It’s hard to know where to start when it comes to describing the year Spectral has had. 2011, the imprint’s very first year, was great in itself, and we here at Spectral Towers couldn’t have foreseen how the press would have been taken to the hearts of genre and book lovers everywhere around the globe. Spectral received kudos from writers, readers and bloggers, we gained a few accolades here and there, even making one magazine’s Publisher of the Year. This had gone better than our wildest imaginations had dared to venture.
As you can imagine, we thought that topping 2011’s success was going to be difficult but, if there’s one thing that Spectral isn’t afraid of, it’s commitment. We were determined to do better, to keep publishing great literature, and to developing Spectral into something special. And, judging by the twelve months we’ve just had, it would appear that we have exceeded expectations again.
The second year of a project is often the most difficult – a reputation has been established and standards have been set, both of which have to be fulfilled and maintained at the very least or, as is preferable, bettered in some way. Our unspoken manifesto at the very beginning was simple – to bring quality short stories in the ghostly/supernatural vein to discerning readers, and present them to a high physical and literary standard. That, we like to think, we’ve managed to continue with our acclaimed line of chapbooks, this year publishing fiction by the World Fantasy Award-nominated Simon Kurt Unsworth (Rough Music), as well as Alison Littlewood (The Eyes of Water), Mark West (What Gets Left Behind) and relative newcomer David Tallerman (the latter winning the Spectral Press/This Is Horror short story writing competition earlier in the year with The Way of the Leaves). Neil Williams, the wizard of photo manipulation, continued to shine in the cover artwork department, thereby consolidating the look of the Spectral ‘brand’ (if we can call it that without sounding pretentious) and Mark West helping everything along with his short promotional videos. Reviews for all have been very positive, solidifying Spectral’s position as an imprint to watch.
Spectral Press also expanded a little this year by introducing a new line of publications, the Spectral Visions series of novellas, starting with Gary Fry’s The Respectable Face of Tyranny in May and followed, in September, by the larger than life John Llewellyn Probert’s The Nine Deaths of Dr. Valentine. Both of these books were wrapped in gorgeous covers – by Neil Williams (based on a photograph by Philip Haigh) and JD Busch respectively – and received goodly amounts of praise, both in terms of the stories and the presentation. On top of that, this December saw Spectral publish its first ever anthology, The 13 Ghosts of Christmas, which is our small attempt to revive an old Victorian/Edwardian midwinter tradition. Again, this has received a warm welcome from bloggers and reviewers alike, making a good start to this projected annual series of spooky midwinter/Yule/Christmas collections.
On the accolades front, one of last year’s chapbook tales, King Death by Paul Finch, was republished in Paula Guran’s The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2012 anthology. Paul’s chapbook was also nominated in the British Fantasy Awards in the Short Fiction category. In the same Awards, Spectral Press was nominated for the PS Publishing Independent Press Award – even though we didn’t win, the nomination validated all the hard work that had been put into the imprint over the previous year. Getting nominated for the first year of its career is something of an achievement in itself, another facet which has helped cement its growing reputation with not just the book-buying public but also the writers whose works we want to feature in future publications.
Others have also cited Spectral books in their end of year assessments, people like Anthony Watson, Mark West, and the This Is Horror Awards (in which several Spectral publications have been nominated again this year): Gef Fox of the Wag the Fox blog named What Gets Left Behind as being one of his novels/novellas of the year: and Jim McLeod’s Ginger Nuts of Horror blog named Spectral as its Publisher of the Year. The Nine Deaths of Dr. Valentine seems to be a favourite amongst more than a few people, closely followed by Mark West’s What Gets Left Behind. Famed anthologist Ellen Datlow recommended Alison Littlewood’s Mexico-set chapbook The Eyes of Water for next year’s Bram Stoker Awards, plus Ellen said a few nice things about Spectral in her latest annual The Best Horror of the Year volume. Stephen Jones, another famed editor/anthologist, also said nice things about the imprint in The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror.
And so, we look forward to 2013 – a year which promises to be even better than this past twelvemonth. There will be novellas from Stephen (Ghostwatch) Volk and Tim Lebbon, chapbooks from Paul Kane (who will also have a collection of his supernatural/ghost fiction out at the end of the year), Terry Grimwood, Simon Bestwick and British Fantasy Award-winner Angela Slatter, plus the first collected chapbook volume (with new material included) in the summer and, of course, the 2013 edition of the Christmas Annual plus a special illustrated hardback edition of Paul Finch’s novella Sparrowhawk. However, a good publisher doesn’t stand still – I have already started planning 2014’s publications, one of which will be a novella from one of Britain’s finest writers working today, Conrad Williams.
From the above that there was much to celebrate in 2012 – and we here at Spectral Press will be working even harder in 2013 to better the last year in every way possible. Two years ago, we could never have envisaged the kind of impact that the imprint would have, nevertheless there is still much to do to get it to where we would like it to be. We thank all those who have been with us so far, and we further hope that you will be able to come along with us on our third year of publication.
All it remains for us to do is to wish everyone a Prosperous and Productive 2013!! Onwards and upwards, as we are wont to say….