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Can’t Miss Indie Press Speculative Fiction for September and October 2023


Can’t Miss Indie Press Speculative Fiction for September and October 2023

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Can’t Miss Indie Press Speculative Fiction for September and October 2023


Published on August 25, 2023


Maybe it’s the presence of autumn on the horizon; maybe it’s the entirely understandable desire to sit down with a good book when the mood gets cozier. I’m not honestly sure what it is, but: the next two months seem to bring with them a lot more books on indie presses than I usually write about in this column. Not that that’s a bad thing, mind you; looking over this list of books, I see an impressive range of work represented—and whether you’re looking to read a subdued novel of subtle horrors or an expansive tour through alternate worlds, you might just be able to find your next great read right here.


File Under: Alternate Histories

This autumn sees the release of Karla Yvette’s debut novella, which is set in the Old West—just not the one you might be familiar with. That the protagonist of The Black Tree Atop the Hill is the staff witch on a ranch might be your first indication that this is not the history you’re familiar with, but it’s far from the last. Plus, there’s an uncanny forest, which is always welcome. (CLASH Books; September 26, 2023)

The Future, a novel by Catherine Leroux (and translated by Susan Ouriou), is set in Detroit—but again, not quite the Detroit that gave us Drexciya and the White Stripes. Leroux’s novel is set in a timeline where France retained control over the city and its history took a very different turn—and that’s before you factor in the paranormal elements, of which there are plenty. (Biblioasis; September 5, 2023)

In the world of A.Z. Louise’s forthcoming Off-Time Jive, the Harlem Renaissance has given rise to a transformation in the way magic exists in the world. Unfortunately, that hasn’t brought an end to all conflict, and this book’s protagonist must investigate a series of murders of prominent figures in the magical community. (Neon Hemlock; October 24, 2023)


File Under: Travels Geographic and Otherwise

Travel can take many forms, whether it be through space or in time. In the case of Eugen Bacon and Andrew Hook’s collaborative novel Secondhand Daylight, we’re in the realm of the latter. In the novel, Bacon and Hook focus on two intersecting lives—one person who finds himself jumping into the future, and another who must venture into the past to understand the reasons behind it. (Cosmic Egg Books; October 27, 2023)

I’m very much here for any novel that could be described as a “metaphysical mystery,” and that’s precisely how its publisher refers to James Reich’s The Moth for the Star, a novel largely set in the first half of the 20th century—albeit one where reality itself seems to be in the process of breaking down. It’s a quality that makes for an investigation like no other. (7.13 Books; September 12, 2023)

Reading Joshua Mohr’s works over the years has involved everything from the effects of technology on everyday lives to the complex dynamics of his own life. With his new book Farsickness, Mohr follows a veteran who begins experiencing hallucinatory interactions and sets out on a surreal, dreamlike road trip. It’s an intriguing change of pace. (House of Vlad; September 2023)

Looking for some magical realism Italian style? This new edition of Carmine Abate’s novel The Round Dance (here translated by Michelangelo La Luna) provides precisely that. It’s the story of a young man’s coming of age in a town where past and present blur together—making for an immersive journey into both its protagonist’s mind and a singular place. (Rutgers University Press; October 13, 2023)


File Under: Fraught Histories and Sweeping Conflicts

Secretive schools, magical drugs, and familial conflicts playing out on a national level: all of these are aspects of Darin Bradley’s new novel Bloodmetal. It’s a novel abounding with big ideas, some that you might not expect to see in the same place as certain others, all rooted in a penchant for interpersonal conflict. In an interview in these pages years ago, Bradley spoke of writing a dissertation on”selfhood and its portrayals in speculative fiction” (Underland Press; October 3, 2023)

Ariel Kaplan drew upon Jewish folklore for her new novel The Pomegranate Gate, a work of fantasy set during the Spanish Inquisition. (You can also read an excerpt from it here.) Following a series of books for young readers, Kaplan is making her fantasy novel debut with this one. (Erewhon Press; September 26, 2023)

The title of Paul Jessup’s Glass House isn’t intended as a cautionary tale about throwing stones; instead, it’s a very literal way of letting readers know that there’s a house and the family living there has the name of Glass. Also, there’s a crypt. Also, there are people living in the walls. Jessup has earned praise for both his fiction and his work as a game designer, and this combination of location and fraught familial dynamics should play to his strengths. (Underland Press; October 3, 2023)


