Short News, Fighting Neverland Edition

Averoigne and Its Malcontents. Inpatient Press, a small publisher in New York, has produced a trade paperback of Clark Ashton Smith’s stories set in Averoigne, a medieval French province haunted by vampires and sorcerers. Even better, they’ve published it in the style of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series from the early 1970s, with the line’s distinctive art and minimalist typography. Ballantine editor Lin Carter published four books of Smith’s work in the series and planned a fifth — Averoigne — but the series was canceled before the book could appear anywhere except the Sandman’s library shelf.

For years I’ve chronicled various attempts to produce the missing fifth volume. In 1995, publisher Donald M. Grant began advertising a hardback edition edited by Ron Hilger, but that book remained vaporware. It finally appeared 21 years later, published by Centipede Press as an expensive collector’s edition that ran only 200 copies. Hilger says a paperback version is forthcoming from Hippocampus Press, release date TBD. Meanwhile in June, Pickman’s Press published their own e-book collection of the stories.

Hilger is none too happy about the Inpatient Press paperback, labeling it a “pirate edition,” an “illegal publication,” and a “fraud” because it wasn’t authorized by Smith’s estate, which is operated by Smith’s stepson. Inpatient informed me, however, that the book is perfectly legal — they used the Weird Tales versions of the stories, which are in the public domain.

Place Settings. I like to listen to podcasts about pirates, vintage RPGs, and 19th-century history, but for awhile I’d been searching without satisfaction for a podcast about utopian intentional settlements. Then, lo and behold, along came Curbed with their series Nice Try! An early episode discussed the Oneida community in upstate New York, which is one of my favorite examples of the utopian arc: what began as voluntary social experiment eventually devolved into a dysfunctional, if not horrific, cult. Not to mention an internationally known tableware company.

Coincidentally over at LitHub, author Caite Dolan-Leach discusses how she used Oneida as a template for the modern-day utopian commune in her new novel. Likewise I used Brook Farm and Fruitlands as models for Bonaventure, the setting for A Season of Whispers — although as far as I know, Dolan-Leach’s book doesn’t involve whispering walls and mysterious disappearances.

Watching the Detectives. CrimeReads has a list of three post-apocalyptic detective novels sure to brighten anyone’s year-end round-up of post-apocalyptic fiction. If, you know, that’s something you do.

No Time to Explain. Over at Fast Company I found some tips on how to be a better storyteller. The big takeaway for me: keep your anecdotes to 90 seconds or less.

Anthologists and Their Headaches

Over at SFWA.org, Jeff VanderMeer stresses the importance of writers establishing clear instructions for their literary estates and the obstacles, as an anthology editor, he sees too often:

To a least some extent, the ease with which an anthologist can contact a writer’s representative and obtain rights to a story speaks to how often that writer will be reprinted. A nonresponsive agent, publisher, or literary estate is just one of an anthologist’s worries. Another is, believe it or not, active hostility toward the request. A third is a misunderstanding of the marketplace wherein a writer’s representative asks for such an exorbitant fee that the anthologist cannot reprint the story, or a desire to treat the rights as if they were shares in a company, and to not allow any reprinting, hoping the value goes up.

Hmm. Numbers two and three sound familiar…

Meantime, Donald M. Grant Publisher, Inc. has announced their 17-year-old Averoigne collection has “an expected release in the Spring of 2012”:

We are not taking orders at this time, do not have prices and have not set a release date. Please do not call or email us asking for more information than is posted here.

Oh boy! Sounds like it will be available any day now! Considering such excellent customer relations and Grant’s clearly rock-solid business model, I’m sure this news is trustworthy and sincere.

Averoigne on the Internets

First The Cimmerian and then the Los Angeles Times picked up my tale of woe regarding my intent to put together an Averoigne collection. It’s an instructive case of the kicking and screaming that occurs when literature enters the public domain, yes, but it’s also a demonstration of the perils of the same agent representing both an author’s shade and the publisher who prints his work.

If I were an outsider reading these posts, not to mention the memorials uploaded back in January, I might be curious enough to give Clark Ashton Smith a try. Problem is, as a fan, it’s hard to tell newcomers where to go — which is my whole argument. But if you want to get started, try Out of Space and Time and Lost Worlds. Together they offer 44 stories that were hand-selected by Smith for their original publication in the 1940s, and since they’re paperbacks, they won’t break the bank.

Also, Eldritch Dark has all of Smith’s writing online — though, if you’re like me, that’s no substitute for an old-fashioned book.

Incidentally, Ron Hilger, who edited the Averoigne collection that Donald M. Grant, Publisher has been promising to print for fifteen years, posted in December on the Eldritch Dark forums that the project may have legs again. On the other hand, Grant has been teasing this volume for fifteen years. From what I’ve read, if it does appear, it will be hardback with full-color plates within. So not cheap.

Illo by the inimitable Jim Roslof for the Averoigne-inspired D&D adventure, Castle Amber.