Over the fourteen months since I founded Small Press Picks, I’ve noticed a troubling trend: during that time, about 85 percent the review queries I’ve received have come from male authors. I’ve learned about some great books that way, books it’s been a pleasure to review. But given my personal goal of ensuring that at least 50 percent of the books I review are by women, I would like to encourage more women to send me their small-press novels or story collections. (See this link for details on the types of books I’m most inclined to review.) And, of course, I will continue seek out small-press books by women on my own.
Favorite New Fiction
from Small and Micro Publishers
After slamming a brick-weighted, $2,000 Gucci handbag into the skull of her boyfriend, a young woman, Emily, observes: “Technically, the law says you’re supposed to wait until they try to eat your brains before you take a whack at them, but what’s the point? Once the magic is gone, get them before they get you—that’s what I say.”
Emily’s world—in which a sexually transmitted virus is turning men into zombies—is just one of darkly comic dystopias that Dale Bridges brings to life in his new story collection, Justice, Inc. Some of the others: a post-apocalyptic megastore that both protects and imprisons its employees; a world in which death has been all but “cured,” making suicide a means of population control; and, in the title story, a corporation that aims to satisfy the desire for justice by staging public executions of cloned top criminals, like Osama bin Laden.
The complications of romantic partnerships are often explored in fiction, but rarely with the depth and insight that Wendy J. Fox brings to her début story collection, The Seven Stages of Anger, winner of the first Press 53 Award for Short Fiction.
Through several stories, and through the perspectives of multiple characters, Fox suggests that happenstance, circumstance, and inertia—as unromantic as they may be—can play a much larger role in how relationships form, sustain themselves, or die than we may like to think. As for destiny and fate, for the most part, they are the stuff of fairytales.
In American 419 and Other Stories, journalist and novelist Adetokunbo Abiola takes us on an honest, unsanitized tour of modern Nigeria, one that is by turns tragic and darkly comic and in every sense thought-provoking.
Several stories in the collection focus on deep-seated corruption in the country, manifesting in everything from financial scams to medical quackery. At the center of the title story, “American 419,” is advance fee fraud, commonly practiced through scam e-mails. (The 419 refers to the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code that concerns this crime.) In this story, Boston businessman Fred Taylor has lost one hundred thousand dollars to such fraud, but Taylor thinks he might recoup his losses by helping a Nigerian politician transfer money to America in exchange for a cut of the funds.
A patient in a ward of anorexics envies “the protruding bones of someone who is that much closer to not being here at all.”
A psychology major finds that her job at a halfway house is replacing her idealism with frustration and disgust.
A nineteen-year-old becomes sexually and emotionally addicted to a rock drummer who, in response, scorns her “sheer lack of pride.”
These are just a few of the situations explored in Paula Bomer’s new story collection, Inside Madeleine, which shines a light into the most uncomfortable corners of the young female characters’ lives, under circumstances when these women are most vulnerable, uncertain, and prone to making mistakes. The stories are raw and sometimes cringe-inducing. But it’s likely that for any woman who has reached the point of looking back on her teens and twenties, aspects of these tales will feel unsettlingly familiar, or spark the occasional “but for the grace of god” reaction.
In the best of times, in the best of personal circumstances, looking for work is a pain in the ass. But in a sagging economy, and especially for job hunters who are running on financial and spiritual fumes, this task can bring on an existential crisis.
Jarrod Shanahan’s darkly hilarious illustrated novella, It’s a Tough Economy, portrays just such a crisis.
With this post, Small Press Picks continues its series of interviews with editors and other key figures at small and micro presses throughout the country. Here, we speak with Stephanie Bryant Anderson, publisher and editor of Red Paint Hill Publishing, a new press that is looking to publish full-length poetry collections, novels, plays, short story collections, translations, and anthologies. How (and when) did Red Paint Hill Publishing get...