, Viking Dead by Toby Venables

Angry Robot:  Debris by Jo Anderton, Empire State by Adam Christopher, Darkness Falling by Peter Crowther, Winter Song by Colin Harvey, Roil by Trent Jamieson, The Crown of the Blood and The Crown of the Conqueror by Gav Thorpe

Nightshade:  The Winds of Khalakovo by Bradley P. Beaulieu, The Whitefire Crossing by Courtney Schafer, The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells

Pyr:  “Traveler’s Rest” by James Enge,Twelve, Thirteen Years Later, and The Third Section by Jasper Kent, Wolfsangel and Fenrir by M. D. Lachlan, Shadow’s Son by Jon Sprunk

John Joseph Adams Buys Lightspeed and Fantasy Magazines

John Joseph Adams

Prime Books announced today that it is selling both Lightspeed and Fantasy magazines to current editor John Joseph Adams.  The sale is part of the expansion of Prime Books.  Publisher Sean Wallace stated that the book publishing side of his job was taking more and more time.  Adams is a highly respected editor not only of the magazine but of numerous anthologies as well.  Adams issued the following statement:  “It’s an exciting time to be involved in publishing.  Models are changing and so is the readership, and online magazines have a better shot at sustainability than ever have before. I believe the possibilities for growth are tremendous, and I look forward to staying in the vanguard of this new frontier.”

With the announcement last week that Realms of Fantasy was closing again, it’s been an eventful week in sff periodical publishing.  As I promised when I posted about RoF I’ll have more to say about these changes in a post later this week.