Thursday, 9 June 2011

Open House Day 10 - Spectral Press


Let’s start off with some simple questions: What madness inspired me, Simon Marshall-Jones, to start up an independent publishing imprint, especially when you consider just how many of them are out there already? And what made me think that I could compete on any level with the big boys, or that anyone would even be interested in buying anything from me in the first place?

Admittedly, I have always been prone to thinking up mad schemes to get myself involved in, and for the most part they never get any further than a passing “Oh, that’s a good idea!”, and eventually just find themselves added to the list of plans that failed to germinate. When I thought up the idea for Spectral Press, it stood a good chance of ending up in the same place as all those other non-starters...

... but, it hasn’t. Instead, Spectral, in its very short life (the first publication was only issued in January this year), has already gained a good reputation for two things very close to my heart: great storytelling and quality presentation. I’ve been involved with publishing before, with the one-off underground comic The Cosmic Bean (which I wrote and illustrated and which I brought out while still in art college - it was originally envisaged to be an ongoing saga of psychedelic drugs, universal consciousness and strange, tripped-out music) and then, in the early nineties, the music ‘zine FRACtured, dedicated entirely to the then newly-burgeoning industrial music scene. The latter publication also gained a good reputation but, unfortunately, life got in the way and I let it fade away before it really started going.

Spectral, however, has turned out to be a very different beast. The imprint was directly inspired by being given copies of two of Nightjar Press’ chapbooks last year (Nightjar is run by the estimable Nicholas Royle) – and chapbooks (small pamphlets, running to about 20 – 24 pages) are eminently ideal vehicles for promoting the art of short story writing and have a long history dating back to medieval times. (It may interest you to know that medieval booksellers were called chaps, hence chapbooks. I also suspect that’s where the modern word for gentleman, chap, is ultimately derived). Chapbooks are compact, they’re relatively inexpensive to produce and offer a great opportunity to make something special out of them in terms of presentation.

Reading and storytelling, especially genre material, has been a part of my life since my earliest years (starting from when my late father read books to me as a child) and I’ve had a great deal of pleasure over all those years in between. I read ghost stories avidly when I was a youngster, and have almost always preferred psychological chills over blood and gore (although I’ve been through that phase as well). But there has always been a significant part of me which would enable me to stand on the other side of the fence, so to speak, and be a producer and not just a consumer. As a consequence, with this new venture, I have attempted to unite the two concepts, and so Spectral takes its cue from the classic ghost/horror stories written by some of the great late 19th/early 20th century practitioners of the art, people like Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen, MR James, HP Lovecraft, and Edgar Allan Poe – stories where atmosphere and nuance are given a major role and pride of place, and the horror is by implication rather than graphically delineated. Part of Spectral Press’ remit is to bring back some of the flavour of those classic writers, but to bring it all up-to-date by publishing some of the best writers the current scene has to offer. Beyond that is to package it in something that’ll elevate it above all the other similar offerings out there.

And so, with the graphic design skills of my good friend Neil Williams, combined with the terrific list of writers I’ve asked to contribute, I think Spectral has more than managed to fulfil my initial ambitions for the imprint. The first two chapbooks, Gary McMahon’s What They Hear in the Dark and Gary Fry’s Abolisher of Roses, have both garnered very positive critical praise, as has Spectral Press itself. The stories lined up for the future, in my opinion, go beyond the standard I have already set myself, and will further cement the reputation of Spectral being an imprint at the top of everyone’s list of must-reads. (For a list of what those future chapbooks titles and authors are, please visit the website – the link is given at the end of this article)

Necessarily, this means that Spectral cannot remain still and, to that end, will be launching a new line of books in early 2013 – the Spectral Signature Editions. These will be single-author story collections, spanning their entire career, and will be published in a limited hardback numbered, signed and illustrated format. Simon Kurt Unsworth, a World Fantasy Award-nominated writer, has the honour of helping me launch the line. Already, all copies of the very limited version, the ‘Flash Fiction’ edition, have been spoken for, and the ‘Deluxe’ edition is steadily going as well – publication is currently pencilled in for March 2013. And why is publication so far away? Simple – I want to produce the best, and the best takes time and patience.

Anyway, I do hope you can all come along and join me in following all the exciting developments and times that are ahead in Spectral Press’ future – and maybe, just maybe, my mad scheme will turn out not to be so mad idea after all.

Simon Marshall-Jones is the editor/publisher at Spectral Press, and also a writer, artist, book reviewer and blogger: born in Wales in the early sixties, to parents who absolutely loved and cherished books - needless to say, HIS love of books was instilled by such a positive influence. Simon attended art college, where he nurtured dreams of being the next HR Giger. After a space of seven years, mostly spent travelling, he then went back to university in Plymouth, to study computer multimedia, the only reward for which was managing to have a stroke. Since then, he has had a much better time of it: Simon now has one wife, one stepson, seven cats, a dog, two rabbits and two guinea-pigs, lives somewhere in the East Midlands and doesn’t have enough tattoos. He also foolishly ran a small independent record label for a couple of years, FracturedSpacesRecords.



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