2012 Juice Box Awards: Best Small Press

Juice Box AwardA year ago I would given this award to Night Shade Books without hesitation. They were publishing consistently good novels, most of which were debuts, that felt polished. 2012 not so much. Their debut line-up slipped noticeably, although there were several standouts, and even their more seasoned authors felt untouched by the editorial process.

Who then wears the crown for 2012? With Pyr, Angry Robot, and Jo Fletcher off the table thanks to the backing of a larger publisher (Prometheus, Osprey, and Quercus respectively), the remaining presses are small even compared to Night Shade.

For me, it comes down to two: Small Beer Press and their outstanding commitment to fabulist (and other) fiction and ChiZine Publications’ weird/dark list. There are other very good small presses –Pandemonium, Prime, Tachyon, and Subterranean, to name a few — but none that maintain the standard of interesting points of view as my two finalists.

In 2012, ChiZine published seventeen books (to Small Beer’s thirteen), composed mostly of novels, but with a not insignificant amount of short fiction. As readers of this blog will know, I find myself substantially more attracted to the long form work, particularly in how little of the short fiction published in collections and anthologies is original to the book.

While Small Beer published a strong novels (4 total), highlighted by Ayize Jama-Everett’s The Liminal People, the vast majority of their list was short fiction, much of which came from writers, talented though they are, who’ve been through the proverbial wringer with gads of credits next to their names. Luminaries like Peter Dickinson, Ursula K. LeGuin, Joan Aiken, and Nancy Kress, point out that while Small Beer has fantastic taste, it remains to be seen how much of taste-maker they are.

In contrast, the ChiZine list has few, if any, recognizable names outside of the Canadian SFF scene. Nick Mamatas is probably their most well known author, but even he has little penetration outside the cliques that circulate through literary conventions around the country. His Bullettime was a standout novel for ChiZine, if for no other reason than it’s marginally certifiable. Incredibly well written with a deeply thematic impact that seems more relevant everyday, Mamatas’ novel is a perfect example of what ChiZine is all about. Many of their writers are equally unusual, deploying different perspectives and styles to the genre lens. More importantly, nearly all of them are new and writing books that don’t fit anywhere else.

Am I punishing Small Beer for not taking chances? Perhaps, although it’s not as simple as that. ChiZine is supported to an unknown degree by grants from the Canadian government, which surely frees them to roll the dice on occasion. Even so, Small Beer has an obvious editorial direction and rarely deviates from it. While what Small Beer publishes is as good, and occasionally better, I have to give ChiZine credit for their proliferation of quality and dedication to exposing new writers.

For those reasons, I present the 2012 Juice Box for Best Small Press to:

CZP_topbanner

Congratulations! May you sip the juice box until it crumples.

Justin Landon

Justin Landon is the Overlord of Staffer's Book Review. When he's not writing things of dubious value to the world, he's at the gym or being a dad. You can follow him on a multitude of social media, which is strongly suggested lest you miss out on vital information that could someday save your life.

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Comments
  • Sandra Kasturi January 22, 2013 at 10:07 am

    As co-publisher at ChiZine, I’m incredibly honoured and thrilled by this! Thank you SO much. Sometimes it feels like we’re just labouring away and nobody notices, so this means a lot. (With respect to the Canadian grants, to be honest, that is always a total crapshoot. In fact, one year we didn’t get one of the really big grants and it was a major blow. Every year we kind of plan, assuming we won’t get any money at all. Because the literary granting system up here usually has no truck with genre fiction. So the very fact we’re doing it makes us getting any grants a very dicey proposition. We’ve mostly been lucky so far. But when you sometimes hear that your books have no literary merit and that you need to improve their design…well, it’s disheartening. We still muddle forward though! Which is why hearing something like this really makes my day.) Oh, and for the record, I love Small Beer’s books!

  • Mark Lawrence January 23, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    It’s a freakin’ lie! He sends you NOTHING. There _are_ no juiceboxes, there’s no juice, no box. nada.

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