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Can’t Miss Indie Press Speculative Fiction for January and February 2023


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Can’t Miss Indie Press Speculative Fiction for January and February 2023


Published on January 6, 2023

And here we are in 2023, a year that was the future up until a few days ago, and is now merely “now.” Looking over the books set for release in January and February shows a wide range of fiction on display. If you’re seeking fiction that’s set in a world very similar to our own, you’ll find that for sure—but if you’re seeking a world that’s nothing like the one in which you’re reading, that can be arranged as well. Here’s a rundown of some of the books set for publication by independent publishers to usher in a new year.


Futures Dystopian and Otherwise

Not every possible future is a dystopian one (or a utopian one, for that matter), even the ones that break your heart. To read adrienne maree brown’s Grievers was to spend time with characters dealing with both a pandemic and systemic injustices. In brown’s followup, Maroons, the setting remains the same as the first book in the planned trilogy, but with its characters wrestling with new tasks and questions, chief among them the difficult work of moving forward and building something new. (Feb. 14, 2023, AK Press)

First and foremost, Marisa Crane’s novel I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself has an immediately evocative title. Second, it has a premise that’s also evocative, with the setting being a world in which violations of the law find those who have transgressed given an additional shadow, or (in some cases) shadows. A mother and her young child are at the heart of this novel, looking to make their way through a complex and daunting world. (Jan. 17, 2023, Catapult)

The latest novel to be reissued as part of MIT Press’s Radium Age series is Theodore Savage by Cicely Hamilton, which was first published in 1922. Hamilton drew on the anxieties and trauma that emerged from the First World War to tell a story of a Europe decimated by war—and to explore how society and gender roles had drastically changed as a result. (Feb. 7, 2023, MIT Press)

Over the course of several books, Asja Bakić has used science fiction to explore concerns both societal and personal. (Her earlier collection Mars comes highly recommended by, well, me.) 2023 brings the American release of a new collection, Sweetlust, translated by Jennifer Zoble. These stories find Bakić exploring everything from climate change to society and gender, making for a provocative and emotionally engaging read. (Feb. 21, 2023, Feminist Press)


Set the Controls for the Heart of the Goth

This winter, Agora Books is publishing a new and expanded edition of Cynthia Pelayo’s collection Loteria, which blends short fiction and poetry and draws inspiration from the game of the same name. In an interview with Nightmare Magazine, Pelayo described her approach to revisiting her older work. “I’m going to include a few new short stories, so I will be swapping out some of the older stories for new stories, and I will be including a novella,” she said. “I hope that these new pieces are able to sit side by side with my old work so that people can see how I’ve grown.” (Feb. 21, 2023, Agora Books)

In the hands of the right writer, an ominous sound can become the center of a compelling and bizarre work of fiction. Several of those are on display in the new anthology Spectral Sounds: Unquiet Tales of Acoustic Weird, which was edited by Manon Burz-Labrande. Delve in and you’ll find yourself in the disquieting company of 14 stories, including work by Edith Wharton and Algernon Blackwood. (Feb. 1, 2023, British Library Publishing)

Ever since the publication of Juan Martinez’s collection Best Worst American, I’ve been excited to read more from him. Now, it turns out he has a novel due out this year—and not just any novel, but a novel with a living hotel in it. Extended Stay is about a hotel situated near Las Vegas that turns out to be something else entirely—and which has a penchant for feasting on emotions. This looks to be both thematically resonant and unsettling in the best possible way. (January 2023, University of Arizona Press)

What happens when pulp imagery from bygone decades is transported to the present day and given an upgrade? The result might look like Sara Century’s new collection A Small Light & Other Stories, which abounds with surreal images and a memorable cast of characters. It’s a debut collection that covers a lot of ground—stylistically, thematically, and emotionally. (January 2023, Weirdpunk Books)


