Small press books, bought and craved (Part 1)

Somedays it feels like a full-time job to keep up with all the interesting new releases from the various small presses, and by the various authors I feel the need to collect.

Some other days, though, it’s just like Christmas. Today is one of those days.

Ted ChiangIt started with a new email from Subterranean Press, announcing Ted Chiang‘s forthcoming book The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate.

(You may recall Ted from his much-lauded debut collection Stories of Your Life and Others, from seeing his various stories in print or on all the award lists, or possibly even from seeing his highly intelligent comments on this very blog.)

I hadn’t heard anything about this, which is actually kind of odd given the number of different paths this information could have taken to get to me, so this was a very pleasant surprise. I did a little Googling and found that this is an 11,500-word novelette, and is going to run around 83 pages. Some people might balk at throwing down $20 for 83 pages, but not me. Without knowing anything more than “new Ted Chiang”, I was ready to pay (and actually, since I’m getting the limited edition, it’s $45 for 83 pages). Reading the short description at the Subterranean Press page, I was even more ready to trade money for the story. Between the proverb, and the final line of the solicitation text, I’m quite excited. I can’t wait to see what Ted does with the idea of “recognizing the will of Allah and accepting it, no matter what form it takes”.

(This story was one that Ted workshopped at Sycamore Hill in 2005–if you go to this page and scroll down to June 2005, you can see the group from that year, although Ted himself is hiding behind Kelly Link–he’s in front in the photo for the following year. Note a couple of the other usual suspects in that photo, too. Beneath the photo is the list of the stories critiqued in that year.)

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PJFThe same email also announced the third Subterranean collection of Philip Jose Farmer‘s fiction, Up from the Bottomless Pit and Other Stories (following on the heels of The Best of Philip Jose Farmer and Pearls From Peoria).

Since I quite enjoyed the previous two collections, both straight-up as stories and as views into the history of the genre, I’ll be getting this one as well. In all honesty this collection excites me less than the previous two, since it’s a collection of material that’s more for Farmer geeks than for people who like good stories. However, after the pleasure of the last two volumes, I’m willing to give the rarities volume a chance. (And, since I bought the limited edition of the previous two volumes, and I’m one of those crazy people, I’ll be getting the limited edition of this one as well.)

Needless to say, I ordered both the Chiang and Farmer limited editions today. I’ll see them some time later this year.

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Those weren’t the only small-press titles I ordered today, though. While reading Charlie Strossjournal in my RSS reader over the weekend I found this entry about… well, let me quote him:

One of the most disgusting pieces of legislation to be passed in the past decade in the UK — and it faces some stiff competition — is the badly thought-out and draconian Terrorism Act of 2006.

Among other things, this piece of legislation created several new crimes — including the rather peculiar one of “glorifying terrorism”. The proximate justification for this offense seems to be public indignation at the sight of preachers praising suicide bombers in Iraq and Israel from the pulpit, but the effect of it is corrosive — it undermines political free speech. Just consider for a moment the vexing question of who is, or isn’t, a terrorist. Is Nelson Mandela? Certainly if this law had been on the books in the 1980s it’s possible that supporters of the ANC would have been prosecuted. Is the animal rights movement supportive of terrorists? Is Sinn Fein? Once you get into the gritty business of trying to pin down who is and isn’t a terrorist you end up with a peculiar conjugation: “I am a freedom fighter, you are a guerilla, they are terrorists”. It all depends on where you stand, and consequently this nonsensical piece of legislation went through on the nod with an appendix explaining that the IRA aren’t terrorists (they’re good guys now that they put down their guns) and neither was the ANC, and Menachem Begin couldn’t possibly be a terrorist (despite Irgun Zvai Leumi’s habit of kidnapping and killing British soldiers back in the day) … only funny people we don’t approve of or want to talk to are terrorists.

Oh, and they forgot to define “glorifying”. In fact, they drew the net so widely that they forgot to leave out political satire, or works of fiction.

Well, you know what those uppity writer-types will do in this kind of situation, right? They get together and put out a (technically illegal) book of stories that “glorify terrorism”.

Glorifying Terrorism

You can click through the image to see more details, or order the book. If you’ve been following any of the political posts on this blog, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that I ordered my copy of this immediately.

It’s not just about the political statement, though, the collection includes contributions by lots of names I’m familiar with: Hal Duncan, Suzette Haden Elgin, Gwyneth Jones, Ken MacLeod, Adam Roberts,Charlie Stross, Jo Walton, and Ian Watson among others. It’s hardly money that I won’t be getting return on.

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