Can’t Miss Indie Press Speculative Fiction for September and October 2022

Alternate timelines, alien civilizations, hallucinatory realities, and histories of the future. Those are among the things you’ll find in the books featured in this guide to some notable speculative fiction released (or reissued) by indie presses in September and October. Stylistically, tonally, and thematically, these cover a lot of ground—and you might well find your next favorite read here.


Past and Future Histories

There’s a particular subcategory within alternate histories that especially gets my attention: books that revisit the past with some property of the natural world fundamentally altered. Several Ted Chiang stories can be categorized this way, as can Catherynne M. Valente’s Radiance. Ethan Chatagnier’s Singer Distance looks like a worthy edition to that group, with a plot set in a lived-in 1960s United States where a Martian civilization has been communicating with Earth for years. (Tin House, October 18, 2022)

While we’re on the subject of alternate histories where one property of the world is radically changed, let’s talk about Rebecca Campbell’s The Talosite, set in a world just like our own, but one in which resurrection exists. What could this technology bring to bear in combat? Given that this book is set during the First World War, it’s safe to say that Campbell explores several facets of that very question. (Undertow Publications, September 2022)

In Suzette Mayr’s new novel The Sleeping Car Porter, historical realism abuts dreamlike forays into the surreal and uncanny. The novel focuses on Baxter, a queer Black man working as a railroad sleeping car porter in 1929. An unexpected pause in one journey heightens the stakes of the narrative, bringing ghosts of the past into the narrative. (Coach House Books, September 27, 2022)

There’s a small complement of books that have, over the years, made use of fictionalized oral histories as a storytelling device. (Full disclosure: I’ve written one of them.) It’s a lot more rare to see a book that uses this for the breadth of a novel, but that’s precisely what M. E. O’Brien and Eman Abdelhadi’s Everything For Everyone: An Oral History Of The New York Commune, 2052–2072 does. As the title and subtitle suggest, this is a glimpse into the next few decades of life in New York City from a host of perspectives. (Common Notions, September 1, 2022)

In the final installment of her series Dr Ribero’s Supernatural Agency, Lucy Banks blends elements of traditional Gothic fiction with a decidedly modern perspective. (One review of the opening book in the series dubbed it “something like Ghostbusters with a British accent.”) In the case of The Case of the Secret Spirit-Half, this finds series protagonist Kester on the run and moving through time. (Amberjack Publishing, October 2022)


Cults and Other Obsessions

If you’ve spent any time with David James Keaton’s fiction, you’re aware of his ability to transmit surreal narratives and subvert storytelling tropes. His latest novel, Head Cleaner, is centered around a video store whose employees discover that they can alter the endings of certain films—which might have the power to change the world around them as well. It’s a thoroughly compelling high concept. (Polis Books, October 18, 2022)

The unsettling effects of climate change collide with secret societies and occult obsessions in Stephanie Feldman’s novel Saturnalia. It’s set in a Philadelphia afflicted by countless effects of climate change, from disease spread by mosquitos to disturbing stretches of weather. Nina, the novel’s protagonist, begins the book estranged from a mysterious group, and finds herself exploring corners of the city she never knew existed. (Unnamed Press, October 4, 2022)

What happens when a cult writer writes a novel about a cult? If you’re looking for one answer to that question, you may be pleased to hear that there’s a new version of Cody Goodfellow’s novel Perfect Union due out this fall. Goodfellow’s novel follows a trio of brothers seeking their lost mother, and their discovery of a cult with designs on forever altering humanity itself. (Ghoulish Books, September 27, 2022)

Fresh off her Bram Stoker Award win earlier this year, Hailey Piper returns with the new novel No Gods For Drowning. This novel finds Piper juxtaposing ancient mythology with the bones of a detective narrative, and finds that unsettled elder gods and hard-boiled detectives can coexist in a narrative surprisingly well. (Polis Books, September 20, 2022)

Some books skirt the edges of the supernatural. Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam’s Glorious Fiends plunges emphatically into telling the story of three friends—one of whom happens to be a vampire—tasked with locating a group of supernatural creatures. If you’re looking for both a complex exploration of friendship and a riff on 80s horror, look no further. (Underland Press, September 13, 2022)

