Can’t Miss Indie Press Speculative Fiction for March and April 2022

There’s a lot of great science fiction, fantasy, and horror published every month by large presses. But indie presses are also publishing plenty of great work—some of which can go under the radar. With that in mind, here’s a look at some notable books due out in March and April 2022 on independent presses. It’s not everything, but it might point you in some unexpected directions with your spring reading.

Conspiracies, Sinister and Otherwise

As cryptids go, few are stranger than Mothman, a bizarre creature said to lurk in the woods of West Virginia. It’s been the subject of prose nonfiction and ominous comics; there’s even a Mothman riff in the game Fallout 76. And if the cover and Mountain State location are any indication, it’s also what Laurel Hightower is writing about in her new novel Below, about a woman whose drive through the mountains takes a sinister turn. (March 29, 2022; Perpetual Motion/Ghoulish Books)

What does it mean when you’re not who you thought you were? Alternately: the categories of “beauty queen” and “sleeper agent” have, historically speaking, not had much overlap. Candice Wuehle’s forthcoming Monarch poses the question: what if someone could lay claim to both of those job descriptions? Throw in a touch of the occult and a bit of punk rock and you have an intriguing combination. (March 29, 2022; Soft Skull Press)

The End(s) of the World

When it comes to John Elizabeth Stintzi’s novel My Volcano, a volcano bursting from the ground below Central Park manages to be one of the less weird aspects of the plot. Stinzi’s novel also includes time travel, folktales, and a character transforming into a being with a steadily growing hive mind. This is not a book that lacks ambition. (March 22, 2022; Two Dollar Radio)

For years, Jon Frankel has been at work on a series of novels set in a future United States devastated by climate change. A 2020 profile of Frankel described his work in bold terms: “It’s Shakespeare as a B movie, it’s the alienation of Chandler’s Philip Marlow.” The next part of his massive novel Isle of Dogs is due out this spring; the first part dealt with political intrigue in the U.S. circa 2500. (April 2022; Whiskey Tit)

Several of Yoko Tawada’s novels have taken readers into strange corners of the future, including The Emissary. Next up for her in English translation is Scattered All Over the Earth, translated by Margaret Mitsutani. It’s the first book in a trilogy, set in a near future where climate change abounds and Japan has vanished from the map. (March 1, 2022; New Directions)

Dystopian states can abound with magic just as easily as they can with science. In Eugen Bacon’s novel Mage of Fools, a dictator has made use of uncanny abilities to devastate the environment. The novel’s protagonist must find a way to end their reign using suppressed literature and the possibility of a better life for all. (March 15, 2022; Meerkat Press)

Ominous Things That Are Not Necessarily Apocalyptic (But Might Be)

Blurbs don’t always get my attention, but when both Vanessa Veselka and Paul Tremblay are raving about your book, that’s bound to catch my eye. The book in question is Cara Hoffman’s collection Ruin, which encompasses everything from talking animals to children making use of strange disguises. Turns out blending the sinister and the surreal makes for a compelling combination. (April 5, 2022; PM Press)

If you haven’t yet encountered John Langan’s fiction, 2022 is a great time for it. Langan writes emotionally resonant, formally brilliant stories that veer into the occult and the outright horrific. The spring, an expanded edition of his debut collection Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters will see print. It’s an excellent introduction to a prodigiously talented writer. (March 2022; Word Horde)

Let’s not forget that poetry can also transport readers into speculative, uncanny, or otherwise fantastical realms. In this case, Adrian Ernesto Cepeda’s We Are the Ones Possessed, a collection that cites both Carmen Maria Machado and Nick Cave as inspirations. These works promise to impart a sense of dread and fan out into the world of death. (March 2022; CLASH Books)

There Are Also Reasons to Be Optimistic

First and foremost, Chelsea Vowel’s Buffalo Is the New Buffalo has an astoundingly good title, one that’s evocative and instantly memorable. That it’s described by the publisher as a work of “Metis futurism” is also very intriguing. Vowel’s collection takes familiar science fiction structures and charts new ground within them; it’s the anti-colonialist collection you didn’t know you were waiting for. (April 26, 2022; Arsenal Pulp Press)

Richard Butner has been writing surreal, fantastical stories for a while now, and this year will see the publication of his debut collection. It’s called The Adventurists, and it abounds with mysterious doorways, lost royalty, and lovelorn ghosts. The review at Publishers Weekly made comparisons to the unlikely trio of “John Crowley, Ray Bradbury, and Sally Rooney” — which is certainly an attention-getting combination. (March 22, 2022; Small Beer Press)

You may well have read some of Vandana Singh’s short fiction in these very (digital) pages. Now, she has a book due out as part of PM Press’s excellent Outspoken Authors series. Utopias of the Third Kind brings together fiction and nonfiction that finds Singh exploring the notion of what a utopia could be and how we might get there. (March 22, 2022; PM Press)

Old Stories, New Spins

Can old myths coexist with modern accounts of violence and isolation? Read Irene Solà’s When I Sing, Mountains Dance (translated by Mara Faye Lethem) and you may well have your answer. This is a novel where witches narrate part of the story, where ghosts are as central to the story as the living, and where the landscape itself takes on a massive stature. (March 15, 2022; Graywolf Press)

If you’ve read Catherynne M. Valente’s novel Deathless, you may be familiar with the story of Koschei the Deathless. Valente’s book juxtaposed this figure with one part of the history of the Soviet Union; Katya Kazbek’s Little Foxes Took Up Matches also hearkens back to this folktale, but ventures into the waning days of the U.S.S.R., and addresses themes of identity and family as it does so. (April 5, 2022; Tin House)

How many stories have gotten your attention by recounting an account of something strange happening in nearby woods? Masatsugu Ono’s At the Edge of the Woods (translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter) tells the story of a family who arrive in a new home and find that the woods near their house are home to something uncanny. How does that change them in turn? Well, you’ll have to read it to find out. (April 12, 2022; Two Lines Press)

reel-thumbnailTobias Carroll is the managing editor of Vol.1 Brooklyn. He is the author of the short story collection Transitory (Civil Coping Mechanisms) and the novel Reel (Rare Bird Books).

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