Fairy Tales and Weird Magic

Over the last decade or so, a host of works by the late Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky have been translated into English. (I’m particularly fond of his short novel The Return of Munchausen.) 2023 sees the release of another one of his books: the collection Stravaging “Strange”, translated by Joanne Turnbull with Nikolai Formozov. Here you’ll find riffs on philosophy, ill-starred magicians, and uncanny miniaturization. (February 2023, Columbia University Press)

What happens when one blends autobiographical writing with voyages into the supernatural? Ali Smith’s Artful is one example of this kind of compelling hybrid; so too is It’s the End of the World, My Love by Alla Gorbunova, which was translated by Elina Alter. And in a recent interview, Gorbunova gave an idea of what to expect from her work. “It’s true, in my poems, everyone and everything is alive, animals speak, and there is no clear distinction between the living and the dead. The borders between opposites are being erased and everything turns into everything else.” (Feb. 7, 2023, Deep Vellum)

I’m not often given to quoting cover copy in this column, but I’m hard-pressed to resist a book described as “Peter Greenaway meets Angela Carter.” The book in question is Sing, Nightingale by Marie Helene Poitras, translated by Rhonda Mullins, which tells the story of an estate run by a powerful and amoral man who runs afoul of the natural world around him. (Feb. 14, 2023, Coach House Books)

For years now, J.A. Tyler has been writing fiction that blends surreal settings with stunningly-composed sentences. This year brings with it a new one, the novel Only and Ever This, about a divided family (specifically, divided by the father’s penchant for piracy) that weaves in aspects of ghosts and immortality. It’s an intriguing combination. (Feb. 21, 2023, Dzanc Books)


An Abundance of Altered Perceptions

The works of Jonathan Carroll (no relation) often juxtapose fantastical imagery with metaphysical concerns. By the look of things, his new novel Mr. Breakfast offers another spin on this—namely, the story of a man at a crossroads in his life who is given glimpses at several directions his life could take. “It’s a kind of a combination of Borges’s ‘Garden of Forking Paths’ and that film Sliding Doors,” Carroll told Locus in 2021. (January 2023, Melville House)

Apparently this next one has a talking mushroom in it. The novel in question is Ghost Music by An Yu, which also features a mysterious house and the strange disappearance of a musician. The Guardian’s review hailed “the uncanny sense of something odd, verging on supernatural, going on in the background,” which sounds intriguing indeed. (January 2023, Grove Press)

We’re in the realm of stories about stories here. The young hero of Colin McAdam’s new novel Black Dove hears fantastical stories from his father and finds himself experiencing the uncanny firsthand when he ventures to a mysterious store in his hometown. This is a novel where ghosts both real and metaphorical abound, as does genetic engineering; it’s a compelling combination. (February 2023, Soho Press)


Technology and Society

Over the course of the last decade, Colin Winnette’s fiction has encompassed styles from surreal Westerns to the Gothic surreal. His latest novel Users zeroes in on the world of tech startups and social media, focusing on the fraught life of an overworked man on the verge of a breakthrough. Over time, that becomes something groundbreaking—and something that takes its characters to increasingly unsettling places. (Feb. 21, 2023, Soft Skull Press)

Reading about the lives of social media moderators can be a harrowing experience all its own. What happens in a near future where their lives and work have gotten even more stressful and more extreme? That’s the concept at the heart of NSFW by David Scott Hay, which takes an already-fraught notion and brings it into the realm of the speculative. (Feb. 28, 2023, Whisk(e)y Tit)

Pop music has long been a subject that science fiction writers have found intriguing, with it saturating works as wide-ranging as Philip K. Dick’s VALIS and Sarah Pinsker’s A Song For a New Day. Iori Kusano’s Hybrid Heart brings the reader into the life and struggles of a pop singer trying to make a name for herself in Japan a few years from now. What happens when the pressures of fame and the art of performance collide with bold technological developments—and some unsettling elements of the current debate over AI (Early 2023, Neon Hemlock)


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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