Margaret Killjoy’s writing spans a host of tones and styles, from punk-infused fantasy to sociopolitically rich forays into other worlds. Her new collection We Won’t Be Here Tomorrow and Other Stories offers readers a glimpse into the breadth of her skills as a writer, covering everything from strange cults to hacked drones. (AK Press, September 20, 2022)


Where Memory and Perception Shift

Orrin Grey described the contents of his collection How to See Ghosts & Other Figments as “short, spooky stories”—and with autumn nearly upon us, it seems like the ideal time of year for such a book. Its title also poses an intriguing question, namely: how do you see ghosts? Perhaps the answer is found inside. (Word Horde, October 2022)

For certain writers, the idea of turning language itself into a speculative or fantastical element of a story is irresistible. (China Miéville’s Embassytown, Michael Cisco’s Unlanguage, and Ben Marcus’s The Flame Alphabet all come to mind.) Now you can add Alyssa Quinn’s Habilis to that list — a novel that takes formal risks as it explores origin stories and the boundaries of language. (Dzanc Books, September 13, 2022)

Giada Scodellaro’s fiction is equally at home tapping into something folkloric or transporting characters into a nebulous world where the lines between the living and the dead blur. Her collection Some of Them Will Carry Me features alienation and subtle bodily transformations; it’s a work of fiction with much on its mind. (Dorothy, a Publishing Project, October 2022)

Judging by his work so far—which includes a pair of interactive novels—Bendi Barrett has an interest in manipulating the raw materials of storytelling. His forthcoming novella Empire of the Feast makes for an intriguing variation on this, focusing on a long-lived ruler who finds himself without his memories as he navigates court politics and faces a strange and uncanny menace. (Neon Hemlock, Fall 2022)

The time between now and the end of 2023 should be a good one for readers of Victoria Dalpe’s visually striking fiction. A new edition of her debut novel is due out next year, and her first collection, Les Femmes Grotesques, will be published in October. Intelligent moss plays a part in one of the stories, which has my interest piqued. (CLASH Books, October 2022)

Dream states and bizarre transformations abound in Barbara Molinard’s collection Panics, which was translated by Emma Ramadan. This is a book that eludes easy classification, but if you welcome evocative imagery and tales of psychic discontent, look no further. This was first published in 1969, but continues to feel ahead of its time. (Feminist Press, September 13, 2022)


Magical and Technological Arts

Bae Myung-Hoon’s fiction abounds with high concepts—sometimes literally, in the case of Tower, focused on a skyscraper that’s also a micronation. Launch Something!, translated by Stella Kim, ventures in a different direction. Here, the planet is menaced by a bizarre source of heat from space, prompting an international mission to investigate. (Honford Star, October 2022)

People on opposite sides of a conflict who fall for one another is a storyline that never loses its power, and Brent Lambert gives that concept a magical spin in A Necessary Chaos. In it, two mages representing warring factions fall for one another, and are faced with a choice between what they’ve been ordered to do and what their hearts tell them. (Neon Hemlock, Fall 2022)

Class war, bodies and technology merging, and a bleak urban landscape? Check, check, and check. Friends, we have ourselves a cyberpunk novel here. Nate Ragiola’s One Person Can’t Make a Difference puts a Mirrorshades spin on the gig economy—which seems all too fitting. (Spaceboy Books, September 20, 2022)

The ways that human bodies and human perception can be augmented have led to some memorable works of fiction in the past. In Anne K. Yoder’s novel The Enhancers, a group of friends struggling with their places in society and exploring the pharmaceutical and technological changes that they could experience. (Meekling Press, October 4, 2022)

A debut collection can make for a memorable statement of purpose for a writer. Consider Tessa Yang’s forthcoming The Runaway Restaurant, which reckons with settings from the surreal to the post-apocalyptic, and covers everything from the effects of biological implants to the social dynamics after the end of the world. This Is a book with no shortage of ambition. (7.13, October 11, 2022)

Several works by Attila Veres appeared on File 770’s list of notable works of speculative fiction published in Europe in the last decade. Now, via a translation by Luca Karafiáth, a collection of Veres’s short stories is slated for release in the U.S. The Black Maybe: Liminal Stories offers a sampling of this author’s work, featuring uncanny landscapes and unsettling farming practices. (Valancourt, October 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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