Dark Continents Publishing is introducing a new forum this month — we present the same question to 10-15 people, and give them an open opportunity to answer the question based on their own interpretations and beliefs. Over the next few weeks, these views will be posted as part of our ongoing series. We encourage everyone to read and react to our questions, and all comments are welcome.
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For our inaugural March 2012 forum, the question is:
Why are small publishing companies important?
I don’t like decisions by committee. Given a choice between the story that had two editors raving and the third threatening to quit the magazine and the story that everyone agreed was “pretty good,” I will always pick door #1.
And to me, that’s often the dividing line between a small press book and one from a large, established press. The small press is willing to risk that some people won’t like the book – heck, they KNOW everyone won’t like the book — where the large press is more worried about that. Small presses live closer to the edge. They’re willing to gamble, willing to test things out.
I’ve worked for small companies and for multinational corporations. Give me the small company, where traditions haven’t become so entrenched that no one knows where they came from and where people are working not for stock options but because they love what they do enough to put insanely long and hard hours into it.
Small presses have a sense of humor, a willingness to poke humor at themselves in a way that the larger ones often lack. They don’t have a projections about fourth quarter earnings, but they do have a complete collection of rubber skulls in the bathroom that everyone’s sharing — assuming there’s office space at all and the enterprise isn’t being run from the cloud.
I’m about to put out another collection, a two volume set, with a small press. Do I think it’ll set the world on fire, or that I’ll be able to see it in airport shops? No. (Though it would be cool.) But I know I’ll be working with people who love my writing and want the books to be beautiful. That my idea for the books will remain intact, and any changes will be ones that make them better, not worse. I can’t guarantee that a small press will work with the writer like this, because sometimes it’s not the case — but it seems much more likely with one.
As e-publishing’s popularity swells and physical books become less common, it’s the small presses that will keep producing them, and will be the ones to be making books that are art objects, because they’ve been doing that all along. Go to the dealer’s room at your next con and look at small press versus large press. Small press doesn’t mean cheap POD paper — sometimes it means books that are lovingly crafted, that feel good in the hand, are legible and lovely and error-free, that didn’t just roll off an assembly line.
Here at least, or so I hope, their gamble will pay off. Because a world without at least a few hard-copy books here and there is surely a lesser one.
John Barth described Cat Rambo’s writings as “works of urban mythopoeia” — her stories take place in a universe where chickens aid the lovelorn, Death is just another face on the train, and Bigfoot gives interviews to the media on a daily basis. She has worked as a programmer-writer for Microsoft and a Tarot card reader, professions which, she claims, both involve a certain combination of technical knowledge and willingness to go with the flow. In 2005 she attended the Clarion West Writers’ Workshop.
Among the places in which her stories have appeared are ASIMOV’S, WEIRD TALES, CLARKESWORLD, and STRANGE HORIZONS, and her work has consistently garnered mentions and appearances in year’s best of anthologies. Her collection, EYES LIKE SKY AND COAL AND MOONLIGHT was an Endeavour Award finalist in 2010 and followed her collaboration with Jeff VanderMeer, THE SURGEON’S TALE AND OTHER STORIES.
She has edited anthologies as well as critically-acclaimed Fantasy Magazine, is a board member of feminist science fiction group Broad Universe, a member of the Codex Writers’ Group, and volunteers with Clarion West.
Although no longer actively involved with the game, she is one of the minds behind Armageddon MUD, the oldest roleplay-intensive MUD (an interactive text-based game) on the Internet, which has been described as “like no other mud I have played before“, “the most entertaining game I’ve ever played“, “the most creative, emotionally involved mud on the Net” and “a place of astonishing beauty and detail“. She continues to do some game writing as well as technology journalism and reviews for Publishers Weekly.
Cat is represented by Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown Ltd.
Contact Cat at email@example.com