CTHULHUSATTVA Update and Some Clarifications
A good Sunday evening to all! Scott Jones here, editor of the upcoming Martian Migraine Press anthology, Cthulhusattva: Tales of the Black Gnosis. It’s been some time since any updates were posted here (what with Christmas, and day jobs, and so on… you know the drill) and for that I apologize. Work has been progressing on the annual anthology for 2016, and the following is a brief post to bring Migraineers up to speed on that progress. Thank you all (readers, authors, artists, family and friends and sundry other supporters) for your patience, understanding, and good will.
The submissions window for the anthology closed on 15 December 2015. We received close to 200 submissions between August and December. Nearly every one of these stories has been read; I have five left to go over. Most of the rejections have been sent out already, and there are a few more coming. I’d like to thank each and every writer who took a chance on sending something in; I know the feeling of taking a risk and also the discomfort of rejection, but this is the business (as it is, and more on that below) and not everyone can be in the book. But… a shortlist (of 32 tales) has been made, and from these I hope and plan to have the final ToC put together by the end of this month.
I will readily confess here that the reading process for this anthology has been rougher than previous projects. Fitting stories to the theme has proven to be slippery, a fact which I find personally embarrassing, as I’m the guy who wrote the book on #KeepingItRlyeh. (I should take that as a good lesson in R’lyehian Spirituality: just when you think you’ve got the angles right, the thing — a book of stories, an idea about the world, a life, etc. — shifts and mutates and shows another boggling facet of its multifarious self.) The act of balancing horror, mysticism, and a kind of “awed lightness” with these shortlisted stories has been a tricky one, and I’ve gone back and forth and back again on many of them several times. The next two weeks I expect to be especially harrowing. I know, I know: no sympathy. I do this to myself. But I love it, after a fashion, so there.
I am very excited about this book. I have already purchased a long novella that perfectly exemplifies the theme, and on the other end of the ruler, a short poem that is a perfect jewel of #KeepingItRlyeh thought. Also, the cover art has been bought and paid for, a wonderful piece by Seattle artist Alix Branwyn. She has been a real pleasure to work with.
Note that I’ve mentioned purchases and items being bought and paid for. If you follow the triumphs and travails of the horror-and-weird-fiction small press at all, you have likely heard of the recent implosion of a small press in the UK. I have not followed this item too closely, but from what I have picked up, it appears that the outfit in question fell from the sky due to a combination of bad business practices, debt, health issues, and social media outrage (much of the latter entirely justified). Authors were not paid, or waited an unreasonably long time to be paid what they were owed; readers did not receive their books; snark and dishonesty and general weirdness appeared to be the norm.
This has made me uncomfortable for a number of reasons, not least of which is the pain of seeing a small operation showing its belly and issuing forth a death rattle. If you’ve been a Migraineer for any length of time, you’ve likely sussed that this is a one-entity operation, with all the stresses and doubts that incurs. I can hardly even call myself a micropress, let alone a small press. It’s been suggested by wiser heads that MMP is something of a “boutique” operation, and I’m OK with that. Certainly the one or two releases a year qualifies the press for that descriptor. I try to carefully curate a small selection of niche titles, and the annual anthology — Conqueror Womb in 2014, RESONATOR last year, and of course the upcoming Cthulhusattva — are the highlight of the MMP publishing schedule. Would I like to work with more authors, “build the line-up”, and put out more titles? Yes. Can I? No. I know this. To over-extend myself like that would be unfair, to authors, to readers, to myself.
I’d like to stress, though, in the wake of the unfortunate news out of the UK, that MMP authors do get paid. Due to the niche nature of MMP titles, royalties are not a reasonable option (at this time, anyway). For Conqueror Womb (back when MMP was starting out and only doing ebook releases) the payment rate was a flat fee plus a copy of the ebook and three other MMP titles of the authors choice, paid within a month of publication, if not long before at the time of contract. For RESONATOR (which was released as a trade paperback and an ebook) the pay rate was .01 a word plus two contributor copies (and in the case of one author, six copies for their friends and family), also paid out within a month after the book dropped. This year, authors with stories in Cthulhusattva will be paid semi-pro rates (.03 a word) and with some of the shortlisted stories coming in at around 7k words, that’s no small chunk of change (and I should mention that not one dollar is kickstarted or indiego-go’d or what have you) … but by now I’m sure you can see the progression I’m attempting. MMP is evolving, learning from our betters, and becoming more of what I believe it can be,
I don’t say all this to toot my own horn. I’m Canadian, and they freeze that trait out of us up here. I say it to confirm my commitment to doing the best I can with what I’ve got, despite the tiny size of my endeavour here, and to honour the relationship between myself as editor and the hard-working writers who take a chance on the Martian Migraine experience. There are no “gentlemen’s agreements” here: there are contracts and deadlines, payouts and commitments. With this years anthology, I will also be promoting the book better and wider, to indie bookstores across North America and the UK, and getting it into the hands of more reviewers. I’m genuinely excited about Cthulhusattva, and I hope that excitement and pleasure will be reflected once the thing is born and out in the world.
Which, as mentioned, will be happening soon! Stay tuned for official release dates, pre-order information, and other promotional goodies. And again, thank you, Migraineers, for your patience, good will, and of course for reading MMP books and #KeepingItRlyeh.
Vive le Boutique!
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Scott R Jones is the author of the short story collections Soft from All the Blood and The Ecdysiasts, as well as the non-fiction When the Stars Are Right: Towards An Authentic R’lyehian Spirituality. His poetry and prose have appeared in Innsmouth Magazine, Cthulhu Haiku II, Broken City Mag, Flesh Like Smoke, Cthulhu Fhtagn!, Broken Worlds, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, and upcoming in The Children of Gla’aki.