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“These regular anthologies ... are becoming essential volumes for fans of short fiction.”

— Scott Pack

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New Ghost Stories III

The publication of our first book has been followed, fortunately, by our first reviews. Even more fortunately, they’ve been very positive. I thought it might be worth rounding up some of what people have been saying about Various Authors.

The first one to come in was from Nylon Magazine:

From the creepy clone tale “Celia and Harold” to the heartwarming “Nativity,” these are 20-pagers that you can squeeze in at the gym, on the subway, or even in line at the grocery store.

Although we’re left wanting more when it’s all over, we don’t have to worry. It’s a quarterly anthology, which means there’s another load of mini-books on the way very soon.

If Nylon found the stories to be perfect reading for the grocery store (and they are! They are!), All Metaphor enjoyed the more serious side:

The authors of the dozen stories in this debut volume do not include any household names, but several can boast respectable track records, with novels or short story collections already in print. This is serious stuff: literary fiction of a high calibre, the contributors not genre writers but artists of the pen. (Though is there any reason why a genre writer shouldn’t be an artist too?)

(Of course there isn’t. Bring on the genre writers!) All Metaphor went on to highlight three stories written either by Americans, or with international settings:

The three stories that stand out here all have overseas settings and two of them are written by Americans. All I Want by Charles Lambert is about English teachers spending an uneasy weekend with an Italian family by Lake Garda, and is stiff with unspoken feeling. Nativity by Adrian Stumpp addresses the rarely described anguish of fatherhood. Topping the lot for me is Dave Tough’s Luck by Matthew Licht. This occupies familiar Licht territory in 1970s New York, but transcends the grubbiness and slease with a poignant account of an idiot savant drummer who can reproduce all the riffs of the jazz and rock greats but never create a thing himself.

Speaking of genres and the pointlessness of rigid barriers between them, it was great to get a review on the British Fantasy Society’s website:

Sometimes one has to read outside the confines of genre. And as much as I love fantasy/horror short stories there are times when I need to go off at a tangent. This is where Various Authors comes in. (Of course, one could argue that all fiction is just a bunch of lies and is, ergo, a form of fantasy fiction – but I’ll not go that route today.) Anyway … this anthology features twelve new stories from authors I’m not familiar with but, judging from their contributions, writers I’d like to encounter again.

Scott Pack was the first to review a specific story, singling out Lynsey May‘s ‘Two Buses Away’ for his blog Me and My Short Stories:

This is a well observed piece of writing. Uncomfortable and unsettling. I shall be dipping in further during the coming weeks.

He also had praise for the anthology series as a whole:

Once a quarter we will see a new anthology of short stories and if this first volume is anything to go by – featuring two of my favourite authors, Danny Rhodes and Charles Lambert – then we are in for a seasonal treat four times a year. […] If you like the idea of what The Fiction Desk is doing then you can subscribe for one year over at the website. It only costs £26.99 which is not at all bad for 4 books and nearly 50 stories a year.

A couple of people picked up on the introduction, and drew some parallels between our publishing venture and the independent music scene. Winston’s Dad had this to say:

I leave you there with the stories if you want to know more go out and support Rob, there isn’t a bad story in this collection to use the time-worn phrase they are all page turners and to take it back to Rob’s starting point of a dj, well this book is like the semi legendary NME MIXTAPE C86, which collected a group of acts in 1986, some were couple of hit wonders and some went on to be huge, this collection has tha feel anyone here could be huge and sure someone from this collection will but who or when is hard to say but if this is Rob’s mix of new writing in English, well it looks like we’re in good health.

…while Pauline Masurel at The Short Review concluded:

The premise of The Fiction Desk anthology collection appears to be to build up a subscriber base for this series of quarterly publications. But who subscribes to regularly buy collections of fiction from a range of (largely) unknown authors? Well, strange to tell, I’ve actually taken a punt on it myself – for the serendipity. In the same way that I sometimes listened to John Peel on the radio. I may not have liked all the music he chose, but I could be sure that he loved it or he wouldn’t be playing it. So too with Rob Redman’s selections. This feels like a very personal project and I was encouraged enough by what I read in Various Authors to tune in for the next installment.

The Review Review has detailed reviews of half a dozen individual stories, which are well worth reading, and summarises:

There were a couple of laugh-until-you-pee stories, some break-your-heart stories, and one or two I’m-not-sure-how-to-feel-now-but-I-liked-it stories. A couple of stories wobbled in places—an instance or two of awkward wording, perhaps—but I enjoyed the material enough that I never did give up on any of them, and I cheered the anthology on until its gorgeous, sweet, hysterical final story.

Finally, it doesn’t really count as a review, but Charles Lambert wrote a nice piece about the origins of the series on his blog:

The UK doesn’t really have a decent short story quarterly; those publications that do exist often feel too small-pressy, for economic reasons, or self-serving, for editorial ones. Granta, as far as I know, hasn’t published an unsolicited or un-agented piece of modern fiction for years. Rob’s plan was to produce something that looked, felt and read like a real book. Something that readers would be proud to own and writers proud to appear in. On the strength of the first number, Various Authors, he’s done just that.

So there you have it, all the reviews so far (not counting the ones on Goodreads and Amazon… phew!) The response has been fantastic, and hugely encouraging as we get to work on the next anthologies. And if you haven’t subscribed yet yourself, what are you waiting for?

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