Can’t Miss Indie Press Speculative Fiction for July and August 2022

The latest array of speculative fiction (and a few relevant works of nonfiction) on independent presses covers even more ground than usual. Among the highlights from indie presses in the coming months are lost classics from the early 20th century, a vision of a distant future gone feudal, and a bizarre investigation into a mysterious realm. Here are a few of the notable books that caught our eye for July and August.

 

Weird Futures, Strange Histories

Over the years, Vladimir Sorokin’s novels have held a strange mirror up to Russia’s authoritarian tendencies. (His Ice Trilogy remains an absolutely—pardon the pun—chilling look at dogma and fanaticism.) August brings with it the release of Telluria, translated by Max Lawton, a novel documenting a futuristic world that’s fragmented and backslid into feudalism. Throw in the bizarre drug that gives this novel its title and you have a thoroughly compelling milieu. (NYRB Classics, August 2, 2022)

The Radium Age imprint continues its work bringing lost genre classics back into the public consciousness, and this August it’ll do so with a new edition of Pauline Hopkins’s Of One Blood. Hopkins’s 1903 novel follows a biracial American who visits an African nation abounding with futuristic technology; Minister Faust contributed a new introduction to this edition. (Radium Age/MIT Press, August 2022)

Let’s say there was a space program around in 1906. And let’s say that the first attempt to send humans to the Moon took place around then, and did not go as planned. And, for good measure, let’s also say that there’s something on the Moon hunting down the people who were on board the aforementioned mission. That’s the idea behind Danger Slater’s Moonfellows—a uncanny secret history with a decidedly unsettling concept at its core. (Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, July 20, 2022)

Fast food and the uncanny make for an unexpected but surprisingly effective combination when blended correctly. (See also: the Buffy episode “Doublemeat Palace” and the comic book True Kvlt.) Into that unlikely canon comes Daniel Kraus with the magnificently-titled novel The Ghost That Ate Us, about the aftermath of a paranormal attack on a fast food spot. (Raw Dog Screaming Press, July 12, 2022)

 

New Worlds, New Ways of Seeing

Last year saw the release of Brenda Lozano’s first novel in English translation, the experimental work Loop. This year brings another one of her books to Anglophone readers, in a translation by Heather Cleary: Witches, which—as the title suggests—veers into surreal territory. It’s about a folk healer and a journalist who meet in the aftermath of a murder, and the seismic effect that they have on one another. (Catapult, August 16, 2022)

When it was released in Britain last year, Theo Clare’s novel The Book of Sand earned a host of praise—including a review in The Guardian that dubbed it a “compelling, absorbingly different quest fantasy.” (Clare is a pseudonym for the late Mo Hayder, who finished this book before her death.) The Book of Sand is set both in our world and in a dangerous desert landscape; how the two are connected is one of several mysteries contained within its pages. (Blackstone Publishing, July 19, 2022)

The works of César Aira tend to elude easy categorization even as they abound with gripping narratives. (He is, among other things, one of the only writers who could turn an obsession with Artforum into a compelling literary work.) In his book The Famous Magician, translated by Chris Andrews, Aira introduces readers to a writer to whom a magician presents an impossible question: would they quit writing forever if they could rule the world? (New Directions, August 16, 2022)

 

The Uncanny, Doubled Down

What makes a novel genuinely unsettling? In her previous novel, A Sick Gray Laugh, Nicole Cushing pondered this question from all angles, often to dizzying effect. How do you follow that up? Well, it involves the phenomenon of Mothman. Her forthcoming book Mothwoman takes that sense of ambition in a wholly different direction—and, from the description, sounds like it would make for an excellent double feature with James Tynion IV and Martin Simmonds’s The Department of Truth. (Word Horde, August 9, 2022)

Fiction can offer readers a host of methods of reckoning with grief—often by paralleling their own experience with what a book’s characters are going through. Kyle Muntz’s novel The Pain Eater takes that concept and turns it into something utterly disconcerting, as a man experiencing loss encounters a bizarre creature that feeds on his grief. As uncanny premises go, that one’s a keeper. (CLASH Books, July 5, 2022)

The bleaker genres of fiction feature tales of wrongdoing and horrors set against rural backdrops. But we also live in an age of deconstructing familiar tropes, and Donna Lynch’s Girls From the County offers a genre-smashing take on narrative expectations. Blending formal innovation and gothic atmosphere, this is a work that charts its own territory. (Raw Dog Screaming Press, August 25, 2022)

 

New Takes, Familiar Reads

PM Press’s “Outspoken Authors” series of books make for a fine overview of the works of countless vital writers. The latest one in the spotlight is Nebula winner (and Tor.com contributor) Eileen Gunn, with the collection Night Shift. This book includes several examples of her short fiction, along with some nonfiction chronicling an array of fellow writers and other colleagues she’s met over her long career. (PM Press, August 16, 2022)

Elvia Wilk’s previous book, the novel Oval, was set in a near-future Berlin and explored questions of art, technology, and free will. Her latest book, Death by Landscape, is a nonfiction exploration of the way humanity relates to the planet. Along the way, she considers works by the likes of Octavia E. Butler, Kathe Koja, and Doris Lessing—making this an intriguing read for anyone seeking an immersive trip into the boundaries of genres and subgenres alike. (Soft Skull Press, July 19, 2022)

 

Strange Cases, Unsolved and Otherwise

With reports of environmental devastation becoming more common, it’s not surprising that some writers have looked below the surface of the ocean for their futuristic settings. In Mia V. Moss’s novella Mai Tais for the Lost, an underwater city’s private detective seeks out the answer to a murder case to which she has a familial connection. It’s an intriguing spin on noir tropes. (Underland Press, July 12, 2022)

The detective at the center of Tim Susman’s novel Unfinished Business has a host of challenges to deal with, from dealing with murder cases to his fraught relationship with his ex-boyfriend. Complicating matters is that the ex in question is a werewolf—as are numerous characters who call this book’s setting home. Also, the plot involves a ghost bear helping to solve mysteries, which sounds suitably intriguing. (Argyll Productions, July 5, 2022)

Poker, private detectives, and 19th century Texas all converge in Robert Freeman Wexler’s novel The Silverman Business. In part, it’s about a detective investigating a Galveston man who’s gone missing—but the narrative soon turns much more surreal than that, with the stakes growing immeasurably larger as the narrative gets going. (Small Beer Press, August 23, 2022)

 

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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