by Logan Priess
Dagan Books is an independent publisher of themed speculative fiction short story anthologies started in 2010 by Carrie Cuinn, a fiction writer, former journalist and freelance writer, and recent adult-student college graduate. Dagan Books specializes in publishing the many varieties of “weird, wicked, lovely” stories that fall under the umbrella of speculative fiction, or as their website states:
“We are looking for speculative fiction, particularly science fiction (hard, soft, near-future, etc), magic realism, urban fantasy, and apocalypse fiction. We rarely like sword and sorcery type fantasy, aren’t interested in “slasher” type horror, don’t care for religious themes (which includes demons/the devil), and will not accept poetry of any kind.”
The press began its journey with the publication of an anthology inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s mythos, a short story collection titled Cthulurotica, in 2010. Timed perfectly with the returning Cthulu/Lovecraft craze of the late 00’s, and with an overarching focus on the sexual undertones of Lovecraft’s worlds, the anthology garnered a large amount of good press, including its selection as “book of the month” by the Vaginal Fantasy book club in September of this year. For an idea that was spawned of a conversation with Jaym Gates (editor of the Rigor Mortis anthology) about zombie erotica and “where to go next”, the critical response to Cthulurotica was beyond impressive, such as this review from Harry Markov at RiseReviews.com:
“I’ve never read an anthology so sure in its identity, with such a strong voice or as consistent in its theme. From concept to execution, I couldn’t find a fault within these pages. The covert art, the internal illustrations, the content, everything fits. Honestly, ‘Cthulhurotica’ is also the first book I’ve read to justify its existence and then give an intimate confession about its secrets.”
Dagan Books next broadened its speculative fiction horizons with its release of IN SITU, a collection that featured science fiction stories pertaining to xenoarchaeology (alien archaeology). As Carrie Cuinn enthusiastically described to Innsmouth Free Press:
“We have stories about finding alien artifacts on earth, on far-off planets, or out in space. There are stories about aliens coming to Earth and about humans travelling out into the Universe. No matter where the narrative takes you, each one comes back to the idea that real aliens – not blue humanoids that happen to have a culture exactly like one you’d find on Earth – will probably be so different from us that we can’t assume we know how to handle anything they’ve left behind.”
Since then, the press has ambitiously pressed on to collect stories for two more collections to be released in 2013, titled Fish (collected stories involving fish) and Bibliotheca Fantastica (featuring “tales of bibliophilic wonder, enchantment, terror, romance, mystery, and adventure”), as well as four novellas to be published over the course of the year. Of course, as is the case with many “work of love” projects, the press is not completely self-sustaining. The staff is headed by Carrie Cuinn, who acts as publisher, editor, head of acquisitions, and several other roles, while the rest of the editing and reading staff consists of a somewhat consistent stable of six volunteers and rotating “guest editors” who perform one off work on single anthologies. Cuinn herself recently noted how much of a struggle it is just to make the press run:
“However, when I started the company I was married, with a full-time job, and had the luxury of supporting Dagan Books myself. I was prepared for the typical new business scenario of ‘lose money in the beginning, get established, and then grow’. My circumstances changed, and I find myself a single parent with a much different life than I had before. While I still have the time to donate, I no longer have the income. I know that if we can get a few more titles out, the books themselves will begin to pay for future novels, anthologies, and collections. We just have to get there.”
In order to maintain the level of quality and integrity she has committed to providing in Dagan Books, Carrie Cuinn finally turned to technology, specifically a Kickstarter campaign, to get Fish, Bibliotheca Fantastica, and the four novellas for 2013 off the ground, a feat that only required $4000 and achieved its goal in August of 2012 with 135 backers.
Unique for this tiny independent publisher, however, is that even with the financial difficulties of running a press, Carrie Cuinn pays the authors she publishes. While the rate is not large, one cent per word upon publication, it is a crucial effort on Cuinn’s part to acknowledge the hard work writers have done to appear in her titles, as she noted in her interview with Innsmouth: “I wanted to make sure that, guaranteed, I could offer writers something in exchange for what I know is work. Writing is a real job and as a writer, I respect that.” Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that Dagan Books is accruing a loyal stable of contributing authors, including Mae Empson, Paul Dixon, and Sarah Hendrix, that have appeared or will appear in Dagan Books anthologies.
