Introduction to Bibliotheca Fantastica, by Don Pizarro

Wondering what Bibliotheca Fantastica, our next anthology release, is all about? Let the editor explain:

Pondering the nature of the power of “the book” is as complex to me as pondering the nature of humanity. Which makes sense, in a way. A book has a specific author or authors, and is written with specific intentions. Those intentions can be shaped, in part, by any number of things – a lot of times, by other books. “Nature v. Nurture,” anyone?

That “Which comes first?” question is partly what captures my fascination about books. Different questions hold equal fascination for others: Is a book a mirror or a door? Is a block of pulp and glue still a viable method of content-transmission in this post-modern, electronic age? Has that power to shape and to be shaped been subsumed by other media? Can it ever be? (I know I’m barely scratching the surface…)

It seems fitting that fiction, one of the most time-honored ways of examining the complexity of human nature, also be applied to the examination of something as equally complex. Fiction about books in general has certainly been done before. Indeed, one might be tempted to dismiss this book about books, this Bibliotheca Fantastica, as an anthology of stories about Necronomicon knock-offs housed in spooky libraries, or of post-apocalyptic mutant book-worshippers living under St. Patrick’s Cathedral, or riffs on Borges’s Ficciones.

Yes, there are stories about books of power, and of libraries. There is a cathedral, and the name of Borges is invoked not once, but twice. But each of the stories in Bibliotheca Fantastica has, I believe, something unique to say about the importance of the book-as-artifact to those who shape them and to those who are shaped by them. These are stories in which the idea of a book and what it represents reaches beyond issues of form and function. Indeed, sometimes a book’s form is its function, and in this anthology the possibilities for both are limitless.

My greatest thrill in editing this anthology was in finding those stories which, whether they intended to or not, examined questions about the nature of the power of the book. And the way each writer uses elements of the fantastic to do that gives us, if not specific answers, then very possibly, the intersection of all possible answers.

So, open the door. Look into the mirror. Crack the paperback’s spine. Tap on your e-reader. Find your answers.

Don Pizarro, 2013

Bibliotheca Fantastica will be out tomorrow!


Why Novellas Matter

A novella is a long story, much longer than the 5000 to 8000 word short stories published in magazines across all genres. At the same time, it’s shorter than a novel, less than half the length (sometimes only a third). It’s an in-between story, not quite either of the two things readers are most used to reading. It’s been defined as being between 17,500 and 40,000 words*, which tells you about how long it might be, but not, really, what it is.

“The beauty of the novella is that is eludes definition. Which, when you think about it, is what makes art art rather than a product. Let’s embrace that.” – Michael Nye

Perhaps it’s not definable as a specific thing so much as a range that a certain kind of story falls into. But if we can’t nail down hard and fast rules about what a novella is, what’s the point of it?

The structure of a novella lends itself to exploration without dragging on too long. Taylor Antrim said that a novella is “fiction’s most open-ended and compellingly discursive form.” It opens the reader up to a new experience but ends before the feeling has faded away, leaving the reader in the moment, in the story.

The point is that a novella offers the best kind of reading experience. The point is that novellas are quick to read, full of impact, descriptive without being overwhelming, and exciting in their brevity. They are, simply, damn fun to read.

The novella is the perfect literary length. Bartleby the Scrivener. The Secret Sharer. The Turn of the Screw — all are novellas which retain the immediacy and vigor of the short story combined with the freedom and leisurely pace of a monologue without losing the gristle and bone and without losing the fat. – Harlan Ellison

Think of all of the chances you’ve had to start reading a new novel, but put it aside because you didn’t think you had the time … A novella can be read in a few hours, or spread out over your lunch breaks one week, or finished on your daily commute.

A novella is everything you need a piece of fiction to be.

John Brandon thought so highly of the novella as a story form that he suggested we all pretend they don’t exist, so publishers can’t find a way to make money from them, so they don’t become mainstream and boring. For the most part, that’s worked, as there are few publishers willing to put out a novella on its own, and even fewer of those handle speculative fiction. It’s this deficit that we want to correct.

“And look,” he said, “let’s keep the novella for ourselves, the adults. We deserve something, don’t we?

You do deserve to be able to read brilliant, strange, beautiful, and wicked stories. You deserve a quality market for speculative fiction novellas. We want to give them to you.

click on the image to pledge

Please pre-order books, art, and novella subscriptions from our Kickstarter today, and help us make a new home for novellas. We only have two weeks left.

