As a new press still in its first year, we are a small team publishing a select number of books. At this early stage of Stelliform Press’s existence, our readers provide sounding-board conversation and support for the EIC. But that kind of support is informed by the books our readers have loved. We share some of those in this blog post.
With our first two books in print or at-the-printer, and our next two on the decks (surprise! book #4 will be announced soon!), we’re looking to the climate and social justice related books we love, reading them backwards in a ring of fire to conjure up more environment-focused submissions for Stelliform Years 3 and beyond. Just kidding, we’re sharing them here so you can get to know us a little better — what we love and what kinds of stories we’ll likely publish in the future.
This past month, I (Selena Middleton, Stelliform Publisher and EIC) read Stephen Graham Jones’s The Only Good Indians alongside my friend and invaluable Stelliform helper and fellow English PhD, Kristen Shaw. Since our conversations often fall into fairly nerdy literary analysis, we thought we would share our thoughts about The Only Good Indians in the form of the conversation that we might have had if the pandemic had not prevented an in-person meeting. What follows is our conversation-review of SGJ’s novel, which was published by Saga Press in July 2020.
This creepy bit of sylvan horror is the kind of thing we’d like to see in our slush pile: a story about the inhabitants of an anarchist commune in Freedom, Iowa, who summon Uliksi, a blood-red three-antlered deer god, in order to deal with their hierarchy problems. Uliksi “turns predator into prey” when he “hunts those who wield power over others”.
Though Uliksi is originally summoned to deal with a violent sociopath who has seized control of the commune, the summoners soon realize that the act of summoning an “endless spirit” to dispatch Freedom’s unwanted leader results in the deer god’s gaze falling, inevitably, upon them.
P. Djèlí Clark’s The Black God’s Drums is fast-paced and fun, with characters that play off each other’s quick-witted banter. The world created in this novella is a slightly off-kilter version of our own, with recognizable politics (where the bad guys are Confederates singing songs about Andrew Jackson) juxtaposed with airships and mind-numbing “drapeto gas” which keeps a slave economy running after emancipation. But the part of this book that is so interesting to us is the orisha magic wielded by main characters Jacqueline (or Creeper) and Anne-Marie, magic which connects the narrative so strongly to place.
Both rage and hope can be detrimental to developing the kinds of responses to the climate emergency that we need to restructure society (and the kinds of stories we tell ourselves). Certainly, rage can motivate, but it can also turn on itself; hope can push relentlessly toward unrealistic, unachievable goals when good-enough is right in front of us. Bolander’s novelette is certainly a rage-packed pill that is, at times, tough to swallow; but it is easier if the book’s moments of beauty are not overlooked.
Rivers Solomon’s The Deep demonstrates a literal transformation of human bodies as a result of a change in environment. In this novella, the descendants of kidnapped African mothers thrown from slave ships as they cross the Atlantic ocean become the wajinru, an deep-sea dwelling merpeople who live in blissful forgetfulness of their history. But this forgetfulness cannot be sustained.
This story from Reckoning Magazine packs a ton of heart and hope into a diminutive novelette. It also packs eldritch horror into the unsuspecting body of a young girl whose family is responsible for the dam and diversion project which dramatically altered the ecosystem of its small-town setting. Lanny Boykin is a shape-shifter; but she is not the only shape-shifter in the story.
As part of our Internet debut, so that our future authors and and readers can get to know what to expect from the press, the Fiction and Non-Fiction editors will post reviews to the blog , describing a few books we’ve loved — both old and new. While only some of these books will be exclusively focused on the climate emergency, they will each have some elements of form or content that we’d love to see in our submissions queue. As we acquire our own titles, we will write more about Stelliform authors and their works; but until then, we will share the books we love and why we love them.
Robson’s novella, Gods Monsters and the Lucky Peach, does fit into the mandate of the press in that its technological focus is also ecological and its narrative acknowledges the ways that these two elements interact in Robson’s world.