Dagan’s books are available from their website as well as Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble as $3.99 DRM-free e-books in EPUB and MOBI formats (and a new e-book designer, Elizabeth Campbell, was recently hired to take over this division) and can be found in print form from Amazon.com. Carrie Cuinn has stated that the press is striving to use a plethora of popular technologies to its advantage, as quoted in an interview with Duotrope: “We accept email submissions, maintain websites, have Twitter feeds and Facebook pages dedicated both to Dagan Books proper and various individual titles, and use both PoD and traditional print services. While we would never give up the printed word, we find a great story reads just as well on an e-reader too.”
Other Writers featured in their anthologies have included Cody Goodfellow, Simon C. Larter, Ken Liu, Don Pizarro, Steven James Scearce, and K. V. Taylor, and the press is open to submissions from all writers in both short-story and novella formats, though submissions are only open sporadically throughout the year.
by Adam Bishop
Anytime I click-open www.journal1913.org, some subconscious troll inside me lets out a sigh of relief. Entering the website of most any small press, I expect some screwball, in-your-face graphic design and a layout which requires insurmountable scrolling and clicking to navigate the page’s contents—having to hover your mouse across an entire webpage before ‘discovering’ the proper link is beyond obnoxious. 1913 Press, despite the antiquity of their name, does not fashion their web-space in such a way. Their site opens cleanly, white with squared, minimalist lines and boxes, while the site’s features are situated clearly along the top. Front and center is a gently scrolling flash of 1913’s published books and journals, and edging their way down the right-hand side of the page is 1913’s social media presence: mailing list, Facebook, Twitter, and Blogspot. That’s it. This small press takes the aesthetic initiative to provide a simple, easy-on-the-eyes website with all the necessary information provided in a highly navigable form. Suffice it to say, this cleanliness, this straight-forward, unapologetically handsome website reflects each of 1913 Press’s publication.
Since its inception in 2003, 1913 Press has brought forth six full-length books, four volumes of a translation series, and five issues of their mind-blowing journal (issue six is on its way!). L’editrice, Sandra Doller (née Miller), along with her man, vice-editor, and designer, Ben (née Doyle), have maintained the vision of 1913 to publish “the baddest in poetry, poetics, prose, & their intersections with the arts of all forms,” hailing the book-as-art-object—that tangible, well-crafted, thought-out, TLC’d bound work of written craft.
I had the opportunity to interview l’editrice, Sandra Doller, about her press. Inside, Sandra reveals the scotch-lubed mechanics of her press and her dog’s taste for fashion; she gives us a peek into the future of 1913 and the desire to perform a technological alchemy, that is, turn an laptop into wood, cell phones into tin-can and string. From the base of my academic being, thank you, Sandra, for answers to my questions, for making this so easy. From the base of my human being, thank you for your time and for making this fun to write.
Aha! Well 1913 is definitely the most conceptually mispronounced name out there. We have the oldest Twitter account in the world, consisting of factoids from the year 1913 (if anyone is interested in the real “why” of it all) like the invention of the bra, the invention of ecstasy, the invention of Prada, the birth of Rosa Parks, the death of Harriet Tubman, the federal income tax. Oh, and the Armory Show, Tender Buttons, and faux-bois wallpaper in the papiers-collés.
Why on earth indeed would the editrice want to edit anything at all… 1913 was born in Chicago, like the rest of the 20th century. There were in fact many bottles of Bordeaux involved, and Jameson’s to be true, though now we tend towards the Trader Joe’s Scotch, being Californians and all. In my other life, I was studying Kafka, went to Prague to learn Czech, went to St. Petersburg on a train from Berlin to meet the Futurists, and the year 1913 was all over it all, all the time. Don’t you feel that too?