* According to the SFWA

Thoughts on FISH: Blog Posts From Some Authors

A few of the authors from our upcoming anthology wrote about their acceptances on their personal websites, and can be found by clicking the links below:

Polenth Blake talks about “Thwarting the Fiends

Mjke Wood gives a shout out for his story, “The Last Fisherman of Habitat 37

Tracie McBride talks about the long path to publication for her story, “The Touch of the Taniwha

Jennifer R. Povey muses on what FISH could be, announces her sale of “Water Demons

Jacob Ruby, who comes back to us after having sold us “Seeds” for IN SITU, mentions his new story, “The Talking Fish of Shangri-La

Sam Fleming posts about her story, “What the Water Gave Her

8 Creatures You Think Are Fish, But Aren’t.

Another in a series meant to inspires those of you working on a submission for our upcoming FISH anthology; you can find our previous post here.These creatures, nearly all of them called “fish” of one kind or another, are not actually classifiable as fish. Dive right in!

1. Jellyfish – “The word jellyfish (which has been in common usage for more than a century) is used to denote several different kinds of cnidarians, all of which have a basic body structure that resembles an umbrella, including scyphozoans, staurozoans (stalked jellyfish), hydrozoans, and cubozoans (box jellyfish). Some textbooks and websites refer to scyphozoans as “true jellyfish”.Since jellyfish are not even vertebrates, let alone true fish, the usual word jellyfish is considered by some to be a misnomer, and American public aquariums have popularized use of the terms jellies or sea jellies instead.

Atlantic Sea Nettle

2. Cuttlefish – “Marine animals of the order Sepiida. They belong to the class Cephalopoda (which also includes squid, octopuses, and nautiluses). Despite their name, cuttlefish are not fish but molluscs.”

Read more … [Read more…]

9 Mythic Fish

Working on a submission for our upcoming FISH anthology? Perhaps these great and wondrous, terrible and dangerous, mythic fish will give you something scaly to think about:

1. The Salmon of Knowledge: Ireland, Fish – “An ordinary salmon that ate the nine hazel nuts that fell into the Well of Wisdom (aka Tobar Segais) from nine hazel trees that surrounded the well. In doing so, the salmon gained all the knowledge in the world. The poet Finn Eces spent seven years fishing for the salmon. When he finally caught it, he instructed his apprentice, Fionn, to prepare it for him. Fionn burned his thumb when spattered with a drop of the hot fat from the cooking salmon and immediately sucked on it to ease the pain. Unbeknownst to Fionn, all the wisdom had been concentrated into that one drop, and Fionn had just imbibed it all.”

Salmon of Knowledge

2. Abaia: Fiji, Solomon and Vanuatu Islands, Giant Eel – “One day a man discovered a lake in which were many fish, and at the bottom of the lake lived a magic eel, but the man knew it not. He caught many fish and returned the next day with the people of his village whom he had told of his discovery, and they also were very successful, while one woman even laid hold of the great eel, Abaia, who dwelt in the depths of the lake, though he escaped her. Now Abaia was angry that his fish had been caught and that he himself had been seized, so he caused a great rain to fall that night, and the waters of the lake also rose, and all the people where drowned except an old woman who had not eaten of the fish and who saved herself in a tree.”

Read more … [Read more…]

Why we love Anthologies (with apologies to Dr. Seuss)

“Oh! The Places You’ll Go!” Dr. Seuss quite famously wrote, when he wrote about the potential great adventures that await us just outside our door. Publishing is an adventure, one we love and are pleased to be taking, but one that is has its Bumps and its Slumps like any other path. As we expand into publishing novellas, novels, academic writing, and story collections by individual authors, Dagan Books will always publish one or two open anthologies a year. Many people have asked us why? since anthologies are notoriously bad at making back their initial investment. In our case, because we insist on paying our contributors as much as we possibly can with each book, we go into the printing of anthologies knowing we’re unlikely to ever completely make that money back. Why, then, would we be crazy enough to do it?

You’ll be on your way up!

