As I immerse myself ever more deeply in the world of the short story, I’m discovering a near endless range of great publishers and publishing projects. As well as magazines and anthologies, I’ve seen some terrific chapbooks. I’m hoping to cover a wide selection of these over the coming months, but let’s start with Nightjar Press.
Nightjar Press is run by Nicholas Royle, himself author of half a dozen books and editor of several anthologies – including Best British Short Stories, a new upcoming annual anthology from Salt. They publish dark, disquieting stories, each of which examines general themes through a paranormal lens: a chill for now, a thought for later. The titles I managed to get my hands on are:
When the Door Closed, It Was Dark – Alison Moore
Black Country – Joel Lane
A Revelation of Cormorants – Mark Valentine
The Beautiful Room – RB Russell
(Nightjar have also published two other chapbooks, by Michael Marshall Smith and Tom Fletcher, but these have sold out.)
Joel Lane’s story is a creepy look at what happens to neighbourhoods and communities that disappear in urban sprawl. RB Russell—who also recently published a collection with PS Publishing, which I should probably check out—directs our gaze at the compromises and conflicts of new couples. Mark Valentine’s story is about (among other things) a writer finding his voice; stories about writing usually have me running for the hills, but A Revelation of Cormorants proves that there is a place for them. Alison Moore’s tale was perhaps stylistically the least to my taste, being a little more mannered than the others, but that subjective view aside, it’s a creepy story about an au pair staying with an oppressive family.
One of the challenges with chapbooks is to produce something that looks and feels attractive enough to give its contents credibility, without making it too expensive, or too fragile or heavy to post economically. Nightjar have done a great job here. Designer John Oakey has put together a look that gives the series a sense of unity while each title retains its own character. Each title is between 12 and 16 pages, they’re limited to two or three hundred signed copies, and are priced at £3 each. Strong stories, in great packaging, at affordable prices: this is exactly how to advocate short fiction.