I started the journal first in 2003, and then the press just sort of happened in 2006 with the publication of the very excellent Seismosis by John Keene & Christopher Stackhouse. Back in the old days (then), every house didn’t house a press or a magazine, so it seemed an imaginary and doable and viable and wacky thing to do. The press really started in order to do Seismosis, which is so right—isn’t that how a press should start? Hey there’s this completely phenomenal book and it needs to get into the world right now, let’s do it!
Well if we really had to “operate” it, like turn the cranks, we would probably slow down to a much more manageable pace. Now I am just hoping that some of Ben’s students will be able to get involved—we’re trying to link up with UCSD—because it has really gone far beyond the whole one-woman + one-man + two-dogs show. It’s always been a collective endeavor, although the workload tends to fall one or two directions at a time. The payoffs and rewards are the works themselves, the writers, the people involved, all the warm and fuzzy things about being part of a community larger than one’s own self, one’s own work. I really do remain committed to the notion that supporting good work is the work. Is that super old-fashioned?
Absolutely, every time. You sound like you’ve been a-editing (like, a-wandering)? That is exactly what happens, the work catches me off guard or in a mood or in a let’s go with it phase, and yet somehow each issue congeals in its own waxy way and becomes its own conversation—out of control, distracted, yet balanced, referential/reverential, and finite.
Really this all depends on each writer, but yes we ask for cover art, dream size, font, radical form, all that, we want the books to be happy books in the happy hands of their makers. That feeling of getting your book physicalized from the white printer paper to its fancy new bound iteration, it should be like getting your first pair of MiuMiu’s (although Ronald Johnson ate mine).
I wish we were at a 10, with a whole workshop full of elves making toys and puppies licking stamps. But really, we’re at a 2 because there are two of us, and the y in DIY is you. But I harbor dreams of hand stamps and exacto knives and chewing gum sticks and candy cigarettes popped into page pockets as presents for readers. We do do buttons, though! Babies in mail bags (it became illegal to mail children in the US Mail in 1913), Duchamp’s bicycle wheel, Malevich’s Black Circle & Black Square. But that might be more swaggy than DIY. (Btw though, Busy Beaver Buttons in Chicago, oh yes.)
For its first 4 issues, 1913 was solicit-only; same with the books. But Meg Ronan suggested having Fanny Howe select a first book, and we were off! It seemed like a good way to find work we weren’t going to find any way else. And boy did we. 1913’s Issue 6 actually came almost entirely from submissions to both contests, so it’s a wonderful carry over there. We read every single submission that comes in, and we do plan to continue poaching from them for the journal.
We need an electronic hero, we’re holding out for a digital hero. Someone who can move 1913 into the 21st century or back into the 12th century, whichever one. It would be great to have more stuff online. But does there need to be more stuff online? Sure. The Volta and HTML Giant and Omnidawn are all doing all that so swell-like. So yes, maybe 1913 can find a way to make everyone’s laptops and iPhones turn to wood?
Le Board is THE top of the line. I like to imagine them all dressed in their best velvet and fedoras and galoshes splashing in the pools of Sea World in San Diego. Bring a camera, let’s do the first ever annual Le Board photo. We’ll signal the beginning of the end game.
I’d like to thank Sandra again for responding with such enthusiasm to my questions. And absolutely, by all means, pick up something, anything, by 1913 Press. Each journal is a spangling collection of writers and available for free in PDF form here, and, of 1913’s full-length books, my personal favorites are Seismosis by John Keene and Christopher Stackhouse and Conversities by Dan Beachy-Quick and Srikanth Reddy. But like I said, anything from 1913 Press is worthy of your attention and is sure to engage you, leaving you stirred as a child in a mailbag or inspired as a bike wheel tacked to a barstool.
by Sara Renee Marshall
Noemi Press, is a 501©(3) literary arts organization based out of Las Cruces, New Mexico, but with two primary editors in Denver, CO. Like many small presses, Noemi began by publishing chapbooks in 2002 they chose by way of a contest. Since 2002 the Noemi Chapbook Series has published 1-3 chapbook manuscripts a year in both poetry and fiction. Around 2008, the press held their first open reading period for full-length poetry manuscripts yielding two poetry titles in 2009. But after taking a long, hard look at their credit card statements, publishers Carmen Gimenez Smith and Evan Lavender Smith faced a glaring reality: this publishing model was unsustainable. So, the Noemi Book Contest came to be. The press charged and still charges $25 for entry into a contest judged by the editors. The contest fees pay the Noemi Book Award winners in fiction and poetry $1000 each. The remainder goes directly into production of two contest manuscripts and, if funds permit, one or two other books per year.