Dagan Books is, admittedly, a tiny little company with only, by the end of our first year, a handful of books to our credit. We started as the pet project of one lonely writer/editor, working in her living room, editing the prose from the porn while she put together Cthulhurotica. We’re growing and we’re getting out there, but we don’t quite yet have the name recognition that would encourage readers to give our books a chance simply because we published them. We need to reach the greatest number of new readers, and publishing anthologies allows us to do that because we’re offering a larger number of authors for your consumption.

You’ll be seeing great sights!

Anthologies give us a chance to see not one person’s vision, but dozens, all at once. Within the pages of one book are 20 different worlds or more. Cthulhurotica took us across time and space, setting stories in:

  • modern-day Innsmouth, Massachusetts
  • Ashland, Oregon, in the 1960s
  • Ancient Greece
  • Mars, sometime in the distant future
  • scientific laboratories, motel rooms, co-ed college dorms, creepy old houses, lonely mountaintops, and over and over again … the sea

IN SITU takes the idea that alien cultures can be studied, with the same (well, let’s call it “academic rigor”) that our own species’ artifacts have been unearthed and cataloged with. If you think that would limit the settings, think again. Stories in that collection range from the past through the present and into a future on our planet as well as out in space. We unearth strange mysteries in Egypt, visit lonely old men in England, explore the alternate history of a South American dig site, hide the truth in Africa, leave our small blue planet behind for the vast wonders of space. The characters in this book find aliens, treasure, fear, death, glory, riches, and eventually find they’ve left being human far behind.

You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.

Publishing anthologies gives us a chance to accept work from emerging writers and place it alongside the writing of those authors who are a little better known. If you love Ken Liu’s crisp and lovely work from Lightspeed or Fantasy and Science Fiction magazines, you’ll want to pick up IN SITU when it releases in July. If you know Cody Goodfellow’s creepy stories from Permuted Press, you’re going to want to read his offering in Cthulhurotica. Know Kenneth Hite from Call of Cthulhu? He’s got an essay in Cthulhurotica too. While you’re reading those pieces, you’ll also see stories from first time authors who’re getting their start here at Dagan Books. Other authors who were accepted to our first collection have continued to work with us, like K. V. Taylor, whose brilliant writing appears in both Cthulhurotica and IN SITU, who has written for a future project, and who has come on board as an editor for the upcoming FISH anthology.

Why do we love anthologies? They’re an introduction to our world. Dagan Books has a vision, a way of doing business, and a style we aspire to, and our anthologies are a window into us.

What I love about being a Publisher

With Cthulhurotica only a few days from going to press, I’ve had a chance to reflect on the process of creating, editing, and publishing an anthology. While working on this collection, I also founded Dagan Books, and have been simultaneously expanding my knowledge of the publishing industry while I learned how to be a better editor.

Neither of which I would have been able to do without the lovely contributors, both artists and writers, who made this anthology possible. Though the editing process can be stressful on both sides, each of the writers responded to my questions and suggestions with an evolving tale which ultimately expressed itself in the best possible way. They were, as a group, engaged and polite throughout the last few months, and I have found a core group of writers I would gladly work with again. The artists, each one, produced work which was exactly what I needed before I was even sure what I was going to need. I thank all of them.

As the publisher, I’m responsible for the decisions. There have been quite a few things that I’ve learned to do a different way in the future, and I’m grateful for what I’ve learned. The number of aspects that fall under my domain are staggering: web design, accounting, working with a printer, a distributor, planning convention attendence, hiring and (sadly) letting people go, putting out open submissions calls, advertising, membership in various guilds and groups, and a lot more. While it might seem like too much, to me it seems like heaven. I love being able to be involved in so many aspects of this business. There is never a day where I feel like I don’t know what’s happening with Dagan Books, and I hope it always feels this way.

A few months ago, Cthulhurotica was an idea. Most people saw it as an excuse for tentacle porn; I saw it as something much more – an opportunity to expand on Lovecraft’s Mythos, a fictional universe I love so much, and also as an opportunity to kick off the publishing company I’ve always dreamed of having. I believe I’ve done both.

If you don’t like the book, or wish something had been done differently, talk to me. Ultimately I’m responsible for any failures in Cthulhurotica, or any Dagan Books title. If you loved the book, and I think you will, thank the writers and artists, without whom this wouldn’t have been possible. Their vision is what you’ll see in the pages of Cthulhurotica – I only helped it along a little bit. I love that they’ve allowed me to do just that.

– Carrie Cuinn, Publisher