File Under: Arts Mundane and Magical

I am on the record as having been a huge admirer of the last novel by Mónica Ojeda to appear in translation in the U.S., Jawbone. This October brings with it another one of Ojeda’s books, here translated by Sarah Booker, Nefando. This time out, Ojeda is writing about characters obsessed with a video game and the mysterious parallel world it offers its players—an intriguing combination for sure. (Coffee House Press; October 24, 2023)

What happens when two men, each on opposite sides of a magical war, are assigned to surveil one another? In Brent Lambert’s A Necessary Chaos, that conflict is further complicated when these rivals begin falling for one another, adding another dimension to the larger conflict and their own place within it. (Neon Hemlock; October 3, 2023)

In an interview last year with LitReactor, Ross Jeffery explained the circumstances behind his new book I Died Too, But They Haven’t Buried Me Yet. “It’s me writing religious horror and possession,” Jeffery said. “When I was writing this story, I had chills at many points because there’s nothing I find scarier than losing one’s agency.” It’s a compelling hook if ever there was one. (CLASH Books; October 2023)

“Koja has an incredible gift for writing about Bohemian scenes,” wrote Cory Doctorow in a review of Koja’s 2022 Dark Factory. Now, Koja is revisiting that setting with the new novel Dark Park—described as “A Dark Factory Encore” that follows several characters through surreal and apocalyptic landscapes as they ponder questions of art and celebrity. (Meerkat Press; September 2023)


File Under: City Life/Country Life

Mysterious artifacts? Check. Surreal weather? Check. The possibility of, as per the Kirkus review, “ an eternal force causing mass disruptions”? Check. All of these elements can be found in Mandy-Suzanne Wong’s novel The Box; taken together, they represent a compelling argument for seeking it out. (Graywolf Press; September 19, 2023)

In 2019, Alex Brown praised Hal Schrieve’s Out of Salem, writing that it was “grounded in hard truths.” Now, Schrieve has returned with a new book that features the excellent title How to Get Over the End of the World. Hir book focuses on a young man whose everyday routine of high school and punk shows is disrupted when he falls for a guy who keeps seeing glimpses of an apocalyptic future. (Seven Stories Press; October 3, 2023)

Do you like a good mythological retelling? I think it’s safe to say that Michael J. Wilson does. And if you’re wondering where his new book A Labyrinth is going with that concept, here’s a hint: the cover features a very large minotaur. (Stalking Horse Press; October 16, 2023)

Over the years, there’s been a lot of memorable fiction written about sprawling buildings in the countryside. One of those is at the heart of Christine Lai’s novel Landscapes—with the twist here being that Lai’s novel is also set in a near future where climate change has wreaked even more havoc than it has right now, widening societal gulfs and making even the hardiest of structures that much more at risk. (Two Dollar Radio; September 12, 2023)


File Under: (Literal) Halloween Reading

The concept of returning to one’s hometown is given an unsettling spin in Adriana Chartrand’s novel An Ordinary Violence. The protagonist of this book is an Indigenous woman who leaves her life in Toronto behind and returns to her hometown, even as her brother becomes enmeshed in the supernatural following his release from prison. (House of Anansi; October 31, 2023)

In a 2019 interview with Music & Literature, Jon Fosse noted that “[e]verything I’ve written can perhaps be called a sort of mystical realism⁠—not ‘magical,’ but mystical⁠.” A Shining, translated by Damion Searles, certainly falls into this category: it’s the tale of a man whose journey into a mysterious forest takes on an increasingly uncanny quality, as trips into mysterious forests have a tendency to do. (Transit Books; October 31, 2023)

Yes, technically this is a column on works of fiction, but I’m not averse to including nonfiction when it’s appropriate. That’s absolutely the case for Justin Phillip Reed’s essay collection With Bloom Upon Them And Also With Blood: A Horror Miscellany. As its subtitle suggests, this is Reed’s reckoning with horror movies—and horror in other forms as well. (Coffee House Press; October 31, 2023)


File Under: Revisited and Reissued

In her post on 1979’s Hugo Nominees, Jo Walton wrote that Tom Reamy’s Blind Voices is “a Bradburyesque story that edges on horror, about a carnival with real magic and mysterious secrets.” She also lamented its out-of-print status at the time—something this new edition should remedy. (Valancourt Books; September 27, 2023)

Years ago, a writer friend recommended that I pick up a copy of Alasdair Gray’s novel Poor Things. I did so and was heartily impressed when I read it; Gray is a fantastic author whose work is nearly impossible to categorize. (His Lanark is also fantastic.) And now, there’s a new edition of this out in the States so you can brush up on it before the film adaptation reaches theaters. (Dalkey Archive Press; September 5, 2023)