In an interview by HTML GIANT contributor and colleague, Lily Hoang, Lily asked, “For the sake of transparency, would you be willing to disclose roughly how much your contest “makes” and how that money is used? This, sadly, is an important question. A lot of readers assume the money goes into your pocket or for drinks or something.” Carmen Gimenez Smith answered, “We also made about $7,000 this year on both our contests. We pay the award and produce two or three full-length manuscripts and there you go. I sometimes buy drinks in the form of orange juice for the readers, maybe even pizza.” See the rest of her answers here.
The contest submissions are read blindly. I can vouch for this, as I read for the Noemi contest this last summer. This is a meaningful conceit in the process of contest publishing. Poetry editor J. Michael Martinez and I slaved over that submission pile, then talked long, hard and with conviction about our favorites. Something deeply exciting happened when we unveiled our poetry entrants: our shortlist was comprised of young, emerging authors. Poetry is a small tilt-a-whirl and among the roughly 100+ rejections were many recognizable names, some of which are well-established poets. I’m thankful that what influences our contest decisions is a righteous and considered attraction to the work.
Beyond the contest, the editors have recently chosen additional manuscripts through solicitation or query. These are exceptions, and most often, labors of love—books the editors want desperately to see in the world.
The press does offer a subscription deal, which varies based on which books are available when. At the moment, we’re putting together a bundle of about 7 titles for $100.
CURRENT BOOK SERIES
This year Noemi initiated two additional series: Akrilica and Disquiet (this name may change). The Akrilica Series, a collaboration with Letras Latinas and poet Francisco Aragon, is made possible through this organization’s generous funds ($1000/book). The first forthcoming title in this series is Sandy Florian’s Boxing the Compass due out in Spring 2013. The Disquiet Series extends to a poetics/essay form and has been kicked off with Sarah Vap’s End of the Sentimental Journey: A Mystery Poem.
Noemi consists of a few unpaid staff in the following roles:
Publisher: Carmen Gimenez Smith
Founding Editor: Evan Lavender Smith
Managing Editor: Sara Renee Marshall
Poetry Editor: J. Michael Martinez
Fiction Editor: Mike Meginnis
Associate Editor: Curt Moyer, Tracy Meginnis
Advisory Board: Mary Jo Bang, Francisco Aragon, Georganne Deen, Brian Evenson, Krystal Languell, Monica Youn
The Noemi catalog makes this press particularly difficult to pigeonhole. Foremost, I’d say the press is interested in books that are formally innovative and that disregard generic thresholds. Take, for instance, a small sampling of their authors: Danielle Pafunda, Khadijah Queen, Joshua Edwards, Rusty Morrison. Gothic sci-fi feminism, bold form-bending survivalism, meditations on a speculated ruin in the Gulf Coast, the domestic-erotic. This range of tastes not only speaks to a democratic field of editorial voices, but to an explicit missive that they try to meet: find surprising work, find work that troubles expectations of what language and genre should do.
The look and feel of Noemi Books vary, and likely this has to do with variable funds and possibilities at the time of publication. While some presses have firm, standardized specifications for their book design and production standards, I think the variability in their books speaks mainly to a determination to publish the books they believe in to the best of their ability, regardless of how that process is cobbled together. In the face of financial and time constraints, I think this is an admirable course.
The safest way to honor this exciting body of work is not to sum it up, but to open readers to its expansive range. Enjoy the following videos from Noemi authors as an introduction to what you might discover there.