I probably don’t have to explain why a collection of interviews with Octavia E. Butler is well worth your time. As an added bonus, Octavia E. Butler: The Last Interview and Other Conversations also comes with an introduction by Samuel R. Delany. That’s a lot of great writers within the confines of one volume. (Melville House; September 19, 2023)

Sara Gran may be best known for her crime fiction, but her bibliography encompasses far more than just that. Exhibit A is Come Closer, which begins as a tale of urban isolation and gradually becomes an account of possession—and an especially harrowing one at that. Writing in this space last year, Lana Harper called it “one of the most terrifying books on demonic possession I’ve ever read”—and this fall brings with it a new edition. (Soho Press; September 2023)

It hasn’t been that long since Eric LaRocca’s terrific horror novel Everything the Darkness Eats was published, but if you’re craving a slightly different take on its tale of small-town bigotry and surreal supernatural entities, you’ll get precisely that in late October. Everything the Darkness Eats (Remix Edition) offers readers an alternate ending to the original text, along with the possibility of more surprises. (Clash Books; October 24, 2023)

Do you enjoy ruminations on art and history with a steadily accelerating sense of the uncanny? If so, I can probably interest you in NYRB Classics’ new edition of Lisa Tuttle’s short novel My Death. Several of Tuttle’s other books have been covered in these pages before; here, she chronicles the life of a writer hired to write an artist’s biography, and begins noticing strange parallels between her own life and that of her subject. Things, as they say, take a turn from there. (NYRB Classics; October 10, 2023)


File Under: Short Fiction, Collected

Adrian Van Young’s meticulously-written fiction takes readers into the world of characters wrestling with dilemmas both psychological and supernatural in nature. His new collection Midnight Self abounds with aliens, strange labyrinths, and uncanny dolls; it’s a fantastic introduction to an endlessly compelling writer. (Black Lawrence Press; October 2023)

Perhaps my favorite title in this installment of this column comes from SJ Sindu’s upcoming collection The Goth House Experiment. Plus, Oscar Wilde’s ghost puts in an appearance. Sindu’s range as a writer is vast—note this interview for plenty of evidence there—and the styles and genres on display in this collection are further evidence of that. (Soho Press; October 2023)

Featuring contributions from writers like Carlie St. George, Rebecca Cuthbert, and Wen-yi Lee, the anthology We’re Here: The Best Queer Speculative Fiction 2022 features an abundance of wide-ranging speculative fiction, selected by editors Naomi Kanakia and Charles Payseur. (Neon Hemlock; October 2023)

Ignyte Awards co-founder Suzan Palumbo’s short stories have come up for discussion on this site a couple of times already. If you’ve been intrigued by those mentions, it’s worth mentioning that this fall brings with it her first collection, which bears the evocative title Skin Thief. The publisher notes that readers will encounter “nature, gothic hauntings, Trinidadian folklore and shape shifting”—all ingredients for a compelling read. (Neon Hemlock; September 30, 2023)

The short stories in Keith Rondinelli’s forthcoming collection A General Theory of Tears take familiar locations—including a big box retail location and a suburban backyard—and transform them into places haunting and strange. There’s nothing quite like that feeling of arriving somewhere familiar and learning that it’s anything but; readers in search of that experience may find it in abundance here. (Stalking Horse Press; September 13, 2023)

Not a lot of Shirley Jackson Award nominee Bernardo Esquinca’s writing has appeared in translation in the U.S. That’s a shame, as it’s both compelling and thoroughly disorienting—not to mention unsettling as hell. His collection The Secret Life of Insects and Other Stories will hopefully raise his profile in the Anglophone literary world; an introduction by Mariana Enriquez can’t hurt, either. (Valancourt Books; October 2023)

Readers of Sarah Gailey’s excellent newsletter may recognize Malon Edwards’s name from there, where one of his stories recently appeared. His new collection If Wishes Were Obfuscation Codes and Other Stories transports readers to a futuristic Chicago—and reckons with questions of class, power, and inequality. (Fireside Fiction; September 12, 2023)

I’m an admirer of Roy Christopher’s writing, including his commentary on pop culture and his newsletter. This fall brings another side of Christopher’s literary side: his fiction. The collection Different Waves, Different Depths ventures into science fiction in a few different ways, including accounts of time travel and other temporal weirdness. (Impeller Press; September 12, 2023)

Tobias 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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